The Knox/Law Family

The Knox/Law Family

James Myles Knox   Law

James Myles Knox Law

NZ_Passport1978 (2).jpg
James Myles Knox Law - Death Certificate

James Myles Knox Law - Death Certificate

James Myles Knox - Birth Certificate

James Myles Knox - Birth Certificate

6 Gladstone Road Cottage, North East Valley, Gardens, Dunedin

6 Gladstone Road Cottage, North East Valley, Gardens, Dunedin



Pakeha - Shaw Savill Shipping Company

Pakeha - Shaw Savill Shipping Company

Pakeha - further shot

Pakeha - further shot

My Family Tree – line of descent

Generation  Name                               Born, Died, Married                                   Occupations                       

1.                   Sharon Margaret Harris  B. 1956 Dunedin, NZ                                   Life Science sales manager

                     (Bo) m.s. Law                    M. 1997 UK, John Harris                             Director RKH                   

2.  F              Thomas Knox Law           B.  1928 Dunedin, NZ   Garage Manager Holland & Bell                          

                                                               D.  2002 Dunedin, NZ                                                             

                                                               M. 1952 Dunedin, NZ Jean McBeath                                

  3.  GF          James Myles Knox (Law)B. 1894 Hill of Beath, Scotland                   Coal miner

                                                               D. 1951 Dunedin, NZ                                   Janitor school

                                                               M. 1926, NZ Margaret Dryden

4. GGF          Thomas Knox (Law)        B. 1870 Kilysth, Stirling Scotland                Coal miner, mining pay clerk

                                                               D. 1926 Wellington, NZ                                 Insurance Agent

                                                               M. 1892 Kirkcaldy, Scotland, Janet Myles   Linen factory worker

5. GGGF       John Knox (Law)              B. @1843-1845 Ireland                                  Iron miner, collier

                                                               D. 1899 Harthill, Lanark, Scotland                Coal miner

                                                               M. 1871 Kilsyth, Stirling, Janet Jameison      Cotton weaver

6. GGGGF    Thomas Law                    B. 1815-1821 Co. Antrim Ireland

                                                               D. 1872 Kirkintillock, Dumbarton, Scotland  Miner

                                                               M. @1843 Co. Antrim, Margaret Knox

7. GGGGGF Thomas Law                     B. @1790 Co. Antrim Ireland                          Labourer

                                                               D. @1850 Co. Antrim Ireland

                                                               M. @1820 Co. Antrim Ireland, Susan Graham

                                                              * Irish dates to be validated      

The Story of the LAW Family back to 1790

My GF, James Myles Knox Law was born in Hill of Beath, Fife and came to NZ, age @30yrs in 1923 on the Pakeha steam ship with his mother and father, Janet Myles and Thomas Law, see gallery Knox/Law family.

He married Margaret Dryden and they lived in Dunedin. His Brothers and sisters included:

John - the eldest and already married to Elizabeth MacKay in Scotland, came on the Pakeha to NZ with their daughter Janet, who was only 2 years old. He lived and died in Dunedin

Thomas – married Catherine Beall, lived and died in Dunedin

Alexander – married Iris Hutton, lived and died in Dunedin

Robert - married Alice Robson, lived and died in Dunedin

Samuel - married Minnie Button, lived and died in Dunedin

Janet – married Archibold Magee, lived and died in Dunedin

Christina - married Alexander McLellan? in Dunedin and died in Auckland

Margaret - married Edward Smith in Dunedin and died in Invercargill

Flora (Florence) married John Glossop in Nelson and died in Te Awamutu


When their father died in 1926, x10 childrens’ ages were listed on Thomas’s death certificate (no names)


There were more children but 2 or 3 died in Scotland including Willie, Annie/Susan. Child mortality was a very common problem and diseases such as scarlet fever, measles, TB meningitis took children very young.


My GF, James originally a coalminer in Scotland, Hill of Beath, Fife was a janitor at George St school and died early of coronary thrombosis, cardiac failure and asthma, not helped by working as a coal miner in Scotland. He married Margaret Dryden in Dunedin and had x5 children including my father Thomas, Ann, Janet, James and Margaret

My GGF, Thomas was born illegitimate 10 June, 1870 in Kilsyth, Stirling. His parents John and Janet Jameison married in Kilsyth one year later. Thomas had a sister Margaret born 19 Feb. 1872 Kilsyth and a brother Alexander born 6 Jan. 1874 Kilsyth. Thomas married Janet Myles in Kirkcaldy in 1892 as Thomas Knox. He was a coalminer and mining pay clerk due to a back injury who wanted a better life for his family. He lived in Kilsyth, Kirkcaldy, Hill of Beath, Fife.

It was Thomas, my GF’s father, who followed his sister, Margaret to Dunedin, NZ in search of a new life for his family. It was the roaring 20’s, the time between the Great War and the Depression and NZ was coming of age. Govt. posters were enticing people to come to the land of paradise!!  Margaret helped sponsor them to come and in many ways was the true pioneer of the Law family as she took the plunge first to travel to the New World and a new life! She suffered a traumatic early life, lost her mother @2yrs old, had to live with her Uncle William and Samuel and worked as a domestic servant. At 19yrs she gave birth illegitimately to her daughter Janet, no father named on birth certificate! She married Robert Gardner in Scotland before coming to NZ, although I am still seeking this evidence and died young at 53yrs in 1926 in Dunedin of bronchopneumonia and heart failure and is buried in a large family plot. It was noted at the time that immigrants wrote Letters back home to their families over exaggerating how good life was in NZ as they were desparately lonely and wanted more family around them. This could certainly have been the case for Margaret although her brother and large family had their own good reasons also. Scotland and life down the mines was hard. With the revival of assisted immigration, more than 120,000 migrants arrived from the UK between 1919 and 1930, including 13,000 ex-servicemen and their families. Economic uncertainty meant New Zealand wasn’t always a promised land and these new arrivals were not always welcomed by locals. After arriving with very little money or possessions, the Laws’ did make their way in Dunedin and quietly prospered.



Thomas took the whole family to NZ, @13 people as above. He was a travelling Insurance agent and died in 1926, after only 4 years in NZ in Wellington hospital from acute alcoholism, and is buried in Anderson’s Bay cemetery, Dunedin. Photos reveal a worried looking, wide eyed man and knowing some of the hardships he faced in Scotland due to his illegitimacy, family Name changing, providing for his very large family, working in the coal mines, may have left him a deeply troubled person a lot of the time. He drank, was not religious but when sober, was said to have made the family go to church! Religion was also said to have caused a family rift.


My GGGF, John was born in Co. Antrim Ireland and more research is needed to trace his birth and that of his mother and father, Thomas Law and Margaret Knox. He was the eldest son and came back to Dalry, Ayrshire in Scotland with his mother, father, sister Ann, brother Alexander and was 17yrs old in 1861 census

Ten years later, John married Janet Jameison in Kilsyth in 1871 after first having their illegitimate child Thomas in 1870 and then Margaret in 1872 and Alexander in January 1874. He lived in several places, Kilsyth, Kirkcaldy, Dumbarton, Hill of Beath, Fife so moved about particularly after Janet died in 1874.

Further Back the Plot Thickens!!


My GGGGF, Thomas

Thomas was born in Northern Ireland @1815-1821 Co Antrim and was a labourer

He and his wife, Margaret Knox had x3 children in Ireland, John, Ann and Alexander and x7 more when they returned to Dalry, Ayrshire, William, Samuel, Thomas and Susanna, x3 tragically died, Agnes, Joshua and Margaret. He travelled back to Scotland from Ireland @1850.  The 1851 census confirms Thomas’s mother, now Susan McKrae was also living with them and Margaret Knox’s brother Samuel Knox

Life was tough, there may well have been famine due to the plight of the Irish potato so Scotland may have looked more attractive. His father had also died.

Thomas was a miner and died in 1872 at 9 Twechar Row, Kirkintillock, Dumbarton Scotland close to where William his son lived.


My GGGGGF, Thomas

He was born in Co. Antrim Northern Ireland @1790 and was a labourer and married Susan Graham @1820

I am still searching for more evidence of the Law migration from Scotland and life in Ireland.


Coal Mines

All the men moved about in search of work and in all the places they lived in Scotland can be found iron or coalmines e.g. Hill of Beath, Kilsyth, Avonhead, Dumbarton, Twechar, Peesweep


Causes of Death

My GF James and his father Thomas ended up in Fife, West Scotland, Hill of Beath, in the mines, a very long way from Dalry, Ayrshire when the Laws first returned from Ireland. All the men suffered and died of lung related and heart problems, Thomas Law died 1872, age 57 bronchitis, John Law 1899, age 55 phthisis, progressive enfeeblement and TB related lung disease, Thomas Law, 1926, age 58 acute alcoholism, cardiac failure, James Myles Knox Law, age 56, coronary thrombosis, congestive heart failure, asthma, chronic bronchitis and emphysema.


The Women in the Law Family

I was struck by the early deaths of some of the wives which often preceded the men. Due to the lack of birth control, it was a miracle how they managed to accommodate, feed and clothe their large families. The older children had to help the younger ones and children did not remain ‘scholars’ for long - 1861 Census shows sons could be working in the coal mines by the age of 12yrs and even in 1911, daughters worked in the woollen mills or were linen weaving at 14yrs.


Janet Jameison, my GGGM died tragically of Rabies in November 1874 at Backbrae Kilsyth, age 22yrs, leaving x3 children, Thomas aged 4yrs, Margaret aged 2yrs and Alexander 10 months.


Margaret Knox my GGGGM died of Pulmonary consumption in 1863 only 38yrs leaving a large family of x7 children, the youngest being Susanna, an infant 5 yrs old and her husband, Thomas @41yrs. The nature of the deaths, particularly the lung and heart conditions suggests their quality of life and living conditions were harsh and cold. As the women were often pregnant, the constant onslaught to their bodies and immune systems took its toll at an early age

The infant mortality rate was high but families were normally large e.g. my GF had x5 children, my GGF x13, my GGGF x3 (wife died at 22yrs), my GGGGF x10

Janet Myles, my GGM and Thomas Law who came to NZ had already lost x2-3 children

Margaret Knox my GGGGM had lost x3 children

Many woman also tragically lost Infants during the long sea voyages to the New World



This journey to uncover the story of the ‘Law’ family has taken me from the Kingdom of Fife on the east of Scotland to Stirling, Dumbarton, Lanark Glasgow, Ayrshire on the west, Ireland and back to NZ in the hunt for ancestors and clues as to name changes. It has allowed me a glimpse into their lives, the places they lived, the hardships they faced and enabled me to meet and discover other relatives I never knew I had!


Considering I knew very little of my ancestry when I began this journey I am now totally hooked and will not give up. Was my ancestral surname Law or Knox or something else?! Actually it was both!!

I believe we were originally Laws but still feel oddly Lawless and will keep searching in the wilderness years for more evidence as to the Name changes and update these pages.


Further Stories – 

The Law’s in Ireland – what drove them to go to Ireland and then return to Scotland @ 1850


KNOX/LAW People and Places – photos and the history of where these ancestors lived


The Continuing Migrant Scots - distant family emigrated to Australia and Canada in the 1800’s – find out more