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The Moar Family of The Shetland Islands

I always knew my grandmother Lavinia “Winnie” Fuller’s maiden name was Moar, just as I knew her birthday was 27 July 1888, and that she was born in Lyttelton, New Zealand. These facts were drilled into me from childhood by my mother, Lavinia “Vena” Robson nee Fuller. Visits to South Head Cemetery in Vaucluse, Sydney, Australia over the years, saw my grandfather, Johnny Fuller head up a list of names on the Fuller family headstone. There was an inscription for Winnie Fuller, Mum’s twin sister who tragically died at birth, and my great grandmother Lavinia Moar nee Northey, who was in poor health, after falling from a bus in Wellington, New Zealand, in about 1915, breaking her leg in several places. Apparently it did not mend well, and left her with a limp and painful ache. More names were recorded over the ensuing years, Ethel Moar, Gran’s sister, Phyllis Lewis nee Fuller, mum’s half-sister, and Malcolm and John Fuller, mum’s brothers, and her son, William “Bill” Robson. Only Lavinia Moar and Winnie Fuller were burials, the rest being cremated, their ashes either interred in the grave or scattered to the winds.

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George Moar, one of my maternal great grandfathers died young, leaving his widow, Lavinia Moar nee Northey poor and in desperate circumstances, to rear their two young daughters, Ethel and Lavinia. A photo of Ethel (left) and Lavinia “Winnie” (right), aged about eight and six, together with their mother, had always hung on the wall of my grandmother’s bedroom, and later in my mother’s bedroom, after Gran died on 1 January 1983. This photographic glass portrait is now my sister Lavinia Chrystal nee Robson’s precious possession, and it is thrilling to see that little Lavinia Moar bears a most striking resemblance to my niece Lavinia Chrystal. I assumed that Lavinia Moar nee Northey had already been widowed by the time this photo was taken, because of the absence of George Moar and because Lavinia Moar and her daughters, Ethel and Lavinia were wearing black.

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Recently I decided to apply to the New Zealand Births Deaths and Marriage Register (NZBDM) for the birth certificates of Ethel and Lavinia Moar to confirm my discovery that both the girls were actually one year older than we previously thought, differing from what was recorded in their Australian records and burials.

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C:\Users\Virginia Rundle\Documents\Ancestry\Northey Moar Files\Moar\George Moar\Lavinia Moar Birth Certificate 27 July 1887 Lyttelton.jpg

C:\Users\Virginia Rundle\Documents\Ancestry\Northey Moar Files\Moar\George Moar\Death Certificate for George Moar 23 Feb 1901 Christchurch.jpg

It came as quite a surprise to see the NZ death record for George Moar and discover that he had not died until 23 February 1901. Indeed, his daughters would have been teenagers, Ethel aged 15 and Lavinia aged 13, when their father died. More exciting was the naming of his parents on the document as Adam Moar and Elizabeth Dalziel. My first cousin, Scottie Fuller had purchased this record from NZBDM in an effort to determine George’s parents. George’s death was followed by an inquest, due to the tragic circumstances, at Sunnyside Asylum in Christchurch. It was with the help of Scottie Fuller and the medical help from his brother-in-law Dr. Chris Begg that we discovered the details of George’s illness and death, which had always been explained by Gran to my mother and to myself as an early death from consumption, known today as tuberculosis. In those days consumption was incurable and greatly feared by the general population. However George died of pneumonia, and complications from paralysis and insanity, probably caused by late stage syphllis. Scott’s sleuthing and investigation into George’s death and activities in New Zealand have been a marvellous contribution to the family history. Indeed Scott’s eldest sister Carolyn Begg kindly provided me with some amazing photographs early in my research phase, when she heard I was writing up the family history. Interestingly these photos of George were taken in the Wynyard Studios, George Street, Sydney. Knowing that George was a mariner, it was not a surprise therefore to find George in Sydney.

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These photos from Carolyn Begg came from her father John George Fuller’s photograph album.

The next few pages of documents and photos tell the story of George Moar’s time in New Zealand, and are the only documents we have of his short life, dying at the age of 41.

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This newspaper clipping was one that Scottie Fuller and I both collected during our collaboration on George Moar. It is from the Auckland Star Newspaper, 1 March 1884, providing us with the migration of George from London to Auckland aboard the Northumberland. Clearly George must have travelled from Shetland to London before making this decision. This clipping came from a website called Papers Past, a collection of old New Zealand Newspapers, which has been a wonderful source of information on the Fullers, Northeys and Moars.

I knew from my mother, Lavinia Robson nee Fuller, that George had been given a land grant on the North Island of New Zealand, beneath the volcanic slopes of Mount Egmont. Scottie amazingly unearthed the next newspaper clipping showing that George was indeed the recipient of a land grant, which would have been given with the understanding that improvements were carried out on the land, such as fencing, erecting housing/buildings and cultivating. Clearly this never occurred and George’s land was subsequently forfeited by the New Zealand Land Board. In the Taranaki Herald on 8 October 1895 George Moar was bought before the Land Board to explain why improvements had not been effected on his property, he was unable to show cause at the next meeting on 21 October 1895, when his land was then officially forfeited.

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The marriage record of Lavinia Northey to George Mour/Moar, above, bought with it the discovery of the maiden name of Lavinia’s mother Elizabeth Northey as Dodebridge. An unusual name such as Dodebridge/Dodridge is a gift to the genealogist, and it was exciting to have yet another clue to the past.

The Moar’s marriage document I found during a visit to New Zealand in November 2012. I was able to visit Lyttelton Library, and search transcriptions from the parish records for Lyttelton, which were enormously valuable information on the Northey family from Cornwall, who arrived in Lyttelton in May 1873 aboard the Mary Shepherd. One of my earliest research endeavours was The Northey Family of Lyttelton, New Zealand, a story of their migration and settlement in Lyttelton. However the new information regarding Elizabeth Northey’s maiden name has taken me back to England, with the precious discovery of Elizabeth Dodridge’s marriage record in Plymouth, Devon to William Northey. I will develop this into another chapter on The Northey Family of Cornwall and The Dodridge Family of Devon, and will explain how I have been able to go back many generations in two of the most historically peaceful and beautiful counties of England. Parish records have largely remained undisturbed by wars, pillaging and the deliberate burnings of religious documents. With the kind help from volunteer online parish clerks (OPC) and other collaborations I have been able to find out exactly where our families came from, and help to understand the occupations, society and circumstances of their lives.


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The Star, Lyttelton, 31 December 1884

Gran Fuller nee Moar sometimes lived with us when Bill, Lavinia and I were children, at our home at 64 Wunulla Road, Point Piper, Sydney, often during a recuperation after an illness or during moves between homes. Notably Gran resided at Gladswood Gardens in Double Bay in the early 1960’s, after the sale of the family home Caerleon in Bellevue Hill. Later Gran moved to a unit in St Marks Road, and then to another in Etham Avenue in Darling Point, Gran would often stay for several months with us. My parents Reg and Vena Robson travelled extensively for my father’s business, and Gran would move in to assist our housekeeper to run things smoothly in their absence. Later, after Gran had a fall and broke her arm we were able to look after her for several months. It was during these precious times that I used to pester Gran about the “olden days” in New Zealand, and her life at Caerleon. She told me her family was poor in New Zealand. It was a difficult time after her father died, and her mother took in mending and laundry to tide them over. Food was costly and Gran always told us that if she didn’t eat her dinner, it was served up the next day to her by her mother. I was horrified by this, but Gran explained that they had to be frugal to survive.

Two things Gran Fuller, taught me which I have never forgotten. She explained that “there was a place for everything, and everything in its place”. I loved that saying and somehow it actually got through to me! Sometimes when I was unhappy Gran would tell me that it was unimportant, because “What is it going to matter in 100 years”? This was Grans way of stopping me fretting over something trivial, and telling me to get on with life. I laugh now, because all I am interested in, is what actually did happen 100 years ago!

Gran also told me about her schooling, whereby she wrote with chalk on a slate board and was always being rapped across the knuckles with a ruler for her messy work. Ethel, her elder sister was the clever one in the family, she was brilliant at school work and excelled in needlecraft. Gran loved explaining to me that she was hopeless at school and a terrible needleworker, who could barely sew on a button! Her mother, Lavinia Moar used to chide her by saying, “Well Winnie, you will need to marry a rich husband”!

Ethel Moar went on to become a celebrated seamstress, pantomime costumier and designer in Wellington, working for Fullers Theatres. It occurred to me that this connection between Ethel Moar and Johnny Fuller, the theatrical producer and prominent Wellington Councillor would have been how Lavinia Moar met and then married Johnny Fuller. We certainly have a lot to be grateful to Ethel for introducing them. Johnny Fuller, of course, was a famous divorcee after a celebrated and most public divorce case that spanned the Tasman and was reported widely and salaciously in New Zealand and Australian newspapers. It was for this reason that Johnny and Lavinia were married in the Registry Office in Wellington, as they were unable to be married in a church because of his divorcee status. I will deal more fully with this in my chapter on Johnny Fuller, Theatrical Producer. Much has been written about the Fullers, but most of this content has been focused on Sir Benjamin Fuller, Johnny’s elder brother. I intend to concentrate my family history on Johnny and Lavinia Fuller.

The next few pages deal with George’s mental illness. Scottie and I have discussed this at great length, and it may well be that Lavinia Moar kept George away from his daughters, due to his aggression and bouts of insanity. She may well have told them he had died or gone to Mount Egmont, to ease the family burden. George may have lived in asylums for some years. Hence the girl’s memory of their father was only that as very young children when their father was well.

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It was Scottie who applied to Sunnyside Asylum for George’s medical records, to find out more about our discovery regarding his insanity. It must have been the most harrowing time for his wife Lavinia Moar, and one cannot underestimate her strength of character and from my dear mum’s stories and memories, I could see that she obviously loved and admired this kind woman, who died when my mum was about eight years of age.

New Zealand records are difficult to obtain from online sources, and are expensive to purchase from the NZBDM. I was able to collect some of the New Zealand Electoral Rolls for both George and Lavinia, happy in the knowledge that New Zealand lead the world in granting women the vote. Notice on this roll that the Moar’s home is in Jackson Street in Lyttelton. Listed directly above is Stephen William Mitchell, of London Street, Lyttelton, who was married to Celia “Annie” Northey, an older sister to Lavinia Moar nee Northey. Sadly however Annie had died just prior to this date. Stephen and Annie Mitchell had lived above his hairdressing salon in London Street, the main street of Lyttelton. It was Stephen who organised the Northey grave and headstone in Lyttelton Cemetery, in memory of his wife, and who placed a memorial directly below Annies, to her parents William and Elizabeth Northey. This headstone is illustrated my chapter on The Northey Family of Lyttelton.

New Zealand Electoral Rolls 1853 – 1981:

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The following newspaper clipping from News of the Day, 26 February 1901, page 4, includes a small mention regarding the results of George Moar’s Coronial Inquest. George was buried in Sydenham Cemetery in Christchurch, recorded in their records as Block 5G, Plot 42. However a visit to the cemetery shows this area as a large expanse of grass with no gravestone marking this spot. It may once have had a wooden cross marking his grave. Scottie Fuller and I discussed George’s death and wondered about Lavinia Moar, and what action she would have taken to let his parents know about his death, and the fact that he left a widow with two young daughters. It was about this time in our collaboration that Scottie decided to cold call the Shetland Islands. We had successfully found George’s Scottish Census for 1871, where he was listed in the family household. Scottie decided to look up Moar in the Shetland directory and call any Moars that still lived in Westerskeld.

In no time at all Scottie was on the phone chatting to Bertie Moar, a 90 year old descendant of the Moars living near Westerskeld. Indeed he assured Scottie that recorded in the Moar descendant chart in the Shetland, is George Moar, who died in Christchurch, New Zealand in 1901. Bertie explained that he came down the descendant line from Adam’s grandfather Edward Moar, who married Margery Magnusdaughter. Edward and Ann had a large family and William Moar who married Margaret Abernethy in 1785 was the father of Adam Moar, who in turn was our George Moar’s father. William Moar’s elder brother Arthur Moar married Ann Sclatter, which is Bertie’s line. Bertie being their great grandson, whose full name was James Gilbert Henry Moar, the last Moar living near Westerskeld, proudly explaining that he and his wife Thomasina were still living in an original croft. There is more regarding Bertie and Thomasina Moar later in this chapter.

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1871 Scottish Census:

Name: George D Maur
Age: 10
Estimated birth year: abt 1861
Relationship: Son
Father’s name: Adam Maur
Mother’s name: Eliza Maur
Gender: Male
Where born: Sandsting, zetland
Registration Number: 9
Registration district: Sandsting and Aithsting
Civil Parish: Sandsting and Aithsting
County: Shetland
Address: Westerkeld
ED: 3
Household schedule number: 42
LINE: 23
Roll: CSSCT1871_2
Household Members:
Name Age
Adam Maur 71
Eliza Maur 48
James Maur 12
George D Maur 10
Thomastina Maur 8
Mary Jane Moar 5

Source Citation

Parish: Sandsting and Aithsting; ED: 3; Page: 9; Line: 23; Roll: CSSCT1871_2

Source Information

Ancestry.com. 1871 Scotland Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2007.

Original data: Scotland. 1871 Scotland Census. Reels 1-191. General Register Office for Scotland, Edinburgh, Scotland.


The 1871 Census for Scotland was taken on the night of 2/3 April 1871. The following information was requested: place, name, relationship to head of family, marital status, age, gender, profession, birthplace, and whether blind, deaf, and dumb.

Scotland, Select Births and Baptisms 1564 – 1950:

Name: George Moar
Gender: Male
Birth Date: 24 Sep 1859
Birth Place: Sandsting and Aithsting,Shetland,Scotland
Father: Adam Moar
Mother: Eliza Yell Or Abernethy
FHL Film Number: 6035516
Name: James Moar
Gender: Male
Birth Date: 19 Feb 1858
Birth Place: Sandsting and Aithsting,Shetland,Scotland
Father: Adam Moar
Mother: Eliza Deyell
FHL Film Number: 6035516
Name: Thomastina Moar
Gender: Female
Birth Date: 6 Mar 1863
Birth Place: Sandsting and Aithsting,Shetland,Scotland
Father: Adam Moar
Mother: Eliza Deyell Or Abernethy
FHL Film Number: 6035516
Name: (Mary) Jane Moar
Gender: Female
Birth Date: 8 Sep 1865
Birth Place: Sandsting and Aithsting,Shetland,Scotland
Father: Adam Moar
Mother: Eliza Deyell
FHL Film Number: 6035516

The next three records are marriages in the Shetland Islands for the very complex Moar family of Westerskeld, where there was a “his, hers and ours” combination of full, half and step siblings for George Jnr. There were two marriages for George’s father, Adam Moar, who firstly married Catherine Ridland on 28 October 1831. There were nine children from this marriage, Barbara Moar 1833, William Moar 1834, Thomas Moar 1836, John Moar 1838, Margaret Moar 1841, Catherine Moar 1844, Bruce Moar 1848, Mitchell Moar 1850 and Alexander Moar 1853. Catherine Ridland, died in 1854 and Adam Moar married the widowed Eliza Dalziel/Deyell on 11 December 1856. The births of their children James George Moar 1858, George Moar 1859 , Thomastina Moar 1863 and Mary Jane Moar 1864 are all listed on the previous page. Eliza’s first marriage was to James Abernethy on 26 Nov 1846, which is also listed below. There were two children from this marriage, Margaret Helen Abernethy 1849 and Robert Abernethy 1852. It interested me that George was given the middle initial D in the 1871 Scottish Census, I believe that this initial was for Dalziel. George’s namesake, and maternal grandfather, who was George Dalziel, and this was why the family referred to our George as George Jnr.


Adam Moir

Mentioned in the record of Adam Moir and Catharine Redland

Name: Adam Moir
Spouse’s Name: Catharine Redland
Event Date: 28 Oct 1831
Event Place: Sandsting And Aithsting,Shetland,Scotland

Indexing Project (Batch) Number: M11009-4 , System Origin: Scotland-ODM , GS Film number: 919493


Citing this Record

“Scotland, Marriages, 1561-1910,” index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/XY73-FP5 : accessed 11 February 2015), Adam Moir and Catharine Redland, 28 Oct 1831; citing Sandsting And Aithsting,Shetland,Scotland, reference ; FHL microfilm 919,493.

Scotland Select Marriages 1561 – 1910:

Name: Eliza Deyell
Gender: Female
Marriage Date: 11 Dec 1856
Marriage Place: Sandsting and Aithsting,Shetland,Scotland
Spouse: Adam Moar
FHL Film Number: 6035516

Source Information

Ancestry.com. Scotland, Select Marriages, 1561-1910 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014.

Original data: Scotland, Marriages, 1561-1910. Salt Lake City, Utah: FamilySearch, 2013.


Elizabeth Dalzel

mentioned in the record of James Abernethy and Elizabeth Dalzel

Name: James Abernethy
Spouse’s Name: Elizabeth Dalzel
Event Date: 26 Nov 1846
Event Place: Sandsting And Aithsting,Shetland,Scotland

Indexing Project (Batch) Number: M11009-4 , System Origin: Scotland-ODM , GS Film number: 919493


Citing this Record

“Scotland, Marriages, 1561-1910,” index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/XY73-2PL : accessed 11 February 2015), James Abernethy and Elizabeth Dalzel, 26 Nov 1846; citing Sandsting And Aithsting,Shetland,Scotland, reference ; FHL microfilm 919,493.

In a further complication to the Moar family, I also found the marriage record for James Abernethy’s first marriage to Georgina Goodlet on 11 Feb 1834. There were six children from this marriage, Catherine Abernethy 1835, Oliver Abernethy 1836, twins, Jean Robertson Abernethy 1838 and Christian Robertson Abernethy 1838, James Abernethy 1842 and Georgina Abernethy 1845. Georgina Moar nee Goodlet died in 1845, shortly just after her daughter Georgina was born. It is probable that Eliza Dalziel was related to Georgina Goodlet, because Eliza’s mother’s maiden name was Goodlet.


James Abernethy

Mentioned in the record of James Abernethy and Georgina Goodlet

Name: James Abernethy
Spouse’s Name: Georgina Goodlet
Event Date: 11 Feb 1834
Event Place: Sandsting And Aithsting,Shetland,Scotland

Indexing Project (Batch) Number: M11009-4 , System Origin: Scotland-ODM , GS Film number: 919493


Citing this Record

“Scotland, Marriages, 1561-1910,” index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/XY73-25M : accessed 11 February 2015), James Abernethy and Georgina Goodlet, 11 Feb 1834; citing Sandsting And Aithsting,Shetland,Scotland, reference ; FHL microfilm 919,493.

Geoff and I visited Scotland in August of 2013. Part of our month long holiday was a visit to four islands in Scotland; Arran, Fair Isle, Skye and the Shetland Islands. To get to the Shetlands we took an overnight ferry from Aberdeen to Lerwick, Shetland’s capital, via the Orkney Islands. It was breathtakingly beautiful to arrive in the port of Lerwick in the crisp early morning sunshine, the ferry weaving its way past low treeless green islands on both sides. The sea, during our overnight voyage, had been as calm as a mill pond, and the morning bought out noisy sea gulls flying close to the ship, and together with other sea birds we watched them gliding over a dark sapphire blue sea. The one image that I take away from my visit was the treeless vision of these low grassy islands. It is possible that it is so cold and windy for most of the year that trees simply don’t survive. It was also exciting that the weather was forecasted to be fine, mild and sunny for our week’s stay. This was in stark contrast to visions I had seen on Youtube of wild weather and violently heaving seas, one video in particular showed ferry patrons gripping the walls, hoping to prevent their being flung across the decks. I did note every piece of furniture on the ship was most comfortingly nailed down, and my fears for the voyage were partly allayed by the fact that I had already taken seasick tablets before we left Aberdeen harbour. My overwhelming memory is one of the extreme remoteness of the area, and my having to coming to terms with the fact that it was probably the furthest part of the world that I will ever travel to. I did get a primal feeling of being cut off from the rest of civilisation, particularly my home and family back in Sydney, Australia.

One of our first visits on the island was to Lerwick Library, where I had to confirm an appointment at the Family Research Centre for the following day to meet researcher Bertie Gray, a member of the Shetland Family History Society (SFHS), who also happened to live in Westerskeld, and who was happy to show us around. Westerskeld being on the main island, about an hour’s drive west from Lerwick.

I also found a booklet for Westerskeld cemetery, and decided to search for Moar headstone inscriptions. This was despite the librarian telling me that rarely has he ever met a visitor to the Islands, who has found a headstone for their family, and earnestly explained that I shouldn’t be too disappointed. A few minutes later I read a gravestone transcription for Adam and Eliza Moar and their son George, and a quiet calmness and fulfilment overcame me. It may be that this really wasn’t such a silly thing visiting the Shetland Islands after all! It was such a shock to see George’s name listed on the grave inscriptions. Knowing that it was another four hours before we could check into our hotel, I can remember looking at Geoff, and without having to speak, we both knew that within the hour we would be inspecting headstones at Westerskeld cemetery. A brief stop on the way for picnic provisions found us cheerfully heading to our first adventure in the Shetlands.

The next few pages show the Westerskeld Cemetery Transcription of the Moar grave, a booklet in a series compiled by the Shetland Island Family History Society, photos taken by Geoff Rundle of the Moar grave at Westerskeld Cemetery and the 1891 Scottish census for Adam Moar and family living in Westerskeld.

One other record of importance is one that Scottie Fuller found, after he signed up to The Scotlands People website, the official BDM Records Office in Edinburgh, and purchased a voucher of tokens which allowed him to search their records. Knowing the information that Adam Moar was born in 1800 at Westerskeld this document immediately became available for purchase. Although the page is motley and the father of Adam is partly obscured the Shetland Island Historical Society accepts that Adam’s father is William Moar who married Margaret Abernethy on 15 December 1758. Adam being the younger son, with an elder brother Arthur, and four sisters Margaret, Grace, Helen and Barbara.

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1891 Scottish Census:

Name: Adam Moar
Age: 91
Estimated birth year: abt 1800
Relationship: Head
Gender: Male
Where born: Sandsting, Shetland
Registration Number: 9
Registration district: Sandsting and Aithsting
Civil Parish: Sandsting and Aithsting
County: Shetland
Address: Wester Skeld
Occupation: Crofter
ED: 3
Household schedule number: 43
LINE: 20
Roll: CSSCT1891_3
Household Members:
Name Age
Adam Moar 91
Margaret Abernethy 40
Thomasina Moar 28
Mary Moar 25
James Abernethy 15

Source Citation

Parish: Sandsting and Aithsting; ED: 3; Page: 9; Line: 20; Roll: CSSCT1891_3

Source Information

Ancestry.com. 1891 Scotland Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2007.

Original data: Scotland. 1891 Scotland Census. Reels 1-409. General Register Office for Scotland, Edinburgh, Scotland.


The 1891 Census for Scotland was taken on the night of 5/6 April 1891. The following information was requested: place, name, relationship to head of family, marital status, age, gender, profession, birthplace, and whether blind, deaf, and dumb.

1851 Scottish Cenus:

Name: Margaret Moar
Age: 90
Estimated birth year: abt 1761
Relationship: Mother
Gender: Female
Where born: Sandsting, zetland
Parish Number: 9
Civil Parish: Sandsting and Aithsting
County: Shetland
Address: Westerskeld
ED: 1
Page: 20
Household schedule number: 62
LINE: 10
Roll: CSSCT1851_2
Household Members:
Name Age
Adam Moar 50
Catherine Moar 40
Barbara Moar 18
Thomas Moar 14
John Moar 12
Margaret Moar 9
Catherine Moar 6
Bruce Moar 3
Michel Moar 4 Mo
Margaret Moar 90

Source Citation

Parish: Sandsting and Aithsting; ED: 1; Page: 20; Line: 10; Roll: CSSCT1851_2; Year: 1851

Source Information

Ancestry.com. 1851 Scotland Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2006.

Original data: Scotland. 1851 Scotland Census. Reels 1-217. General Register Office for Scotland, Edinburgh, Scotland.


The 1851 Census for Scotland was taken on the night of 30/31 March 1851. The following information was requested: place, name, relationship to head of family, marital status, age, gender, profession, birthplace, and whether blind, deaf, and dumb.

The 1891 Scottish Census provides information that the now widowed Adam Moar aged, 91, was living with his two unmarried daughters Thomasina and Mary (Jane) by Eliza Dalziel, George Moar’s full siblings, and his step daughter Margaret Abernethy, the daughter of his second wife Eliza Dalziel’s first marriage to James Abernethy, as well as Margaret’s son James Abernethy, Eliza’s grandson. Margaret Abernethy is important to us because she was the person who organised the grave stone monument at Westerskeld Cemetery, and for that I am so grateful, it is a truly lasting legacy to the Moar family. Sadly her young son James Oliver Abernethy died in 1902, aged 26 and the grave was as much about her son, as it was about her mother, Eliza, stepfather Adam and half brother George Moar Jnr. who was remembered in the Shetlands due to Lavinia Moar’s probable writing back home to tell of George’s death.

The 1851 Scottish Census shows Adam living with his first wife Catherine Ridland, listed their many children and importantly listing Adam’s mother Margaret Moar living with them. This longevity in the family is really most impressive and possibly comes through our Moar lineage.

The day after our cemetery visit we took the same journey back to Westerskeld to meet Robert “Bertie” Gray. Following his instructions we turned up Cemetery Road, and about two doors up the hill from the cemetery, there was Bertie’s quite modern white stucco home. Bertie was probably about 82, and his neat home was laid out in readiness for us, with the most amazing amount of documentation regarding the Moars. It was incredible to hear his family story, as in fact his wife Elizabeth Tullock’s mother was Francesca Moar and was related down a descendant line from Arthur Moar, the elder brother of Adam. Bertie Gray and his wife Elizabeth had long been divorced, he happily explained that she had shot through, leaving him to rear their two sons. Bertie seems to have taken it all in his stride, and amusingly and most impressively he explained that Elizabeth was now a rich widow, after her second husband’s recent death, and Bertie and Elizabeth were in fact planning to remarry shortly. Bertie was a born entertainer, he started with a tour of Westerskeld Cemetery, where Geoff and I stayed ‘mum’ over our visit the previous day. He had amazing stories, including the sad story of Margaret Abernethy and her ‘out of wedlock’ child James Oliver Abernethy, no one to this day knows who the father of the young lad was he explained, but of course Bertie had his theory, elucidating that Adam Moar’s sons by his first wife were a wild lot, he stopped short of saying anything more on the subject, which I gathered was better left unsaid. There were other Moars buried nearby to our Moar grave, but none that were close family members.

Then Bertie took us across the road and through a paddock to reveal the Moar crofts, now in ruins, but still clearly visible as two homes, albeit only two rooms each. From the crofts we could see the views down to Westerskeld Harbour and the crofts took great advantage of this pretty view. Bertie explained that when Eliza Abernethy nee Dalziel married into the family, she bought with her the adjoining lands of her late husband James Abernethy. This, Bertie explained, was a most fortunate arrangement whereby the lands of Adam Moar were doubled by this most advantageous marriage. I must explain that the size of these farms were just a few acres each, thus it was an enormous benefit to this very large family. Adam Moar built a new home right next door to his older croft to house the many sons from his first marriage. Bertie then was really warming up with the story of how the Moar boys from Adam’s first marriage didn’t get on with the Abernethy’s or the subsequent children of Adam and Eliza. He explained that it was “sheer bedlam” in the Moar croft! It is therefore hardly surprising that both George and his brother James Moar left the Shetlands to start a new life.

The following photos show the Moar’s croft as well as a photo of Westerskeld boat harbour and the tiny church at the crossroads between the harbour and the cemetery.

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The last story Bertie Gray told us was regarding our newest Moar cousin, Richard “Dick” James Moar, a veterinarian from Plymouth. Bertie explained that one day Dick arrived in Westerskeld in a car not normally seen in the Shetland Islands – a real head turner! Bertie was obviously most impressed with his Moar cousin from the south of England. Bertie had done the same tour for Dick, and explained that Dick’s ancestor was in fact James Moar, George’s elder and full brother, a master mariner who sailed for some of his life out of Gibraltar.

This did come as a surprise to me because Scottie had been scouring old New Zealand newspapers looking for James Moar in Auckland. He was convinced that the two brothers James and George Moar had spent a good deal of their time as taxi drivers there, getting into more trouble with the police than I cared to think about, continually having their licences revoked, or worse still brawling on the street of Auckland, and being arrested and gaoled for drunken and disorderly behaviour. It’s pretty funny really. I was therefore absolutely gobsmacked to hear Bertie chatting on about Master Mariner James Moar, and I must say the lifting of his profile came as quite a relief.

I simply couldn’t wait to tell Scottie about James Moar. As usual, Scottie took it all on board with good humour and we had a good laugh about it, and before I had returned home Scottie had cold called all the Moar vets in Plymouth and made contact with Dick! The rest is history as we say, because now as I write up George Moar from the Shetland Islands we are about to have our first Moar family reunion here in Sydney and welcome Dick Moar and his wife Lynne to Sydney on 15 February 2015.

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After enjoying a lovely morning tea with Bertie, and photographing some of his documents we said our goodbyes, knowing that our rental car simply didn’t make the grade for Bertie! We happily laughed our heads off as we rolled down the hill past Westerskeld cemetery, and back to our quaint and very ancient harbour side hotel in Lerwick.

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Our time on the Shetlands was interrupted by a four day visit to the island of Fair Isle, forty kilometres to the south west of the Shetlands. Seeing our first puffins, and masses of fur seals sunbaking on the rugged rocks and frolicking in the bays was how we spent most of our time, as we walked the island. We took time to enjoy the amazing birdlife, our interest in this activity had been amplified by the fact that we travelled on a mail boat to the island with a group of avid bird watchers. There after we waved madly every time we passed them, during our time on the island, observing them perched on the cliff tops, or hiding beneath a peak, waiting for their elusive rare bird that they were determined to photograph. Our time on Fair Isle, with accommodation in a working lighthouse, was a most amazing and memorable experience, as was the tour of the lighthouse and the view from the top. The lighthouse keeper’s wife was Norwegian, and her home cooked meals, including a local lamb roast, were delicious – there were no restaurants on Fair Isle!

See below a few photos of the lighthouse, our “private 9 hole golf course”, and the mail boat which takes only twelve passengers. It probably caused me more nervousness on embarkation than any other boat I have been on. Lucky for me that the seas were fairly calm, my husband, Geoff, of course, was looking forward to a rough trip.

We returned to Lerwick, and the following day we travelled south to Sandsting, nearby to Westerskeld, to meet Bertie Moar and his wife Thomasina, who were absolutely delightful. As I did for Bertie Gray’s family, I have now placed Bertie Moar’s family into the family tree.

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The interesting thing is that Bertie Moar is more distant in his relationship to us than Bertie Gray. Bertie Moar’s line relates through his great grandfather Christopher Moar, who married Janet Jamieson. Christopher’s father Arthur Moar, who married Ann Sclatter, was the brother of William Moar who married Margaret Abernethy, it was their son Adam who was George’s father. Generationally speaking this makes Bertie a fourth cousin to John, Vena and Malcolm Fuller, whereas the relationship through Bertie Gray’s mother-in-law is that of third cousins to the Fullers. Bertie Moar, as I mentioned before was well over 90 now and was suffering, quite understandably a bit of memory loss, the stories were not there for us to share anymore. His dear wife Thomasina was generous and kind and gave us a lovely morning tea in their cosy sitting room. Like his cousin Bertie Gray we were swamped by material regarding the Moar family. Charts and memorabilia were there to share, and they were so kind to allow me to photograph some documents.

Scottie Fuller organised a Skype phone call to my Mini IPad, and Bertie, Geoff and I spoke to my mother Vena Robson and Scottie back in Sydney at her Point Piper home. It was an amazing experience! The material I photographed will need a good deal of thorough inspection, if I ever get the time, as word of mouth relationships, while being acceptable, are by no means reliable. Family myths and legends so often turn out to be just that. So while I am happy to receive information on their ancestry lines, I have no records to show of births or marriages beyond Edward Moar and Margery Magnusdaughter. At the end of this chapter I have placed a few more documents in our direct ancestry line and hope over the years others will be released or transcribed which will allow me to take my research of the Moar’s back further generations. Indeed there are reports at the Shetland Family Research Centre indicating that the Moars may have originally come from the Orkney Islands.

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As you can see from the many records I have accepted, there is always unreliability by the scribes penning these documents, spelling names incorrectly, the Moar/More/Moir is just part of a maze of problems that one encounters when endeavouring to go back through further generations. Suffice to say, George Moar, our great grandfather is most definitely placed securely into his homeland, with parents, Adam and Eliza Moar, from Westerskeld, Shetland Islands.

At the end of this chapter I have placed a few extra records, which I have accepted as transcriptions of original parish records and I believe they are our ancestors. The pedigree chart for George Moar will show where they fit into the family tree.

My final photos are of Lerwick Harbour and the lighthouse which is so pretty, and must have guided so many of the fishing fleet into its safe waters over many centuries. I think anyone seeing Geoff’s photos would have to agree how amazingly lucky we were with the Scottish weather. I have heard so many tales from people whose holiday to Scotland was absolutely ruined by relentless rain, and this is my second time I have visited Scotland, and both times I have been blessed with amazing weather during the summer months. Finally, I couldn’t help but show you at least one Shetland pony from our visit!

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Almost as a postscript, I want to add that my early endeavours trying to find George Moar in the Shetland Islands was a headache, Scottie and I searched through more Scottish Census records from 1861, 1871 and 1881 than I could ever imagine. I printed masses off my computer and spread them out on tables, as we compared family after family, children and their parents in our efforts to find George living in the Shetlands. It is a fact that the Shetlands Islands were originally settled by just a couple of families, thus there are literally hundreds of Moar/Mour/Moore/Moir/Muir/More records to choose from. At one stage Scottie had his heart set on a family that included a young fisherman, George Moar from Gloup, on the island of North Yell, his research unearthed a terrible storm on 20 July 1881 that took out most of the village’s fishing fleet and the menfolk. It tragically took the life of many young sons, including this particular George Moar. Looking at the census’ one could see the decimation in these families from one decade to the next. I am probably glad I wasn’t looking at records during World War One, because the war effort and loss of life from the Shetlands was quite staggering. If it wasn’t for Scottie’s persistence, I sometimes wonder if I would have simply thrown in the towel. It should be appreciated that it was an exciting day when we finally located our George Moar in Westerskeld!

The Moar family has been one of the most interesting and challenging branches in the family tree for me to explore and research. I started with very little information, and the discovery therefore of each and every document and record has been filled with excitement, anticipation and delight. I would like to dedicate this chapter to Scottie Fuller as it has been the most fun to collaborate with Scottie, whose sense of family and pride in our Fuller lines is exactly what our family is really about. As we collaborated on The Fullers of Shoreditch, Middlesex, London back in early 2011 our friendship become closer, helped by the fact that we share a good sense of humour, recognising that the most important thing about humour is to be able to laugh at oneself! We have done a lot of that! It is a great thrill to be godmother to Scottie’s daughter Harriet Fuller, and her very special 4th birthday will be part of our celebrations this coming Sunday evening at the Moar Family Reunion.


Virginia Rundle

13 February 2015



Mergery Magnusdr.

mentioned in the record of Edward More and Mergery Magnusdr.

Name: Edward More
Spouse’s Name: Mergery Magnusdr.
Event Date: 15 Dec 1757
Event Place: Sandsting And Aithsting,Shetland,Scotland

Indexing Project (Batch) Number: M11009-2 , System Origin: Scotland-ODM , GS Film number: 919493


Citing this Record

“Scotland, Marriages, 1561-1910,” index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/XY73-XB7 : accessed 14 February 2015), Edward More and Mergery Magnusdr., 15 Dec 1757; citing Sandsting And Aithsting,Shetland,Scotland, reference ; FHL microfilm 919,493.


Other information in the record of William More

from Scotland, Births and Baptisms

Name: William More
Gender: Male
Christening Date: 08 Nov 1760
Father’s Name: Edward More

Indexing Project (Batch) Number: C11009-2 , System Origin: Scotland-ODM , GS Film number: 919493


Citing this Record

“Scotland, Births and Baptisms, 1564-1950,” index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/VQQV-6LD : accessed 14 February 2015), Edward More in entry for William More, 08 Nov 1760; citing SANDSTING AND AITHSTING,SHETLAND,SCOTLAND, reference ; FHL microfilm 919,493.


George Dalzeill

Scotland, Births and Baptisms

Name: George Dalzeill
Gender: Male
Christening Date: 24 Mar 1796
Father’s Name: Peter Dalzeill

Indexing Project (Batch) Number: C11009-2 , System Origin: Scotland-ODM , GS Film number: 919493


Citing this Record

“Scotland, Births and Baptisms, 1564-1950,” index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/VQQV-82D : accessed 14 February 2015), George Dalzeill, 24 Mar 1796; citing SANDSTING AND AITHSTING,SHETLAND,SCOTLAND, reference ; FHL microfilm 919,493.

6 comments On The Moar Family of The Shetland Islands

  • Very interesting, my mother’s maiden name was Hilda Moar, her father was Robert Flint Moar, mother Eliza not sure of her maiden name, no dates of birth, but both died in Manchester England around 1950. Did some research and Unst, Fetlar, Mid Yell and North Yell came up, back to 1640 approx., crofters, farmers, fishermen and various names, Andrew, Robert, Bruce, Alexander, Ann. My Grandfather Robert Flint Moar moved from Edinburgh Scotland to Manchester, where he was a policeman for many years.
    Regards, Robert Andrew Rogers

    • Hi, this was so interesting to read, thank you for all the information. My husband’s grandmother was Mary Moar, her father being Robert Flint Moar, from my research I think Roberts mothers maiden name was Flint.
      I am still researching, on Ancestry, so this blog has been so interesting to read & to see the photos.
      Thank you

  • Rebecca Orpin (nee Moar)

    Kia Ora, this blog was a super interesting find as I research a trip to the Shetlands and my family. My great grandfather was Captain Henry Moar, born in the Shetlands in 1890, ending up in Greymouth, NZ. It is easy enough to follow the generations back to Arthur Moar and Anne Sclatter.
    Thanks for the inspiration, I would love to see the Moar crofts etc!

  • Sheila Moar Jackson

    Captain Henry Moar’s brother, Captain John Moar, was married to 2 of my grandfather’s sisters, Isabella and Williamina (not at the same time!) Williamina died young, leaving him with 3 small children, so he married Isabella and she helped raise them. Captain John died in 1936, and Captain Henry visited his homeland in 1957. There is a picture of him with Isabella in Whiteness.

  • Hi, my name is Greg Moar, only son of Charles and Lynda Moar.
    My father’s family emigrated here in 1924, from Scotland, because my father, Charles, had consumption and the doctors in Glasgow recommended relocation to a warmer climate.
    So Charles snr and wife Catherine with 6 children settled in Bexley NSW. Another

    child was born here.
    All now deceased.
    My great great Grandfather was the Harbour Master of Lerwick Harbour back in the late 19th century.
    I have his father’s pipe dated 1837, one of my favourite possessions.
    I believe there are lots of Moar’s in The Shetlands, and hope to visit In 2024. One hundred years after the family’s arrival in Australia .
    Cheers, Greg Moar, moarings@optusnet.com.au 0408805410 thank you

  • Hi All. My name is Robert James Reading; grandson to Margaret Elizabeth Anne MOAR of Yell, Shetland Islands. A person by the name of Tony Gott of Edinburgh, Scotland apparently took it upon himself to do all the genealogy of all who lived on the Shetland Islands. Based on his research I am related to all shetlanders. He also stated that the name MOAR is one of the oldest names in the Shetland Islands. My family has been traced back to 1400-1500.
    I can be contacted by email: readingbob8@gmail.com. I live on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.

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