Are there any accessible records of missing persons in Scotland for the mid 19th Century?

I ask as I have a brick wall with my Great Great Grandfather, David Brighton (1825-1891).

The earliest record I have for him is his military records from the National Archives. He joined the Royal Garrison Artillery in 1846. Served in the Turkish War and the Crimean War, being decorated in the Battle of Sebastopol.

I have full records of his post-military life - marriage, birth of children, census entries and death. However, absolutely nothing before his joining the army. No birth or christening records, no record of any parent with the name Brighton.

The military record states his place of birth as Montrose, Scotland. I have trawled online records, have been to the Scottish Records Office in Edinburgh, and to Montrose. There is no record of anyone with the surname Brighton living in that area at that time. Indeed the staff at the SRO suggested there was noone called Brighton in Scotland at all around this time.

I am left with the conclusion that he gave a false name to the army. Especially as he joined up at Newcastle on Tyne (Brighton Beach). So, is there any way of checking for missing persons about that time? Assuming of course he was reported as missing. Although I suspect it will be impossible to confirm anyone I find is the same man.

I doubt he would have given a false birthplace too far from his real birthplace as he would have been given away by his accent.

  • I very much doubt there was any concept of a 'missing person' in the mid 19th century, alas for you.
    – user104
    Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 10:06
  • Yes, I'm sure any such concept, if it existed, would be different to today's and probably named differently.
    – Chenmunka
    Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 10:13
  • I doubt it existed in any form or name at all -- it wasn't that sort of society back then. If somebody wanted to vanish, they did.
    – user104
    Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 10:36
  • This question looks like it may refer to the same person.
    – AndyW
    Commented Nov 29, 2016 at 11:09

1 Answer 1


I can think of several cases where someone might be considered 'missing' and notices placed in newspapers. Cases would range from the criminal to the simple case where a family moved and lost touch with one another. Newspapers ran 'Missing Friends' columns containing lists of people who had moved to e.g. Australia and fallen out of contact.

Another common case was where someone was listed in a will, but their whereabouts were not known. In this case an advertisement might be placed looking for information on the person or their descendants (if any).

Here is an example, in the Aberdare Leader, of someone advertising for information on a missing (or at least misplaced) person: a reward offered for the whereabouts of Mrs Ellen Rees

The additional problem in your case is that if you believe he may have changed his name, any such notice or reference to him, even if it exists, going missing would have his original name on it.

He may have signed up with a different name than is on his baptismal record, but that doesn't make it a false name as such. Under the law, if he regularly went by a name - for example, if he was born illegitimate but raised by a stepfather and took his name, or if he was orphaned and taken in by another family and used their name - there was nothing at all illegal about him giving the name he was commonly known by. For all we know, he spent his whole life going by the name David Brighton and never knew any different, but was baptised under something completely separate.

I would concentrate on the concrete information you have. For example, you mention his marriage - was a father's name given? Also look for Brighton families in the wider Newcastle upon Tyne area who might fit into his family.

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