Family Research – English, Scottish and Irish Genealogy


Erskine Experiences in Scotland

On Saturday, June 14th, Merrlllan and I arrived In Edinburgh by train from London to begin a seventeen day tour visiting ancestral sites (my Erskine and Merrillans Murray and McAulay) and other attractions.

The train ride was a joy. covering a distance about the same as that from Rochester to New York City In a bit over four hours instead of the six and some hours we spent getting to NYC at the start of our trip on June 6th.
Our first day in Edinburgh was Sun day which we spent visiting the Castle and doing other sightseeing. The day started with sun, and we unwisely decided not to take our umbrellas. As an omen of things to come, by lunchtime It was raining. Fortunately, the rain came and went, and we were able to get around without getting too wet. For the rest of our trip, we had some rain almost every day.
Monday, which, of course, was sunny, we got down to business with a visit (Indoors) to the General Register House, containing real estate records where Merrillian looked for MeAulays and New Register House, where the birth, death, and marriage records for Scotland are stored. Here I searched for the missing link In our Erskine genealogy – – evidence of the marriage of a daughter of Rev. James Fisher with a man named Oliver. I did not find that piece of Information, but I did find the marriage record of James Fisher and Jean Erskine in Kinclaven on July 4, 1727 as well as the first proclamation of the marriage contract in Jean Erskines home parish of Portmoak on April 1, 1727. I also located the baptismal records seven of their daughters (but no sons born between 1728 and 1740 in Kinclaven, where Fisher was minister of the church. However, I found a marriage record of only one of the seven daughters – – Jean Fisher who named James Ersklne in 1753 at Stirling. The records of the Fisher family (except for the 1753 marriage) appear to end in 1740 of which more later).
The Ersklne Halcro Genealogy by Ebenezer Ersklne Scott,which I have cited In previous correspondence, lists three daughters of James Fisher and Jean Erskine: Mary no birth date given, who married Mr. John Gray, Printer, Edinburgh. and died 1768; Margaret born 1745, married Walter Ewing MacIae of Cathkin near Glasgow in 1768. and died 1815; and Anne born 1749, married William Wardlaw. Esq., Glasgow. The Notes to Table V however, provide additional Information about the children. Here, Mr. Scott mentions two sons, Ebenezer born 1793, died 1767, and, Ralph born 1743, died 1762 He also notes a daughter 1 who died In 1762, and a daughter AlIson who married Rev. Robert Campbell, but died soon after. The baptismal records I studied reveal seven daughters: 1) Susanna 26 May 1728; 2) Jean.21 Nov 1731; 3) Anne 21 Dec 1732; 4)Alison. 24 Aug 1734; 5) Mary 15 Jul 1736; 6) Margaret 8 Sep 1737; 7) Anna 20 Aug 1740. Scott says, In addition to the three children [ in Table V they had a family of 14 children all of whom either died young – or left no issue.A literal reading of this line would say that they had 17 children!
Between these two sets of data, there is a correspondence of names and a difference of dates. Mr. Scotts Mary could certainly be the fifth child, Mary, born in 1736. The two Margarets have significantly different birth dates suggesting that the Margaret born In 1737 may have died as a child (before she was 8 years old), and that a subsequent daughter born In 1745 was then also named Margaret. In the case of the Anne, we have an Anne born In 1732. an Anna born In l740 and Mr. Scott’s Anne born In 1749. AgaIn, it may be that the first Anne died young perhaps before 1740); a subsequent child was named Anna and she, perhaps, also died; and finally, another child born In 1749 was named Anne. But maybe Anne and Anna are truly different daughters both living at the same time. A summary of this information is given in the accompanying table, Children of Rev. James Fisher and Jean Erskine.
In any event, we are left with some candidates for our ancestor who married a Mr. Oliver Susanna. born In 1728. possibly Anna, born In 1740, or one or another of the unknown children. Our known ancestor Jean Oliver, was born in 1760. Thus either of these two named daughters of James Fisher would be of a suitable age to have been her mother. We know nothing about the unnamed children. As Jean Oliver and David Carson had but one daughter whom they named Elizabeth, we have no further clue from later family names as to which Fisher daughter may have been the one, At least two of the Carson sons gave one of their sons the Ersklne name.
The tradition of the Erskine ancestry of Rose Mary Carson Wood Is too strong too ignore or abandon, but I have not yet found the exact connection.
Tuesday found us three miles Inland from the east coast town of Montrose at the House of Dun, the seat of one of the branches of the Ersklne family. Helen Ersklne of this family was our ancestor who was banished to Orkney for her part in the plot to murder her nephews. The house was built over a period of a dozen years. starting In about 1730, to designs by William Adam, father of the more famous 18th century English architect, Robert Adam. Sir Robert Ersklne of the Erskines of Renfrewshire, where the family name originated, bought the barony of Dun In 1375, thus beginning the line of the Erskines of Dun. However, his grandson, John Ersklne, who received a charter from King Robert III In 1393, was the first to be called Ersklne of Dun.
Helen did not live in the present house, it not having been built until more than 100 years after her banishment. In her time, there was a castle, or “tower house,to the west on the other side of a small glen. The structure was torn down in 1723 just prior to the building of the New house, and only an archway remains today. There is, however, In the house, a portrait of Helen painted in 1610. In it she looks very masculine, even with some five-clock shadow. There are several portraits of Erskines of that era on display. We were told that at that time there were itinerant painters who traveled with canvasses with the bodies and backgrounds already prepared and would fill In the face of the subject. Unfortunately, many of these artists had only one face they knew how to paint. The chance that Helen actually looked like her portrait is remote.
I had been wondering where Kinclaven, where James Fisher had been minister In the first half of the 18th century. was located, but had been unable to find it on any map. Part of the problem was that most of the maps dont have gazeteers to allow you to find towns and clues. The other part was that, although I knew Kinclaven was in Ross-shire, that county no longer exists, thus I really didnt know exactly where to look. As I was plotting our route for the next day from the B&B near the House of Dun over to Blair Castle, the present seat of the Murray clan, suddenly my eye was arrested by Kinclaven! It was right by our route, and the map even had a symbol showing the location of the church.
Wednesday we headed for Kinclaven, on a bend of the river Tay, and found the church. There is no longer a town or village there, just the church, a social hail for the church (In what apparently was formerly the manse), and a couple of cottages. The church sits on a knoll with a lovely view over the Tay valley and surrounded on three sides by the cemetery. The church building itself looked newer than 18th century, and Indeed we found a date on the belfry of 1849. We subsequently learned that the bell itself was given to the church in 1656. The church was locked so we walked around the grounds and inspected some of the grave stones. None of the stones were earlier than the 19th century. We made a note of the name and phone number of the minister, Rev. Linda Broadley. who lives In the village of Caputh.
On our way back to the highway from the church, we encountered a man coming out of one of the cottages. He asked It we would like to see the Inside of the church, saying that he had a key and would be glad to open It for us (Scottish people are very friendly). The Interior was simple and plain with 19th and 20th century stained glass windows – the last one installed In 1986. We looked for but did not find a printed history of the church.
Our route to Blair Castle took us right through Caputh, where we found a phone and called Rev. Broadley. When she finally realised we were actually In town and not over near the church, she invited us to stop at The Manse. The communication difficulties stemmed from the fact that we dont speak Scottish and we dont know how to pronounce the names of the towns. [ is pronounced Kayputh – long a – and Kinclaven is Kinklayyen.] She gave us a sheet with some facts about the history of the church while we sat In her living room and talked about the church and our interest in it and about James Fisher. I was able to give her Information about Fisher and allow her to make copies of the actual words I had transcribed in Edinburgh from the old Kinclaven parish registers recording Fishers marriage and the baptisms of his children there.
New details about Fishers break with the Church of Scotland In 1733 were recorded in the little church history as follows:
In 1938, The Kirk of the Muir was united – or reunited – with the Kinclaven Church. This was one of the original seceder Churches, formed when a former Minister at Kinclaven, the Reverend [ Fisher broke away from the established Church of Scotland along with a large portion of the congregation. For two years they held services in the open air until erecting the Kirk of the Muir some four miles west of Kinklaven Church.Today, the building that housed the Kirk of the Muir no longer exists. One Interesting point here Is that although most of the original secession churches had rejoined the Church of Scotland in 1929, this particular congregation seems to have kept its separate identity until 1938.
I noted above that I found no records for James Fisher after 1740 except for the marriage of one daughter at Stirling In 1753. 1741) would have been the year that Fisher and his congregation left the Kinklaven Church and began meeting 1 the open air.It Is perhaps not surprising that there are no records after that time. Our discussion with Mrs.Broadley, not only about the Klnclaven Church and James Fisher, but also about religion and the differences between her views and ours, were so compelling that she invited us to join her for a simple lunch in her kitchen so that we could continue our exchange. We finally broke off, feeling that we had imposed enough on her time and her hospitality. We had experienced a most memorable and heartwarming encounter.
We headed on to Blair Castle that afternoon, and for the next ten days we were sightseeing (Inverness, Lewis, Loch Ness and the route down to Glasgow through Glen Coe and by Loch Lomond) and exploring McAulay sites on Lewis and in and around Glasgow. as well as searching in the Mitchell Library in Glasgow for McAulay data. Our chosen approach to Glasgow was the M8 Motorway, and to reach it, we crossed the Clyde River about 10 miles west of Glasgow on the Erskine Bridge. The motorway then took us along the west side of the small city of Erskine, around the south of it to Paisley, where we stopped at the Tourist Information Office to find a B&B for our Glasgow stay.
The Erskine family name derives from this area, the barony of Erskine. By the south bank of the Clyde River In the former shire of Renfrew. According to Jan Grlmble,The first to bear this name in historical record was Henry of Erskine during the reign of Alexander II [I249], and he took it from his barony in Renfrewshire.
On Sunday. June 29th, a nice day that had clouds in the morning but became progressively sunnier, we went to Stirling. Stirling was the royal city of the Stuarts and had the royal palace until James VI of Scotland became James I of England and moved the royal entourage to London. Ebenezer Erskine became minister at Stirling in 1731 in the Church of the Holy Rude (Cross). Parts of this church date from the 15th century, including the tower and the nave. Over the nave are the original 15th century oak roof beams. When Mary Queen of Scots abdicated in 1567 she had her infant son crowned James VI in this church. In May of this year, Queen Elizabeth visited Stirling to dedicate a plaque in the floor of the choir of the church commemorating the crowning of James VI. In 1656, as the result of one of the various controversies that have disturbed the Scottish Presbyterians over the centuries, the church was portioned across the middle, and two separate congregations met each Sunday, each with their own minister. The wall was not removed until 1936.
We stepped into the church to have a look around shortly after the end of the Sunday morning service. I fell into conversation with Mr+ Wightman, who has been an Elder of the church for 40 years. He told me that his father had been an American who worked for the Anglo-American Oil Company and lived and worked mast of his life In Buffalo, NY. He had last seen his father in 1936 when his father came to England for a visit. During the War, Mr. Wightman and his mother and sister lost contact with his father, who died in Buffalo soon after the War. He said he would like to visit Buffalo to see where is father had lived, hut he had no address or any other Information. I wandered over to the south aisle by the choir where the congregation was enjoying a social hour after the service. Tom Macdougall stepped over to welcome me and introduced the Minister, Rev Morris Coull. When I spoke of my relationship with the church and Ebenezer Erskine, Rev. Coull marveled at the conviction and fervor that led those ministers of the Secession Church to abandon their positions and their assured Income, their homes and church buildings for what must have been at the time a most uncertain future.
On the wall of the nave near the entrance is a list of the ministers of the church where we found Ebenezer Erskine In 1731. In 1740, the position was listed as Vacant. That year, after seven years of fume and Inadequate attempts at reconciliation by the Church of Scotland, Ebenezer Erskine, along with all the secessionist ministers, was deposed and left his post at the Church of the Holy Rude. Erskine took his congregation with him. They went a few doors down the street from their former church home and built a new church building for their worship – the Erskine Church. What stands on the site today is a building with the facade of the second Erskine Church, built in 1824-26 to replace the original one. This church was abandoned in 1968 and subsequently burned. The facade was preserved, and the building behind was rebuilt for a Youth Hostel. In front of the Erskine Church is the classical Erskine Monument, marking the site of Ebenezers tomb.
We had one more day In Glasgow, finishing our McAulay research in the morning, doing some shopping in the afternoon, and having one last delicious dinner in Scotland. Tuesday morning, we arose at 5:00 am to begin our long journey of three flights back home to Rochester.
1 Erskine Halcro Genealogy Ebenezer- Erskine Scott. George Bell & Son. York Street, Covent Garden, London. 1890, Table V. Part 1, pp 32-S3.
pp 36 information about James Fisher and Jean Erskine on pg. 39. When I copied Mr. Scotts book in Salt Lake City in Jan. 1996. I did not make a copies of the Notes to Table v. On my return from Scotland, I wrote to the LDS Family History Library and asked for copies of the appropriate pages. which I received in August 1997.
3 Is interesting to note that the baptismal record for Annals the only one to list both the father, James Fisher. and the mother. Jean Erskine. In all of the baptismal records cited, it Is explicitly stated that these were the daughters of the Reverend James Fisher, minister of the Kinklaven Church (although the exact wording varied among the entries).
4 of the records of the Carson and Wood families that I have show a Susanna or an Alison in later generations.
5 Carson, eldest child, named a son Erskine (b. 1838); David Carson, named a son David Erskine (b. 1827).
6 Montrose lies about 30 miles north-east along the coast from Dundee, or about 50 miles from Perth.
7 realised when we saw the history sheet that there probably had been some at the church, but we had not recognized them for what they were. They look just like an order of service from the outside
8 The break with the Church of Scotland took place in 1733. But Fisher and the other ministers involved were not ejected from the Church until 1740.
9 Clans and Tartans,Ian Grimble, Ph.D., F.R HIst S. Harmony Books/New York. © 1973 by The Hamlyn Publishing Group Limited
Woody Thomas June 1997 (With Thanks)

(Published to help other researchers of the Erskine Family)

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