Tag Archives: McDonald

Charles McDonald, Barbara Robinson and Margaret McDonald

I hired a professional genealogist in Scotland this week to check some records for me at the GRO in Edinburgh. I told him about Margaret McDonald, and how I had found a birth record for an unnamed, illegitimate baby girl (born 17 July 1848, baptized 6 August 1848) whose parents were Charles McDonald and Barbara Robinson. I suspected that this was Margaret McDonald, and asked him to check for Kirk Session records that might clarify that. Following are details from the Inch Kirk Session Records (CH2/637/5) from his report:

7th March 1848
Barbara Robinson
Compeared Barbara Robinson residing at Cairnryan as servant to Charles McDonald confessing that she is with child in uncleanness.  Being exhorted to repentance and be honest and ingenious in declaring the true father of the child with which she is pregnant declared that Charles McDonald, her master, is the true father of her child.

Charles McDonald
The Session ordered the officer to summon said Charles McDonald to appear next meeting of Session.

4th April 1848
Compeared Barbara Robinson, Charles McDonald being three times called at the door did not compear.  Barbara Robinson being asked if she still continued to accuse Charles McDonald of being the father of the child with which she is pregnant replied she did.

Charles McDonald
The Session ordered the officer to summon Charles McDonald Pro Secondo to appear at next meeting of Session to be held on first day of May next.

2nd May 1848
Charles McDonald still did not appear but a letter sent to the Moderator written at Cairnryan on 4th April 1848

“To the Rev. James Ferguson, Minister of Inch.
You summoned me before your last Session last month and I did not attend and I do not wish you to summon me any more. The woman said before witnesses that the child was not mine but I have kept her and I will have to keep her and it both and have to pay Poor rates and all you want and Barbara Robinson to the bargain, for I think I will not get much help from you as I am not going to see either her or it want as long as I am able to do for them and I want no more summons to come to me.  (signed) Charles McDonald.”

They were both summoned to the next meeting of Session Pro Tertiens.

6th June 1848
Compeared Charles McDonald and being asked if he had been guilty with Barbara Robinson confessed that he had been guilty with her.
The Session laid the parties under scandal accordingly.

1st August 1848
Compeared Charles McDonald and Barbara Robison having been guilty of the sin of fornication, craving absolution from scandal.  They were accordingly taken on discipline and the moderator, after a serious rebuke and solemn admonition did, in the name of the Session, absolve them from the scandal of sin and restored them to church privileges.
(Signed) James Ferguson, Moderator.

While the baby’s name is never mentioned in the records, he points out that Charles Robinson said that he would take responsibility for the baby, which was baptized 6 August 1848–the Sunday following their absolution. Margaret McDonald is thereafter named as the eldest daughter of Charles McDonald and Margaret Adair, born in 1848. His conclusion was that Margaret McDonald is definitely the unnamed, illegitimate baby.

While finding more evidence to support this connection is great, the most interesting part for me is the “drama” unfolding over the five months of Kirk Sessions. I especially like the character insight of the letter that Charles wrote to the moderator, James Ferguson. Charles is an interesting character:

  • he was almost 60 years old when he married 25-year-old Margaret Adair. I don’t know how old Barbara Robinson was at the time, but she was his servant when she became pregnant, and it sounds like she remained in his household after his marriage to Margaret. My assumption is that was in her late teens or early 20s.
  • he and Margaret had at least seven children–he was about 60 when the first was born, about 75 when the last was born.

Part of me wonders what brought Charles and Margaret together given the age difference. What about Charles and Barbara–was their relationship consensual? Was Charles a charmer, or a dirty old man? What drove him to have so many children at his age? Or were the children simply the result of his “drive”?

Part of my love for genealogy is searching for connections between people, and also people and history. But I love when I run across enough detail about a person to start learning about their character and personality.


Margaret McDonald–update!

I posted a message on the Wigtownshire message board at Ancestry.com about Margaret McDonald. I gave probably more details than anyone could want, hoping that someone would read it and suggest some piece of research that I had overlooked. What I got was beyond anything I expected! Sincere thanks to Bruce McDowall of Melbourne, Australia, for the following research tips he posted:

Hi Scott,

Margaret and Joanne made good suggestions. One would certainly favour the information from a marriage registration, but that is also sometimes incorrect.

I think I may have found the baptism record for your Margaret McDONALD in the Inch OPR. I have transcribed the following records from the LDS film:

“McDonald or Robinson / Charles McDonald and Barbara Robinson at Cairnryan had an illegitimate daughter born 17th July 1848 and baptized 6th Augt 1848”

“Jane McDonald / Charles McDonald and Margaret Adair Cairnryan had a lawful daughter named Jane born 22nd January 1849 baptized 11th Feb 1849′

“Charles McDonald / Charles McDonald and Margaret Adair at Cairnryan had a lawful Son named Charles born 25th December 1850 and baptized 11th Feb 1851”

“Thomas McDonald / Charles McDonald and Margaret Adair at Cairnryan had a lawful son named Thomas born 15th November 1852 and baptized 28th November 1852”

“Charles McDonald & Margaret Adair / Charles McDonald and Margaret Adair residing at Cairnryan were three times proclaimed in the parish Church of Inch 30th January 1848, in order to marriage, in presence of John Brown and Jane Brownlee residing at Kirk of Inch and William Wilson tailor in Stranraer.”

Unfortunately, the child to Barbara Robinson was not named in the register, but she does look like a very good candidate for your Margaret McDONALD. She would have been 2 years and 8 months on 31st March 1851, when the census was taken. I took a look at the LDS film of the 1851 census, and noted that, whist they are both given a 2 year olds, Margaret is listed before Jane.

Assuming Barbara Robinson carried her child full term, she would have conceived in November 1847. Presumably, none of those attending Church during the proclamation period in January 1848, knew that Barbara Robinson was pregnant to Charles. Perhaps she didn’t know herself. If this scenario is correct, there would have been considerable fuss when the facts came out.

Joanne Croft has already suggested that you pursue the Kirk Session records. This adds weight to that recommendation. Assuming Charles and Barbara were members of the Church, they would have been called before the Session, probably on three occasions. Hopefully, this is the case, and further, that there are surviving minutes. They are currently only available from the National Archives of Scotland, so if you can’t get to Edinburgh, you may want to hire a professional researcher to do a search for you. (They are being scanned with the view to being online via Scotlandspeople, but with no index, I’m not sure how this is going to work.)
A complication here is that 1848 was a time when many Wigtownshire folk had left the mainstream Church for the Free Church, so this couple may have been called before the Session of that Church.

I see that there is an unmarried 23 y/o Barbara ROBERTSON at Craigcaffie in the 1851 census. Perhaps she is the above Barbara Robinson.

Hope this helps, and I will be interested to know if you find the answer from the Kirk Session records. I had a similar situation, and resolved it through Kirk Session minutes.


Margaret McDonald

I spent the day yesterday trying to track down my husband’s great-great grandmother. I know a lot about her, and have a solid family tree leading back to her. I also know a lot about the people that I think were her parents and siblings, and have started a family tree for them. My current concern is establishing a firm connection between the two trees.

Margaret McDonald was born in Inch, Wigtownshire, Scotland sometime between 1848 and 1854, specifically in the Village or Cairn, or Cairnryan. She married William Welsh on 1 Nov 1878 in Wallacetown in Ayr. Together they had eight children, one of which was my husband’s great grandmother, Margaret, better known in our family as Granny Mackie.

All this is well documented through census records, and birth, marriage and death registers. However, the mystery begins with the latter records. Margaret McDonald’s death register (dated 8 July 1931 in Lochrutton, Kirkcudbrightshire, Scotland) says that her parents were Charles McDonald (who was a fisherman) and Margaret McDonald (maiden name McDonald), and that she was married to William Welsh. Her marriage register to William Welsh, however, says that her parents were Thomas McDonald (who was a fisherman) and Margaret McDonald (maiden name Adair). I have been unable to find a birth record for her.

After searching census records for a couple with both names, I found that there was a Charles McDonald married to a Margaret Adair who just happened to live in the Village of Cairn in Inch, Wigtownshire between 1848 (when they were married) and 1874 (when Charles died). Charles’ occupation was also listed as “fisherman” for the last two censuses of his life. Finally, the 1851 Scotland Census shows that this couple had a daughter named Margaret who was two-years-old at the time.

Putting all this together, I determined that this two-year-old Margaret McDonald had to be the same person. Unfortunately, though, I have been unable to find ANYTHING else that would connect her to this family. She is not listed with the family in any other census and was presumably working as a domestic servant (as some of her presumed brothers and sisters were doing at that young age). I have traced this family from the 1851 to the 1901 censuses, and have found birth registrations for all the children listed in the censuses (and have even found one son that is not listed with the family in any census). Of course, the only child that I have been unable to find a birth registration for is Margaret. In fact, I have been unable to find a birth registration for ANY Margaret McDonald that could remotely be the same person.

So, yesterday was spent finding records for her presumed brothers and sisters to see if I could find any connections to Margaret. I did find one marriage record that listed Margaret McDonald as a witness. However, the bride’s mother (and Margaret’s, for that matter) was also named Margaret McDonald, so I can’t say for sure if the witness was her sister, Margaret, or her mother, Margaret.

So, right now the whole connection is pretty circumstantial, and based on very little evidence. But since there is a lack of other possibilities, I’m pretty confident that Margaret McDonald is the daughter of Charles McDonald and Margaret Adair. Still, it would be nice to find something solid to confirm that.