Monday, 22 May 2017

More genealogy ripples from an ancestor's murder story

It's a small world! As some of you might already know, the murder of my three times great grandmother Janet Rogers (nee Henderson) with a kitchen axe in 1866 at Mount Stewart Farm in Forgandenny, Perthshire, is Scotland's longest unsolved murder by a modern police force. Janet was clubbed to death in the kitchen by an unknown assailant, and her body was discovered lying beside the hearth by her brother William later that evening. It is a story about which I wrote a book a few years ago, The Mount Stewart Murder, in which I did not try to solve the case, but in which I instead tried to paint a portrait of the communty and my family over the course of a year, as the investigation unfolded, and in the aftermath of the trial, with the tragic consequences that ensued.

My four times great grandfather Andrew Henderson took up the tenancy of the Perthshire farm in 1845, along with his son William, although Andrew had passed away by the time of his daughter's murder in 1866.

Well as with any story that can be published, there can often be ripples in the aftermath! In this case, I've just been contacted by someone in New Zealand who is currently organising a family reunion, who got the shock of his life when he discovered my book. When my Henderson ancestors took on the lease for the farm in 1845, the previous holders, the Marshall family, had been this person's ancestors, with his family having held possession from 1763-1845 at a time when the farm was instead known as 'The Fluars'. I in fact mentioned the Marshalls in the book, although only the generation prior to the arrival of my lot.

Here's one of his comments: "When taking a sabbatical in 1998 I visited Mt Stewart and was deeply moved at that time to have had the opportunity to sit by the ‘hearth' and celebrate with a dram my families 70 years living and farming at Mt Stewart. The images and memory of that visit are still strong in my mind, though 'now' somewhat modified since reading your book. Your description of the farm and house brought a freshness once again to my family's Scottish history. Thank you."

I aim to please! :)

This is now the second time that I've been contacted by someone with a major connection to something written about in this book. In 2012, whilst at Who Do You Think You Are Live, I experienced perhaps the most astonishing coincidence I think I've ever encountered just shortly before the book's publication - you can read all about it at a previous blog post at!

If interested in the story, you can obtain The Mount Stewart Murder from the History Press at


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