We found and reunited them 


The feeling of connecting people to their ancestors is an amazing feeling and warms the heart.

Earlier on I got a PM to say that someone was looking for help tracing their relations. So you all know me, I was more than keen to help.

John then PM’d to say he was looking for his Great-grandmother, a patient in Hartwood and died there on 22nd March 1914, who he believe was buried in the graveyard.

He visited the graveyard around two years ago, but didn't have a plot number.

So a quick search and we have found her.

John then wrote ‘Her name is Jane Muir Symington, sometimes called Jean, or Jeanie. She has an interesting, if tragic, back story, which I've written up if you'd like to see it. She was a single mother in 1888, in an age where this was not socially acceptable, I suspect this may have some bearing on her being in Hartwood. She was there from as early as 1901, very sad really.’

Jane's life and memory was pretty much erased by her family and John has made it his mission to put her name, and her life, back on the map.

I’ve asked that John post the information himself as it’s his history and for him to share

Just warms my heart when we can paint a picture of those in the graveyard, slowly we are not only giving the 1255 lost souls their name back but also their family

A little over one hundred years ago, a woman, described as a ‘lunatic’, died in an asylum, at the relatively young age of 50, with her cause of death registered as ‘Morbus Cordis (Unknown)’. She was a mother and a grandmother, but she had been erased from her family’s history, her name unspoken, her memory forgotten, and was buried in the asylum grounds.


What was her story?

Jane Muir Symington was born in Lesmahagow, in 1865, to John Symington, a shoemaker, and Janet Forrest, in 1865. Her parents were married the same year in Lesmahagow.  

Jane did not live with her parents for long though, as by 1871, when she was just 6, she was living with her maternal Grandfather, Samuel Forrest and his family, also in Lesmahagow. (Her mother, Janet Forrest, being Samuel Forrest’s daughter) Nothing is known about what became of John Symington (or Symmington) her father, other than a later reference that Janet Forrest Symington (see below) was brought up by ‘her grandfather.

Jane continued to live with her maternal Grandfather’s family, eventually taking their name, Forrest. In 1881, she was still living with them, now aged 15.

On October 14th 1888, Jane, now aged 22, gave birth to a baby daughter, whom she named Janet Forrest Symington, at Abbeygreen, Lesmahagow. The informant on the birth certificate was Samuel Forrest, who describes himself as ‘Great (of the child) Grandfather and Occupier’.

The child’s father was not recorded, but the following year, in June 1889, a decree of court named the father as Andrew Brown, a labourer, of Stockbriggs, a farm near Lesmahagow and this was amended on the birth certificate,  Andrew Brown disappears from the record at this point.

By 1891, Jane Muir Symington, now aged 25, and her child, now known as ‘Janet Forrest’ were still living with Samuel Forrest, although he was by now 76 years of age.

In 1895, a new Lanark County Asylum opened at Hartwood, near Shotts. This was to become significant in Jane Muir Symington’s life.

By 1901, Jane, now aged 36, was a patient, described as a ‘lunatic’ in the Lanark District Lunatic Asylum. She was described in the Census as having been a Domestic Servant.

Thirteen years later, on the 22nd of March 1914, Jane Muir Symington died aged just 50, in Hartwood Asylum. On her death certificate, her usual residence is given as Auchterteare Lodge, Lesmahagow, although when this relates to is uncertain.


The cause of her death is given as ‘Morbus Cordis (unknown)’ and it is certified by one ‘Dunlop Robertson’ and notified by --- Haggart, Attendant at Hartwood.

These details are significant, as her death was recorded along with another woman, who died in Hartwood just three days later, of the same unknown cause and certified by the same doctor and notified by the same Attendant.

Jane (or Jeanie) Muir Symington was buried in an unmarked grave in plot 203 in Hartwood’s own cemetery. It’s not known if Jane was a patient in Hartwood continuously for the previous fourteen years, or whether she was re-admitted at some point.

Janet Forrest Symington

What happened to her child, Janet Forrest? (also Symington/Shearer/Barr)

During the early 1900’s, Janet Forrest Symington (my Grandmother) was said to have been brought up ‘by her Grandfather, although if this were true, this would be John Symington, the shoemaker. (Samuel Forrest, her Great Grandfather, would have been about 90)

In 1908, now a machinist, she married William Shearer, a coal miner, of Hamilton. By then she called herself Janet Forrest, not Janet Symington, stating on her Marriage record ‘This is (sic) name I have borne since childhood, being name of my grandmother.’

In 1913, William Shearer and Janet Symington, or Forrest, had a daughter, Peggy Shearer.

In November 1916, Janet Shearer was widowed, her husband, William Shearer, posted missing, presumed killed, during the Battle of the Somme.

In 1922, Janet Shearer remarried, to Alexander Barr, my Grandfather, by this time calling herself Janet Symington, but signing herself Janet Shearer.