Unexpected treasure and a sad family story

Elizabeth Miller Needlework picture

Needlework picture worked by Elizabeth Miller 1841-59

2015 was not a good one for me with family funerals, family and friends in hospital and my own ill health for the latter half of the year but one bonus has been the gift of a needlework picture to my daughter following her great aunt’s death.

Mysterious illness

The picture was worked by her Great Great Great Aunt Elizabeth Miller who died in 1859 aged 18 after a Decline of about 3 years duration.  Victorian novels often have characters who suffer and die young from mysterious illnesses but this is the first that I have found in our family history and my immediate thought was to run through all the possible illnesses it could be.  You assume if it had been consumption it would have said so and similarly heart trouble of any kind but decline implies a slow deterioration.  Speculation is useless though as we will never know but it makes this particular heirloom more poignant.

Elizabeth Miller was born on 29 July 1841 in Fort William in Scotland the first child of James Miller the Inspector of Poor for Kilmallie parish and his wife Isabella MacLeod.  Elizabeth’s brother Ebenezer is my daughter’s Great Great Great Grandfather. (James Miller her father looks a little grim in this picture but that can be explained when you find out about his family problems.)

James Miller

James Miller

Registrar of Births, Marriages and Deaths

James Miller continued as a public servant and became the Registrar for the district. It was his fate to not only be the informant but also the registrar on his daughter’s death register entry. This must have been very painful for him.

He and Isabella had a number of children but only a few survived to adulthood.

Elizabeth born 29 July 1841 died 22 July 1859

William born 29 June 1843 died 29 Sept 1843

Ebenezer born 27 June 1845 died 4 February 1904

John born 16 May 1847 died 26 May 1847

Mary born 15 July 1848 died 30 January 1929

Norman MacLeod born 25 August 1850 died 24 November 1850

Isabella Leitch born 28 November 1853 died  18 January 1892 (of Influenza)

Hugh born 9 February 1857 died 22 February 1857
James born 9 February 1857 died 12 May 1857

Flora born 22 October 1858 died 6 July 1939

Of the ten children six died very young but he and his wife had another daughter who developed health problems and was no doubt a worry to them.

Argyll and Bute Lunatic Asylum

In his will he mentions two of his daughters, Flora, who took such care of his wife in her final illness, and Mary, where his Trustees are charged with her care and maintenance.  He mentions certain properties which are earmarked for this.  This odd fact aroused my suspicions so I followed her up only to find her in the 1891 census categorised as a lunatic (although a private patient) in the Argyll and Bute Lunatic Asylum in Lochgilphead. She remained there until her death of senile decay  on 30 January 1929 aged 81.

However Flora survived to old age as my late father in law met her when he was a small child. She never married but like her sister Mary lived to the age of 81 and died in 1939 shortly before the declaration of yet another World War.

It is no wonder that James Miller has a sad look in his eyes.  I judged him  a cold fish from that photo without really looking into his history and noticing that he looks sad rather than grim.  You would have had to be really hard-hearted to recover from the death of so many children I think.  So my apologies James for all those years of taking you at face value from a not very flattering photo.

Jacqui Kirk

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