New gateway ancestors: The Duncanson sisters of New Netherland?

+16 votes

It appears that there is a proven lineage of the Duncanson sisters of New Netherland (through their mother Helen Livingston) with a legitimate descent from King Robert III of Scotland.  See this post from 2013 at SGM, mentioning articles published in The Genealogist by Adrian Benjamin Burke.  WikiTree currently shows this lineage (without much information for the parents and grandparents of the Duncanson sisters) going back to an illegitimate daughter of King James IV of Scotland and further back to Magna Carta barons Richard and Gilbert de Clare.  

How should the Magna Carta Project handle this?  This lineage doesn't appear in Richardson's books, but The Genealogist is a top-notch publication.  (I haven't seen the series of four articles, and I'm not descended from this family.)  Currently the Duncanson sisters are not labeled as either "questionable" or as "prospective" gateway ancestors.  If the article is well-documented, then it would seem that they should be added to the list of recognized gateway ancestors.


WikiTree profile: Margaret Duncanson
in Genealogy Help by Living Schmeeckle G2G6 Pilot (106k points)

I am supposedly descended from at least one of the Duncanson sisters. I've not delved into the details of their Scottish ancestry.

The analysis of the New Netherland part of their family history is by Gordon L. Remington,"The Duncanson Wives of Four New Netherland Settlers: Glen, Teller, Powell, and Loockermans," in: New York Genealogical and Biographical Record 128:1 (1997), p. 1-10; 128:4 (1997), p. 228.

I think someone needs to review the articles to assess the sources before any decision could be made (John's comment: "I haven't seen the series of four articles . . .").

WikiTree has Henry Livingston

but with different parents.  (William and Agnes are said to have had a son Henry who died young)


I got to Seattle last week and copied the three 2013 Burke articles in The Genealogist on the immigrant Duncanson sisters.  This seems to be very solid, giving a descent from King Robert III of Scotland.  And that gives them an ancestry back to Magna Carta barons Gilbert and Richard de Clare, and perhaps others.  The articles were noticed in NYGBR in 2013.

The WikiTree lineage for these sisters has some bloopers.  Margaret's grandfather Henry Livingston was the youngest child of Henry Livingston of Falkirk by second wife Margaret Forrester (who has the descent from King Robert III), but WikiTree mistakenly shows Henry's parents as William Livingston and Agnes Fleming.

Margaret Forrester doesn't have a wikitree profile, and neither does her father, Sir James Forrester of Torwood and Garden (bapt. 1489, with King James IV as sponsor).  Sir James's mother Agnes (Graham) Forrester does have a WikiTree ancestry; see

According to Burke's second article, Agnes (Graham) Forrester's mother was Helen Douglas, daughter of William Douglas, 2nd Earl of Angus by his wife Margaret Hay.  However, WikiTree shows Agnes's mother to be a GRANDdaughter of William Douglas and Margaret Hay.

Once again, these Duncanson sisters have a LOT of New Netherland descendants, and this would seem to be an opportunity to stir up interest in the Magna Carta Project in a whole new area of our common wikitree.

Thanks for acquiring that source and providing a review of it, John.

As you note, these sisters have numerous descendants in New Netherland, but I expect that relatively few of those descendants are aware of their Duncanson ancestors. Not only were there no male Duncansons in New Netherland to perpetuate that family name, but the Duncanson name itself was thoroughly mangled in the records where the sisters' name appears (Donkerson, Donchesen, Donckesen, Doncassen, Dongan, Donckesz...). Their mother's descendant list at gives an initial indication of the array of families that have a Duncanson ancestor.
Thank you John for your work, adding to our Magna Carta Ancestry!
Hello - I found this thread after learning of Burke's work. I have spent the past few months tracing my lineage and discovered that I am a descendant of Margaret Duncanson. I discovered this by tracing back from my great-grandmother, Sarah Teller. My nine-times-great-grandfather, William Teller, was the husband of Margaret Duncanson. There is mention in this thread of lineage back to Magna Carta barons - I would love to learn more about this! This is all so exciting to me and a little hard to grasp. I'll be continuing research in a few weeks at the New England Historic Genealogical Society. If you can provide any information - or if I can be of any help - please reach out.
I am a descendant of Catherine Duncanson.  She is now recognized as a Gateway Ancestor for many lineage societies.

2 Answers

+7 votes

From the link above:

1.      Robert III, King of Scots = Annabella Drummond
2.      Mary Stewart = George Douglas, 1st Earl of Angus
3.      Sir William Douglas, 2nd Earl of Angus = Margaret Hay
4.      Helen Douglas = William, 2nd Lord Graham
5.      Agnes Graham = Sir Walter Forrester of Torwood and Garden
6.      Sir James Forrester of Torwood and Garden = Elizabeth Erskine
7.      Margaret Forrester = Henry Livingston of Falkirk
8.      Henry Livingston, M.A., minister of St. Ninian’s = Agnes Gray
9.      Helen Livingston = James Duncanson, M.A., minister of Alloa

John summarized above 6&7 are not in wikitree. I did want to highlight both parents in #5 are particularly low quality, I'll see if the usual suspects have some info about them.

by Kirk Hess G2G6 Mach 7 (73.3k points) 

1587-1624       Henry Livingstone AM
Master of Stirling Grammar School 1613-1628. Deposed in 1649 but reponed in 1635.* Died 1664.

* obv. a typo...1629 and 1635?

Woods has no mention of a Elizabeth Erskine being the da. of Robert, 4th Lord Erskine nor any Elizabeth Erskine m. Sir James Forrester of Torwood and Garden. 

Agnes Graham m. a Walter Forrester of Cardin, not Torwood and Garden.

A Sir James Forrester of Torwood and Garden is mentioned as the father of Margaret Forrester, who m. William, 10th Lord Ross as his 2nd wife - neither one of these have dates that would work in this chronology, this was about 100 years later, more like #10 in the table above.

The senior branch (aka Lords Forrester of Corstorphine) acquired the Torwood lands in 1635 from Lord Ross, which implies the end of this particular line.

Carden (or Garden) was also held by Walter Forrester of Torwood, and by his father  Duncan and his son Mathew.  The evidence for the Forrester/Livingston descent from King Robert III is in the second of Burke's articles, starting on p. 174.  Burke cites The Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, 2:576-79, no. 24, quoting a statement that Agnes Graham, wife of Walter Forrester, was the sister of William, the third Lord Graham.  This would make her the daughter of William Graham's mother Helen Douglas, wife of William, the second Lord Graham,  who was married by 1460 (and who outlived her husband), with Agnes married by 1488, so Burke estimates 1468 as Agnes's year of birth, thus inferring that Agnes was Helen's daughter.

Helen appears as daughter of Sir William Douglas in a correction to Scots Peerage, 9:7, 11-12.
I've corrected the lineage of the Duncanson sisters back to King Robert III.  I added quotes to some of the profiles and did some cleanup to others.  More work is needed, but a good skeleton now exists.I created three or four profiles -- if a descendant comes along and wants to be profile manager, I'd be pleased to pass them on.
+9 votes
The Magna Carta Project has just accepted this line (as an unbadged trail needing development) from the Duncanson sisters (Maria, Margaret, & Catherine only) back to Gilbert de Clare. Jonet has no known issue, so is not included.

I will be developing these profiles to conform to the guidelines of the several managing projects. Please advise (via comment on the profile itself, not here in G2G) of any necessary or suggested changes.
by Gregory Cooke G2G3 (3.1k points)

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