Drilling Down: Was Ninian Beall a military prisoner?

+4 votes

In many biographies of Maryland immigrant Ninian Beall, you will read that, on the losing Scot side, he was taken prisoner by the English at the Battle of Dunbar, and sent to Maryland, perhaps via Ireland or Barbados, as a prisoner of War.  No documentation has been found to confirm this very prevalent story.

Several sites on the internet illustrate how important review of an original source can be, for they contain this quotation:

"Then came Ninian Beall of Calvert County, planter, and proved his right to 50 acres of land for his time in service, as military prisoner, performed with Richard Hall of said county. This servitude which came to him through the fortunes of war was an Honor." (From Liber 2, Folio 195, Maryland Land Office, Jan. 16, 1957)

Obviously, if the quotation came directly from the land record that is quoted, it would be some strong evidence that the story about the Battle of Dunbar is plausible.  But what does the Land Office record actually say?  The way this quote is worded, it sounds very much like someone writing about, rather than quoting, the land record-- and interjecting into it things that they imagined to be true.  

Does anyone have access to the actual land office records?  I believe this calls for an inquiry with the Archives of Maryland, but if they already exist on microfilm, say at a Family History Center library, that someone has access to?  

I don't believe in the necessity of looking up an original record for every single fact, but once a question has been raised and a controversy generated, then it becomes critical to establish what the facts actually were -- or weren't!  

WikiTree profile: Ninian Beall
in Genealogy Help by Jack Day G2G6 Pilot (389k points)

This web site has a different transcription:  https://gloverparkhistory.com/population/settlement/land-tracts-2/

Thanks, Kathie.  This narrative repeats the undocumented story of Ninian's Scottish military beginnings, but does give a more likely transcription of the grant award.  It also calls into question the narrative of it being Ninian's remains which were exhumed with red hair intact!

3 Answers

+2 votes
by John Byrd G2G2 (2.3k points)
OK, John, tell me what I'm looking at!
John, you stated offline that it's a list of officer prisoners from Dunbar.  Impressive that I could be looking at such a thing at all in my own home at my own desk.  But now we have the problem of centuries old handwriting.  I magnified the text and tried to find a Ninian Bell or his alias, Ringing Bell, and find neither, but perhaps there's a William that could be Ninian?  Can you spot it?  Tell me which column and which line #!  And what is the source of this?  The problem with these earnestly copied pages on genealogy site is the person who copied it severed it from its context, so by itself we don't know what it's part of, who prepared it, what date it is, and where the original may be found!  But if this is what you say it is, it is the first piece of evidence I've seen that might actually confirm his presence at Dunbar.
Duplicate note deleted


I can't get a proper resolution on the jpeg to actually read anything. There are a few online sites devoted to Scottish prisoners at Dunbar and Worcester that cobble together lists, so I'll do some further research and see what I can find. There's a paper from Durham University that says "no contemporary list of these prisoners exists, but some names are known from lists from the following years and for the others," so what I sent you - if genuine - must be the latter."

- John

+1 vote


From what I see on the FamilySearch wiki, you'll need to work through sources other than FamilySearch for the early records:


But there is an index to the records available online which might help determine which records are needed:


Hope this is helpful.

by Bobbie Hall G2G6 Pilot (258k points)

Actually, I believe the records are at familysearch; however, they can only be accessed at a Family History Center or Family History Library (which, at least around here in the DC area, still remain closed).

The Maryland Land Office records (called Patents series) are at  https://www.familysearch.org/search/catalog/296677?availability=Family%20History%20Library

The original post had a reference of Liber 2, fol. 195, Jan 16, 1957; based upon the article at gloverparkhistory.com linked above, this is a misreading for Liber 11, fol. 195, Jan 16, 1667. That would be on FHL film 13068.

Gloverparkhistory.com also has a reference to Liber 5, fol. 416, which would be on FHL film 13065.

Good catch, C-H. I'm not the least bit familiar with Maryland land records, I'll admit. 

Perhaps a member who is an area not under closures might be able to locate this record, as it appears that it might be available at "a FamilySearch affiliate library," which are sometimes local public libraries.

I've had a quick search of the online index and there's no Ninian Beall; there is a Ninian Bell for whom the index says:

Bell, Ninian

GG:187,209 Film No:
Of Calvert County, service to Richard Hall by 1667
Transcript: 11:195-96,230
MSA SC 4341-

Some of the Maryland Land Records appear to be online at https://mdlandrec.net/main/ but it keeps timing out for me.  Perhaps someone on the other side of the Atlantic will have more luck.
Good find, Sheena. That "Transcript: 11:195-96, 230" indicates this is the exact same entry from Liber 11, fol. 195 transcribed at gloverparkhistory.com, as cited above.

I have an account at mdlandrec.net; but for Calvert County it only provides land records from 1969 on.

Thanks for the check on the mdlandrec.net C-H.  I do wonder who's got the surname correct though - the indexer from Maryland State Archives, or the transcriber from gloverparkhistory.com ?  MSA have not used standardised surnames as there is a John Beall in the same index which is at http://earlysettlers.msa.maryland.gov/ if anyone else wants to have a look.

Just an off-hand comment about the surname. I live in the southern US, and there is a department store here, "Bealls," which is pronounced Bells.
Regarding surnames, the "Beall" spelling seems mostly unknown in Scotland, and a number of Scottish immigrants named Bell began to spell it "Beall" after arrival in Maryland, but continued to pronounce it "bell".  Consistent spelling of names was not a strong suit of the early colonists.  

I've noticed a pattern that there were also immigrants named "Beale" who were English, not Scottish, and pronounced their name "beel".  

My great-grandmother was a Maryland "Beall" in "up-county" Montgomery County, Maryland, and it was pronounced "beel" but DNA has established she was not related to Ninian Beall or the "down-county" family who have consistently pronounced their name "bell".  

The founder of the "Bealls" department stores was a member of one of the Scottish Beall families.
0 votes
If you can get to Liber 2 at Maryland State Archives, there is the option to view the original as .pdf.
by Sherrie Mitchell G2G6 Mach 4 (42.1k points)

Here's a link to Proceedings of the Provincial Court, 1658-1662


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