THIS Helensburgh Heritage Trust website attracts many inquiries from abroad — usually about family history.
One email inquiry early in 2010 came from Karen Ondrasek, a financial controller in Dayton, Ohio, and in early August she took it a step further by coming to stay for two nights at Rhu’s Rosslea Hall Hotel as she researched her roots.
Karen is descended from a Jardine family who lived in Helensburgh — and when website editor Donald Fullarton asked her if she could be related to James Jardine, a burgh man who won America’s highest military award, the Medal of Honor, she discovered that she was.
A Private in Company F of the 54th Ohio Infantry, which he had joined at Hamilton County in Ohio, James Jardine later was promoted to Sergeant.
His act of gallantry took place at Vicksburg, Mississipi, on May 22 1863, but the award was not made until April 5 1894.
Private Jardine (below left) was one of 80 soldiers cited for gallantry when he was at the head of his attacking force where the enemy fire was hottest and the danger the greatest.
“Yes! James Jardine would be my Great Uncle — if I have my Greats correct. His parents were Mary (Brodie I believe) and Graham Jardine,” she said. “And I’m very excited about finding out that I’m Scottish!”
She and her husband Mike, a university lecturer in computer science and a former United States Air Force officer specialising in computers, arrived in Rhu on August 4.
The next day Heritage Trust chairman Stewart Noble and Donald Fullarton met the couple and made suggestions to help her research at the town library and Helensburgh Cemetery – where there are 19 different Jardine graves.
Karen has established that Graham Jardine, who was a younger brother of the medal winner, was born around 1845 and was her great grandfather.
Both were sons of another Graham Jardine, a sawyer who was born about 1795 and owned 1 and 3 Sinclair Street, and his wife Mary. The couple and their six children, James, Graham, Peter, Catharine, Marion and Malcolm, emigrated to America, around 1851.
He too was an interesting character as he died at Ballarat in Victoria, Australia, on February 23 1857 and presumably went there from America because it was the scene of the start of the Australian gold rush.
He bequeathed the 1 Sinclair Street property, a shop downstairs and a flat above which were both let out, to his widow Mary, who lived at no.3. She later sold the two properties and moved to 6 Charlotte Street. No.1, including the furniture, was valued at the time at just over £24.
“It is all fascinating,” said Karen. “After you replied to me email and told me about him, we discovered that James Jardine is buried in a military cemetery a couple of hours from where we live and which I had passed often, without realising my ancestor was there. The picture of him does look like my dad.”
The couple arrived in Southampton on board the Queen Mary on July 26, hired a car, and toured parts of England Mike had become familiar with when posted to NATO Headquarters Europe in Belgium to instal a computerised command and control system in the late 1970s, before travelling north.
“I had no idea the Helensburgh area is so beautiful,” she told me. “When we came over the hill past Cardross and saw the view of the Clyde estuary, I just said ‘Wow — it is stunning!’
“This visit has been so interesting. I think I will have to come back for a week to do all the research I want to do!”
They left Rhu on August 6 to drive to Edinburgh, and flew home to America the following day.
With Karen was a copy of the still available Heritage Trust book, ‘200 Years of Helensburgh’, presented to her by Stewart Noble — and a much greater understanding of her Scottish roots.
Not long after she arrived home in Ohio, Karen received an email from her cousin Carolyn Scott, who lives in Sonoma in Northern California. Her mother Janet Spinosa, nee Jardine, was born in Chillicothe, Ohio, and now lives in Madera, California.
Carolyn sent an image of a family heirloom she has — an engraved silver box (pictured above) presented to their mutual great grandfather, Graham Jardine.
The inscription says that it was presented to him on December 31 1850 by the members of Dumbarton Provident Society, of which he was the Preses (chairman). This was probably the year before the family emigrated to America and just seven years before Graham died in Australia.
Now Karen and Carolyn are seeking information about the Society. This can be emailed to the editor of this website using the Contact Us facility on the home page.