My great-great-grandfather Thomas Muir married three times, and I am unclear what this says of his character. I have no image of him as he was born in Inverness, Scotland, in 1806. Photography did not exist for most of his life, and he and his family were too poor for a portrait or sketch. I picture Thomas as of medium height, with grey hair and a beard. My long research of the Muir family helped me visualise Thomas from my perspective. I am, however, less confident of his character. Writing this blog allowed me to think about Thomas and his three wives.
Although I know when Thomas was born, I know little more until he married his first wife, Catherine Fraser, on 12 September 1827 in Urquhart and Inverness. The young couple quickly had a son, swiftly followed by twin boys. When the twins were born, there was limited knowledge of giving birth safely and caring for perinatal babies. Sadly, Catherine died after giving birth, leaving my great great grandfather with three boys under two. Poor Thomas, how did he manage?
Maternal deaths following childbirth were common in the nineteenth century. Widowers often solved their need for childcare by quickly remarrying. Thomas did not follow this routine. After two years, he finally acquired a stepmother for his motherless children. Perhaps his family of many siblings assisted, or Catherine’s family helped. Communities in earlier times were more community oriented than now.
Thomas remarried Christina Grant in January 1832. Christina was my great great grandmother; the couple had seven children who lived to adulthood. Their youngest child Flora was born in March 1847 in Urquhart and Glenmoriston and was my great-grandmother. When Flora was seven years, the family emigrated on the William Miles, arriving in Moreton Bay in January 1855. The emigrants included Thomas, Christina, the twins and all but one of their children, and they arrived in Moreton Bay, a wild frontier settlement at that time. The Muir family then moved to another newish settlement, the Darling Downs. The family’s eldest daughter, Catherine, was married with two children, and she and her husband, Alexander Mackenzie, followed a few years later.
The Mackenzie family embarked in 1859 on the Annie Wilson bound for Sydney. Tragedy struck in the first month of the voyage, with Catherine dying of measles on 30 September 1859. Catherine’s husband, Alexander, was left in a parallel position with his father-in-law. He was a widower with young children. The difference was that Alexander had only two children, but his circumstances were perhaps worse as he was sailing to a new colony without a wife.
The Annie Wilson arrived in Sydney on 14 December 1859, but it was unlikely that the Queensland Muirs heard of Catherine’s death for many weeks. Before the news probably reached Queensland, another death occurred. Christina, Thomas’s second wife, died on 25 February 1860 and was buried in the new Drayton Cemetery. ‘Lapsis nature’ was given as the cause of death, but this was probably lupus, an auto-immune disease.  Again my great great grandfather was widowed, but this time his children were adults and probably working.
The twice-widowed emigrant was now away from the Scottish Highlands. Until this time, Thomas had displayed resilience and an openness to new opportunities, including his place of residence. What would he do now? Again, he remained unmarried for several years, but in September 1866 at Drayton, Thomas married for the third time. His bride was Johanna Donnovan, an Irish servant aged twenty-two. The groom stated his aged as fifty-eight, but he was actually in his sixty-first year. He also stretched the truth by saying he was a gentleman when he was a shepherd.
The couple had at least three children – two girls and a boy. The boy died as an infant, and his father appears to have been away from the family home as a neighbour recorded the boy’s death. Thomas does not appear in any further known records from about 1872. Another Muir researcher, David Laidley, believes he died around this time, but there is no record of any type. Certainly, Johanna was later living with another man and had at least three children with him.
With this third marriage to a much younger woman, Thomas fell off my list of favourite ancestors. Maybe I am judgemental, but I felt that until his third marriage, my great great grandfather was resilient and met all that life threw at him. Maybe I am harsh. Perhaps he was a lonely older man who had faced many adverse circumstances but wanted some comfort in his old age. Oh, Thomas, I do not know what to think!
 Birth of Thomas Muir, born 8 January 1806, son of James Muir and Ane Cumming, Parish of Urquhart and Glenmoriston, Scotland’s People, Edinburgh, accessed 7 July 2015.
 Marriage of Thomas Muir and Catherine Fraser, married 12 September 1827, Parish of Urquhart and Glenmoriston, Scotland’s People, Edinburgh, accessed 31 July 2007
 Birth of Alexander Muir, born 18 January 1829, Parish of Urquhart and Glenmoriston, Scotland’s People, Edinburgh, accessed 19 February 2007; Birth of Simon and James Muir, born 20 November 1830, Parish of Urquhart and Glenmoriston, Scotland’s People, Edinburgh, accessed 25 January 2009.
 Birth of Simon and James Muir, born 20 November 1830; This record includes a note that Catherine died.
 Marriage of Thomas Muir and Chr[a]istiana Grant, married 19 January 1832, Parish of Urquhart and Glenmoriston, Scotland’s People, Edinburgh, accessed 8 April 1999.
 Birth of Flora Muir, born 22 March 1847, Parish of Urquhart and Glenmoriston, Scotland’s People, Edinburgh, accessed 20 December 2010.
 ‘Persons arriving on bounty ships to Sydney, Newcastle and Moreton Bay’, Reels 2458-2498, State Records of NSW, http://search.Ancestry.com.au, accessed 1 January 2011.
 Joy Murrin, Transcription of Death Certificate for Catherine M[a]ckenzie, died 30 September 1859, at sea, NSW Births, Deaths and Marriages, registration number 500969, transcribed 8 September 2008.
 Death certificate for Christina Grant Muir, died 25 February 1860, Drayton, Queensland (Qld), Qld Birth, Deaths and Marriage (QBDM) Registry, 1860/C/63.
 Marriage certificate of Thomas Muir and Johanna Donnovan, married 8 September 1866, Drayton, Qld, QBDM Registry, 1866/C/431.
 Death certificate for Archibald Muir, died 24 August 1872, Toowoomba, Qld, QBDM Registry, 1872/C/1231.