Family Research – English, Scottish and Irish Genealogy


‘The Lairds of Barnbarroch’

This is a first class website on the “Lairds of Barnbarroch” with photographs and is well worth a visit at

If the 1815 bookplate is to be believed, the family of Vans of Barnbarroch can trace their ancestry back to the Kings of the Visigoths. No doubt this claim is well founded but books which deal with the subject are rare and difficult to get hold of. Not all authorities agree with the bookplate that the family of Vans of Barnbarroch were the descendants of the family of Vaux of Gilsland.
I think that the whole question of the direct descent of the family of Vans of Barnbarroch from the Lords of Vaux in Normandy must be approached with some caution. To accept such a descent, though probable, assumes that everyone of a certain surname is of common blood descent. This was not always so because, in the days before surnames became fixed, the followers and retainers of a high-born personage frequently assumed their superior’s name, including the prefix ‘de’, and if they happened to get on in the world may well have founded families of their own. All that can be said is that an Aitard de Vaux and a Robert des Vaux are recorded as two of the 499, of more or less position, who accompanied William Duke of Normandy to England in 1066. Whether or not one of these was the blood descendant of the Lords of Vaux in Normandy or the progenitor of Vaus or Vans of Barnbarroch cannot, at this date, be ascertained.
On the following pages I have tried to trace out the succession of the Lairds of Barnbarroch as far back as can be done with certainty. I have made use of the following books:

The Hereditary Sheriffs of Galloway by Sir Andrew Agnew, 1864 and 1893 editions;
Correspondence of Sir Patrick Vaus by Robert Vans Agnew, 1882;
History of the Lands and their Owners in Galloway by P.H.McKerlie, 1906 edition;
Carrick Gallovidian by Kevan McDonald, 1947;
Official Guide to Dirleton Castle, 1950.

Where they disagreed, I have accepted the most likely explanation and have sometimes been able to obtain confirmation or rejection from various sources. Generally speaking I have not recorded the descendants of daughters and younger sons of the main branch.
There is little doubt that the particulars, so far as known, of those in the direct succession is accurate but it is certain that the early Lairds must have had many younger sons and daughters of whom there is no record. My illuminated parchment Extract from the Public Register of All Arms and Bearings in Scotland should not be accepted as confirming evidence of the accuracy of the names and dates contained therein, All the details of that document were provided by me to the Lord Lyon and, so far as I know, he accepted them without detailed verification. I think that what may be accepted is that the Lord Lyon mould not have allowed them to pass unless he was satisfied that McKerlie was a reliable historian of family matters.
It seems pretty certain that the first Vaux of Barnbarroch was a cadet of the house of De Vaux of Dirleton. The following extracts from the Official Guide book to Dirleton Castle summarise what is known of that family:-
“The De Vaux Family”
“Some time during the 12th century, these lands (of Dirleton, Ed.) were acquired by a de Vaux (or Vallibus), one of the wealthy Anglo-Normans who had come to Scotland under the patronage of King David (1124-1153). The first known owner of the barony was William de Vaux, a favourite of King William the Lion (1165-1214). About 1220 this baron gave the island of Fidra, or Eilbottle as it was then called, to the White Canons of Dryburgh. He was succeeded by John de Vaux, who was seneschal to Marie de Coucy, the consort of King Alexander lI (1214-1249). The next baron was Alexander, a son of John, and, like his father, he continued to enjoy the lands of Dirleton and Gullane as well as other lands in the Constabulary of Haddington, as East Lothian was then called. Alexander’s son, John, was a loyal supporter of Scotland during the Wars of Independence, and consequently suffered great losses. On his death, his son, William de Vaux, succeeded him. During the reign of David II (1329-1371), a daughter of this last-named baron married John Halyburton, the second son of Sir Adam Halyburton of Halyburton….
John Halyburton who married the heiress of the lands of Dirleton was kill ed at the battle of Nisbet in 1355. His son John, …………. in a charter dated 1382 is styled “dominus de Dirleton”.
It is thought that the statement in the above that William’s daughter inherited Dirleton is inaccurate. It was his granddaughter, she being the daughter of his eldest son who predeceased him. William, the last baron de Vaux seems to have died in 1392 and he was married to a Catherine Douglas. As his granddaughter was married in or prior to 1355, it is unlikely that any of his younger sons would have been born later than about 1350 so there as a gap of at least 100 years to fill between that date and the Barnbarroch Charter of 1451.
The Arms of Vans of Barnbarroch have been differenced by the Lord Lyon from the Arms of de Vaux of Dirleton by a silver mullet being placed on the red bend while one or two of the very old Armorials shew three silver mullets as the correct difference. The Arms of the Douglas family include three silver mullets and it may well be, though there is no direct proof, that the silver mullet awarded to Barnbarroch may be because the first Vaux to come to Wigtownshire and the progenitor of Robert of 1451 was a younger son of William, the last baron de Vaux of Dirleton and his wife who was a Douglas. Alternatively, the silver mullet perhaps only recognises the fact that Robert obtained his land from the Douglas, or perhaps Robert’s mother was a Douglas. Perhaps the silver mullet has nothing whatever to do with any Douglas connection. The fact that the Arms of Barnbarroch are the Arms of Dirleton with a difference is very strong evidence that the Wigtownshire branch are cadets of the East Lothian ones. If, as seems likely, the members of the Vaux family were landless between say 1350 and 1450, it might well prove impossible to trace them with accuracy because the only evidence would lie in Charters which concerned the ownership of land.
According, to Robert Vans Agnew in his introduction to Correspondence of Sir Patrick Waus:-
“A son, or perhaps a nephew, of Willielmus de Vaux of Dirleton in East Lothian settled in Galloway where he is said to have married an heiress about the year 1384 and obtained the lands of Barnbarroch, which he held under the Douglasses, who were at that time Lords of Galloway, and to whom he was allied, Willielmus (whose son or nephew he is supposed to have been) having married Catherine Douglas. This was Johannes de Vallibus or Vaus, the first of the name at Barnbarroch. From this John Vaus of 1384 the family has continued in the male line in unbroken descent, and in possession of the same lords of Barnbarroch to the present time. In the fifth generation from him the representative of the family was Patrick Vaus who, while yet a minor, succeeded to the estate in 1482.”
In any case Robert certainly obtained a Charter dated 26th January, 1451 from the eighth Earl of Douglas to the land of Barglass and Barnbarroch. P.H. M’Kerlie doubts the correctness of the previous paragraph. He thinks it likely that Robert Vaus was the son of Alexander Vaus who was Bishop of Galloway in 1420 and that Robert obtained the Charter of 1451 through the Bishop’s influence. The bishop himself might well have been the remaining heir male of the name, from a younger son of William de Vaux of Dirleton.

(Comment:You can see all comments on this post here:

Sir Richard Preston, Baron Dingwall, was my 10G Grandfather (on my mother’s side, the de Greys of Walsingham), so I’m most grateful to have found such a wealth of information about him and his (and my) ancestors. Thanks for that and best wishes for future research; you will find the fruits of mine at the URL above, though I must confess it is somewhat out of date.
Jamie Vans of Barnbarroch.)

James Burns Vans Agnew

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