Planning for Ancestral Visitations in Scotland

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October 8th 2019
Published: October 9th 2019
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Linda (yes, she plans to go) and I started planning our 2020 vacation early to be able to use our frequent flyer miles which become available 330 days before our flights. We plan to visit Scotland, the land of her paternal ancestors, in September to avoid the crowds associated with the Edinburgh Festivals in August and to avoid the midges (no-see-ums) that swarm during the summer. I also like the autumn the best of all seasons! And I arranged our schedule to coincide with the Blairgowrie Highland Games to be held on Sunday, 6 September 2020.

So I booked our flights, departing Colorado Springs on 2 Sep 2020; arriving in Edinburgh on 3 Sep and returning home on 14 October. Before doing so I checked to make sure that I could redeem my miles should something happen in the next 330 days that would prevent our travel. One problem, which has prevented Linda from joining me on trips since 2015, is that one of us had to stay home to take care of Bonnie, our dog, who developed diabetes and cataracts that year requiring shots and the familiarity of home. We think we have someone lined up for this vacation, but Linda is very particular with whom she leaves Bonnie. But the compelling reason she wants to go with me this time, hopefully enough to overcome her fears about a dog sitter, is that we will be visiting the land of her paternal ancestors.

In May 2019, I visited Devon, England to visit the towns from where my maternal ancestors lived and to find some missing links in the family tree (see FInding a Mystery In My Devon Ancestry). I found the links and uncovered some mysteries. I had an amazing time. At the end of that trip, while visiting my daughter Rosanna and family in CT, we visited New London CT where one of Linda's ancestors immigrated in 1640. Upon reading the history of New London, he turned out not to be a direct ancestor. So once I got home I started to research her paternal family tree in detail using,,, Wikipedia, and Google Books. Once I made all the corrections it turns out that the ancestor who immigrated to New London was the brother of Linda's direct ancestor.

I was only able to track her family name back to George Hair, her ten times great grandfather, who was born in Glasgow in 1580. The family subsequently moved to Kilbarchan, Auchinleck, Old Cumnock and New Cumnock in Ayrshire, before another James Hair, her five times great grandfather, moved from New Cumnock to Lancaster County PA in about 1750 where he married Mary Greer, and then to Pigeon Creek, Washington County, PA where he died in 1817. We found their tombstone at the Claysville Cemetery which is chock a block full of his descendants (see picture and Visiting Family Back East, Including the New Born and the Old Dead)

My research also revealed that Linda's seven times great grandfather James married a Janet Corsbie, the daughter of John Corsbie (who died in the Virginia colonies in 1750, but not before he fathered children who remained behind in Scotland) and Janet Douglas. Janet was the great granddaughter of Robert Douglas, Master of Morton, and Lady Jean Glamis Lyon, Countess of Angus, and the two times great granddaughter of Sir William Douglas, Sixth Earl of Morton and Lady Agnes Leslie, Countess of Morton. Sir William held Mary Queen of Scots captive in Lochleven Castle until his smitten brother George and 16 year old illegitimate son Willie helped her escape. From there her tree ascends all the way to her 22 times great grandfather King Robert the Bruce. Coincidentally he killed one of my ancestors, Sir Henry de Bohun (1st cousin, 22 times removed) in the Battle of Bannockburn. We will be visiting Bannockburn and Stirling Castle.

On the way up her family tree, I found many interwoven families, with many wives having to remarry as their husbands were killed in battles with the English. And I wasn't sure how to classify the many mistresses (e.g., Lady Margaret Erskine, the wife of Sir Robert Douglas, Third Laird of Lochleven, was also the mistress of King James V). As a way of decluttering the tree, I only included the pedigree lineage; parents, grandparents, great grandparents, etc. and no brothers or sisters or aunts or uncles or those not married such as mistresses. In my family tree I had included the brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles, which resulted in a distant cousin in Australia letting me know that if I went laterally through spouses up the tree I would eventually arrive at King Edward I, the Hammer of the Scots and bitter enemy of King Robert the Bruce.

Linda's tree includes many of the distinguished families of Scottish aristocracy (who else was there to marry!) who it turns out were Norman and Flemish transplants (William the Conqueror had many Flemish knights in his invasion force). I had always wondered where the 33.5% of her Northern European/Scandinavian DNA came from. These families include Bruce (de Brus from Normandy), Douglas (de Douglas from Flanders), Stewart (originally the Fitzalans from Brittany who were the stewards of the Scots kings, and hence the change to Stewart), Lindsay (de Gaunt Linesay from Flanders), Erskine (de Ghent of Flanders), Boswell (de Bosville of Normandy), Leslie (Lesselyn, the name of the castle that Hungarian nobleman Bartolf built. He accompanied Queen/Saint. Margaret, who would marry King David I, to Scotland in 1067), Sinclair (de St. Claire of Normandy), and Boyd (from Boydh (meaning Fair), who was descended from Simon Fitzalan (Stewarts) of Brittany).

Then Linda asked if I had any Scottish ancestors. I didn't remember any, but did a search of my family tree on, and found that King David I of Scotland, Earl of Huntingdon was my 23 times great grandfather. King David I, as Earl of Huntingdon, had vast lands in northern England. He was the one who encouraged Norman and Flemish knights to immigrate to Scotland. His grand daughter, Margaret of Huntingdon, married Humphrey de Bohun, Baron de Bohun, Lord of Hereford, and Lord High Constable of England from whom I am descended (Sir Henry de Bohun mentioned above was Humphrey's great grandson). I recalled reading in the History of Scotland that Linda's ancestor King Robert the Bruce claimed royal blood through King David, so I expanded her family tree upwards until I got to King David I. Once I entered his name, all of a sudden Linda became my 23rd cousin five times removed. We are kissing cousins!

To prepare for this trip we have read the blogs by fellow Travelblogger Desertdwellers and read books about Scottish history (e.g., "Scottish History" by Dr. David Allan, "Robert the Bruce, King of Scots" by Ronald Scott, "Mary Queen of Scots" by John Guy, "Where's Me Plaid" by Scot Crawford, the Xenophobes Guide to the Scots," and "Scottish Covenantor Stories" by Dane Love). Linda's ancestors were members of the persecuted Covenanters led by John Knox. They refused to acknowledge the English kings as the ultimate head of the church and signed a Covenant to that effect. Many were killed by order of King Charles II and King James II during the "Killing Time" from 1680-1688. The massacres ended with the Glorious Revolution when William and Mary became joint king and queen of England and Scotland.

We also watched movies, all of which were pretty bloody. We particularly enjoyed watching the TV series "The Outlander," which is historical fiction and thusly, no one is an ancestor. But the program provides a broad historical background of the early 1700s leading up to the Battle of Culloden in1745 and beyond to the Highland Clearances and forced removal to the American colonies, which James Hair mentioned above might have been. In addition to those with ancestral connections (e.g., Rosslyn Castle/Chapel, Douglas Castle, Dundonald Castle, Lochleven Castle, Glamis Castle, and Dunnotter Castle), we plan to visit several Outlander sites (e.g., Doune and Midhope Castles, Culloden Battlefield, and nearby Clava Cairns stone ring).

I still have not given up my pilgrimage theme. In May 2019 after visiting Devon I walked a portion of the Old Way, from the Canterbury Tales, to Canterbury (see My Old Way Pilgrimage to Canterbury). On this vacation we plan to visit the abbeys of Culross, Dunfirmline, Scone, Iona and Holyrood.

We will buy a Scottish Heritage Pass to cut down on the cost of entry fees.

So I've developed a very tight schedule, even showing the miles and driving times between all these locations. Many of the castles are just ruins, so I think I can minimize our time at some of them.


9th October 2019

Gee Bob, you really have this planned with detail that I could only dream of. I hope to read more of your travels. I’m a bit disappointed that you only traced Linda’s ancestry to 1580; I can’t go back more than about 5 generations, and have an Irish background. You’ve done well there. It must be hard to visit places you’ve never lived in but it’s a good problem to have. Get out there Bob, have a great journey of discovery, and it’s always better with loved ones.
9th October 2019

Planning a trip is half the fun!
Planning also helps reduce the cost of a trip. However, I always have a Plan B, C, D...
9th October 2019

Fellow traveler
I am glad to see that I am not alone in planning and booking trips well in advance. I bought a plane ticket for my April 2020 Philippines/Japan trip back in August. September 2020? That's great! Now you have the whole year to research/plan/anticipate. I'll be particularly interested in hearing about how you find Iona.
10th October 2019
Bagpipers at Glen Coe on our second visit to Scotland in 1980

In search of one's roots
Your investigations and determination are impressive as usual Bob, but do not forget to have some downtime and smell the roses to ensure your trip is with the breeze not into a headwind. Enjoy the planning and I look forward to hearing how it goes.
10th October 2019
Bagpipers at Glen Coe on our second visit to Scotland in 1980

Good advice...
does heather have a pleasant scent? As for pace, I will be averaging less than 100 mi/day, with one day only 33 miles. We will also end up in Edinburgh for three days.
12th October 2019

Tracing the family tree is fun and timely. Glad you have this trip planned. I'm glad Linda has found someone acceptable to stay with Bonnie. That is important. I'm going to add those books to our reading list. Have a great time planning.
13th October 2019

Reading list..
Do you have Scottish ancestors, too?

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