Friday, April 1, 2011

How the Title of a Blog Knocked Down a Brick Wall...

Blogging has proved more useful than I imagined.... or as the title was going to be....'Looking for my Married Couples.'

It never ceases to amaze me how genealogy puzzles can be solved in the most unexpected ways. I have discovered information unexpectedly, in books, been contacted by distant relatives from far off places with information to share and even parked beside a cemetery where I unexpectedly discovered the graves of my husband's ancestors. Recently, however, I resolved an eight year long search, simply by trying to think of a witty title for a blog post. I blasted my way through my brick wall just by thinking of a title! And if I do say so, I am rather pleased with myself! I realise now, after writing blogs about lateral thinking, name variations and looking outside the box, that I should have seen the solution to this puzzle earlier, but with so many branches on the tree, some things invariably get overlooked.

This story begins with an idea I had to write a blog about one of my most frustrating brick walls. It involved my great great great grandparents in Scotland whose names were FEARNS and COUPLES. While typing the title of the blog, I thought to be clever and make a play of the surname Couples. Unable to resist a pun, I wrote the title, 'Looking for my married Couples'. Clever, perhaps, but it didn't really convey what I was writing about so I simply added a slash and a name variation for effect, which came to mind on a whim. The title now read, 'Looking for my married Couples/Cupples. But then the historian came out in me and I felt compelled to stick to the truth. I had never actually searched for the surname Cupples so as I deleted the' /Cupples' from my title, I consoled myself by thinking, 'what a silly name Cupples is anyway. It decided that it didn't even look like a proper name. and I began to write my blog. Then an idea would not leave me alone.

I googled the name Cupples to see if there was anyone with that surname. As an ever growing number of CUPPLES message boards appeared on my computer screen, I thought. 'What if my Mary Ann actually HAD been a Cupples and not a Couples? It was not a name variation I had simply never thought of. I had been trying to be clever with a blog title but suddenly it seemed perfectly possible that,despite all documents spelling the name with an 'ou', that perhaps spelling was not one of my ancestors' strongest attributes. All thoughts of my blog flew out the window and, (checking the balance of my credit card), I headed immediately to Scotlands People to search for my Mary Ann Couples/Cupples.

From the marriage certificate of my Scottish great great grandparents, James Gibson and Mary Fearns, I knew that the names of Mary's parents were George Fearns and Mary Ann Couples, but I had never been able to find a marriage record, or births for my three times great grandparents, George Fearns or Mary Ann Couples. The name Fearns appears as Ferns, Farnes and Ferrans on other primary documents so I had searched several variations of the name Fearns, with no success. Possibly because the word couples is so well used in the English language, I hadn't resorted to variations of this surname in my searches previously. That was about to change.

My first search for Mary Ann Cupples in the Old Parish Records, Births & Christenings 1583-1854, on the Scotlands People website, came up with nothing. Recalling that people named Mary Ann sometimes use just one of the names, I searched again using Mary Cupples and this time my search resulted in one hit. The Mary Cupples that I found was born in Falkirk Stirling in 1821. My Mary Ann's daughter Mary Fearns was born in Falkirk, Stirling and I felt this was more than coincidence. Mary Ann Cupples was born to Alexander Cupples and Elizabeth Shaw. I had to fight the immediate feeling of kinship I was forming, until I had proof that I had found the right family.

Next I searched for a marriage for Mary Cupples guessing it to be around 1840-1845. This time there were three results between 1583 and 1854. I discovered that Mary Ann Cupples married Robert James Gray in 1836, George FARRIN on June 3, 1841, and James MCMORY in 1846, all marriages occurring in Falkirk, Stirling in Scotland.

I became more convinced that this was my Mary Ann Couples/Cupples after I re-examined the death certificate of her daughter Mary. Mary's surname at the time of her death in 1913 was Gilmour and her parents names were given as George Ferran and Mary Ann Couples.

Using the new spelling of Cupples, I searched the LDS IGI and where I connected with others who were researching Alexander Cupples and Elizabeth Shaw. It became clear that not only had I found my Mary Ann, but I had collected a whole lot of extra family who descended from her children from her first marriage to Robert James Gray and her third marriage to Robert McMurray ( McMory on the marriage record).

Alexander Cupples, my four times great grandfather, was born in County Down, Ireland in 1787 to Alexander (1744) and Agnes Cupples. Elizabeth Shaw, his wife, was born on November 3, 1786 in Cumbernauld, Dunbartonshire, Scotland to parents James Shaw and Elspeth Arthur. Alexander and Elizabeth were married in Cumbernauld March 3, 1809. They had the following children:

Agnes 1810 born Cumbernauld

Robert 1812 ditto

John 1814 ditto

James 1816 ditto

Mary Ann 1821 born Falkirk, Stirling

Jean 1826 Falkirk Stirling

Alexander 1828 Falkirk Stirling

I have now traced my Cupples family back to County Down in Ireland and found the eight siblings of my four times great grandfather, Alexander Cupples. I have researched their marriages and children and even followed the journey of my four times great uncle, Samuel Cupples to America, where he built a large Romanesque mansion in St Louis which is now on the American heritage register.

Thanks to my creative thinking for a blog title, I now have Scottish Arthur and Shaw ancestors to find, and I am looking forward with anticipation to learning much more about my fascinating Cupples family.

I set out to write a blog about brick walls and missing 'Couples' and instead I found myself adding a whole new branch of Cupples to my family tree. What amazing twists and turns I have encountered on this journey into family history.


  1. Wonderful story and example of the many, and quite often unexpected, ways in which family history discoveries can be made - not that I've used this method, but think I'll have to try it!

  2. Wow, what a find!

    Congratulations,thanks for sharing your excitement and reminding us to be creative.

    I've many a brick wall that might respond to some creative thinking - I just need to develop some creativity.

  3. Fannntastico! It's so exciting isn't it :)

    Good effort!


  4. Great find, love that house. Nothing like a bit of inspiration timed with lateral thinking and taken with the odd dose of flippancy... :-)

  5. Oh my, congrats on the find! What a large break-through!