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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.


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Lucky you, having access to the NAS Edinburgh. That is interesting about the kirk session records and something I can't access.  It is difficult to work out these Douglases and related families however you may have noticed on the birth of William 1706 that his father is referred to as "William Duglas, younger in Dalhousie".  There is also a Testament and Dative on Scotlandspeople for the death of William the younger, tenant in Dalhousie, in 1720 where there is mention of William "the elder" tenant in Dalhousie.  In fact there is a contract of marriage between their children.  This would mean they can't have been closely related.  Their children may have been cousins.  John, son of William the younger, had a contract of marriage with Agnes, daughter of William the elder.  However John actually married Bethia Dennis in 1720.  This is all very confusing. 

I'm not sure about Peter born 1713.  No mother's name given, or witnesses to be able to link them to this family.  Too many William Douglases around at the time!

George Douglas, witness to baptism of John in 1695 could have been a brother as William's son George 1711 came way down the list of children.

I believe Margaret Douglas of Dalhousie who married William Keddie would have been our William's sister.  Her children's names were Agnes 1691, Elisabeth 1693, George 1696 and John 1699.  This seems to indicate the name of her father, and William's, would have been John.  Can't prove the relationship at this stage.

There are some very creative family trees associated with ancestors of our William.  Most don't quote a source.  That's why I am so excited about the information you are finding in the kirk sessions.

The minister at Cockpen was (Robert?) Lindsay at one stage.  The Earl of Dalhousie (William Ramsay) was a witness to the baptism of one of his children.  I'll have to find that record.  Sorry - I have masses of notes.

There is quite a time difference between us so if I don't reply immediately to your messages, you will understand why.  Julie




Hi Julie

Yes, the minister from 1695 was David Lindsay. If the last name of that second witness is missing, it is likely to be Carse, Cass or Carss (all spellings being possibly - Mark Carse was at that time Laird of Cockpen (third of that name there) and hence one of the 'heritors' along with the Earl of Dalhousie.

This David for originally from Kirkforthar, which is just north of Markinch in Fife, where his family had property. He wouldn't necessarily be connected with any local Lindsays, as ministers moved around to where they were 'called'.


Another interesting piece of information in the Testament of William Douglas in 1720 was talk of another marriage contract, between Katherine, second daughter of William Douglas the younger, and James Blackie.  This marriage did indeed take place, but where does this Katherine come in?  I am beginning to think William Douglas may have married twice, the first time to Helen Wilson, as there are two children to that marriage (that I can find) - Margaret in Newbattle1688 and Katren, Cockpen, in 1691. 

William must have been a man of some means - the Testament says he has a feather bed upstairs and another downstairs!

Unfortunately, because the records are so poor, I feel that we may never be able to get further back than William and Janet Witherspoon, unless there is new information in the kirk sessions or somewhere else.

There is certainly a strong connection with the Dewars - in fact John Witherspoon the elder married Janet Dewar - the parents of Janet b c 1670.  William Dewar was witness to many of the children's baptisms.

Please let me know what you think.  Julie


Hi - we must have been posting at the same time...

I haven't seen the Helen Wilson connection - will have to explore that. More later...


We are thinking along very similar lines here. I haven't seen Peter's birth record and if the witnesses are very different he may be from a different Douglas family, not at Dalhousie.

I've seen a few of the 'creative' family trees... possibly resulting from people too easily linking to what they find online.

Here are the children of William Douglas and Janet Witherspoon, with witness names where I've seen the record - Julie, you may have witness names for some of the others:

John born 31 May 1695, baptised at Lasswade 3 June, witnesses John Witherspoon in Dalhousie and George Duglass in Wester Melwell.
James bap 16 Jan 1697, Cockpen, witnesses William Dewar and John Witherspoon
Janet bap 19 Apr 1699, Cockpen, witnesses John Witherspoon and William Duglass
Janet bap 15 Dec 1700, Cockpen
Anna  bap 26 Dec 1701, Cockpen
David bap 12 March 1704. The mother is not named in this record, which just says 'Lawful son to William Duglass' with witnesses John Witherspoon and William Dewar.
William bap 18 Aug 1706, Cockpen
Alexander, 2 Oct 1708, Cockpen
George, 4 May 1711, Cockpen
Peter, 5 Oct 1712, Cockpen (possibly a different family).

There is also a Catherine, for whom I haven't found a baptism record, but who married James Blackie. This is mentioned in the testament dative of William Duglass. I'd put a guess at a birth around 1702-3.

As to the 'other' William Duglass - there is a baptism entry in 1696 of a Robert Duglass, son of William D and Beatrix Murray, witnessed by Robert Murray and John Murray. Robert Murray is the name of one of these bond-holders mentioned in the TD of William Douglass in 1720, Robert being by that time deceased so that his son George now holds the bond... So more evidence for two Williams at Dalhousie, possibly uncle and nephew, possibly cousins.

I should add there's a Witherspoon birth on the same register page (which also has George Keddie) - David Witherspoon, parents Thomas W and Rosie Cuthbertson, with witnesses John Witherspoon and William Duglass. Fascinating tracing all these interconnections.

Fascinating, yes, but it could also drive you crazy!  How do we know that our William b c 1668 wasn't William the elder by 1720?  There were so many of them around.  I too wondered about William D and Beatrix Murray especially as our William was heavily connected to the Murrays as well.

Janet 1700 I seem to have lost.  Anna witnesses William Dewar and John Witherspoon.  William w John Witherspoon, William Thomson.  Alexander w Wm Dewar, John Witherspoon.  George w John Witherspoon, James Tyrie. Peter no mother or witnesses.

Just re-reading your last message - I don't think you had received my last message about Katherine in the testament.  She was born 1691.  They seemed to marry quite late in those days - some of them anyway.

I like the sound of Rosie Cuthbertson!

Also enjoyed reading about your clandestine marriage on the other website. 





I have been wondering also whether elder and younger could be the other way round... but have a feeling that one died sometime in the 1700s and the one who married Janet Witherspoon was still having children with her at least until 1711. I need to get back to these Kirk Session records to see how the names of elders change. Alas I don't get to Edinburgh too often, thanks to work etc, though I'm supposed to be there for some work-related research (actually to interview people connected with heritage) a couple of times in the next few months. I have some family there.

The clandestine marriage is interesting - I was trying to pursue this in the KS records. More of this later too!

Best, Jenny

I've been playing with Douglas things for part of the day - my gardening plans having been rained and thundered off! Not much further aside from in speculations. But there may be useful things that need to be checked out ... at NAS, so not available online.

Reference GD45/16/386
Title Precept of clare constat by William, Earl of Dalhousie, in favour of John Douglas, eldest son of deceased William Douglas, son of deceased David Douglas, as heir to his father in the lands contained in GD45/16/358
Dates 18 Sep 1724
Description (With instrument of sasine dated 19 September and registered P.R.S. Edinburgh 16 November 1724.)

And following up the earlier reference:
Reference GD45/16/358
Title Charter by George, Lord Ramsay, to David Douglas, his servant, and Margaret Cuthbert, spouse of said David, of a piece of land in Dalhowssie occupied by the said David, James Whytlaw and Christian Kello
Dates 29 Nov 1659

Hmm. Interesting... there is a David among the sons of William Duglass and Janet Witherspoon, who could be named for this one.


Jenny, you have completely blown me away.  This is fantastic news.  I would never have linked this family so thank you a million times!!!!! Wow!  So the children of William and Janet were named mainly for Janet's family.  I have found marriage for David and Margaret Cuthbert in Fife 1654 on IGI and perhaps David's birth to David and Alison Mitchell, Dunfermline, Fife 1634?  Wow again!!

Note - janet Douglas 1700 witnesses John Witherspoon and James Wilson.

Thank you very much once again and let me know if there is anything else I can do to help.  Julie



A couple of extra things.  Have marriage of William Duglass 1683 in Dalkeith which reads - The same day, William Duglass and ........ married by warrant from the Bishop.  Probably gave to the poor.... August 19th 1683 witnesses William Wilson and Catharin Erskin.

What do you make of the wording of this?  A disgrunted minister I would think!  Also the witnesses were married.  This is the first female witness I've come across in this era.

Have been looking at the Witherspoons and wondered if you had found a profession for John, the elder, in the kirk sessions.




This is very interesting. I spent a bit of time attempting to discover why these Douglases, Witherspoons etc seem to have had baptisms etc. anywhere except Cockpen (fortunately for us as the Cockpen records aren't extant until 1690 for baptisms, much later for marriages, though there were marriages and baptisms there). A possible answer seems to be a minister, Alexander Wood, who was caught up in the politics of the time and whom I think they didn't like - or maybe the Earl of Dalhousie didn't like - and who eventually had a problem with adultery, according to the Fasti.

I'll see what I can uncover...

Best, Jenny

I didn't see a profession for John W. in the KS minutes, but there are mentions of various of the Dalhousie folk in the Edinburgh records, including an apprenticeship of his son Alexander to a skinner burgess in 1705. John is said there to be 'tenant in Dalhoussie', so farmer. 

The skinner burgess is one James Murray, and there is an earlier apprenticeship notice of a James Murray, son to deceased Robert Murray in Dalhousie manor (I think it should be 'mains'), to Wm. Broun, skinner burgess, in 1698, follow in the marriage register by a marriage of James Murray, son of late Robert M. farmer in Dalhousie Mains, in 1705. There are several more Murray mentions, both apprenticeships and marriages.

There is one other Witherspoon, James son of John W in Dalhousie, apprenticed to a merchant named James Liddell in 1690. So that gives another child of John, for whom we don't have a baptism record.

And - one Douglas one, David, son to dec. Wm D., tenant in Dalhousie, apprenticed to James Watson, candlemaker, in 1721. This would seem a bit old for the David son of William and Janet (b. 1704) except that the date of recording isn't necessarily the date of starting the apprenticeship. So more food for thought anyway.


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?

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