A Family History Newsletter

Volume 3, Number 2

2nd Quarter 2004


The Samuel Tullis Family of Edinburgh

by Leslie Hastings, The Greenhouse, Murieston Steading, Murieston, EH54 9AH, Scotland
(leslie@kodiak-web-design.com)

The Samuel Tullis Family, 10 Milnes Court, Edinburgh, Scotland, c 1910. Left to Right: Elizabeth Gordon Tullis (1895-1916), Samuel Tullis (1902-1952), Samuel Tullis (1864-1943), (photo in frame) Alice Hughes McPherson Tullis (?) (1889-?), Unknown Tullis (c1906-?), (floor) Robert Tullis (1899-?), Christina Liddle Tullis (1892-1980), Mary Hughes (1861-1941), and Violet Tullis (1905-1971).

As often happens, the answering of one question raises several others. In this Tullis family, learning the story of one child's origin has only led to the open-ended question about what happened to her later.

This photograph holds a great deal of magic for me. I stare at it for long moments, sometimes puzzling, sometimes marvelling, sometimes just staring. My grandmother when she was 18 years old. I didn't know her until she was 71, and then I was only a baby. Imagining her life before I knew her is what got me started tracing my family tree. I never met any of the other people in this photograph, save my Auntie Vi, once. My research has allowed me to feel as though I know them all a little. And Oh, what regard I have for them, now that I know what life must have been like.

The oldest child, Alice, has always been a bit of a mystery. Family history was that she was "sort-of adopted"; that she may have been somehow connected to the family, but beyond that, her story was pure speculation. I managed, through a combination of sheer bull-headedness and pure luck, to find her birth record. She is the illegitimate child of Mary Hughes (pictured) and Donald McPherson. Born in 1889, Alice lived with her parents, although they didn't marry, until her mother married another man, Samuel Tullis, in August of 1892. My grandmother was born one month later.

But Mary and Samuel did marry, and stayed married (more than can be said for Mary's first marriage), and they went on to have more children. I like to think this means they married for love. The fact that Mary didn't marry Alice's father suggests she was not one to hold too firmly to convention, so the fact that she did marry Samuel carries even more weight. Alice appears as a Tullis on all the census data that is available. She may have been formally adopted, but it is more likely that Samuel just took her under his wing and gave her his name, which would have made all their lives easier. She was young enough when her mother married Samuel that she may not ever have known she wasn't his child.

By the time this photograph was taken, Alice had migrated to Canada, and we think that the framed picture on the table is her, purposely included in her absence. It is possible that the youngest child pictured here with the family is actually her son, raised as her brother. If that were the case, she'd have been about 18 when he was born; not at all impossible. Another possibility is that he is a nephew rather than a son, in which case his surname could be something other than Tullis.

The other problem is that we don't know when Alice left for Canada, although we can speculate it was after 1905 (when she'd have been 16). We don't know whether she left from Edinburgh or Glasgow, or in fact London; nor do we know the name of the ship she sailed on. We don't know whether that ship went directly to Canada or whether it dropped its passengers in New York, and we don't know whether Alice was maybe one of the many passengers whose employers, waiting for them at the other end, had arranged a direct connection to another location, thereby omitting the need for her to register at the port of arrival. To make matters worse (albeit better for Alice at the time), Canada was still part of the British Empire at that time, and she wouldn't have needed a visa.

We may never know what happened to Alice; whether she ever married, where and how she lived, and where she died. But I am convinced there is still hope for finding out who her wee brother was. If all else fails, then I can hope that the 1911 census will tell me who was living with the family then. But it's an awfully long time to wait.

In the photograph, the youngest known child is Violet (far right). As she appears to be about age 5 in this photo, the first inclination is to date the sitting at about 1910. This would make the other known, present children 15, 8, 4, 11 and 18. While it is impossible to be certain, their appearances do seem in keeping with these ages. That leaves the unknown child, who appears about four years old, but could be as young as three, establishing his birth as approximately 1906-1907.

The author welcomes correspondence and queries (leslie@kodiak-web-design.com).


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