Monday, 4 July 2011

Ayrshire Reconstruction

I have been trying to put together the three or four families and several known individuals, all clan members in Ayrshire from the 16th Century onwards, into one 'coherent' family tree. The tree's progenitor is of course Michael Macylhaggow who appears in Colmonell, Carrick, Ayrshire in 1527, so was probably born in the 15th Century. In 1553, probably the next generation, so perhaps a son of Michael, we have Patrick McIlhagon in Kyle, Ayrshire. Carrick and Kyle are today known as South Ayrshire. Next comes Robert M'Ilhago, also in Ayrshire in 1597, surely two generations from Patrick, maybe a grandson. 'Robert' proves to be the name that is handed down, possibly through the generation before the grandfather who witnessed the baptism of his granddaughter Agnes in 1685. We know from the baptism record that 'grandfather' was John, and given that the average generation is about 25 years, he was probably born about 1635, most likely in the town of Ayr itself where his son Robert was a Fisher. This Robert was born about 1660 and married about 1680 to Bessie Johnstone/Johnstoune. They had four known children, all born and baptised in Ayr, Agnes in 1685, Robert in 1687, Mary in 1689 and John in 1691. Given the Scottish naming pattern these names argue for Grandfather being Robert (rather than John) and his wife Mary, and Bessie's parents being John and Agnes. The 'pattern' is not inviolate and father's name seems to have taken precedence for the first son, or perhaps the two grandfathers got 'reversed'. Robert and Bessie's eldest daughter Agnes was to marry James Gemill and have a daughter Margaret in 1714. We do not know for certain whether any of the other three married but I am hazarding a guess that at least one, maybe Robert, did.

When Robert was born and baptised in 1687 for some reason the name variant of McIlhague was used. This variant may then have been carried down the generations because we find a John McIlhague born about 1800 in Dundonald, Ayrshire, who married Isabella McCallum. However, before we reach his generation we must postulate that there must have been at least three generations in the county about which at present we know very little. We can work on the assumption that a son of Robert (1687) or of course John (1691) may have been born about 1715 and that his son could have been born about 1745. Both may have been named Robert, and the second one almost certainly was for both his son and his grandson were Robert, born in Irvine, Ayrshire. We are now moving into the time when the main clan occupation of fishing had given way to seafaring 'up the coast', and though we may not know for certain that the 'Robert' of 1745 existed we do know that a James McElhago of the same generation did exist, who therefore could have been a sibling, or indeed could have been that generation's 'missing link'. He was the James about whom I have written as one of the inaugurators of the Bridgetown Library in New Jersey, USA. So we have reached the Robert McElhago/McIlhagow who was born in Irvine about 1770, a sea captain who married Elizabeth Jamieson/Jamison and had six children. He would have been the 9th or 10th generation from Michael of Colmonell.

I have been 'tracing' the possible path of one of three branches of the clan in Ayrshire and I have done so first because I know that this branch continues for another eight generations to the present day, partly in Scotland, partly in New Zealand, and certainly provides us with the clan line which goes back the furthest. I must however attempt to sketch in the other two Ayrshire lines to complete the 'reconstruction'.

I have said that after Patrick there would surely have been a two generation gap before the Robert who appeared in 1597. Similarly there must have been two or even three generations before the other two clan branches appeared, one with Thomas McIlhagow born about 1610 in Kirkmichael in Carrick, and one with an unnamed (though possibly John) father of another Thomas McElhagow born about 1645, also in Kirkmichael. I realise of course that these two branches, in the same place, are in all probability one. Thomas (1610) had three children, Thomas, David and Agnes. Thomas had a son James (1653). David and Agnes married two Bairds, almost certainly siblings. David (1638) married Katherin Baird in 1655 and had five children, John (1666), Thomas (1669), Jennet/Janet (1671), James (1674) and Annable (1677). John (1666) had a son David (1702) who appears to have married twice, first to Janet Murdock, with a daughter Janet (1732), second to Elizabeth Dunbar in 1740, with children William (1743) and Mary (1744). I have no evidence of Thomas (1669) marrying. Jennet/Jonet married Thomas Craig in 1700. In the Ayrshire Old Parish Records there are 7 children all born in Beith between 1702 and 1722 to a Thomas Craig. No mother's name is given. However from Jennet's sister Annable's Testament we may surmise that by 1733 Thomas and Jennet were childless. Did they have children and did they all die? Was there an epidemic? Or is the Thomas Craig, father of the children, a different person? James (1674) died as an infant. Annable (1677) married James Gibson of Sheoch and had a son James. The second 'two family' marriage was of Agnes McElhagow to William Baird, who had two children, Katherin (1662) and William (1667). Incidentally, the OPRs show that two other Baird siblings married and continued that line, John Baird who had sons David and John; and Gilbert Baird who had a daughter Agnes. Sadly we have no further information on the continuation of the McIlhagow/McElhagow family along this clan line.

We are lastly left with the third possible line a couple of generations down from Patrick. This brings us to the father of Thomas McElhagow (1645) and Jennet McElhagow (1650). Thomas married Janet Murchie in 1669 and had four children, John (1670), Helen (1672), David (1675) and Thomas (1677). I do not know if John married. Helen (1672) married David Mitchell and had three children, John (1699), Margaret (1702) and Isobell (1707). We know from an early gravestone that David had two other siblings, James who married Janet McGren and John who married Agnes McIluray, who had a son John (1701). We do not know if either John or Isobell Mitchell married and had offspring, nor indeed whether David (1675) or Thomas (1677) McIlhagow did.

Finally, to revert to the first Ayrshire line, I have mentioned that on at least two occasions the spelling McIlhague appears and it is of interest to refer to one of the other occasions. A John McIlhague and an Isabella McCallum were the parents of Jean, born in 1824 in Dundonald. Isabella had in all probability a sibling, Alexander, a Master Mariner, who also married into our clan, to Elizabeth McElhago/McIlhaggert from nearby Irvine. They had a daughter Elizabeth in 1851 who in 1877 married William Wylie, a Master Flesher. The mother Elizabeth had been born in 1823 to James McElhago/McIlhaggert and Jane Harvey. James was the first of five siblings, the children of Robert McElhago/McIlhagow and Elizabeth Jamieson/Jamison with whom I concluded my first paragraph above. It is possible that their fifth child John was the John McIlhague above who married Isabella McCallum. The 'two' Johns were certainly born in the same year (1800) and the identification would give us parents for Isabella's husband. However, if the indication is to be made, Isabella must have died soon after their daughter Jean was born (March 1824), for John, son of Robert and Elizabeth married Jean Glen in December 1824 in Greenock.

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