Tracing your lighthouse ancestors, a case study : the Taylor family

Trying to trace her ancestors Mrs Foster called The Museum of Scottish Lighthouses in relation to two Taylors, listed as a lighthouse keeper on the census records. They also had a couple of photographs showing a man in a keeper’s uniform.

At the Museum staff were able to trace all the Taylors and provide a full service history for them. The Fosters visited and were able to view records written by one of the Taylors, Mrs Foster’s grandfather.

Further enquiries based on the service information provided by the Museum enabled the family to find out the following information. Ken Taylor married Catherine Sinclair Dunnet in 1900 when he was “lighthouse keeper” at Low Head lighthouse in Wick. Catherine Sinclair Dunnet was the daughter of David Dunnet, retired Lighthouse keeper living in Janetstown, Wick. She died aged 34 in 1910 from tuberculosis, Ken was then lighthouse keeper at Holburn Head lighthouse, Thurso. Ken was left with 2 small children to look after, and Catherine’s sister, Elizabeth, must have moved in to help look after the children. In 1914 Ken subsequently married Elizabeth Sinclair Dunnet when he was lighthouse keeper at Kinnaird Head Lighthouse, Fraserburgh. I am not sure what became of Elizabeth Sinclair Dunnet, but in 1933 Ken Taylor “widower” marries again, this time to the daughter of a farm servant from Skye, Dolina Gordon. He was lighthouse keeper at Isle Ornsay lighthouse in Skye then. This marriage took place in Dingwall at the same time as his daughter’s marriage to John Ritch, yet another lighthouse keeper at Start Point lighthouse, Sanday, Orkney.

Maggie Taylor, another ancestor, married Basil Mackenzie on 21 July 1904 in Fortrose. Basil was an Assistant Lighthouse Keeper at Lismore lighthouse, Lismore, Argyllshire at the time, so it can be assumed that Ken Taylor was probably the Head Lighthouse keeper there.

“It is only when I see it all written down like this that I can see for myself how complicated it all is.  They certainly liked to keep it in the family.”