how can i clarify an ancestors family when their name is common and the records I can source are meager?

+2 votes
The profile in particular is Catharine (maybe Katherine) Merrilees (nee Mason), Mason-7853.  Birth around 1786 in Scotland.

If I request a birth certificate for this person, how can i be certain that it is the right match? Maybe i should request a marriage certificate and hope that both of Catherine's parents are named?

In the records, I can find two Mason families in the vicinity of the place of marriage who had a daughter Katherine in 1785; both fathers, incidentally are named William.

What to do!  Any assistance would be most welcome.

Thank you in anticipation.

WikiTree profile: Katherine Merrilees
asked in Genealogy Help by D Merrilees G2G Crew (490 points)
Civil registration was introduce in Scotland in 1855, so for the period you are working with you will need to look at parish records.
thanks Lynda.  I have been to Scotland's people as suggested but i still can't find the record to clarify the situation.

4 Answers

+4 votes
Best answer
Have you looked on Scotland's People?  It's free to search and you only pay for records you want to look at.

I only found one Katherine Mason born in 1785 in North Berwick, She was the daughter of William Mason and Katherine Ramage.
answered by Debbie Martin G2G2 (2.8k points)
selected by D Merrilees
Thank you, no, i haven't looked on scotland's people.  i shall.  I found the Katherine Mason you mention however there is another born in the same year, mother's name is Elizabeth, father William.

i think the one you mention is the most likely but I don't want to guess!
+1 vote

With her name being spelled Kathrine on her marriage registration - a search of Kathrine Mason brings up 2 births.

Kathrine Mason - b. 1st March 1789 - parents Hendrey Mason/Marjory Russell - parish Canongate.

The other Kathrine Mason is born 1805 at Queensferry
answered by D Bell G2G4 (4.3k points)
Her marriage registration doesn't specifically name her parents.  Witnessed by Jas? Logan and William Mason
Thank you, D.  I think both of those Katherine's are too young to be the one I am looking for.

I can't find the marriage registration to view it.

You need to allow for spelling variants when you are searching the old records. Here is their marriage record. (William Merrylees and Kathrine Mason).

List of all the children I could find:

Children of William Mason and Catharine Ramage

All born in Parish of North Berwick

HELLEN:  07/08/1776

ISABEL:  26/04/1778

THOMAS:  07/05/1780

AGNES:  25/08/1782

**KATHARINE:  27/03/1785**

WILLIAM:  01/04/1787

ROBERT:  31/05/1789

I can send you a copy of the marriage registration but it has no really useful info on her parents.

Thank you Lynda
Thank you, that is very useful, D Bell.
Thank you very much, Sarah Mason.
Thank you Sheena Tait
+1 vote


A search of the records on Family Search for Katherine Mason, born in Scotland between 1779-1785 and married to Merrylees, shows records of both Katharine Masons born in 1785 and a couple others that you may have already eliminated as options.

 The one born in North Berwick, East Lothian, Scotland was daughter of William Mason and Katherine Ramage, born on 19 March and christened 27 March. Source link: (not full citation),

Katherine Mason of Currie, Midlothian, Scotland, was born 4 July 1785 to William Mason and Elizabeth Linn. Source link: :

Also, a year earlier, in 1784, there was a Katherine Mason christened 14 March in Cathcart, Renfrew, Scotland to James Mason and Marion Stevenson. Source link:

In 1781, a Catharine Mason was born 26 February in Alloa, Clackmannan, Scotland to James Mason and Margaret Mitchell. Source link:

Of these, only one is from North Berwick, where the Katherine in question was married and had children. I am unfamiliar with the local geography and history. Was there a lot of moving around in this time period, or can we use the location to decide? If so, I would probably go with the North Berkwick record and include a research note about that record being chosen for that location. 

answered by Sarah Mason G2G6 Mach 1 (18.9k points)
Thank you, Sarah, for such a comprehensive answer and all the time it must have taken to assemble it.

I have obtained the marriage record for Katherine and William, which states that they are both of the North Berwick parish.  this of course means that there is no guesswork, Katherine's parents are William Mason and Katherine Ramage.

with much gratitude,

+2 votes

I checked the 1851 census entry that you've listed on her profile and the Catherine in that family in the 1851 census (Parish: North Berwick; ED: 2; Page: 15; Line: 8; Roll: CSSCT1851_193; Year: 1851) says she was born in North Berwick - so that would be the one I'd go for :-)

answered by Sheena Tait G2G6 Mach 3 (34.3k points)
Thank you, Sheena.  Perfect.

All the best,


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