Finding Jean Fleming

I was at the start of my genealogy journey to uncover my Nana Jean’s ancestors.  Not a lot was known about my Nana’s family and I was too little when she was alive to ask her questions about her life.  Our family knew that Nana was born in 1893 in Bathgate, Scotland and was the second eldest of 16 children, although I didn’t know how many siblings there were at the time.  One thing my family remembers was my Nana always said she was a descendant of Mary Queen of Scots, whether that is true or not I am yet to discover.

I didn’t know what to expect during this genealogy journey but I was keen to find out…..

I located Nana’s birth date, 9 September 1893, on her grave record at the Springvale Botanical Cemetery and her parent’s names, Andrew Fleming and Rachel Brown, from her record of death.  So, with my Nana’s birth date and the names of her parents in hand I headed to Scotland, in cyber world, to find out who my Nana’s family were. 

My initial search began when I entered Nana’s name and her parent’s names into a family tree I started on  These details triggered a range of hints of information available on both my Nana and her parents.  Ancestry took me to the 1901 Scotland Census (you can learn more about the census here) for the household of Andrew and Rachel Fleming and their six children (Rachel aged 9, Jane aged 7, Andrew aged 5, Christina aged 3, Mary aged 1, and Elizabeth aged one month). No Jean! Maybe it was the wrong Fleming family?

Searches through other census records for 1901 and West Lothian did not uncover another Fleming family headed by Andrew and Rachel Fleming.

My next port of call was ScotlandsPeople (find out more on ScotlandsPeople in future posts) for a registration of birth for my Nana Jean.  The initial search using year of birth and Nana’s name found no records and an advanced search revealed no records.  How was this possible?

Searching the Fleming line for more information I found a photograph that identified possible ancestors of Andrew Fleming, so I contacted the owner of that family tree on  I asked about the photograph and the people in it, to see if they were possibly my Nana’s ancestors.  After some initial emails I learnt about naming traditions in Scotland and the use of alternative given names.  I was told that those named Jean were also called Jane, just to add to the confusion!

This was to be my first genealogy lesson and here lay my first challenge in finding both Nana’s birth certificate and her family through the Scotland Census!

Back to the census record I found from 1901. I noted that one of the children in the Fleming household was a daughter, Jane aged 7 years, born about 1894…..maybe this was my Nana Jean?

I headed back to ScotlandsPeople, searching, for Jane Fleming, born about 1893 in Bathgate, West Lothian, Scotland and there she was born Jane. Her registration of birth recorded her birth as 10 September 1983, to Andrew Fleming and Rachel Fleming “Mrs Brown” (you will learn more about Scottish name conventions in a future post).  I noted that her birth date recorded on her registration of birth was different to the date on her cemetery record – one day out.

Lessons you can take from this research:

  1. A given name for an ancestor used in their lifetime is not necessarily the name given to them at birth – look for alternative names and spelling;
  2. Years of birth recorded on non-vital records such as registrations of birth and death, may not be accurate, such as Nana’s cemetery record – always source the vital record to verify;
  3. Census records only record the approximate year of birth and age and may not be accurate – vital records are important to verify this information; and
  4. Names recorded and the spelling of the same, may not be accurate, as often in the 1800 and 1900’s phonetic spelling was used or sometimes the person the census recorder asked did not know the details of all family members.

Records to check for you Scottish ancestors used for this post:

  1. ScotlandsPeople found at
  2. – 1901 Scotland Census (also found in ScotlandsPeople)
  3. Cemetery records, if you know where they died or were buried, otherwise Find A Grave is a great source

Southern Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust, accessed on 23 November 2019 at

Death Certificate for Jean Downes, Registration No. 14030/1987, The Victorian Registry of Births, Deaths, and Marriages, Victoria, Australia.  Certified copy in possession of author.

1901 Scotland Census, Bathgate Township, West Lothian, Scotland, ED. 4, p. 3, line, 19, Roll. CSSCT1901_354, Registration No. 662/1.  Certified copy in possession of author.

Index of Death, Downes J, 1987, BDM Victoria, Reg #14030. Certified copy in possession of author.

The face behind Ancestor Detective….

I am the conclusion of my ancestors story.

The prologue of my descendants’ story.


Hi everyone,

My name is Deb and I am the face behind Ancestor Detective.

I am a 40 something old Mum of an 18 year old son and a cute puppy. I have been working in government for my career in the field of emergency management. I specialise in research and evaluation, planning and policy, and a range of other areas.

Academically I have completed a Bachelor of Social Science – Emergency Management and a Master of Emergency Management.

Where Ancestor Detective began……

Ancestor Detective’s journey started when I was asked to look up how many people in Australia had a particular surname. From there my passion for uncovering ancestors, building family trees, searching for records, and writing about particular ancestors grew.

My first journey into my ancestors started with my Nana Jean who immigrated to Australia from Scotland. Little was known about my Nana’s family. The family knew she was born in Bathgate, Scotland in 1893 and was one of 16 children born. My Mum had recollections of Nana’s brother, Andrew, visiting Australia along with a grand daughter from one of Nana’s siblings. Nana told the family often that she was a descendant of Mary Queen of Scot’s but whether this was true or not it, was as far as talking about her ancestors as it got.

My second journey into my ancestors started with Nana’s husband, Harold, who immigrated from England. Like Nana, little was known about who Harold’s family was and where he was born. Harold died when my Mum was quite young and any recollection of Harold’s childhood has been forgotten or was never told.

As I gradually built these family trees and uncovered my great grandparents families, their vital records and details of their lives, my passion and interest grew and Ancestor Detective was born.

Recognising that genealogy in the modern world of technology and the internet can be overwhelming and often just knowing where and how to start your family history can be a daunting task. With a passion for research and writing I have chosen to share my genealogy journey by providing ancestor stories, along with tips and resources to help you build your families history.

As well as sharing stories of my ancestors and those I have researched for clients, Ancestor Detective, will provide posts that will assist in breaking down those brick walls, where going further back into your family history seems impossible. I will provide information on how to find different records as well as providing advice on the best ways to ensure that the ancestor you have found is in fact yours.

I welcome you to Ancestor Detective and hope you enjoy our blogs and all that we can provide to assist you on your journey to uncover your past. You never know who and what you will find…..

Please feel free to share our posts far and wide, provide comments on our posts and please get in contact if you have questions or would like to employ Ancestor Detective to uncover your families history.