Our Scott History: Where My Dad (And Others) Got It Wrong

John a. scott's handwriting of scott family history

I have so many things to write about, possibilities still to investigate, and facts in my head; sometimes I don’t know where to begin. I also realize some others don’t have the same passion or burning desire that I seem to have, to try to get right, what my father had often expressed to me that he had hoped to do.

If you’re one of those that doesn’t understand my passion; my apologies I suppose – but then I don’t understand some peoples’ passion for watching hours of television every night, or going to the movies and watching mythical stories about other people’s lives instead of investigating real lives so close to your own, or crying at the movies while your own life goes by and nothing new is learned, accomplished, or experienced. You could go to the movies, or you could discover what real life was like for ancestors of ours, such as Captain Alexander Greig. I’ll bet there could be several best-selling historical fiction novels based upon his life! And I only know a part of it so far.

If you want to shed tears like you do at the movies, you could learn about your own real family history, and as you see the death registries, count the number of children on those pages, and imagine the suffering and depressions, while still getting on with life – and don’t pretend (for those that do) that you’re morally superior because you don’t use whale oil. But I’m digressing (as is a weakness of mine) away from the main subject and title of this article.

My Dad’s Notes

My father John A. (Jack) Scott passed on to me this desire to research our family history. He had often told me things that he was sure of, including ideas that our Scott Family was mostly from the Burntisland area of Fife (he was partially correct), that one had gone to Dundee to teach the art of “coopering” (barrel making) and that our family had been in Fife for generations (likely correct). Of course, he would exaggerate with pride, “You know, Scotland is named for our family – our family name was originally spelled ‘Scot’ – and so the place was named for us.” He’d twinkle his eyes a bit as he said it; perhaps half-wanting to believe it himself.

He had told me he had “cousins” in Scotland he had never met, and that someday, he’d love to go back to Northern Ireland, take us with him, and also visit these cousins in the land his grandfather had come from. I think he actually had met some of his cousins (second cousins or cousins once removed depending on your definition) when he was young. I know that he later would be in touch with at least one – and I believe some of his notes that I have posted a photo of above, may have come from those discussions.

I was not aware of my father’s notes until recently. I am fairly certain he made them in his later years. When my brother discovered them, I asked him to take a photo of them for me – perhaps they would have more details than what I had researched and discovered about 15 or 16 years ago, beginning about 4 or 5 years after he passed away. Some years after I began my research, I was able to locate a Scott relative in Scotland – who seemed to have an interest in family history. She made no comment on what I had come up with. Now, I suspect she thought I was mistaken in my family history research.

What In The World? Where Did I Go Wrong?

When I saw my dad’s notes, that I believe were passed on to him from a relative in Scotland, I was a bit astonished actually, and though I must have made a huge error in my research. I was very careful though – and had spent many hours trying to figure things out. Where I was unsure, I put question marks after (those question marks still exist; nailing down some things the further you go back is not easy).

Upon seeing my dad’s notes, I spent more hours confirming my own research and trying to figure out who was in error.

A Wrong Assumption – And Possibly Held And Still Held

It has been said that a father and son, a James and John Scott went to Dundee from the coastal area of Fife to teach barrel-making in Dundee. I have no information to confirm that it was to teach this craft. It is also possible they went to Dundee with their family for work in the barrel making trade. Dundee was certainly a bustling port in the early to mid 1800’s.

If you have been using this assumption (father and son went to Dundee) and working on Scott Family history, then you’ve probably got quite a few things wrong.

Wrong Relationship, Correct Surname

It was actually, father and son-in-law both having the same surnames and first names that went to Dundee. Indeed, a James Scott, and his father-in-law James Scott, went to Dundee for either employment or one or the other to teach coopering.

James Scott, who appears to be assumed to be the son of John Scott, was not a son. James Scott, I believe, did NOT marry anyone named Maryanne Laurence or Laurenceson.

In fact, I believe I can show that James Scott married his possibly uncle James’s daughter, Elizabeth Scott.

I have no clue where the idea of a marriage with a person named Maryanne Laurence comes from; it is very possible there is some relationship, and in fact, we know that John Scott’s son, John Scott (our great-great-grandfather) named a child Joseph Lawrenson Scott. But I have been unable to find any record of a Scott to a Laurence or Laurenson or Lawrenson that makes sense so far.

The Proofs

I hate guessing at things, and claiming they must be correct. With that in mind, I’m still open to other suggestions as to where I am incorrect. I have seen so many so-called “historians” or “family researchers” do really weird things on sites like Ancestry – someone has taken all the research I have done, for one example, on my great-grandmother Sarah McDowell, and then found a way to show her moving to Manitoba, Canada and living the rest of her life there. Yes, this Sarah McDowell seems to have had a spouse also named John Scott, but the dates are all wrong, the relationships are all wrong, and their work is just a big sloppy mess. I’d prefer to have a tight and small number of people in my research, but that I am very certain of, rather than brag about the thousands I’ve “found.”

The fact is, my great-grandmother Sarah McDowell passed away in Belfast in the 8th of December, 1914.

So let’s move on to some proofs regarding the Scotts and a marriage between cousins.

Who Was The Mother Of John Scott, b. 1843?

This is key. We’re referring to John Scott who would be my great-great-grandfather, and the man who married Jane Wilson Grieg. He’s pretty much the start of what we do know from oral and family written history on the Scott side.

From the Family Bible, we know the names of his children (including John Scott, my great-grandfather). It was this John Scott (the great-great-grandfather) that started a Family Bible that was eventually passed down to my father, then to me.

We know from John Scott’s marriage to Jane Greig that his mother’s maiden name was Scott and his father’s name was James:

jane greig john scott marriage registration

If you are finding this hard to view, there is a larger tiff file version available..

Things get a bit weird here – you’ll actually notice that that we now have 3 lines of Scotts – perhaps they diverge back in time – but clearly, John Scott’s mother’s maiden name was Scott, who was married to James Scott, a Cooper and deceased by 1869.

The date on this marriage registration matches what is in our Family Bible. You’ll also note that the maiden name of Jane Greig was also Scott!

Believe me, I spent many hours of research going through census and other records to figure this out – and confirm what you see in the marriage record.

Was There A Mistake?
You might ask if someone made a mistake on the John Scott-Jane Greig marriage record. I certainly did!

Please note the address of John Scott when he married Jane Grieg: Gellatly Street, Dundee. And we know his father James, a Cooper, had passed away before John’s marriage to Jane, in 1869. Can we find something that connects John Scott’s father to Gellatly Street and the other details?

Indeed, we can – his death certificate:

james scott death certificate

James Scott, a Cooper (Journeyman) of Stewarts Court, Gellatly Street, Dundee, with son named John Scott as witness (but not present), is recorded as passing away on 11 September 1865.. Who was his wife? Elizabeth Scott. “Of course it was,” you might reply – but bear in mind in Scottish death records, they provided the wife’s maiden name here.

So, we have a maiden name matching up, a given name matching up, and an address matching up. There’s more – but as an aside, this death record gives us even more hints to the direct paternal line of our great-great-grandfather John Scott – his father’s father was a John Scott, Seaman, married to Mary Marr.

Another Death Record – John Scott

There is actually enormous evidence that James Scott married Elizabeth Scott. We even have the death registration of our Great-Great-Grandfather John Scott, who passed away in 1925. Our Great-Grandfather John Scott, by 1925 was living in Belfast, at 83 Hanover Street. So we see this:

john scott death 1825

John Scott, Wood Turner, widower of Jane Greig. Father: James Scott, Cooper. Mother: Elizabeth Cunningham Scott (maiden name). Witness: John Scott, 83 Hanover Street.

Can We Find Other Evidence Of This Family In Dundee?

That a great question – and yes, we can, although at a different address. Scottish records are fantastic usually (but not always). But we can look at the 1851 Census and in Dundee, at 69 Seagate Street #29, guess what we find?

We find:

  • James Scott, Cooper, 42 yrs old, Head of the house, and from St. Monance.
  • Elizabeth Scott, Wife, 39 yrs old, from Burntisland
  • Their children, including John, 3 years old (which puts his birth abt 1848)

and we find:

  • James Scott, Widowed, his relationship to the head of the family is “Father-In-Law,” and he’s a Cooper, aged 60, born in St. Monance.

I won’t post them all at this time, but we can find other wedding and birth records in St. Monance, Burntisland, and I believe Cupar (I need to check) to support all of this.

But here is the census record for 1851:

james scott 1851 census record dundee

Observations & Comments

It’s very important to express that I have no criticism of my father’s or the others who provided this information to my father, work and research. It would be easy to assume that there would just be a line of Scotts marrying others who didn’t have the surname Scott. Today, we might think of cousins marrying as gross, but that has not always been the case (and there is actually very new research on this subject that it’s not as crazy as some think to marry close relatives). That should not be taken as an interpretation that I would support the idea; I’m just saying and reporting.

And, I had better tools available back in 2006 or so, than my dad and others had!

Somewhere in the oral tradition though, something went askew in regard to actual facts. But certainly, I think I have provided enough evidence to be very skeptical of any family history that indicated that our great-great-great grandfather Scott married a Maryanne Lawrenson (or derivative surname) from the Orkney Islands.

I need to find a way to make this easily understood in a text format as well.

Elizabeth Scott, who James Scott married – her parents appear to be another James Scott who married Elizabeth Cunningham.

The parents of James Scott that married Elizabeth Cunningham Scott appear to be John Scott & Mary Marr.

The other crazy thing as I alluded to above, and I wonder how my father would have responded if he had known, there are in fact, three lines of Scotts – all coming together in two generations.

James Scott married Elizabeth Scott, and had a son – our great-great-grandfather, John Scott.

John Scott marries Jane Greig, and she is the daughter of Alex Greig and Ann Scott (this was a hell of a lot of work to figure out – Alexander was married twice and his first wife – Ann McLaren – passed away before he married Ann Scott of Edinburgh. I literally spent dozens and dozens of hours on Alex Greig’s family, and it wasn’t until I discovered his “Last Will & Testament” by chance, that I started to have some Eureka moments).

Are You Confused?

I don’t blame you. I’m not sure I’ve been clear. I probably could be more clear, if I didn’t also present the evidences and my reasonings for that. But I really wanted to make sure the evidence was clear for my belief that my dad and probably the others who advised him, have some major things wrong – and if you’re researching, and going on the premise that the oral history is correct, you’re probably way off track.

What’s really important in all of this is that James Scott married Elizabeth Scott, and as a result, had a father-in-law named James Scott. The pair of them (and the family) went to Dundee.

What is the significance of the name “Lawrenceson” or it’s derivatives? I have no clue. If you want to help find out, I’m all for reading/listening to what you have. Maybe there was a second marriage somewhere up there (like Alexander Greig and that took a while to figure out). But I can’t find anything in the marriage, death, and census records that I’ve looked at.

Feel free to comment and tell me how confused you are 🙂

5 thoughts on “Our Scott History: Where My Dad (And Others) Got It Wrong”

    1. Jim, no – I’m not sure of the family relationship between Elizabeth Cunningham Scott and John Scott. It’s possible they were related as cousins, but it’s also possible it was a more distant relationship. The Scotts I have been writing about appear to have been from various villages in Fife including Dysart, St. Monance, Cupar, and St. Monance. It’s very possible they were all related somehow – and perhaps the branch of Scotts either Scotstarvit or Balwearie. Or even both!

      I do have some marriage and birth records to explore further, but I recall my head spinning a bit when I was going through the records.

      But on the notion they may have been cousins: this was not uncommon in history for cousins to be married. But again, I’m not sure and can’t say for certain if John and Elizabeth were cousins. I need to go back and check some of those records and the villages they were from/born in and married in.

    2. Ooops – I just re-read what I had written – that James married his Uncle James’ daughter. That’s an error and should have been “possible uncle James…” I’m still not sure at this moment as mentioned, the relationship. I’ve also fixed that wording up.

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