#52 Ancestors Week 4 - "Invite to dinner"

"A Victorian Odyssey: The 1858-1872 Letters of Mungo Travers Park"

The woman mentioned here is my 4th great grandmother, Alison Veitch Park. She immediately popped into my head as the ancestor I would most like to invite to dinner. What happened? How did she become so destitute?  How did her husband die? What happened to her children? Why weren't any of them caring or her in her old age? The more I found out about her life, the more I want to know her life ended so badly. 
I was happy when I finally made my family connection to Mungo Park, the explorer. I wrote about him earlier. I had heard his story many times and, quite frankly, it was kind of annoying! Great, good for him, but who was was my person if he was a 5th great uncle? After years of searching, I finally connected the dots. It took a long time, but there he was, Alexander Park, my fourth great grandfather. He was just two years younger than the explorer, and apparently Alexander was the one who kept in touch with his brother in between all of his travels. He was a lawyer, writer and in 1810 he accepted a position as a bank agent. He had no experience in banking, but I suppose the shareholders felt he could do the job.

 I haven't come across his death record but I hope to find out the exact date and cause of death. All I have been able to learn is that he died "suddenly" at age 41. Alexander was in the middle of what would become a major banking scandal There were signs that the bank was in trouble when he died in 1814. The bank's cashier, William Borthwick, had been defrauding the bank by propping up his personal business interests using the bank's money. By 1822 Borthwick fled Scotland for America with all of the company's funds. He was caught but never stood trial for his crime.

As an employee of the bank Alexander was required to put up a Bond of Caution to cover the bank for losses due to any mismanagement on his part. Three years after Alexander Park's death the Bond was called by the East Lothian Banking Company. In a letter dated May 7, 1817 a lawyer representing Alison Park, my 4th great grandmother,  writes the bank asking for a delay in settling her late husband's cash account. The letter states that there is going to be a meeting of Park's family members who are also named on the Bond of Caution. The lawyer is asking the bank to delay proceedings until after this meeting. It is very curious to me that the letter is addressed to none other than Mr. William Borthwick. It's certainly possible that Alexander was responsible for poor lending decisions and had to cover the bank for losses. When I see William Borthwick is the person conducting the proceedings, it makes me wonder. From what I have learned about his character, taking advantage of a widow and her family would be no big deal to him.

Alexander had 11 children. He is named on all of their baptismal records and birth records. The mother of ten of his children was my 4th great grandmother, Alison Veitch, a name I had never heard before. Ever since I discovered her, it has been a mission to find out what happened to her and her 10 children after the sudden demise of my 4th great grandfather. This is early 19th century Scotland. How could she possibly survive as a 39 year old widow with ten children? 

When her husband died their children ranged in age from 14 (John Park, my 3rd great grandfather) to 3 months (baby Archibald Park). John Park was my brick wall for many years. His son David Park, my 2nd great grandfather, emigrated to Canada in 1866. David had a family of 13 children that all lived in the same general area for generations, so the Canadian Parks are relatively easy to trace. The names of David Park's children finally helped me connect with his father John. There was an Archibald, a John Mungo (of course), and a Jean Murray Park, which is his mother's name. Bingo, that opened the door. John was the eldest child of Alexander and Alison Park. I have no record for him after his father died until he gets married in 1822 and raises his own family in Peebleshire, Scotland. Two daughters and two sons. John seemed to live a modest life as a shoemaker and family man. The only potential scandal with John and Jean Murray Park is the sudden appearance of a mystery grandchild on the census. His last name isn't Park, and he doesn't seem to go with the oldest daughter.🤔 

I can't find any trace of Alison Park from 1817 until her death in 1835 at 61 years of age. The letter indicating her debt to the East Lothian Banking Company is the last I know of her. No clues about where she lived and how she was providing for her family. I don't know if they were all living under one roof.

The children went on to have good lives. One daughter, Barbara Park, would end up marrying the 3rd Prime Minister of Australia Sir Robert Richard Chute Torrens. Daughter Alice would marry and move to Australia, maybe to be closer to her sister, Lady Barbara (photo). Son Robert would move there as well. Some of them seem to have stayed in Allison's family circle. She had a brother named Henry Veitch who was the British Consul in Madeira, Portugal. Youngest child Archibald Park would marry and then move to Madeira to become a wine merchant. His 5 children were born there. Daughter Anne would marry well and have 2 sons in a big home with lots of servants. No Alison Park ever shows up on any of these children's censuses. I can't locate the other four children so far. I'll keep searching.

Am I the only one who forms snap judgments while discovering the ancestors? Some I like, some don't really move me one way or the other. Some I immediately dislike, for no apparent reason. As if I can suss out their personality based on what, a census? 👌 Alison spoke to me. She stuck in my head until I found some answers. I may come back and update this post if and when I find out more. I want to sort out the details of her life. I want to remember her.


  1. Alice (Alison Ruth)PARK married James DALGLISH. They moved to Australia because Alice's brother Alexander PARK (1805-1873) had been in NSW since 1826. He was planting grapevines by 1845 on his property "Lewinsbrook Estate" which was one of the colonoy's earliest and most successful wine producers. Alice and James arrived in Sydney NSW in January 1847 and were living with Alexander on the Lewinsbrook estate by Feb 1847. Alexander never married and left his estate to his brother Dr Robert PARK who lived and worked in the same district. Robert's son, also named Alexander, eventually inherited the estate.
    None of these park siblings - Alice, Alexander or Robert, would have been likely to have seen their sister Barbara. She lived in both South Australia and Western Australia which would have taken many weeks to have reached from NSW in the 1800s.

    1. Hi Catherine, sorry for my delayed reply!I recognize your "handle" from ancestry. Thanks for sharing the articles and info on that branch of the family there. I loved learning about the vineyards, etc. and what went on there. Alice and Barbara were the closest in age, so I was just musing! I hadn't learned very much about Alexander at that point other than he was an MP. You're probably right about Lady Barbara. It looks as though she spent a lot of time in the UK as well.

    2. Hi Libby, I am a fan of your posts and have increased my knowledge of our shared ancestors because of them. Thanks for your reply to my last comment. I would like to correct one thing you wrote on this page. Sir Robert Torrens was never a Prime Minister of Australia. He was the 3rd Premier of one State of Australia called South Australia, and only served in that role for 29 days in September 1857.
      He is better known for his method of Land Title Transfer still called Torrens Title.
      Please keep up your wonderful and highly readable posts!