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Helen Smith

Generation 4




1841 Census

1851 Census

1861 Census

1871 Census

1881 Census

1891 Census

1901 Census














It's difficult to know what to make of Helen's life. It does appear that from the moment she married George Sutter (4), her life took a turn for the worse. She fell pregnant almost immediately, she lost at least two children in early infancy, she had a further five children and it appears she was ill-treated by her husband for much of this time. In the 1901 Census Helen was a patient in hospital and was recorded as being a widow despite her husband still being alive, mirroring two of her children's actions at the time of their marriages. Finally she died at the young age of 45.

Yet, I wonder what her early life was like. Of course, we know little of it at this stage as I have not yet found any census records for her before her marriage. Nevertheless, I'd like to think it was a bit better. Photographs of her father and mother are suggestive of a happy couple and there's something about the occupation of Gardener (her father) that suggests contentment (or am I just being sentimental).


1st November 1857

Helen was born at 11.15 p.m. at Weensland in Hawick. Her parents were Andrew Smith, a Wool Scourer and Elizabeth Murray. Helen had a twin sister Jane who was born a half hour later.

1861 Census

Helen, aged 3, lived with her Father, Andrew Smith (28) and mother, Elizabeth Smith (nee Murray), at the 2nd House in the village of Weensland, Hawick. At that time, her father was employed as a "Woolen Cloth Scourer".

1871 Census

Helen, now aged 13, lived with her Father and Mother, Andrew and Elizabeth respectively, and with her siblings, Agnes, aged 7 and William, aged 3. They lived in Eskbank, probably Ormisbank Cottage (although it doesn't say). Andrew was, by this time, employed as a Gardener.

1881 Census

Helen, aged 23, is recorded as living, as a servant, at "Ormisbank". The Head of the house is called Jon Tod. There are actually three servants residing there. Helen is a Cook. They also have a Housemaid and a Table Maid. Helen is recorded as having a middle initial, "M". This is the first time I've come across that, but it might stand for "Murray", her mother's maiden name. That this is the correct Helen Smith is confirmed by the place of birth given as Weensland, Roxburghshire.

The slightly curious thing about Helen's address, Ormisbank, is that her father, Andrew Smith is recorded as living in Ormisbank Cottage, Dalkeith in this Census, but not at the same address as Helen.  In fact, Andrew's Census record is the one immediately before Helen's, but on the preceding page.  According to the 1872/73 'Owners of Scotland's Land and Heritages' Return, Ormisbank was owned by John Tod and amounted to 2 acres of land.  As seen above, Helen was a servant in John Tod's household.  It seems likely that Ormisbank Cottage was on John Tod's land and that Andrew was a tenant of his.  Jon Tod was described as a "Wholesale and Retail Grocer" and he employed 35 men (including women?)

View the full Census record here.

View the 1872/73 'Owners of Scotland's Land and Heritages' Return here

30th June 1882

Helen married George Sutter (4) in Dalkeith. Helen was aged 24 and lived in Dalkeith, as did George. The marriage was conducted according to the rites of the United Presbyterian Church. Both of Helen's parents were still alive.

2nd April 1883

Helen's first son, Alexander Kerr Sutter, was born at 6.15 a.m. at 176 High Street, Dalkeith. Helen's husband George reported the birth to the Registrar.

5th June 1885

Her second son, Andrew Smith Sutter, was born at 7.15 a.m. at 31 Balbirnie Place in Edinburgh. George again reported the birth.

24th January 1887

The first tragedy in Helen's life that we know of was beginning to unfold with the birth of her son George again at Balbirnie Place. Helen's husband, George, was present at the birth. Sadly though George 'junior' died shortly after his birth, the cause being described as 'Premature Birth'. George reported both events to the Registrar the following day. Curiously though, the Registrar names on the two certificates were different - T. H. Menzies for the birth and Angus Matheson for the death.

7th January 1888

Twins George Lindsay Sutter and William Murray Sutter were born at 12 Noon and 12.45 p.m. respectively. Again the births took place at Balbirnie Place and George was present.

14th January 1888

Tragedy again though - for the second time a son called George died in infancy. This time after 7 days (although curiously the death certificate gives the age as 12 days). The cause of death this time was 'Twin Birth Ination'.

5th September 1890

3rd time lucky - the third George and the second George Lindsay was born at 3 a.m. in 174 Scotland Street Glasgow. George was present and reported the birth to the Registrar.

1891 Census

Helen, now aged 33, lives at 174 Scotland Street, Tradeston, Glasgow. The house has two rooms with one or more windows and living there with her are her husband George and their children Alexander, Andrew S., William M. and George L. Also living there was a William Scott described as a cousin.

21st May 1893

Robert Deans Sutter, my Granddad was born at 3.45 p.m. in 67 Seamore Street, Glasgow. George was described as a Journeyman Grain Miller.

4th July 1896

Helen's only daughter Elizabeth Agnes Murray Sutter was born at 2.15 a.m. in Hillview Cottage, Hawick. This time the birth was not reported by George but by Agnes Lambert, who is described as 'Grand Aunt'. As can be seen from the 1891census entry above, George had been living with his wife as late as then, but my assumption is that by 1896 Helen had moved back to her place of origin, probably as a result of her parting with her husband.

1901 Census

Helen is recorded in the Census as being a patient at Glasgow Royal Infirmary. She is aged 43 and is described as a Widow - George, however, was still living.

12th June 1903

Helen's seemingly unhappy life came to a mature end at 6.10 p.m. at 147 Comely Park Street, Glasgow. She died from Chronic Interstitial Rephritis and Uralmic coma. Her death was reported by her son Alexander and George's continuing existence was acknowledged through the description of Helen's condition as "married", i.e. not 'widowed').