Jane was born in Irvine but by 1851 she was a young widow living in McKay's Land, 37 High Street, Kilmarnock with her young children:
- Elizabeth age 15, born 1836 when her mother was just nineteen
- Agnes age 13, born 1838
- James age 11, born 1840
- Mary age 9, born born 1842
Jane, as you would imagine, was very poor and is listed in the 1851 census as a pauper and bonnet weaver, as were her two eldest daughters. A pauper was given one or two shillings and sometimes a loaf of bread as they had no means of livelihood and the relief was granted to people who were ill or women whose husband had died, like Jane. Kilmarnock was a weaving boom-town in the middle of the 19th century making all sorts of garments and shawls and Jane and her daughters must have made a little money weaving bonnets, probably made from wool.
Jane's (Jean) husband was Robert Henderson b. 1816, a Kilmarnock man, who, along with his brothers John and Andrew and sister their sister Mary, was a cotton hand loom weaver in 1841 and they all lived together with Jane and Robert's children Elizabeth, Agnes and James in Boyd Street, Kilmarnock.
Twenty years pass to 1871 and Jane is now fifty-four and living with her now married daughter Agnes and her husband John Harrison, a miner from Old Monkton, Lanarkshire. They all lived at 3, High Street, Kilmarnock with the young couples' children:
- Robert born 1858
- John age 8, born 1863
- William age 6, born 1865
- James age 2, born 1869
Jane earned a little money through being a pirn winder. A pirn is a spool or reel on which a thread or yarn is wound. A pirn winding wheel (above) was used. Pirn filling was a job done for a weaver. Generally women would do this work at home, the weaver calling for them when his stock was exhausted. The pirn would be inserted into the shuttle and woven between the warp until empty when a new one would be inserted.
By the 1881 census there is no mention of Jane living with Agnes so perhaps she has died after a life of working for pennies to hold her family together.