The Douglas Archives

A collection of historical and genalogical records

Here's some of what I have on the Cockpen Duglass/Douglas people. At William's suggestion I'm putting this in a 'discussion' as there may be pieces that people want to follow up - I've seen several posts exploring this line.

William Duglass and Janet Witherspoon had ten recorded children born between
1695 and 1713. I have the baptism records for several, which show the parents in Dalhousie, in Cockpen parish, with the baptisms mostly recorded in Cockpen, one in Lasswade. Witnesses to baptisms, where I've seen the full record, include a John Witherspoon and one includes a William Duglass, one a George Duglass. In the Cockpen Kirk Session minutes for the 1690s and 1700s, William Duglass is the name of a Session elder, and from 1702 John Witherspoon is also named a session elder. There are various other Douglas and Witherspoon people about, including Margaret Duglass who married William Keddie and had several children - born in Dalhousie, and with baptism witnesses generally including William Duglass and John Witherspoon, two baptisms being in Cockpen, one at Newbattle and the earliest in Carrington.

My speculation is that the witness William Duglass is either father or uncle of both William (married to Janet Witherspoon) and Margaret (married to William Keddie) - possibly more likely an uncle of William, as the name 'William' occurs quite far down William and Janet's children, though there could be other reasons for that. (Sorry about the plethora of Williams in that sentence!) There is a George Duglass in Wester Melwill (Wester Melville in Lasswade) who appears also as a witness in at least one other Cockpen record (a child of John Thomson) and who may be a brother, uncle or cousin of the William marrying Janet W.

Of William and Janet's children, one, James born in 1697, became a tailor in Dalhousie and married May (or Mary) Marjorie Lindsay: my current thinking is that I'm descended from their son Robert (b 1736, Cockpen).

I know that there has been a suggestion that William's father was another William (presumably in that case the session elder) but haven't seen anything to make this more than a speculation.

Thoughts, queries, speculations, additions? I'll quickly add that I've only skimmed part of the Cockpen Kirk Session minutes, having only a short time at NAS in Edinburgh last time I was there. Would love to spend much longer with these.
I'll post some details of the births, from OPR, later.


Views: 1908

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

I just got the marriage record from SP. 'David Douglass in Cockpen and Margerat Cuthbert here'. So it's she who is from Fife...

Proclamation was 31st October and marriage 8th December 1654.

Skinner burgess - he was a master craftsman, having served an apprenticeship and probably a short period as a journeyman, and his trade was leather working. Edinburgh was a Royal Burgh, and burgesses controlled the trade associations and the merchant guildry, and took on apprentices and hired journeymen. James Liddell was a merchant burgess likewise, so could take on James Witherspoon around 1690 as apprentice.

There are various volumes with the extant Edinburgh records, and I got them online a few years ago so just did some more browsing through them. Very useful, though not everybody is in them, particularly the apprenticeships.


Thanks for that Jenny.

I have been wondering why a girl from Fife would be in Cockpen - a fair way from her home in the 1650s.  Is it possible that David Douglas was originally from Fife and went to work in Dalhousie, then went back home to marry his girl?  There is a Douglas connection to the Earls of Morton/Dalkeith in Fife.  All sorts of possibilities occur.


Hi Julie,

I think the Abbotshall link is through the Ramsays - much of the place in the 1650s was owned by an Andrew Ramsay, who had Edinburgh connections (I think he was provost for a while). However I found a website to say that George Ramsay, the son of the first earl of Dalhousie, had a grant of lands there in 1647, though haven't been able to confirm this. If so, and if David was his servant, then that gives reason for David to be there and to meet and marry Margerat Cuthbert - who may of course herself also have been a servant and so may not actually be 'from' there.

Abbotshall only became a separate parish in the 1650s, and before that was part of Kirkcaldy parish. I haven't found any likely records there though.

There is a baptism of a Margaret Cutbert in St Andrews in 1629, parents William Cutbert and Janet Logan, but of course that need not be related. The St Andrews records go back further than most others.

Circumstantial confirmation from NAS:

Reference GD45/16/2730
Title Instrument of sasine in favour of Margaret Douglas, lady of Dalhowsie, in liferent, of the lands of Over and Nether Mayness of Abbotishall called Skaris in the regality of Dunfermling, following on charter by George Ramsay of Dalhowsie dated 20 September 1610
Dates 7 Sep 1611

Margaret Douglas would have this in her lifetime, then it reverted to the heir, William 1st Earl of Dalhousie and then his eldest son George. So that would take George, and presumably servant David Douglas, to Abbotshall.

It would be interesting to know where these Douglas servants and tenants came from, and if there is any connection with Margaret - maybe they were at some point distant cousins, or maybe just family retainers who took, as so many did, the last name of their patrons. In either case that would be long before 'our' David and William, and we're likely to never know.

Moving on a generation - to James second son of William (probably the 'younger' in Dalhousie), baptised in 1697. He married May or Mary or Marjorie Lindsay. She was baptised in Carrington in 1703, parents William Lindsay and Katheren Bryson, and the baptism record says 'May Lindsay'. They had children baptised in Cockpen, and James is described on the baptism record of the first as 'Taylor in Dalhousie'. These children are:

William 1725, in Dalhousie, witnesses William Lindsay and John Duglass in Dalhousie

David 1727 - I don't have the detailed record for his baptism.

James 1730 - I don't have the detailed record.

Sholte 1733, in Dalhousie, witnesses David Murray and Mr James McLaren

Robert 1736, in Dalhousie, witnesses David Murray and William Witherspoon

Janet 1739 - I don't have the detailed record.

The name 'Sholte' intriqued me, especially as it also appears in the children of Robert which is how I came across it, and indeed I first found this forum a while ago through looking up the legend! I do wonder how it got into this family and speculate that it may be through somebody reading the accounts of the early Douglases. It doesn't seem to appear in parochial records until 1722 (in Dalkeith, with a link to Douglas of Glenbervie) and then this son of James, and then of course many rather more famous Douglases.

Does it appear at all in the family of George b. 1711 and his descendants?

Best, Jenny

I am again amazed at the depth of your research.  Well done again!  This is riveting stuff.  What you say regarding David working as a servant and moving back and forth between Corkpen and Fife makes sense.  I wondered about the grant of land which was presumably made when David was still a young man.  I thought it would be a reward for service - why so young?  I imagine there were battles going on at the time.  I also thought David could be related, as a younger son of a younger son, to one branch of the Douglases.

Regarding the name Sholto, I have a vague memory there is a Sholto in the family of John and Bethia Dennis.  I haven't looked into the descendants of all the children of William and Janet Witherspoon.  The published trees have very obvious mistakes.

My George 1711 was also a servant as was his son George 1742.  They worked for some personalities of the time and had a connection to Robert Dundas, the Lord President of Scotland at Arniston House, Borthwick. This may have been a church connection as they often appeared together as witnesses at baptisms.  Difficult to work out which George in later cases.  Robert Dundas was witness to baptism of William 1775, son of George 1742.  George 1742 also worked for Mr and Mrs John Brown of Currie.  This is interesting as Helen Witherspoon, daughter of William Witherspoon and Jenet Thomson (not a proven connection - many Helen Withers around) married a John Brown c 1720 and had children in Currie and Cockpen.  John Brown was a merchant. My work on these people was quite some time ago and needs revisiting.

A few bits and pieces here: Sholto son of James seems to have married Ann Ansley, as there is a 'lawful' daughter Jean born in 1756, in Dalhousie, the baptism recorded at Cockpen.

Going back to David, 'servant' could have quite a wide range of meanings. I'd love to see the charter from 1659, so that is yet another thing to check at NAS at some point.  It was Lord George, son of William Ramsay, who gave David the land. It would be interesting to find more about Lord George's involvement with the events of the times; he may have been at Philiphaugh... 

There is no sign of David as a witness to any of these baptisms in the 1680s and 90s, and he may have died before then. The second charter ratifying the bit of land to John, son of William, might give a clue as to when it became William's. My thinking is that David was not necessarily a very young man at the time of the grant of land. He had been married for a few years, and may possibly himself have been involved with some of the events.

Hi Julie,

Tenancy and land grant are different things. All these people are described as tenants in Dalhousie - they lease land from the landowner, in this case from the Earl of Dalhousie. But in this period quite a lot of tenancies were fairly stable, and quite often passed from parent to child.

There's a distinction between tenants and cottars - cotters are essentially sub-tenants and while some seem to have stayed put others moved about a bit more. 

David Douglas's land-grant is different, and is a special deal based on his particular relationship with the superior, Lord George Ramsay. However, doing a different search on NAS today I found another entry, dated the next day, titled 'Disposition by John Douglas to William, Earl of Dalhousie, as superior, of the lands contained in GD45/16/386' which comes with an ' instrument of resignation ad perpetuam remanentiam of the same date'.  So it may be that the Earl and John Douglas were sorting out something that had become anomalous. We need to see the actual items...

I'll email you in a minute - yes, we're taking up a lot of space here!

Oh, and a cousin of mine has been doing some detective work on how the name 'Sholto' came to start being used in the 18th century!



Mr. George (Douglas, son of William, 9th Earl of Angus), who in 1570 received from his father the chaplaincy of Drumlithie, and in 1576 the half of Panlathie. He died at Cockburn before 15 December 1590,  and was buried at Douglas.

John Knox son of William Knox (1569-1623), min. of Cockpen (1592-1623), graduated Edinburgh 1610, author of Common Places in Theology, married Isobel Douglas. They had a son, John, also a minister, who succeeded his father.

W. Knox was the son of William K., merchant, Preston and a nephew of John K. the Reformer

Hi William. Do you know anything further about Isobel Douglas? I'm wondering if she was from around Cockpen or if she had come from elsewhere with John Knox who will have studied elsewhere. While we know that David Douglass (a little later) was from Cockpen at the time of his marriage in Fife, and returned there, I know little more about him other than his grant of land from Lord George Ramsay.


Making conections

The more information you can give about the people you mention, the more chance there is of someone else connecting with your family.

Dates and places of births, deaths and marriages all help to place families.

Professions also help.

'My great-grandmother mother was a Douglas from Montrose' does not give many clues to follow up! But a bit of flesh on the bones makes further research possible. But if we are told who she married, what his profession was and where the children were baptised, then we can get to work.

Maybe it is time to update the information in your profile?

© 2022   Created by William Douglas.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service