3 February 2013

The Legend of David Livingstone Pt. I

As a child of about seven or eight and long before I became interested in family history my father told me a story concerning the famous 19th century explorer and missionary, Dr David Livingstone. He informed me that a cousin from another branch of our family had been investigating their ancestry because they wanted to prove that they they were descended from Dr David Livingstone. I was told that they were doing this because there was a huge unclaimed Livingstone estate which if only they could prove descent would be theirs. However the “cousins” had terminated their research early on learning that the unclaimed estate did not come down to their branch of the family but ours! Sadly my grandfather could not afford the cost of the necessary research in Scotland and Africa and therefore we were unable to claim our fortune.

At this point in time I was completely unaware of the Hume branch of the family from Scotland and too young to question why we might be related to a Scottish missionary. However I did read a book about “The Great Europeans” which had a chapter on Dr David Livingstone and drew an image of this heroic explorer who spread Christianity, freed slaves and opened up the African continent for Europeans whilst taking great personal risks with disease and the local peoples.

So who was Dr David Livingstone?

Dr David Livingstone taken in his sisters' house in Hamilton in 1864 aged approximately 51 (Photographer Thomas Annan)

David Livingstone was born in Blantyre, South Lanarkshire, Scotland on the 19th March 1813. He was the son of Neil Livingstone and Agnes Hunter. He married Mary Moffat daughter of another famous missionary Robert Moffat on 2nd January 1845 in Kuruman, Northern Cape, South Africa. They had six children three of whom married and had children. As such it seems highly unlikely that there would be an unclaimed “treasure”.

The Children of Dr David Livingstone and Mary Moffat

So in trying to find out more the first stop for my Scottish family is always Scotland's People and this is where I went looking for a will and probate for Dr David Livingstone. Searching on the wills page the following record was found:


PAGES 705-7

Not knowing what the “I” stood for in type, I referred to the word abbreviations (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk/content/help/index.aspx?r=551&433) and found this was an inventory. The website’s FAQs on record type (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk/content/faqs/index.aspx?39) told me that:

“An inventory is a valuation of the moveable property belonging to a deceased person at the time of his or her death. It can include household furnishings, clothes, jewellery, books, papers, farm stock and crops, money in cash, bank accounts and investments, as well as money owed to creditors and money due from debtors.

Sometimes the inventory is very detailed, with the value of every item listed, but often it consists of a brief, overall valuation. Almost every document in the index contains an inventory of some kind, except where there are separate registers for wills.”

In addition to this helpful information it also told me to look at the Famous Scots section for the inventories of Rob Roy McGregor, David Livingstone, Adam Smith and others. In that section (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk/content/help/index.aspx?1134) it was stated that:

“Livingstone left no will, and his testament consists of an inventory of the money in his British bank accounts. His chief executor, his eldest son Thomas Steele Livingstone, living in Hamilton, attests that he has no knowledge of the extent of his father's estate, if any, abroad. Mary Livingstone had died in 1862 in Africa, so the estate was divided equally among their children.”

In addition it provided digital images of the three pages of the actual document and a transcript which identified that Dr David Livingstone’s total estate in Scotland was worth £1463 19s and 3d.

Next time - The Livingstone fortune and are we related?