Family Research – English, Scottish and Irish Genealogy



Hew Ainslie

A LARGE family of Ainslies descend from one Symon Edislaw, a bonnet laird of Lasswade in Midlothian, who died on 1st March 1576 and was born about the year 1515. His full name was probably Symon Ainslie of Edislaw, for when the Scottish Parliament decreed in 1672 that only the nobility may continue to use their place of origin in lieu of their surname, his Edislaw descendants all reverted to the Ainslie patronymic surname.
Before the line was traced as far back as Symon, its previous head was George Edislaw of Newbattle, who married Jonet Steil about 1617. Several older family trees connect George with David Ainslie of Fala (c1498 1558) and thus claim descent from the Do line. John Ainslie, by finding Georges true ancestors, has finally scotched this theory, and has written up his family history in detail in The Ainslie Family of Lasswade, to which the interested reader is referred. There may be a connection some time before 1550 between the Dolphinston and Lasswade families: Newbattle Abbey features in both histories, and Edislaw village (now Edgelaw) is only a few miles away. But such a link remains hypothetical
Until the 19th century, the Lasswade Ainslies lived in the Edinburgh area, with a branch at Haddington, East Lothian. One branch married into nobility and had not only a crescent in Edinburgh New Town named after them (Ainslie Place), but also a country estate to the west at Pilton. Pilton is now the site of a large and unlovely estate, but its secondary school recalls its past (Ainslie High School), as does a public house in Queensferry Road. When that branch spread its wings in the 19th century, its more worthy members left Ainslie Wood in Chingford, London, and Ainslie Street in Grimsby behind them, also Lake Ainslie in Cape Breton Island, Canada.
The branch that stayed at Lasswade were mostly farmers, one of whom bought and farmed Hillend, now the site of the excellent dry ski-slope facility to the south of Edinburgh. His son, James, founded the whisky distiller firm of James Ainslie & Co. later Ainslie & Heilbron, who produced a distinctive blend in rectangular section brown bottles. They have only recently disappeared from the scene.
The Haddington branch grew rapidly, and some of its members moved back nearer Edinburgh. Among these was David Ainslie (1813 1900). He was a successful sheep breeder, but his fame lies elsewhere. One of two orphaned nephews of his was a gifted and wealthy young man by the name of John Astley Ainslie, who spent his holidays with his uncle at Costerton. When John died at the age of 26, he left David his fortune. David remained a bachelor and directed in his will that the sum of £8oo,ooo be devoted to “erecting, endowing and maintaining a hospital or institution for the relief and behoof of the convalescents of the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh. The Astley Ainslie Hospital in Edinburgh was duly built and is the chief geriatric hospital of the city to this day.
Several branches of the Haddington Ainslies became interested in the East India Company at the beginning of the 19th century and travelled accordingly. Most survived the rigours of travel and health and returned the wealthier. Among them was William Ainslie (1786 1849), whose son, Alexander Colvin Ainslie, became Archdeacon of Taunton and was an outstanding clergyman. After his death in 1903, a stained glass window was erected in Wells Cathedral in his memory and can be seen in the south aisle.
A number of surviving male lines will see the Lasswade Ainslies into the 21st century

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