Planning for Scotland Ancestral Visitations

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October 8th 2019
Published: October 9th 2019
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Linda and I started planning our 2020 vacation in October 2019. We planned to visit Scotland, the land of her paternal ancestors, in September 2020. We picked this month 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.

Lately I've been in search of 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 Solving a Mystery In My Devon Ancestry). I found the links and solved some mysteries. I had an amazing time. At the end of that trip, while visiting my daughter Rosanna and family in Connecticut, we visited New London where one of Linda's ancestors, Rev. William Douglas, immigrated with his family, first to Boston in 1640 and then to New London. Upon reading the history of New London, William 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 William was the brother of Linda's direct ancestor, Robert Douglas, who remained in Scotland. Along the way I discovered many more of her Scottish ancestors.

Starting with her 5th great grandparents, James Hair and Mary Greer, I was only able to track the Hair family name back to George Hair, her 10th great grandfather, who was born in Glasgow in 1580. The family subsequently moved to Kilbarchan and New Cumnock in Ayrshire. James Hair, her 5th great grandfather (from now on abbreviated to 5th), moved from New Cumnock to Lancaster County PA in about 1750. He married Mary Greer. They then moved to Pigeon Creek, Washington County, PA where he died in 1817. He and Mary are buried at the Pigeon Creek Cemetery (see picture and Visiting Family Back East, Including the New Born and the Old Dead) and generations of his descendants are buried at the nearby Claysville Cemetery. I was able to track the Greer family name back much further to Sir Gilbert Grierson (MacGregor clan) the 1st Lord of Lag (1353-1425).

It's tracking through the spouses names where things got interesting, as in Mary Greer's case. My research revealed that another of Linda's ancestors, James Hair (7th), married a Janet Corsbie (7th), the daughter of John Corsbie (8th) and Janet Douglas (8th). Janet's initial aristocratic ancestors were Sir Robert Douglas, Master of Morton (10th), and Lady Jean Glamis Lyon, Countess of Angus (10th), and Sir William Douglas, Sixth Earl of Morton (11th) and Lady Agnes Leslie, Countess of Morton (11th). From there her tree ascends all the way up to King David I (24th) and King Malcolm III (25th). Then Linda asked if I had any Scottish ancestors. I didn't remember any, but did a search and found that King Malcolm III and his son King David I were also in my tree. King David I, as Earl of Huntingdon, had vast lands in northern England. King David I encouraged Norman and Flemish knights to immigrate to Scotland. His grand daughter, Margaret of Huntingdon (22nd), married Baron Humphrey de Bohun, Earl of Hereford (22nd) from whom I am descended. Once I entered his name, all of a sudden Linda became my 23rd cousin five times removed. So, we are kissing cousins very distantly removed! Coincidentally, King Robert the Bruce (20th), killed one of my ancestors, Sir Henry de Bohun (1st cousin, 22 times removed) in the Battle of Bannockburn.

On the way up both sides of her family tree, I found many interwoven families, with many wives having to remarry as their husbands were killed in battles with the English. In my English family tree I couldn't find any ancestor killed in battle, while in her Scottish family tree there are many. When the husband wasn't killed, most often the couple had more than a dozen children. 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). 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. But this left me with a very cluttered tree. As a way of de-cluttering Linda's tree, I mostly included just the bloodline.

Scottish ancestry is a different kettle of fish with almost every member of the aristocracy related to every other member, with the lines crisscrossing. Between 1400 and 1580, seven generations of ancestors only included 36 family names in Linda's bloodline; including many of the distinguished families of Scottish aristocracy (who else was there to marry!) who it turns out were Norman, Breton, and Flemish transplants. William the Conqueror had many Flemish and Breton 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 of name 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. In 1067 he accompanied Queen/Saint Margaret to Scotland where she married King David I), and Sinclair (de St. Claire of Normandy). One of her ancestral lines, the Keiths, descended from the Catti, a Germanic tribe from the Upper Wesser River in about 980 so preceded the Norman Conquest.

In April 2020, I was contacted by a distant Northcott/Northcut cousin who provided me with my link from the previous tip of the tree, Sir Galfridus FitzWalter de Northcote (27th), to his father, Walter le Ponz (28th). Walter's father was Mauger le Ponz, Archbishop of Rouen Normandy (29th). Both Walter Le Ponz and William "The Conqueror" were grandson's of Richard "The Good" 4th Duke of Normandy who is my 28th/29th great grandfather, depending on whether I go up my paternal grandmothers tree through the de Bohuns or up my maternal tree. But going up Linda's tree, King David I wasn't the only connection to my line. Going up her Sinclair line she is also related to Sir Richard "The Fearless" Fitzwilliam, 3rd Duke of Normandy.

Going up Mauger's tree, we are related to four Dukes of Normandy, including the Rollo "The Viking" the first duke to whom King Charles "The Simple" ceded the lands of the lower Seine River in exchange for protecting Paris from further Viking raids. These lands became known as Normandy. Rollo is the descendant of three Jarls (earls) of Oppland Norway (near Trondheim), and two kings of Vestfold (west side of the Oslo fjord), and according to the Jngling Saga, 21 kings of the Yngling Dynasty of Sweden. The first king of this dynasty, born in 240 AD, was King Fjolnir of Uppsala (58th), the son of Freyr, a Norsk god, and Gerd, the daughter of the giant Gymir. Even further back in to the mists of legend, according to Dan Brown's "DaVinci Code" the St. Claires were descended from Jesus and Mary Magdalene, but of course that is fiction, as perhaps is the Jngling Saga.

These ancestral ties led me to scheduling our tour of Scotland around the castles of these families; namely, Bothwell Castle (Bothwell), Borthwick Castle (Hay), Caerlaverock Castle (Maxwell), Drumlanrig Castle (Douglas), Morton Castle (Douglas), Sanquhar Castle (Crichton), Douglas Castle (Douglas), Dundonald Castle (Stewart), Dean Castle (Boyd), Rowallen Castle (Mure), Lochleven Castle (Douglas), Glamis Castle (Lyon), Dunnotter Castle (Keith), Rothes Castle (Leslie), Sterling Castle (Stewart), Blackness Castle (Crichton), Dirleton Castle (Halyburton), Tantallon Castle (Douglas), Dunbar Castle (Dunbar), Crichton Castle (Crichton), Rosslyn Chapel (Sinclair), and Edinburgh Castle (Canmore). The Douglas family had many castles!

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.

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

To prepare for this trip I read books about Scottish history, including the comprehensive masterpiece "Scotland" by Magnus Magnusson, "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 (humorous book about finding Crawford ancestors, and as it turns out, also Linda's distant ancestors), the Xenophobes Guide to the Scots (also humorous), and "Scottish Covenantor Stories" by Dane Love (not humorous). 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 (Jesus Christ is) 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, some lead by another of her Greer/Greirson ancestors, ended with the Glorious Revolution when William and Mary became joint king and queen of England and Scotland. Another coincidence, I met Linda at Geneva College, a Scottish Covenanter college, and was married by a Scottish Covenantor pastor in a Scottish Covenantor church.

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 first three seasons provide a broad historical background of the early 1700s leading up to the Battle of Culloden in 1745 and beyond to the Highland and Lowland Clearances and forced removal to the American colonies, which James Hair mentioned above might have been. We plan to visit several Outlander sites (e.g., Drumlandrig Castle (Bellhurst Manor), Dean Castle (the Beaufort Estate), Drumlanrig Castle (Bellhurst Manor). Culross (which was the town of Cranesmuir), Culloden Battlefield and nearby Clava Cairns stone ring, Doune Castle (Castle Leoch), which was also in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," Linlithgow Palace (Wentworth Prison), Blackness Castle (Fort William), and in Edinburgh both Tweedsdale Court and Bakehouse Close (Jamie's print shop). We also plan to visit some Harry Potter sights in the Highlands and Castle Stalker, where the Monty Python search for the Holy Grail ended.

In early 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic hit the world, resulting in mass closures and countries stopping cross border visitors. We are deferring our visit to Scotland until 31 August- 13 September 2021.


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?
23rd October 2019

Scottish Roots
Wow, sounds like another great trip in the making, combining travelling with family history research and pilgrimage - sounds perfect! 😊 And wow, 23rd cousin five times removed - who'd have thought it?! 😊
25th May 2020

I have deferred my trip to Scotland until Sep 2021...
due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In the meantime I continue planning, with updates to this blog about additional ancestors.

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