Presenting the Evidence
Duncan and Margaret Cameron – my Scottish grandparents
The knowledge I started out with, remembered from my mother, is
(1) that her family is descended from the Camerons of Erracht;
(2) that her childhood is somehow connected to a small place called Kilbarchan, in Scotland; and
(3) that she had an Aunt Grace who lived in Scotland.
Indeed I remember meeting ‘Auntie Gracie’ when I was young. I knew my maternal grandparents. Grandad Cameron picked up a nasty foot infection, thought to be from the beach at Bridlington or Scarborough, and had to have a foot amputated. Due to gangrene, several other amputations followed on the same leg, but he died when I was seven years old. Grandma Cameron died when I was twelve.
My mother’s birth certificate, in my possession, gives her parents’ names and mother’s maiden surname, Ferguson, and their date and place of marriage. The headstone in the cemetary at Lawnswood, Leeds implies a birth year for both of my grandparents of 1870.
The marriage record of Duncan Cameron and Margaret McCrone Ferguson on 25th December 1897 gives their ages as 27, confirming 1870 as the birth year. The marriage took place at 18 Walkinshaw Street, Johnstone, which was noted as the residence of Margaret. The names of the parents of each are given in the record, and those of Duncan are John Cameron (Hand Loom Weaver: deceased) and Elizabeth Cameron, maiden surname Murphy.
John and Elizabeth Cameron – great-grandparents
The birth record of Duncan indicates a birth date of 16th February 1870, at Kilbarchan, and notes the parents to be John Cameron and Elizabeth Cameron (maiden surname Murphy) of Steeple Street, and that their marriage took place on 16th April 1852 at Kilbarchan. It has been found that a study of Census returns provides a useful structure on which to base the search for records of births, marriages and deaths. The earliest useful Census is that for 1841.
In the 1851 Census, an Elizabeth Murphy, 18 years old, is recorded as being a House Servant in the household of a John Orr, a merchant, and his family in Steeple Street, Kilbarchan. The marriage record of John and Elizabeth confirms the date and place of marriage.
In the 1861 Census are John and Elizabeth with five children at Church Street, Kilbarchan, Renfrew. All were born in Kilbarchan except John’s wife Elizabeth, who was born in County Antrim, N. Ireland.
In the 1871 Census John and Elizabeth appear, with five children, at Steeple Square, Kilbarchan, Renfrew. Three of the children appearing in the 1861 Census are not there, but there are three others. John is recorded as being a Wool Weaver. They appear in the 1881 Census, with four children, at Cartside Road, Kilbarchan.
In the 1891 Census John no longer appears. Elizabeth is there, with four children, still at Cartside Road, Kilbarchan. John’s death record indicates that he died on 16th August 1889 aged 60, and that his parents were John Cameron (deceased) Handloom Weaver, and that his mother, also deceased, had a maiden surname of Mitchell. (The ages of John and Elizabeth are reasonably consistent throughout these Censuses, except that Elizabeth must have been 22, not 18, in 1851. But the enumerators employed at that time sometimes estimated ages.)
John and Elizabeth had twelve children in all, of whom eight survived less than 18 years (four of them less than 5 years). My grandfather, Duncan, was the tenth child of this family, and only one other, Robert, married. Ann survived unmarried at least to age 33, and probably did not marry at all.
John and Janet Cameron – great-great-grandparents
A marriage record states that a John Cameron and a Janet Mitchell were married on 7th December 1821 at Kilbarchan. In the 1841 Census John and Janet Cameron appear with seven children, including John, aged 12. This age is consistent with the birth year of John of 1829 implied by earlier records including the death record. Both parents, John and Janet, are said to be 40, and John is a Silk Hand Loom Weaver. They lived in Shuttle Street, Kilbarchan. Only John (the father) is said to have not been born in Renfrew.
In the 1851 Census John and Janet have five children at home in 12 Shuttle Street, Kilbarchan. This time the ages of the parents are said to be 56 and 52 respectively. All had been born in Kilbarchan except John, whose birthplace is stated to have been Callander, Perthshire.
A further person present at the Census date was Duncan Cameron, father (of the head of the house), aged 98, an ‘Ag. Lab.’, born in Rannoch, Perthshire.
In the 1861 Census John and Janet are recorded as being 68 and 62 respectively. There are two unmarried daughters at home, but not John’s father Duncan ! John is a Silk Weaver, and confirmed as being born in Callander, Perthshire.
In the 1871 Census another family occupies 12 Shuttle Street, Kilbarchan but, as mentioned earlier, the next generation headed by son John are there at Steeple Square. However John and Janet, with their unmarried daughter Mary are at Cart Side, which is noted on the Census Return as being ‘Cameron’s Land’. It seems they might have bought or leased the property, and there were two other families living there also.
Comparison of a current map with an O.S. map surveyed in 1857 shows that : (a) the present day small terrace of old houses (pictured under John Cameron) do not appear in 1857, but could possibly have been built just after the survey ; (b) there were a Cartside House and a Cartside Villa in the earlier map, both now gone, but the locations are identifiable around half a mile north-east of the railway station at Milliken Park , and both with access south from Graham Street, the road from Kilbarchan into Johnstone ; (c) on both maps there is a ‘Cartside’ located just south of Tandehill, with access from the Tandlehill Road. It appears from inspection from that road to be a farm, and it lies just a couple of fields from the present-day A737, which passes between it and the River Cart.
The years of birth implied by the ages given in the earlier Censuses are somewhat erratic, but as noted above the earlier Censuses are given to approximation. Analysis of the Census Returns and searches of the Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, reveals that John and Janet (married 7 December 1821) had seven children, six of whom survived to adult-hood. No records have been found for the other child, Jean. All the others married except Duncan, who died unmarried aged 26. Birth records are hard to come by, as all the children were born before compulsory registration was required in 1855. As it is likely that at least the earlier Camerons were a Jacobite family, they were probably Episcopalians, whose parish registers have not survived in any quantity.
[See an analysis of the Census Returns under 'Research Documents/Census Analysis']
Duncan and Grisell Cameron – 3G-grandparents
So now on to the generation prior to John and Janet.
The only Census in which a member of that generation appears is the 1851 Census, noted above, where Duncan Cameron is at Kilbarchan. So far a search for him in a Census for 1841 has not been successful, though the Censuses of Port of Menteith, Balquhidder and Strathblane (Stirling) have been searched.
John Cameron died at Cartside, Kilbarchan on 2nd May 1877, and his death record reveals that his parents were Duncan Cameron (Farm Labourer, deceased) and Grace Cameron (maiden surname Kennedy, deceased). A search at the Edinburgh General Registry failed to reveal any Grace Kennedys, but there were a number of Grizal Kennedys (with no less than eight different spellings of Grizal !) It appears from an examination of the name Grizal on the internet that ‘Grace’ was often used as an alternative name in those days.
A search of the Old Parish Registers shows only one marriage of a Duncan Cameron and a Girsel (note spelling) Kennedy between 1767 and 1795, and that was in the parish of Fortingall - in Rannoch !
The date of the proclamation was 27th May 1792. Inspection of the microfilm of the register itself (OPR 355.A/1) reveals an outstandingly interesting feature. The record actually says: “Duncan Cameron Kilmanivaig parish & Girsel Kennedy in Finart in this Parish entered their names for proclamation.” The mention of Kilmanivaig seems strange, as we are told that Duncan was born in Rannoch (although we only know this from the entry in the Census return for 1851). The village of Kilmonivaig is in Cameron country, and just across the River Lochy from the Erracht glen of Loy, but the parish of Kilmonivaig is very extensive, covering a large area including Rannoch Moor. [ A copy of the marriage record is in my possession ]
A baptismal record was discovered in the microfilm of the Old Parish Register for Port of Menteith, Callander (OPR 388/1). (It will be remembered that John was stated in the Censuses to have been born in Callander.) Dated 1795, January 20th, it says “John Cameron son to Duncan Cameron & Grizal Kenedy in Trunkie” (the capital letter ‘T’ of ‘Trunkie’ is a little obscure, but there is a small loch near Port of Menteith called Loch Drunkie, with a few houses clustered upon its shore. [ A copy of this record is in my possession ]
A difficulty is the age stated in John’s death record, 85, which would put his birth at around 1792. He could have been baptised 1 to 3 years after birth (this is unlikely), or his age at death may have been estimated. It does seem from earlier research that people in those times were often vague about their exact ages (or indeed the spelling of their names). There are four other birth records to Duncan Cameron and Grizal Kennedy. John, it appears, had an older brother and younger sister born at Port of Menteith. There was a later birth of a son at Balquhidder and, thirteen years later, probably another daughter at Strathblane, Stirling in 1810. At that time Duncan would have been about 54 years old but, as will be seen, Grizel was a number of years younger, and within the child-bearing age (about 40).
There were five likely candidates for our Grizal Kennedy, each of whom was born in a parish in the Rannoch area (where Duncan was married). An analysis of the probability of each appears in ‘Research Documents/Parent Analysis’. An assessment of the probability of the marriage of a Duncan Cameron and a Grizal Kennedy not being unique is under ‘Research Documents/Marriage Analysis’, leading to the conclusion that it is extremely unlikely there was any other similar combination of those names in that decade.
A search at the Scottish Archives Office in Edinburgh revealed, in a collection of papers called ‘The John McGregor Collection’ (Ref. GD.50), a description of the extent of the parish of Fortingall (GD.50/196c). The parish included most of the south side of Loch Rannoch, including the small village called Finart or Finnart at the south-west corner of the loch, the same Finart mentioned in the marriage proclamation of Duncan and Grizal as being the residence of Grizal.
The same collection of papers held a copy of the school rolls of the little school at Finart (GD.50/161/2). Analysis of these school records reveals the following:
(1) that Grizal was actually ‘Grisell’, and she was called ‘Grisy’ when she started school at seven years old in 1777, although she was later called ‘Girsy’ and in her last year at the school when she was eleven, she was ‘Grizel’ ;
(2) that she had an older sister and a younger brother and sister ;
(3) that her birth year implied by the age in the school record coincided with the most probable Grizel in the probability analysis in ‘Our Ancestry – Duncan and Grisy – 1′.
Further searches ascertained that Grisell’s family parents were Angus Kennedy and Margaret Cameron, married in 1768.
The reference to ‘Rannoch’ in the 1851 Census as being the birthplace of Duncan is puzzling. After all, the marriage Proclamation described his parish of birth as ‘Kilmanivaig’ [sic]. There are several possibilities to account for this:
1) that Duncan was born in Rannoch, and after the hue and cry had died down after Culloden the family had gone back to Kilmonivaig before Duncan returned to marry Grisell. This is the only scene that fits both of the records;
2) that Duncan really was born in Kilmonivaig, and found Grisell in Finart;
3) that Duncan was born somewhere else, and the family moved to Kilmonivaig before Duncan (with or without his family) found Grisell in Finart;
4) that the father’s birth parish was what was recorded in the marriage Proclamation;
5) that the minister was mistaken.
If the first is true, then the research into Duncan’s parentage, described below, holds good. It also sounds a feasible train of events: Duncan’s father was almost certainly of fighting age in 1746, the year of the battle of Culloden, and, being a Cameron, would be likely to have volunteered or been pressed into the Highland army. After the defeat he, like many other fugitives, could have gone into hiding in Rannoch and eventually married there. We know that by 1754 the area had stabilised into a more civilised place, and enlightened officers of the English army were forming schools and building houses for the communities The cattle thieving by desperate men had ceased, and some families went back to their former parishes. If the second is true, then the search moves straight to Kilmonivaig for Duncan’s parents. However there are only 14 birth records of a Duncan Cameron in all Scotland between 1750 and 1757. None of these is in Kilmonivaig, but records around that time could be missing. Only one of the 14 records satisfies the year of birth implied by the Census age of 98 in 1851: 10th March 1753 to a Duncan Cameron and Isobel McIntosh in Cawdor. This would imply the third possibility. However Cawdor is in the county of Nairn, north-east of Inverness (and close to Culloden). It seems very unlikely. The fourth and fifth possibilities are feasible, and accord with the following research.
Donald and Katrin Cameron – 4G-grandparents
Three of the 14 records of births of a Duncan Cameron were in Fortingall parish. There was a Duncan Cameron, living in Finart, aged 17 in 1773 at the school. Of all the many Cameron children living in Finart, four appeared to have the same parents, namely Donald Cameron and Katrin McGrigor, whose marriage proclamation was dated 3rd April 1752, and who were stated to be from Aldhonigan and Ardlarich respectively. [ A copy of this record is in my possession]. A Duncan Cameron was baptised in Fortingall parish on 29th August 1756, to those parents.
Again we have the age problem. Duncan was stated in the school record as being 17 in 1773, (birth / baptism year 1756, which would not fit in with the age of 98 given in the 1851 Census) whereas if he was the same Duncan born to Donald Cameron and Katrin McGrigor the school age would have been right.
To examine the presumption of this Duncan being ‘ours’ :
(1) Finart, where Duncan lived, is exactly where Grisell’s family lived;
(2) They went to the same school, although Duncan left before Grisell started;
(3) Duncan’s age fits in with the birth record, but not with the Census record (by three years);
(4) The school record is more likely to record the right age than the census one.
Donald Cameron was baptised on 16 May 1730, a son to John Cameron of Kilmonivaig, Invernessshire. Unfortunately the name of the mother is not recorded (in fact the only record found for this John Cameron’s marriage states that the name of his wife is “Mrs John Cameron” – which seems a bit of a cop-out, but there may have been a very good reason for it , e.g. religion, or even allegiance to a sovereign !). However the place of birth is given as Bohuntine in the parish of Kilmonivaig, which is surely significant (that parish was recorded as being Duncan’s parish in his marriage proclamation – see above).
It will be significant when looking further back in time that Donald lived at ‘Aldhonigan’ at the time of his marriage. The mention above of Donald Cameron’s birthplace of Bohuntine is also significant. These two facts will make a vital link to the past before 1700 and into history …… But that will be revealed later.
John and ?? Cameron – 5G-grandparents
If this John Cameron was indeed Duncan’s grandfather, as seems very likely, then Duncan’s father was probably the Donald named above or the one in the first of the following two alternative scenarios.
Donald Cameron and Sarah Cameron, whose marriage proclamation has not been found, had a son Duncan Cameron, baptised in Fortingall parish on 19th December 1756. No other children have been found to this couple. It is possible that this Duncan Cameron is the one who appears in the Finart school records as aged 17 in 1773.
The same reasoning applies as to the Duncan Cameron born to Donald Cameron and Katrin McGrigor above, and it seems almost as likely that this was ‘our’ Duncan as the other. Moreover, the father’s name Donald is common to both, and therefore either could be the son of John Cameron of Kilmonivaig. However the son of Donald Cameron and Katrin McGrigor was born some time before 29th August 1756, and he would have reached 17 by the time the school records were compiled around September 1773, whereas the son of Donald Cameron and Sarah Cameron was probably born after that month and would have only been 16. I have therefore taken the former as being probable.
There was a Duncan Cameron, living in Georgetown, aged 20 in 1773 at the school. Of all the many Cameron children living in Georgetown, none appeared to have the same parents as Duncan, namely Angus Cameron and Christian Cameron, whose marriage proclamation was dated 6th December 1754. [ A copy of this record is in my possession ] A Duncan Cameron was baptised in Fortingall parish on 8th April 1755, parents Angus Cameron and Christian Cameron.
Once again we have the age problem. Duncan was stated in the school record as being 20 in 1773, (which would fit in with the age of 98 given in the 1851 Census) whereas if he was the same Duncan born to Angus and Christian Cameron he would only have been 18. Again, as with his son John, there may have been a considerable interval between his birth and baptism, although this does not appear likely in view of the fact that the marriage cannot have taken place much earlier than January 1755, (the marriage proclamation was recorded on 6 December 1754 and Duncan was baptised in April 1755 !).
To examine the presumption of this Duncan being ‘ours’:
(1) Georgetown, where Duncan lived, is but a step away from Finart, where Grisell’s family lived;
(2) They went to the same school, although Duncan left long before Grisell started;
(3) Duncan’s age does not fit in with the birth record (by two years), but accords with the Census age;
(4) The school record is more likely to record the right age than the census one;
(5) The father was Angus Cameron, whereas if Duncan’s grandfather was John Cameron, he had a recorded son Donald but not an Angus.
It is not thought that this Duncan is ‘ours’.
Duncan’s father must have survived Culloden (1746) and its immediate aftermath. If our conclusion is right that he was Donald Cameron, son to John Cameron of Kilmonivaig, he would have been about fifteen when Prince Charles Edward Stuart landed, and 16 at the time of Culloden. We do not know if John Cameron was involved in the Highland Army at Culloden, or if he survived. He would have been in his mid-forties at the time of the battle.
Donald probably made his way into Rannoch during the time when Cumberland’s troops were rooting out Jacobites, when many Highlanders escaped to that area. He may even have brought his parents with him, if they had survived. Duncan was at the school in Finart in 1773 aged 17, and is recorded as being able to write and do arithmetic, so It seems that he had been at the school at least two years by then. The next year for which there are school records is 1776, and Duncan does not appear.
We know that on the north side of Loch Rannoch much of the land belonged to Sir Robert Menzies, and land on the south side mainly to Struan Robertson. Both of these were Jacobites, and Struan Robertson, in particular, suffered after the ’45, having been ‘out’ in 1715 and exiled. It is not known which of these owned the land at Finart where Donald and Katrin lived, at the south-western corner of Loch Rannoch.
A red herring
Somerled MacMillan, in his well-researched book “Bygone Lochaber”, says that the Camerons of Camghouran are descended from the MacSorlie Camerons of Glen Nevis, but that he is not sure as to whether the MacSorlie-Camerons in Finnart are an offshoot of the Camghouran branch or not, but more then likely they are a distinct branch which came from Glen Nevis during the 17th century.
Thus I had to consider the possibility that our family is descended from the MacSorlies, among whose ancestors are the early Lords of the Isles in the 12th century, and even further back, to Sitric (Sigtryggr) Halfdansson, styled ‘King of Dublin’ in the 10th century. I was pursuing the possibility that the connection with the Erracht Camerons could have been achieved by a marriage between an Erracht Cameron and a Glen Nevis Cameron. (Both Erracht and Glen Nevis had been allies in some of the internal disputes within the wider clan.)
Then I found that priceless piece of evidence, mentioned above : that Old Duncan’s father had been born in Bohuntine, a small hamlet at the time, but squarely back in mainstream Cameron country.
What remains to be uncovered ?
Now that the course of our history has been established back to around 1700, it is becoming clearer that the reference by my mother to the family’s descent from the Camerons of Erracht seems to have substance, we appear to be two or three generations from linking up with the Erracht family history as set out in various sources already used (and set out in this site).
It may be that an appeal on the internet to possible sources yet undiscovered will provide the clues to make the connection.
Meanwhile the 1911 Census may help to fill in some of the gaps in our knowledge of our family’s story.