Research: Jane Baxter (nee Scarth)

My 3x great grandmother Jane Scarth was born on 24th November 1830 in the parish of Evie and Rendall, which is located on the Orkney Islands in Scotland. She was one of 6 known children; Margaret (1818-?), Lydia ( 1822-?), Mary (1825-?), James (1828-?), Jane (1830-1899) and David Pitcairn (1833-?). Their parents were James and Lydia Scarth (nee Irvine).

In 1841, 10-year-old Jane was living with her parents, and four of her siblings in Henley, which I believe is a place in Evie, Orkney. Jane’s father was a stonemason.

Ten years later, in 1851, 20-year-old Jane was still living with her parents, James and Lydia, at Henley in Evie. I am still in the process of finding out exactly which “Henly” they resided at, as in a later census it states that her father was living at “Upper Henly”. A map can be seen below. Jane’s occupation is recorded as “Mason’s daughter” at this time. She was also living there with her older sister Margaret.


Sometime between the 1851 census and the later months of 1855, Jane moved to the Hull area of East Yorkshire, England. Jane was the first in my direct line to move from the Orkney Islands to England.

During the 19th and early 20th century, the Herring trade was booming and it provided jobs for thousands of men and women from the Orkney Islands and people from all along the East coast of England.

Herring girls or “fisher lassies” as they were otherwise known, would follow the fleet of fishermen from the Orkney Islands, down to the various ports along the East coast of England and work there. The girls, who were organised into groups of three, started work at 6 o’clock in the morning and finished at 6 o’clock that same evening. Two of them would gut the herring and the other packed them. Gutters would be expected to gut at least 40 herring per minute. The Gutters would then sort the herring by size and condition, into “swills” (baskets). Each group of three girls could earn up to 10 shillings a day, between them.

My theory is that Jane, at some point after the 1851 census was taken, found work in the Herring trade and sailed down through the ports of the East Coast of England. I believe that she met William Thomas Baxter, a dock labourer, in the Hull port, and they fell in love with each other.

I have no definite proof of this theory, except that William was a Dock Labourer and that Jane would have, more than likely been a part of the Herring trade, as it was such a roaring trade in Orkney. I believe that this explains the sudden move to Hull from Evie and Rendall – it was to marry William! The distance between Evie and Hull is nearly 400 miles as the crow flies, and by land transport, it is about 600 miles.

On 7th November 1855, Jane Scarth married William Thomas Baxter in the Sculcoates area of Hull, East Yorkshire. The couple went on to have a total number of 6 known children. Their names were James (1857-?), William (1860-?), Jane (1865-?), Emily (1868-?), Ada (1871-?) and my 2x great grandfather Arthur Alexander (1873-1912).

In 1861 Jane was living at 2 Duke Street in Hull with her husband and 2 of her children. She was 29 years old at this point in her life. By this time, Jane had 2 young children to look after and was married, which explains why she had no occupation at this time. With William working long hours and earning money on the docks as a labourer, Jane would have stayed at home and tended to the children, cooking and cleaning.

On the census records for the years 1871, 1881 and 1891, Jane is still living at 2 Duke Street in Hull. The first image below shows Duke Street on a map from 1880. The street was situated to the right of Queen’s Dock, which was filled in in 1930, and is now known as Queens Gardens. The second image below is a photograph of some of the houses. Unfortunately, I cannot determine whether Jane and her family lived in one of the houses shown in the photograph, but can state that their house would have looked the same.

Duke Street is no longer a street of Hull, and is just a distant memory of Hull’s history. However, Hannover Square, to which Duke Street was connected, is still of the same name. In the image below, I have marked the rough area in which Duke Street would have started.

Where Duke Street once was.PNG
Image of where Duke Street once was located.

On 6th March 1899, the 64th birthday of William, her husband, Jane sadly passed away in Hull at the age of 68 years old. She died as a result of Heart Disease. Jane Stephenson (nee Baxter), Jane’s daughter was recorded as the informant of her death. William then passed away the following year, aged 65 years old. Jane was buried in Hull General Cemetery on 9th March, 3 days after her death.

Thank you very much for reading,

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