In memory of my second great aunt Selina Henderson

I know this post doesn’t really follow on from my last blog, but, as any family history researcher will know, I went down a rabbit hole for something and got lost in the warren! So, in a change from my intended post, here is the story of my second great aunt, Selina Henderson.

Selina comes from my grandmother’s maternal side, her mum is Christina Henderson, the woman that went to London and whom I mention in my Mother’s and daughters blog post. I obviously don’t have any memories of this lady, but I do recall my mum talking about an Auntie Lena, she I think would be my mums great aunt however, also called Selina who passed away in 1969. These Selina’s are two different women, Selina and Lena were cousins.

Selina was born in Hackney, London on 25th September 1872. No father is listed, just her mother. The person who registered the birth was someone with I think the name S Fowles. I originally thought it was a J until I analysed the handwriting a bit better.

Selina’s birth record

I did a bit of searching and found a Vowles family living at Mayfield Cottages, Hackney, in 1771, the wife of which was called Selina. I haven’t been able to find Christina in the 1771 census yet so I am unable to form any conclusions, perhaps they were friends?

Selina’s sister, Rosa, was born in 1877 in Marylebone. In 1881, Selina, aged 8 appears on the census as living at 11 Houlland, South Yell. She is listed as the niece of her great uncle and aunt, Thomas and Grace Anderson. Her surname is given as Anderson, not Henderson, and she is living there with her aunt, Grace Bruce. Her occupation is scholar.

In 1891, Selina is still living with Grace and Thomas, Grace Bruce has left their home, but they are joined by Rosa Henderson, aged 13. Selina is working as a knitter. The family unit have moved to 1 Goodon, Gossaburgh, South Yell.

Above, old map of Gossabrough,below a Google Earth image of how it looks today.

In 1900 Selina, aged 24, married a man named James Arthur Ramsay, 23. James was a fisherman from Sandwick, North Yell. They married at the Freemason Hall in Lerwick. His parents were William Pole Ramsey, a deceased fisherman and his wife Johanna Ramsay, nee Gray. No father is listed for Selina, but her mother is noted as Christina Henderson, a restaurant keeper.

The 1901 census shows Selina as a crofters wife, living with her husband, her mother in law and a son in North House, North Yell. Their son is just one month old, named William John.

Selina and James had four children in total;

  • William John Ramsay 28/2/1901, North Sandwick, North Yell
  • John Robert Bruce Ramsay, 17/01/1903, North Sandwick, North Yell
  • Andrew Francis Ramsay, 12/2/1905, North Sandwick, North Yell
  • Johanna Catherine Ramsay, 28/2/1907, Sandwick, North Yell

Unfortunately when Johanna was just 8 months old, tragedy occurs and Selina is struck down with an illness which unfortunately causes her death. On 27th October 1907 aged just 35, Selina dies after suffering for 10 days from septic pneumonia. Her death is registered by a neighbour called James Scollay, potentially a cousin of her brother in law, Rosa’s husband Andrew.

Selina’s death record.

James and the children continue to live in North Sandwick, North Yell in North House. The 1911 census shows James, the kids and his mother in law living together.

1911 census

Johanna passed away on 20th April 1925 aged 18 of peritonitis. William worked as a Master Mariner and married a lady named Agnes McCartney Campbell at the Grovesner Hotel in Edinburgh. John was a general merchant and stayed on Shetland, he married a girl from Sellafirth called Maggie Barbara Johnson on 21/4/1931. Andrew went to Glasgow, sailing with the merchant navy as a second mate, he met a woman named Jessie Henry, a radio dealers assistant. They married on 14/7/1941 at St Marks Lancefield Church in Kelvingrove, Glasgow, although Andrew was noted as engaged in war service. I haven’t look further into their descendants yet, but if you read this and you may know something about this family or have any pictures I’d be really grateful, especially of a picture of Selina.

James Arthur remarried a Willamina Barbara Bruce in 1912, I don’t know if they had more children together. He died in 1936 aged 60 years of a traumatic perforation of the bowel, peritonitis, at Gilbert Bain Hospital, Lerwick. Usual residence North Sandwick, Yell. I think there must be a story behind his death and I am definitely going to look into that more, it sounds like something out of the TV show Shetland!

I’ve been watching Shetland avidly, I just love seeing the scenery and the old Croft’s. One evening Matt said to me, “we’d love a little Croft like that wouldn’t we?” “Definitely,” I replied. There is something so familiar to me about the Islands. We live in the South West, we’re used to beaches and the wind, but there’s just something about the Shetland landscape. I wonder what the emotions will be like when my mum and I get to Shetland, will it feel like home, or will it be completely alien to us? I can’t believe there are only 7 weeks to go until our boat comes in!

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