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James Alston
Abt. 1793 - Abt. 1836

"Grandfather and Grandmother were James and Agnes Alston. Her maiden name might have been Williamson.  They lived at Lead Hills, 45 SW of Edinburgh , where some of their children were born. Later they moved to West Calder, 16 miles SW of Edinburgh. Grandfather had a fine place there, Cousin Alex said, private gas plant and other improvements. I think he was a blacksmith. They had seven children... Grandfather died in 1836..." (History of Alston family by Grace Wolfe 1942 )


Agnes Williamson
Abt 1790 - 1864

Agnes' parents were  James Williamson and Marion Jameson who were married on 1 August 1786 in Linlithgow, West Lothian.  It is difficult to trace any further back, since both Jameson and Williamson are frequently occurring surnames.  However, Marion Janeson's parents could have been John Jameson and Susan Aitkin who were married 3 November 1757 in Abercorn, West Lothian according to the IGI.  If this is so, then Marion had five siblings, Janet,  John, Robert and Christian born between 1758 and 1773 all in West Lothian. 

Agnes was a widow for many years and was looked after by her eldest son, James - see under James Alston, below. 

She died in 1863, having been bedfast for some time before. She had a wonderful memory and could repeat whole chapters from the New Testament..." (History of the Alston Family by Grace Wolfe, 1942)


James Alston
Abt 1816 - 1886

James and his first wife Ann Fleming

According to Grace Wolfe, James stayed on with his mother to look after her after his father died until she died in 1864. Apparently she told him that she had been a wicked old woman keeping him from marrying all those years. However, his sweetheart had waited for him and he married her later the same year.  However, his wife only lived for a further ten or twelve years. "...Some years after, while visiting his sister Agnes, who lived in England, he met a young woman of 26 and later married her. He was now 60. They were very happy. He was over seventy when he died. He had no children..." (History of the Alston Family written in 1942 by Grace Wolfe nee Armstrong) MW 1997

He is listed in the 1881 census living at 196 Merry St, Dalziel, Lanarkshire aged 65 with second wife Mary (née Pringle) (32). His occupation is given as Boot and Shoe merchant employing 2 men.

"I can remember Uncle James coming to our house in Scotland and how he used to tell stories. He had a keen sense of humour and was a fine story teller.
Also we visited there before we left for America, spent Sunday at his house. Then we came from Glasgow by boat to Liverpool and stayed there at a hotel. Uncle John and Aunt Agnes came from their home in Shifnal and visited us there and saw us off on the steamer for New York." (History of the Alston family by Grace Wolfe in 1942)


George Alston
Abt. 1819 - ?

In the 1881 census George is given as living at 196 Merry Street (near his elder brother James) aged 61 and a shoe maker. Also wife Agnes (58) and children George (30), a chemist and daughter Nellie (22) a shopgirl. The son George went to London and another son emigrated to Australia according to Grace Wolfe. 


Archibald Alston
1820 - Bef. 1881

"...Archibald married and had two children, Alex and Isabella. His wife died when the children were small. That was while Grandmother was living, and she and James, her son, came to them and brought a young woman with them who kept house for them all. In 1872, when our family came to this country (USA MW) Uncle Archie, Isabella and Alex came with us. They did not feel at home here, however, and a few years later returned to Scotland. Not long after, Uncle Archie died of heart disease very suddenly in church... Uncle Archie was quite sober. I never remember him telling a story... " (History of the Alston family by Grace Wolfe 1942)


Isabella Alston
Abt. 1849 - 1922

Isabella with a great niece (Grace?)

Isabella emigrated to the US for a second time with her brother after the death of her father. She never married. See also under Alexander Alston below.
She is listed in the 1881 census living at 22 Stewarton St., Cambusnethan, Lanarkshire age 31 and a drapery saleswoman.


Alexander Alston
1852 - 1931

Alexander went to America in 1872 with his father and sister, but returned a few years later. He married in Scotland and is listed in the 1881 census living at 58 Muir Street, Dalziel, Lanarkshire aged 28 and occupied as a joiner (journeyman) with wife Jessie (25) and children Jeanie (3), Archibald (2) and Helen (Nellie) (1month). He later emigrated to America a second time with his sister, Isabella. 

Alexander with children                                                    Alexander and wife Jessie
Nellie, John, Archie & Jeannie

"... Soon after he came back here his wife died and his sister Bella took care of his children and kept house 'til the girls were old enough to take it over. Bella died in 1922. Alex is still living in Oak Lawn, Illinois and will be ninety May 23 of this year [1942]. He remembers grandmother saying she used to call him her bad boy, and would threaten to tell his father on him when he came home, but always forgot. He also remembers his father telling of jumping over the river Clyde when a boy...Uncle Archie was quite sober. I never remember him telling a story... but his son Alex seems to have the family trait as he was much sought after for an after dinner speaker at social affairs. I used to write to cousin Alex when I wanted something new in that line." (History of the Alston family by Grace Wolfe, 1942)


Alexander Alston
1821 - Bef. 1881

"...Alexander, the fourth of the children died when a young man. He was preparing for the ministry. ..." (History of the Alston family by Grace Wolfe, 1942)


Mary Alston
1824 - Bef. 1881

"... Mary also died in early life. I think she was married, but died soon after. ..." (History of the Alston family by Grace Wolfe, 1942)


Marion Alston
1824 - 1909

"...Marion, our mother, married Thomas Armstrong in 1850. They lived at The Keirs, a mile from Waterside, a town twelve miles from Ayr. He was a shepherd, had care of a large flock of sheep, I think about a thousand. He took care of them for another man. One man might own thousands of acres of land. Another man would rent it from him and buy the sheep and cattle to stock the farms and hire men to manage them. They lived there twenty two years, 'til they came to this country. (America MW) They had eight children all born at Keirs. Upper Keirs, it was called, as their house was on higher ground than that of the next farm, called lower Keirs.

"When they came to this country, in 1872, they lived one mile east of Laura, Peoria Co., Illinois. They lived there two years, then moved to Rock Creek, near Petersburg, Menard Co., where they lived two years, then Lawndale, Logan Co., one year, and then back to Rochester, Peoria Co., but just across the line in Knox Co., on some of Uncle Robert's land. They bought a farm a few miles from there later, where they lived for twelve or fourteen years, when they moved to Oak Lawn, a suburb of Chicago. Later they moved into Chicago, where they both died, Father in 1900 and Mother in 1910. ..." (History of the Alston family by Grace Wolfe, 1942)

Marion had two other children who died in infancy. 


Agnes Armstrong
1850 - 1941

"... Agnes died in 1941 at the age of 90. She had gone back to Scotland after we had been in the country a few years and married George Peebles when he had completed his theological course and been ordained as a minister. They lived in Dreghorn and then in Coatbridge. (They appear in the 1881 census living in Dunbeth Road Draffens Land, Old Monkland, Lanark. George (31) is shown as Minister of Evangelical Union Church living with wife Agnes (29), son James (1), mother-in-law Agnes Peebles (58) a widow and sister-in-law Margaret (27) a Cook Domestic Servant.) In 1882 they came over here in June to visit. He went back, leaving her here, but had not been back long 'til he decided to resign and come here to live. She had intended to go back the next summer. Some of the places they lived here were Roseville, Shenandoah, Napierville, all in Illinois. They then went to Pacific Grove, California, but later came back to Illinois and lived in Shablana and Wyoming. They had seven children. Two died in infancy. ..." (History of the Alston family by Grace Wolfe, 1942)


James Armstrong
Abt. 1852 - Abt. 1933

"... came to the U.S. four years before the rest of the family. He first worked for Uncle Robert, who came here in an early day when he was a young man and bought land at a dollar and a quarter an acre. James later worked for a Mr. Alward, whose farm he rented for our family to live on. He got a man with a family to live in the house from March 'til we arrived in June. He never married. He died about 1933 in Oklahoma City, where he had lived for some time..." (History of the Alston family by Grace Wolfe, 1942)


Grace Armstrong
1862 - 1959

Photo taken during her visit to Britain during the early 1950s

Grace wrote down a lot of reminiscences of her family and her grandson Charles Elmer Holley collated them.  They are the basis of most of the information included above on the Alston family.  Grace came over to the UK in the 1950s and met many of her elatives.  Charles Holley escorted her as she was by then in her eighties, but a very spry old lady.

"... You will see, we have some family names. Both Father's and Mother's parents were named James and Agnes and it was the custom to name the first girl for the grandmother and the first boy for the grandfather. I was the only child in our family not named for a relative. I was named for the woman who lived at Lower Keirs. They had no children, so Mother named me for her, as they were good friends. We ate breakfast there the last morning before we left, and she gave me money, I think equal to about two dollars and a half. I put it in the trunk before we closed it, and, of course, did not have it to get it exchanged in New York, so had it here, but I don't remember what we finally did with it....'

(History of the Alston family by Grace Wolfe, née Armstrong, 1942)

Grace with her cousins Archibald, left, and John Barnett
during a visit to Britain, probably in the 1920s


Agnes Alston
Abt. 1829 - 1913

"... Agnes Alston, the youngest of Grandfather and Grandmother's children, married John Barnett, and they went to live in Shifnal, Shropshire where he was manager for a large estate. I think Aunt Agnes met John Barnett when he was visiting Father and Mother. He was a friend of theirs. They had ten children. ... They were a gifted couple and raised a lovely family. Sister Agnes and George spent their vacation there one summer, and she sometimes spoke of Aunt Mary's family in Peoria reminding her of Aunt Agnes' family in England. Brother Tom also spent several months there. He went back with Mr. Peebles and stayed over there until the next summer, then came back with cousin Bella and Alex when they came back here. Uncle John seemed gifted as an architect and Sister Agnes told of his receiving prizes for drawing. The children all had a good education. Archie could rattle off the Greek to Delia and me. After we had been at St. Paul's Cathedral for church that Sunday morning, we were speaking of some passage of Scripture, and he gave the Greek translation..." (History of the Alston family by Grace Wolfe, 1942)

Judging by her photo, grandmother must have been a good looking young woman..." John Barnett to Queenie Rew, 11 Mar 1984

Yes, I believe Grandma Barnett was very good looking and had beautiful golden hair. Mother always said that father favoured Lillian because she was just like his mother and also had beautiful golden curls. Father would give us details of his home life at times but said that his father never told them anything about his early life, but I think Grandma talked to her children about her family. Apparently her three brothers were engineers and also inventors and quite well known in Motherwell, also I think fairly wealthy. Yes, I can remember Grandma sitting by the fire, dressed in black as you say. Lillian says she had quite severe rheumatism and that is why you never saw her walking about. Strange how one person notices one thing and another person sees something quite different...'

Letter written to John Barnett by his cousin Grace (Queenie) Rew (nee Barnett) in 1984.


Charles Holley
1917 - 2003

Charles Holley compiled the Alston/Holley family tree giving  additional information on this side of the family tree which is gratefully acknowledged.  We met him in 1950 as children when he visited Britain with his grand-mother Grace Armstrong (Wolfe).  

Charles worked at Los Alamos for much of his life. After his divorce, when he retired, he rented his nephew David's house in California and after re-marrying, stayed on in Flintridge until his death in 2003.


Frank E. Holley
Abt. 1920 - 2001

Obituary from the Brighton Pittsford Post, September 2001:

Frank E. Holley, 81, of Valley Manor Apartments, Rochester, died Friday, Aug. 31, 2001, after a long illness.
Mr. Holley spent most of his career working for Union Trust/Marine Midland as chairman of the Board and chief executive officer of Marine Midland. He was employed there from 1953 to '76.
Before that, he was assistant credit manager at Eastman Kodak Corp. from 1940 to '53, when he was invited by President Arthur Hughes to join the bank.
From 1976 to '84 he was distinguished lecturer at the Rochester Institute of Technology and designed his own financial courses for graduate and undergraduate programs.
Mr. Holley was also a chairman of the board of trustees at WXXI and served as trustee from 1968 to '80 and was a member of the Trustees Council.
During recent retirement, Mr. Holley and his wife enjoyed travelling in their mini-motorhome, visiting all states and spending time with family. Longtime residents of Pittsford, they had recently moved to Valley manor Apartments....
A memorial service was held Sept. 7 at the First Presbyterian Church of Pittsford.


Robert W. Holley
Abt. 1920 - 1993

Los Angeles Time, Monday, February 15, 1993

Robert Holley; Scientist Won Nobel Prize by Myrna Oliver (TIMES STAFF WRITER)

Robert William Holley, who in 1968 shared the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology for pioneering research into the genetic code and its function in protein synthesis, has died. He was 71.

'Holley died Thursday of Lung cancer at his home in Los Gatos, Calif. Until he became ill last year, Holley had pursued his research in the regulation of cell growth as a resident fellow at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla.

'Bob was a scientist of the old school, who was always ready to share his time and his ideas with others', said Renato Dulbecco, Salk president emeritus. 'He was a very gentle and private person who never sought the limelight. Science was his life.

'At the time Holley shared the Nobel Prize, he was working at the Salk Institute while on sabbatical from the Department of Plant, Soil and Nutrition Laboratory at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY.

'Holley's co-winners, who shared the $70,00 prize, were Marshall W. Nirenberg of the National heart Institute in Bethesda, Md. and Har Gobind Khorana of the University of Wisconsin. The three men conducted their research independently.

This means that we suddenly have got to understand the alphabet of life as far as heredity is concerned,' said Hugo Theorell, a Swedish Nobel Laureate. 'Their great feat in research lies in the fact that they have shown what it is we have to attack to combat hereditary illnesses.

'The three winners independently have managed to break the genetic code,' he said, 'Nirenberg by providing the key to its structure, and Khorana and Holley by providing its structure in detail

A native of Urbana, Ill., Holley studied Chemistry at the University of Illinois and earned his doctorate in organic chemistry at Cornell.

'After winning the Nobel, Holley permanently transferred his work to the Salk Institute, supported by a lifetime research grant from the American Cancer Society.

'He is survived by his wife, a son, and two grand children.

There was also an obituary in the New York Times by Bruce Lambert.