The following biography is heavily indebted to material provided by Margaret Rackham, and has been enhanced with contributions from Ian Byers, both descendants of Margaret Wilson and William Byres. Margaret Wilson is the eighth child of James Wilson and Catherine Boak. Margaret's birth has been reported as occurring on 1 October 1798 in Abercorn, West Lothian, Scotland but this information has not been confirmed either on Scotland's People or the International Genealogical Index. 1
Margaret appears in a confirmed historical record for the first time when she married William Byres on 12 November 1819 in the parish of Currie, Edinburgh, Scotland.
William is recorded as "of this parish" while Margaret is recorded as "of Ratho". 2
William has been reported as being born on 18 October 1789 in Abercorn, West Lothian to Robert Byres and Isobell Reid and this birth is confirmed on Scotland's People.
It is believed the William Byres who later emigrated to Tasmania is linked to this family because of the much later death notice of a William Byers which mentions Abercorn.3
The Kirk session was the court of the parish. The session was made up of the minister and the land owners and business men of the parish, chosen to serve on the session. The Kirk session dealt with moral issues, minor criminal cases, matters of the poor and education, matters of discipline, and the general concerns of the parish. Kirk session records may also mention births, marriages, and deaths.
Prior to his marriage, and as a young man of 24 years of age; in 1813 William was accused of fathering an illegitimate child by Susan Ross. 4
6th Sept 1803
Met the Kirksefsion of Abercorn.
Present Dr Mieklejohn Modr, Hugh Wilkie Elder and The Revd M Henderson, Minister of Queensferry, Authorised by the Presbytery of Linlithgow at their meeting on the 21st of June to act as Afsefsor to Dr Mieklejohn till such time as he had an opportunity of Ordaining Elders. Hugh Wilkie was chosen Clerk pro tempore.
The Meeting being constituted by prayer, the Modr. Stated that Susan Rofs now residing at Binns Entry, had confefsed to him that she was with child and said that it was to Main Nimmo, now at Mannerston, but that they were married through irregularly on Tuesday the 20th June 1802, 5 in evidence of which she produced lines which they had exchanged and that it was in consequence of said information he had called this meeting to which Susan Rofs and Main Nimmo had been cited. The parties being called, Susan Rofs appeared but not Main Nimmo & the meeting after waiting a considerable time, as they could not proceed till both parties were present, was concluded by prayer.
Eodem die et Loco. Sederunt ut Supera. 6
After being constituted by prayer, both Susan Rofs & Main Nimmo appeared when Main Nimmo on being interrogated by the Modr. Afsigned a sufficient reason for not compearing at the hour appointed, acknowledged the truth of the declaration of Susan Rofs had made and that she was his wife. After the parties were seriously rebuked for the irregularity they had committed & admonished with respect to their future conduct, the Modr. Declared them married persons. 7 The meeting was concluded with prayer.
Abercorn 29 Octr. 1813
This day the Sefsion having been duly called, met, present - The Rev Dr Mieklejohn, Modr. Mefsrs. Robert Wood, Bluegate & Archd. Douglas, Elders
The Modr. Stated that Susan Rofs in Philipstoun had a child some time ago born in adultery & that she had accused Willm. Byres as the father of the said child. He had caused both these persons to be cited before the Sefsion. Who being called, both Compeared.
Susan Rofs being seriously exhorted respecting the enormity of her crime & admonished to tell the truth as in the sight of Almighty God. She openly accused Willam Byres as the father of it.
Willm. Byres having heard the above accusation and being exhorted in a similar manner to tell the truth, openly denied all connection with Susan Rofs.
The parties being interrogated if they knew any persons who might Witnefs in support of their several charges Named Jenny Thomson, Jenny Gardener & Elizth. Duncan. The Sefsion agreed that the above persons should be cited with the parties to appear before them on some future day.
Abercorn, 5th Dec 1813
At the same time Compeared Susan Rofs and William Byres parties who both adhered to their former declarations.
Libby Duncan as witnefs, who being solemly sworn, purged of malice & partiality
Q - Being asked if ever she heard of S. Rofs say who was the father of her child.
A - She heard S. Rofs say it was her husbands but she could not recollect of ever hearing Willm. Byres saying he could not take S. Rofses child as she was not a single woman, but another man's wife.
Jenny Thomson sworn spones -
Q - Being asked if she knew William Byres frequent S. Rofses house.
A - She knew him there sometimes and about 11 o'clock at night, but did not know when he departed. Does not recollect of hearing Libby Duncan say that Willm. Byres said to her /L.Duncan/ that he could not take Susan Rofses child as she was not a single woman, but another man's wife. She heard Susan Rofs say that William Byres bought her to drink a bottle containing Quick Silver from Dr. Clerk, Lithgow. The preceding witnefses declared they cannot write.
Jenny Gardener Witnefs. Who being sworn, purged of malice & partiality -
Q - Being asked if she ever heard of Quick Silver bought from Lithgow to Susan Rofs.
A - Said she heard Elizabeth, Mrs Richie, a travelling woman say she brought a bottle containing Quick Silver from Dr Clerk Lithgow to Susan Rofs by her desire in order she said to make away the itch.
John Stevenson and John Whyte were mentioned as Witnefses in this matter and appointed to be cited before the Sefsion on some future day.
Sederunt 8 closed with prayers.
A conclusion to these events has not been found.
Margaret and William's first child, Catharine Byres, was born on 27 March 1821 and baptised on 15 April 1821 in Kirknewton, Midlothian, Scotland.
William was described as the "Servant to Mr. Davidson, Curriehill" and the baptism was performed by Alexander L. Simpson before the congregation at Kirknewton. 9
Their second child was another daughter, Isabell Byres, later known as Isabella, was born on 1 January and baptised on 12 January 1823 in Kirknewton, Midlothian, Scotland. William was recorded as a labourer in Kaims and once again the baptism was performed by Alexander Simpson. 10 Kaims, located south-east of Kirknewton and just north of Kaims Wood shown on maps of that time, was an estate or farm belonging to the Earl of Morton of Dalmahoy Estate.
Their third child and daughter, Mary Byres, does not appear to have had her birth registered, but from her age stated at later events was born about 1825, probably in Kirknewton, Midlothian, Scotland as the family remained in this area for the birth of their fourth child and first son. 11
James Byres would in fact be William and Margaret's only son, he was born 2 July 1828 and baptised on 3 August 1828 in Kirknewton, Midlothian, Scotland. William is noted again as "of Kaims" but this time the baptising minister is not recorded. 12 By the end of 1830 then the Byers family was comprised of William (37), Margaret (32), and their children Catherine (9), Isabell (7), Mary (5) and James (2).
Whereas for the birth of their last three children William and Margaret had been living in Kirknewtown, by the time of their next child's birth they had made the move to Ecclesmachan, West Lothian, Scotland. Their fifth child and fourth daughter Margaret was born there on 16 October 1831 and baptised on 30 October 1831. 13
Ecclesmachan (Celt. `church of St Machan'), a village and a parish of Linlithgowshire. The village stands 2 ¼ miles N by W of Uphall station, 3 WSW of Winchburgh station, and 4¾ ESE of Linlithgow. The parish consists of two portions, separated by a strip of Linlithgow parish, 1 mile broad at the narrowest. The north-eastern of the two, containing the village at its SW corner, is bounded N by Abcrcorn and the Aldcathie section of Dalmeny, E by Kirkliston, S by Uphall, and SW and W by Linlithgow; and, with an utmost length and breadth of 1¾ and 1½ mile, has an area of 1107 acres. ... 14
Margaret was followed by a further daughter, their fifth, when Agnes Byres was born 5 January 1834 and baptised on 2 February 1834, again in Ecclesmachan, West Lothian, Scotland.15 Girls predominated the family, and another daughter, Janet Byres, was born 23 November 1836 and baptised on 4 January 1837 in Ecclesmachan, West Lothian, Scotland. 16 Janet was later known as Janet Duncan Byers and also as Janet Duncas Byers.
About this time in 1837, a directory entry for Uphall, Broxburn and Ecclesmachan appears with a tailor at Ecclesmachan, who could be Margaret's husband William. 17
Image Courtesy of archive.org
The last two children in the family were also girls, and twins. Jane and Meny Byres were born on 19 September 1840 and baptised on 18 October 1840 in Ecclesmachan, West Lothian, Scotland. 18Jane would later be known as Jane Crawford Byers, and Meny as Wilhelmina Dodds Byers. Jane would also occasionally be styled as Jean, a common Scottish custom, and the use of the name Jane Crawford was probably a reference to Margaret Wilson's sister in-law of the same name.
A year later, in the 1841 census conducted on 6 June, the family were recorded as living in the Ecclesmachan Village as follows: 19
|Surname||First name(s)||Sex||Age||Occupation||Where Born||Remarks|
|BYERS||William||M||50||Agricultural Labourer||West Lothian|
|BYERS||Margaret||F||40||Outside Census County (1841)|
|BYERS||Isabella||F||15||Outside Census County (1841)|
|BYERS||James||M||13||Outside Census County (1841)|
|BYERS||Margaret (Junr.)||F||9||West Lothian|
|BYERS||Jean||F||8m||West Lothian||Annotated as a twin with Wilhemina|
|BYERS||Wilhelmina||F||8m||West Lothian||Annotated as a twin with Jean|
William and Margaret's daughter Catherine, aged 20, was a servant to the household of John Stewart in East Binny, 20
|Surname||First name(s)||Sex||Age||Occupation||Where Born||Remarks|
|PORTEOUS||Margaret||F||30||Female Servant||West Lothian|
|WATSON||Jane||F||30||Female Servant||Outside Census County (1841)|
|BYRES||Catherine||F||20||Female Servant||West Lothian|
Daughter Mary, aged 16, was a servant to the Rev. George Boag in Uphall. 21
|Surname||First name(s)||Sex||Age||Occupation||Where Born||Remarks|
|BOAG||George||M||40||Minister Of Uphall||Outside Census County (1841)|
|BYNES||Mary||F||16||Female Servant||West Lothian|
|CLERK||James||M||30||Preacher Est Ch.||Outside Census County (1841)|
It is tempting to think that George Boag is potentially related to Margaret Byers mother Catherine but no definitive relationship has been established.
The girls certainly did marry young as the first confirmed marriage occurred when Isabella Byres married Joseph Scott on 14 April 1844 in Ecclesmachan, West Lothian, Scotland. 22 Joseph Scott was christened on 20 July 1823, at Castle Sowerby, Cumberland, England, 23 the son of Mungo Scott and Sarah Nicholson. Joseph and Isabella would go on to have five children.
Mary Byres married next, to Robert Kerr on 3 July 1846 in Bathgate, West Lothian, Scotland.24 Robert was born on 18 July 1822 in Crammond, Scotland, the son of John Kerr and Margaret Corstorphine. 25 Mary and Robert would go on to have nine children.
In the 1851 census William and Margaret were still in Ecclesmachan, West Lothian, Scotland. William was recorded as aged 61, and his occupation as Carter. Margaret was recorded as aged 52, and the following children were still living with them: James (22, Carter), Margaret (19), Agnes (17), Jane (10, Scholar) and Wilhamina (10, Scholar). 26
James Byres married Janet Gibb on 19 June 1853 in Ecclesmachan, West Lothian, Scotland. 31 Janet Gibb was born about 1826 and has been recorded as the daughter of George and Helen Gibb. 32 James and Janet would go on to have nine children.
Following the death of her first husband, Isabella Byres married for the second time to Peter Campbell on 2 September 1854 in Uphall, West Lothian, Scotland. 33 Isabella and Peter, and Isabella's five children to Joseph Scott, emgrated from Scotland and arrived in Van Diemen's Land aboard the Queen Victoria on 6 June 1855; with the Scott children travelling under the Campbell surname. Another child was born on the journey. 34
Arriving before them on 19 February 1855 were Isabella's parents and most of her immediate family aboard the Chatham. The passengers were: William Byres and Margaret Wilson and four children; James and Janet Byres; Thomas Eadie and Agnes Wilson and their son Thomas who was born on the voyage; Alexander Wilson (ploughman) and Margaret Smith (general servant) and their five children; Thomas Wilson and Catherine Hay and their four children; Robert Wilson (ploughman) and Catherine Wilson (general servant). Unfortunately James and Janet Byres' son William died during the voyage. 35
John Hay was also aboard the Chatham and three years after the journey on 1 April 1858 John Hay (24) married Agnes Byres (24) in Oatlands, Tasmania. 36 John was christened on 10 June 1832 in Torphichen, West Lothian, Scotland, the son of William Hay and Margaret Shields. 37 John's sister Catherine married Agnes' cousin Thomas Wilson, the son of David Wilson and Jean Crawford. Agnes and John would go on to have ten children.
Just one month later Agnes' sister Janet Byres (21) married Richard Daniel Higgins (25) on 8 May 1858 in Oatlands, Tasmania. 38 Richard was born on 10 October 1832 in Oatlands, Van Diemen's Land, the son of Richard Foord Higgins and Rhoda Catherine Bailey. 39 Richard's father had been transported to VDL for his participation in the infamous Aldington Gang smuggling operations in Kent. Janet and Richard would go on to have ten children.
Just seven years after the Byres exodus to Van Diemen's Land but on the other side of Bass Strait, Catharine Mitchell (nee Byers) died on 6 April 1862 in Collingwood, Victoria. Catherine was recorded as born in Linlithgow, Scotland, the daughter of William Byres and Margaret Wilson. 40 According to Margaret Rackham:
Later that same year one of the Byers twins, Jane Crawford Byres, married William Sunderland on 12 December 1862 in the Presbyterian Church at Kyneton, Victoria. 41 William was born in 1832 in Gedney, Lincolnshire, England, the son of Charles Sunderland and Mary Taylor. 42 Jane and William would go on to have eleven children.
Four years later Jane's twin sister Wilhelmina Dodds Byres married John Sunderland on 22 March 1866 in St Pauls Church of England in Kyneton, Victoria. 43 John was born in 1837 in Long Sutton, Lincolnshire, England, the brother of William Sunderland who had married his wife's sister. 44 Wilhelmina and John would go on to have nine children.
In the mid-seventies the family patriarch William Byers died on 6 October 1875 in Oatlands, Tasmania. The cause of death was recorded as Old Age (his reported age was 85), and the informant was William's son in-law John Hay.45 William was buried in Oatlands, Tasmania.
Byers. - On the 6th October, William Byers, late of Abercorn, Mid-Lothian, Scotland, in perfect, peace, aged 85 years. 46
Just over a month later William was followed by his wife Margaret Byers (nee Wilson) who died on 17 November 1875 in Oatlands, Tasmania. Once again the cause of death was recorded as Old Age (her reported age was 76) and the informant again was Margaret's son in-law John Hay.47 Margaret was buried in Oatlands, Tasmania.
DEATHS - BYERS. - On 17th November, Margaret, relict of the late William Byers, The funeral will take place on Saturday, at one o'clock, and will proceed to the Presbyterian Burial Ground, Oatlands. 48
BYERS,-On 17th November, at Hayfield, Tunnack (the residence of her son-in-law), Margaret Byers, relict of the late William Byers, late of Ecclesmachan, Mid-Lothian, Scotland, in the 76th year of her age, in perfect peace. Melbourne and home papers please copy.49
Death Registrations of William and Margaret Byers
Image Reproduced Courtesy of the Archives Office of Tasmania
Janet Duncan Higgins (nee Byres) died on 17 April 1880 in Oatlands, Tasmania at the reported age of 45. 50 Janet was buried in the Red Hills Cemetery, Bushy Park, Tasmania.
In those idyllic sounding surroundings the Byers, Campbells, Scotts, Hays and their relatives worked the land under often difficult circumstances, so that by the end of the eighteenth century William and Margaret Byers had 76 grand-children, and numerous great-grandchildren.
William and Margaret's son in law John Mitchell, husband of Catherine Byres, died at Lake Tiberias near Oatlands on 1 October 1893, aged 74. No children have been traced to the couple. 51 John was buried in the Presbyterian Cemetery in Oatlands on 3 October 1893.52
On 20 June 1898 Robert Kerr, the husband of Mary Byres, died at his property "Harden Green" in Cohuna, Victoria 53; Peter Campbell, the second husband of Isabella Byers, died on 20 March 1900 in Tunnack, Tasmania; 54 John Sunderland, the husband of Wilhelmina Byers, died on 2 January 1902 in Northcote, Victoria;55 and John Hay, the husband of Agnes Byers, died on 26 March 1903 in Tunnack, Tasmania. 56
The Byres children themselves were ageing, and Isabella Campbell (formerly Scott, nee Byres) died on 10 January 1905 in Tunnack, Tasmania. 57 Isabella was buried on 13 January 1905 in Tunnack, Tasmania. Two years later Isabella's sister Agnes Hay (nee Byers) died in October 1907. 58
Before the first decade of the new century closed, James and Janet Byres also passed away, Janet Byres (nee Gibb) dying on 7 September 1909 in Tunnack, Tasmania. 59
A number of William and Margaret Byres' grand-children and great-grand-children fought in the First World War between 1914-1918. Thomas, William, Henry and Percy are some of the Byres descendants whose Australian Imperial Force records are now available from the National Archives Office of Australia.
After the war John Shaw, the husband of Margaret Byres, died on 1 October 1916 in Kyneton, Victoria. 62
Richard Daniel Higgins, the husband of Janet Byers, died on 19 May 1918 in Uxbridge, Tasmania. 63
Mary Kerr (nee Byres) died on 5 October 1919 at 91 Park Street, Abbotsford, Victoria. She was recorded as the daughter of William Byres and Margaret Boag. 64 and buried in Melbourne, Victoria.
William Sunderland, the husband of Jane Byres, died on 2 November 1919 in Ringwood, Victoria. 65
Margaret Shaw (nee Byres) died 16 September 1921 in Kyneton, Victoria. 66
The two youngest children of William Byres and Margaret Wilson were the last to pass away, the twins Jane or Jean and Menie or Wilhelmina.
Jane Crawford Sunderland (nee Byres) died on 30 October 1927 at 45 Ringwood Street, Ringwood, Victoria. 67
Jane was buried in the Church of England Cemetery at Ringwood, Victoria. 68
Wilhelmina Dodds Sunderland (nee Byres) died on 7 March 1928 at 206 Murray Road, Preston, Victoria. 69
- 1. Rackham, Margaret, Family Group Sheets, "Wilson Descendants," Book 2, Page 66. Scotland's People is "a partnership between General Register Office for Scotland, the National Archives of Scotland and the Court of the Lord Lyon enabled by brightsolid". The International Genealogical Index is "An official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."
- 2. GROS OPR Marriages 682/00 0030 0125 Currie
- 3. GROS OPR Births 661/00 0030 0111 Abercorn.
- 4. NAS : Session Minutes of Abercorn Church - 1813
- 5. IGI : Batch # M11661-5, Film # 1066611, 0102974
- 6. Latin for - "On the same day and place. As we sat down"
- 7. GROS : OPR Marriages 661/00 0040 0221 - Abercorn
- 8. Latin for - "they sat" (and)
- 9. GROS OPR Births 690/00 0040 0011 Kirknewton and East Calder
- 10. GROS OPR Births 690/00 0040 0023 Kirknewton and East Calder
- 11. Rackham, Margaret, Family Group Sheets, "Wilson Descendants," Book 2, Page 66. Date of birth calculated from age stated at death (94 in 1919).
- 12. GROS OPR Births 690/00 0040 0043 Kirknewton and East Calder
- 13. GROS OPR Births 666/00 0020 0026 Ecclesmachan
- 14. A Vision of Britain Through Time; http://www.visionofbritain.org.uk/place/place_page.jsp?p_id=16604 (viewed 28 Feb 2011)
- 15. GROS OPR Births 666/00 0020 0030 Ecclesmachan
- 16. GROS OPR Births 666/00 0020 0030 Ecclesmachan
- 17. Pigot and Co.'s national commercial directory for the whole of Scotland and of the Isle of Man - http://archive.org/stream/pigotcosnational1837dire#page/644/mode/2up
- 18. GROS OPR Births 666/00 0020 0043 Ecclesmachan
- 19. GROS Census 1841 666/00 001/00 007
- 20. GROS Census 1841 668/00 013/00 007 - Linlithgow page 8.
- 21. GROS Census 1841 668/00 013/00 007 page 8 and GROS Census 1841 672/00 002/00 001 page 1
- 22. Rackham, Margaret, Family Group Sheets, "Wilson Descendants," Book 2, Page 66.
- 23. IGI - England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975 - Batch Number: C05929-1, Film number: 90593
- 24. GROS OPR Marriages 662/00 0040 0231 Bathgate
- 25. Rackham, Margaret, Family Group Sheets, "Wilson Descendants," Book 2, Page 66
- 26. GROS Census 1851 666/00 001/00 005
- 27. GROS OPR Deaths 666/00 0020 0104 Ecclesmachen
- 28. Rackham, Margaret, Family Group Sheets, "Wilson Descendants," Book 2, Page 66
- 29. GROS OPR Marriages 666/00 0020 0087 Ecclesmachan
- 30. Rackham, Margaret, Family Group Sheets, "Wilson Descendants," Book 2, Page 66. John's parents were recorded in his later death registration.
- 31. GROS OPR Marriages 666/00 0020 0087 Ecclesmachan
- 32. Rackham, Margaret, Family Group Sheets, "Wilson Descendants," Book 5, Page 1
- 33. Rackham, Margaret, Family Group Sheets, "Wilson Descendants," Book 2, Page 66
- 34. AOT Shipping Arrivals CB7/12/1/5 BK20
- 35. AOT Shipping Arrivals CB7/12/1/3 B6
- 36. AOT Marriage Registration RGD 1858/681
- 37. IGI Batch No. C116715, Source Call No. 1066638, Print Out Call No. 6900371
- 38. AOT Marriage Registration RGD 1858/682
- 39. Chick, Neil: Van Diemen's Land Heritage; Vol. 4 (this event cannot be found in the Tasmanian Pioneer Index).
- 40. VIC BDM Death Registration RGD 1862/4030
- 41. VIC BDM Marriage Registration RGD 1862/4238
- 42. Rackham, Margaret, Family Group Sheets, "Wilson Descendants," Book 2, Page 66.
- 43. VIC BDM Marriage Registration RGD 1866/133
- 44. Rackham, Margaret, Family Group Sheets, "Wilson Descendants," Book 2, Page 66.
- 45. AOT Death Registration RGD 1875/707
- 46. The Mercury Monday 1 November 1875
- 47. AOT Death Registration RGD 1875/711
- 48. The Mercury Friday 19 November 1875
- 49. The Mercury Wednesday 1 December 1875
- 50. AOT Death Registration RGD 1880/556
- 51. AOT : Death Registration RGD 1893/520
- 52. The Mercury Monday 2 October 1893 page 1
- 53. Public Record Office of Victoria; Last Will and Testament; 68/203 (Robert Kerr's death could not be located in the Victorian BDM Records).
- 54. TFI Death Registration RGD 1900/1000
- 55. VIC BDM Death Registration RGD 1902/2992
- 56. TFI Death Registration RGD 1903/1618
- 57. Federation Index Death Registration RGD 1905/1153
- 58. The Mercury Wednesday 23 October 1907
- 59. Federation Index Death Registration RGD 1909/553
- 60. Federation Index Death Registration RGD 1910/648
- 61. Grave 1034
- 62. VIC BDM Death Registration 1916/14860
- 63. Federation Index Death Registration RGD 1918/888
- 64. VIC BDM Death Registration RGD 1919/16823
- 65. VIC BDM Death Registration RGD 1919/18876
- 66. VIC BDM Death Registration RGD 1921/10606
- 67. VIC BDM Death Registration RGD 1927/16312
- 68. Grave No. 1471 (No Headstone)
- 69. VIC BDM Death Registration RGD 1928/3445