Finding My Ancestors In Old Newspaper Articles

Categories Coyle, Family History, Old Newspapers, Sherry
Ancestors In Old Newspaper Articles

As a family history addict, I am always looking to find new sources of records to add more flesh to the bones of my ancestors.  Searching old newspaper archives is key to doing this.  I am finding my ancestors in old newspaper articles.

My Grandfather Thomas Sherry‘s cousin Michael Sherry (1898-1967) features in lots of old newspaper articles from his time as a Councillor for Holytown and as a Justice Of The Peace during the mid 20th Century.

When finding my ancestors in old newspaper articles does not always paint a positive picture of their lives.  In my ancestry, there are those who lived hard lives, resorting to law breaking to survive.  There are relatives who died in tragic circumstances.  And there are relatives who used their brawn to settle disputes.

Theft! Violence! Read All About It!

The British Newspaper Archive is fantastic for family history addicts. Its subscription only but reasonably priced.

My 3rd Great Grandmother Isabella McFadyen/McFadden (Abt 1815- Abt 1873) appears in the newspaper archives several times during her life in Scotland.

My ancestor went through her life in Glasgow using different names:  Elizabeth Sherry and Elizabeth Wilson crop up in newspaper articles of the day:

Isabella, or should I say Elizabeth Wilson, appeared before the Lord Justice Clerk at the Glasgow District Court in June 1872:

Elizabeth Wilson or Sherry, was charged with stealing a nightgown or chemise off a railing in East Clyde Street on the 23rd August.  The accused had been four times previously convicted. Twice before the Circuit Court. Pleading guilty, she was sentenced to seven years penal servitude.
Glasgow Herald – Thursday 26 September 1872

I’m 90% certain that Isabella died in 1873 at Ayr Prison.   But I’m happy to stand corrected if new information is available to me.

More of Isabella’s will feature in a future blog post.

For The Love Of Dogs

Either Isabella’s son Patrick (1834-1902) my 2nd Great Grandfather, or his son Patrick Jnr (1873-1945) maintained the family tradition of theft in July 1889:

At Airdrie J.P. Court this forenoon Patrick Sherry, miner, belonging to Caldercruix, was found guilty of stealing a Collie dog from Thomas Murray, Newhouse which he afterwards sold to John Broadley at Holytown.  Sherry was sent to prison for 30 days by Sheriff Mair.
Edinburgh Evening News – Monday 29 July 1889

I think I inherited my love of Dogs from Patrick.

The Fighting Coyle’s Of Kilsyth

My Coyle ancestry has a number of colourful characters.  The Coyle family of Kilsyth had a tendency to use brawn over brain in farmer’s fields to settle disputes during the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.

My Great Grandparents, Martha Haggerty (1866-1952) and Francis Coyle (1866-1939) had a few column inches during their lives in Kilsyth.

Martha and Francis’ appearance at Kilsyth Burgh Court was newsworthy in November 1902:

Kilsyth Burgh Court

Monday – Before Provost Wilson

Francis Coyle, Miner, Newton again appeared on a charge of having, on the stairhead leading to the house occupied by Michael O’Hara, committed a breach of the peace. Accused, who had been previously convicted, pled not guilty.

John Grant, Police Constable called by Chief Constable Semphill deponed that about 9:48pm on Saturday 11th October, he and Constable Scott were on duty at the Cross and hearing the disturbance went to O’Hara’s house.  They found Coyle and his wife creating a row, she having a fire shovel with which she was threatening her husband. It was a terrible noise.

In reply to accused, Constable Grant asserted Mrs Coyle had a shovel in her hand.

This, Coyle denied. Stating that all he did was to try and separate his wife and sister Mrs O’Hara, who were quarrelling.

A neighbour heard the noise and fighting, which she said were a shame and disgrace and Patrick Scott, Police Constable who was with Constable Grant corroborated Mrs Coyle said she would knock out her husband’s brains with the fire shovel and Coyle said he would knock her head off.

In reply to the Provost, Scott said the one was as much to blame for the other.

For the defence, Mrs Coyle was called and stated that she and Mrs O’Hara quarrelled that night and her husband tried to separate them.

Coyle said the two were quarrelling and he tried to separate them. When the Police came he went down the stair.

Provost Wilson advised Coyle to agree with his wife. He did not want to be too hard on accused who was fined 10s or 7 days in Prison.
Kilsyth Chronicle – Saturday 08 November 1902

As you can see, finding ancestors in old newspaper articles doesn’t always paint a positive picture of them!

Reporting Tragedies

Young ancestors met a tragic end to their lives and duly noted in the 19th Century local press.  My Great Grandfather Arthur Sherry’s (1857-1918)  younger brother Michael (1862-1890) died in a railway accident.  The Edinburgh Evening News published a story about it.  But they erroneously referred to Michael as Richard:

The body of Richard Sherrie, miner belonging to Arden was found yesterday on the North British Railway within a few miles of Airdrie.
He left his Father’s house at Caldercruix about midnight on Saturday and nothing was seen of him until his body was found.  He had been knocked down by a train and killed on the spot….
Edinburgh Evening News – Monday 22 September 1890

Only last night I discovered that Michael and Arthur’s brother James Sherry (1860-1923) lost a daughter Annie (1891-1893) in tragic circumstances:

A child named Annie Sherry has been scalded to death at Arden, near Airdrie, through a basin of boiling water being accidentally spilt on her.
Edinburgh Evening News – Friday 03 March 1893

And Finally, Some Good News

Yes, I discovered good news stories when finding ancestors in old newspapers.  I quite like this story about my Grandfather’s Aunt Emily Sherry nee Logan (1879-1956)  and her son Patrick Sherry jnr (1911-1990):


A woman’s screams were the first indication of a dramatic incident that occurred at Gartcraig Bridge on the Monkland Canal about a mile and a half from Shettleston, when a young woman Mrs Margaret Mossop narrowly escaped being drowned.

About ten o’clock in the morning, the woman accompanied by a man was seen walking along the canal bank in the direction of Riddrie and took shelter from the rain under Gartraig

Mrs Emily Sherry, the wife of a canal boatman who stays in a cottage close to the bridge, saw them laughing together.

A few minutes afterwards, loud screams were heard coming from the bridge, and on Mrs Sherry rushing out of her house. She was shocked to see the woman struggling in the water.  The man was not on the bank at the time.

Had it not been for the presence of mind of both Mrs Sherry and her seventeen year old son Patrick, the woman, who had drifted into midstream would have drowned.

The article documents Emily’s account of the incident:

” I was walking along the canal bank towards Shettleston to the lock where my husband is working to give him his breakfast. I had not gone many yards before I met the man and woman who were walking quite slowly and talking together….”

“….. A few minutes after my return, as I was putting a pot of water on the fire.  I started to hear loud screams.  I ran out and saw the woman struggling in the water…. ”

“…. I ran back to the house and got hold of grappling irons.  I threw them to the woman who was well out of the bank. She failed to grasp hold the first time and the second time she pulled the rope out of my hands in her excitement.

Running back to the house I found that my son Patrick who had been in bed, had hastily dressed himself and was making for the bank with a rope.

The woman was by this time in a desperate plight. Patrick ran over the bridge to the other side of the canal and threw the rope to her. She could not grasp it at first.

After several throws however, she did manage to get a hold and my son pulled her to the bank and we both took her out…”
Sunday Post – Sunday 12 February 1928

The article ends informing the reader that Mrs Mossop’s husband ended up getting charged.

Finding My Ancestors In Old Newspaper Articles: Editoral

Finding ancestors in old newspapers are food and drink for history addicts.  They open up new lines of research elsewhere within the family tree.  I can share these lost stories about my ancestors to those who are here today.

And most people like hearing about skeletons in the family cupboards and other family gossip!

Have you tried finding ancestors in old newspaper articles?


With thanks to The British Newspaper Archive

Family History addict since 2012. Now documenting my findings and insights online.

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