I have mentioned my 3rd great grandfather William Slight before in Finding Edinburgh map engraver apprenticeship records of William Slight in 1840s? and Seeking marriage record for James Slight and Elizabeth Boyd from late 1820s probably near Haddington, East Lothian, Scotland? (in which I originally included this question).

The vital record that I am missing for him is his birth/baptism, which probably happened in about 1832. This date seems consistent with:

  • the 1829 marriage banns of his parents
  • the 1841 Scotland Census which gives his age as 9 (with an older sister Susan aged 11)
  • the 1851 England Census which gives his age as 21
  • his Marriage Certificate says that he was 23 when he married Louisa Moore on 25 Apr 1852 at South Stoneham, Hampshire, England
  • his Death Notice says that he was aged 58 when he died on 6 Feb 1887
  • the passenger list of the Shand, on which arrived in Portland, Victoria, Australia on 20 Jan 1855, says that he was 22.

His father was James Slight a Mason which I know from William's Marriage Certificate.

The 1841 Scotland Census verifies James (40), Elizabeth (40), Susan (11), William (9) and James (5) Slight living at Court Street, Haddington. Note: FindMyPast gives their surname as High - they seem to be missing from Ancestry)

He had a sister, Susan Boyd Slight who, according to her Marriage Certificate was the only daughter of late James Slight, Mason, Haddington), when she married Robert Bruce Ewart (a Mason) on 4 Jun 1852 at Saint Cuthberts, Edinburgh. Her 1873 Death Certificate in Victoria, Australia records her parents as James Slight and Elizabeth Boyd.

He had a younger brother, James Slight, who according to a declaration signed by his sister Susan Ewart (nee Slight) in 1867, was born in May 1839, but the 1841 Census suggests it was probably a few years earlier around 1836.

His mother's name was Elizabeth, which I know from his death record and the 1841 Census, and I believe her to have been Elizabeth Boyd who was born on 2 Aug 1796 and christened on 12 Aug 1796, at Haddington, East Lothian, to Thomas Boyd (a Mason) and Susan Cleugh.

His father appears to have been the James Slight born on 5 Sep 1797 and christened on 12 Sep 1797 at Whitekirk, East Lothian, to William Slight and Isobel Young.

All my searches so far have failed to turn up these vital records which I would love to locate, especially the first one:

  • William Slight's birth/baptism - probably about 1831-32 at or near Haddington
  • his sister Susan's birth/baptism - probably about 1830-31 at or near Haddington
  • his brother James' birth/baptism - probably about 1836-37 at or near Haddington

http://www.nrscotland.gov.uk/files/research/list-of-oprs/list-of-oprs-702-725.pdf suggests that the Haddington baptism records for this period should exist.

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However, when I searched the Old Parish Registers Births & Baptisms on 31 Mar 2015 for:

Surname: "slight"; Surname Option: Variants; Forename: ""; Forename Option: Prefix; Sex: "Any"; Date From: 01 January 1801; Date To: 31 December 1840; County: EAST LOTHIAN;

The only Haddington baptisms are:


Both of these appear to be William's first cousins' baptisms and I know from FreeReg that:

  • Mary's was witnessed by "William [I think this is William's paternal grandfather] and James [I think this is William's father] Sleight".
  • Isabella's was witnessed by "John Irvine and James Slight [I think this is William's father]". She appears to have been named (as expected) after her candidate paternal grandmother who was born Isobel Young.
  • What about non Church of Scotland baptisms? My impression is that the percentage of non Established churches in Scotland at this time was higher than that in England so it could be that even though his parents were baptised into the CofS, by this time they were attending a non CofS church. The later Statistical Accounts may help identify such churches.
    – AdrianB38
    Sep 7, 2015 at 7:53

1 Answer 1


In the absence of an answer that locates a baptism record for William Slight, I am going to provide a proof argument tying him to his birth family, which also ties down when and where his birth occurred. The evidence used is indirect, but convincing.

No single document ties William to his birth family. The sum of many pieces of evidence establishes this tie.

On 7 Feb 1887, The Argus reported the death "On the 6th inst., at his residence, 211 Albert-road, South Melbourne, [of] William Slight, late engraver Crown Lands Office, aged 58". This report coincides with a death record in the Australia Death Index, 1787-1985 which was registered in 1887 for William Slight, aged 58, at South Melbourne, Victoria in which his mother's name was given as Elizabeth.

On 13 Jun 1883, the Illustrated Australian News reported the death "On the 15th May, at her residence, 211 Albert-road, Emerald-hill, [of] Louisa, the beloved wife of William Slight, aged 54.". This report coincides with a death record in the Australia Death Index, 1787-1985 which was registered in 1883 for Louisa Wedderburn Dorothy Ho Slight, aged 54, at Unknown, Victoria in which her father's name was given as Moore Jno and mother's name was given as Doig.

These death dates, and ages at death, for Louisa and William are identical to those on their gravestone in St Kilda Cemetery where they are both buried in Presbyterian, Compartment C, Grave 329.

On 20 Jan 1855 William Slight, aged 22, a Mason, arrived in the colony of Victoria at Portland aboard The Shand and was accompanied by his wife Louisa, aged 23, and daughter Elizabeth, aged 1. Their "Native Country" was given as "Hants" [= Hampshire] in the England and Wales column.

On 25 April 1852 their Marriage Certificate records the marriage solemnized at the Register Office of the District of South Stoneham in the County of Southampton of William Slight, aged 23, an Engraver, and son of James Slight, a Mason, to Louisa Moore, aged 22, the daughter of John Moore, a Gardener.

On 4 Jun 1852 at St Cuthberts, Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland there is a Marriage Record for Robert Ewart (Mason, 3 Dalrymple Place) & Susan Slight (Morrison St; only daughter of late James Slight, Mason, Haddington).

On 30 Jan 1854 Susan Ewart, aged 22, arrived in the colony of Victoria at Geelong aboard The Lord Stanley and was accompanied by her husband Robert, a Mason, aged 23, and infant son George. Their "Native Country" was given as "East Lothian" in the Scotland column.

A death record, in the Australia Death Index, 1787-1985, was registered in 1873 for Susan Ewart, aged 43, in Victoria, with her parents' names recorded as Slight James and Elizabeth Boyd.

On 14 Jun 1878 "In the Will of SUSAN SLIGHT EWART, late of Quarry-hill, Sandhurst, in the Colony of Victoria, Widow, Deceased ... PROBATE of the LAST WILL and TESTAMENT of the abovenamed Susan Slight Ewart, deceased may be granted to William Slight, of Emerald-hill, in the said colony, engraver, and John Findlay of Sandhurst aforesaid, grocer, the executors named in and appointed by the said will of the said deceased."

On 24 Dec 1867 at Sandhurst, a Statutory Declaration was made by Susan Ewart: "I Susan Ewart do truly and sincerely declare that in my conscientious belief my brother James Slight was born on the (5th?) of May 1839 Susan Stuart Declared before me one of her Majesties Justices of the Peace in and for the colony of Victoria E Smith JP"

These pieces of evidence taken together suggest that James Slight, Mason, of Haddington and his wife Elizabeth Boyd, had one daughter and at least two sons: Susan (ca 1830), William (ca 1830) and James (ca 1839).

FreeREG has "Banns read 15th, 22nd, and 29th March 1829 at Haddington Parish Church: James Slight, of Haddington, and Elizabeth Boyd, of Haddington. Witnessed by Thomas Boyd and William Slight." These would be the banns that preceded the marriage of William's parents.

From FindMyPast: Living at Court Street, Haddington were: James (40; a Mason), Elizabeth (40), Susan (11), William (9), James (5) as well as Peter Murphy (25; a Constable from Ireland). This record indicates that William was 2 years younger than Susan and 4 years older than James. It also casts doubt on the birth year of 1839 given for James by Susan in her 1867 declaration but a record made in 1841 using information given by his father would be expected to have higher accuracy than a recollection 30 years later by his sister.

No death records have been found for James and Elizabeth but they appear to have deceased before 1851, and perhaps soon after 1841.

In the 1851 Scotland Census, at Court Street, Haddington, Susan Slight (Grocer; born Parish of Haddington) 20, is living with William Laidlaw (Labourer/Lodger) 25 and Peter Hills (Labourer/Lodger) 29. This indicates that Susan was born 1830-31 at Haddington.

In the 1911 England Census James Slight, aged 71, Pensioned Retired Engraver, of 1 Silverdale Road, Southampton gave his Birth Place as Haddington. This indicates that James was born at Haddington, and taken in conjunction with the 1841 Scotland Census records suggests that event happened in about 1836-37.

FreeREG has two baptisms, which appear to be those of James Slight's nieces:

  • Place Haddington (Haddington Parish Church) Register entry: 471 Baptism date 5 Jul 1831 Birth date 4 Jul 1831 Person forename Mary Person sex F Father John SLIGHT Mother Mary BANE Witnesses William and James Sleight
  • Place Haddington (Haddington Parish Church) Register entry 495 Baptism date 18 Dec 1835 Birth date 24 Sep 1835 Person forename Isabella Person sex F Father John SLIGHT Mother Mary BANE Witnesses John Irvine and James Slight

The Haddington County List for 1834 has James Slight, Mason listed on page 15 of The East Lothian County List ..., Forming a Complete Directory to the Nobility, Gentry, Tenantry and Commercial People of Haddingtonshire.

With William's father James appearing to be resident in Haddington for 1829 (Marriage Banns), 1831 (Witness at baptism), 1834 (Directory), 1835 (Witness at baptism) and 1841 (Scotland Census), as well as for births of his other two children Susan (1830-31) and James (1836-1837), it seems highly likely that William was born in 1831-1832 at Haddington.

I think the best explanation for no baptism records of William and his siblings, nor burial records for his parents, having been found is in the comment by @AdrianB38:

What about non Church of Scotland baptisms? My impression is that the percentage of non Established churches in Scotland at this time was higher than that in England so it could be that even though his parents were baptised into the CofS, by this time they were attending a non CofS church. The later Statistical Accounts may help identify such churches.

The religion of both William, and his sister Susan, was recorded as Presbyterian, on passenger lists when they emigrated (separately) to Victoria. I have found some information about Presbyterian Nonconformity in Scotland and about Nonconformist Church Records for Haddington but this has not yet enabled me to find the baptism and burial records that I am seeking.

Perhaps the Slight family will have been mentioned in the Kirk Sessions of the Established Church for Haddington but these have not yet been consulted.

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