Back in the spring, when I was researching in earnest before a fairly hectic summer intruded, I was hot on the trail of finding out whatever information I could on my 3rd great grandfather in my paternal line, John Burnett. I wrote a blog post about him back in October 2010 here: http://www.la-famille.mardistudio.com/blog/2010/10/gunner-royal-artillery/
It was a huge find back when I wrote that blog, having discovered that John Burnett was a gunner in the Royal Artillery, which led me to my 2nd great grandfather’s birth record in Woolwich, Kent, England, John’s son William.
For several months I tried to go back further, but to no avail. There is one person with a family tree posted on Ancestry.com which gives John’s birthplace as Aberdeen, Scotland, abt. 1797, but as there is no corroboration given for this info I could only use it as a possibility to help track down John’s birthplace and birthdate.
Back in May of this year I found an 8-page military discharge record of a John Burnett at http://www.findmypast.co.uk which is a very strong possibility of belonging to my John Burnett. If so, his birthplace and a calculated birthdate are possible. But is this the correct John Burnett?
According to the first page of the document, this John Burnett was born in the parish of Fetterso (Fetteresso) Kincardine, Scotland, his trade that of a shoemaker. He ‘attested’ for the Royal Regiment of Artillery in Aberdeen on the 4th March 1814 at the age of seventeen, which would give us a birth year of 1797, also the estimated birth year of my John Burnett. It goes on to say that first service, after the age of 18 years, which he is entitled to reckon up to 13th Oct 1841 is twenty six years, two hundred and 86 days.
His service record details his service beginning on the 1st of January, 1815 (at the age of 18) as a gunner & driver in the 8th and 9th Battalions of the Royal Artillery. He served in this capacity for a total of 21 years, 120 days. He was then listed as an invalid for the remaining 5 years, 166 days of his service, when he was discharged on 13 Oct 1841.
An interesting note is found on the 2nd page of the document, which states that John Burnett served for 6 years and 4 months in America, and the remainder of his service “at home” (presumably the UK).
As I have no way of determining with total certainty that this record is indeed the military record of my 3rd great grandfather, I can only go over what I do know about him and see if any of the known facts fit with the information given in the record. Here goes!
My 3rd great grandfather John Burnett married Jennet (or Janet) Holman in January, 1821. On their marriage bond [see: http://www.la-famille.mardistudio.com/blog/2010/10/gunner-royal-artillery/ for the image] he is stated to be a gunner in the Royal Artillery, stationed at that time in Halifax, NS, the birthplace of Jennet Holman. If he is the John Burnett of the discharge records, and the six years, 4 months stationed in America are the first years of his service, then this would fit. Would “America” include Canada? Of this I’m not sure, but as Canada before confederation in 1867 was called “British North America” I think it may be likely, or at least possible.
John and Jennet Burnett had eight known children born to them. No birthplace has been ascertained for their first two children, John Alexander (b. 1821) and Margaret (b. 1823), but all the children born after them were born in various places in the UK, a fact that perplexed me before but is well answered if the service time of 26+ years is accurate for my John Burnett!
The other children and their birthplaces and dates are:
William (my 2nd gr-grandfather): b. 1828 in Woolwich, Kent, England (headquarters of the Royal Artillery in England).
Janet: b. 1830 in Islandbridge, Dublin, Ireland (another British military town).
Jane: b. 1835 in Islandbridge, Dublin, Ireland.
Alexander: b. 1837 in Islandbridge, Dublin, Ireland.
Francis Jerot: b. 1840 in Aberdeen, Scotland.
Gregory: b. July 1842 in Aberdeen, Scotland.
Their last born child, Gregory, is born just 9 months after John Burnett’s discharge from service. By 1851, with the first Canadian census available, John and Jennet Burnett are back in Halifax County, NS Canada.
For all of the children where places of death are known, all died in Halifax County, Nova Scotia with the exception of my 2nd great-grandfather, William Burnett, who died in Lowell, MA.
The timelines fit: the birth year of my John Burnett to the birth year of the soldier in the discharge papers. The marriage of John Burnett and Jennet Holman in Halifax in 1821 coincides with the years that the soldier may have served in America. The births of their children, all in military towns in England, Scotland and Ireland would fit within the time served by the John Burnett in the discharge papers. And then the appearance of John and Jennet in Halifax County, NS by 1851.
But going back to the first page of gunner John Burnett’s discharge papers, you may remember that his occupation when he signed up for the Royal Artillery in 1814 was “shoemaker”.
Following is the birth record of Gregory, last born child of John and Jennet (Holman) Burnett. Born in Aberdeen Scotland in 1842, approximately nine months after the discharge of “soldier” John Burnett, the occupation of Gregory’s father is given as “shoemaker“.