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Clan Abercromby History

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Scotland Project > Scottish Clans Teams > Clan Abercromby > Clan Abercromby History

History of Clan Abercromby

Descendancy of the Baronets of Birkenbog from Abercromby in Fife </center>

If you're wondering about their history, it's as old as the far distant days of King Malcolm III "Canmore" whose court was held at Dunfermline, the then capital of Scotland. During his reign from 1058 to 1093, it is tradition that the first John of Abercromby served as one of the great officers of the monarch's household. Creditability may be found in the circumstance that the descendants of the first owner of Abercromby in Fife continued for several generations to use the name of Cocus or Coquus, which was taken from the position or office held by their ancestor at the court of King Malcolm.

Very little is known in the next century of the family or their doings, except for their name in charters. The last to make use of the prefix to the name seems to have been John Cocus, or Coquus, de Abercromby. By 1270, Richard de Abercromby, who appears to be his son and successor, is dead. William de Abercromby, his son, is retoured as heir in the lands of "Abbeyrcrummy" to his father Richard. In 1296, William and his son, John de Abercromby of Fife, signed the famous Ragman Roll promising fealty to Edward I of England. It may be, however, that their signatures were given under coercion. Although William's name does not appear again, John of Abercromby's name is found on a Roll of the Knights and Barons of Fife summoned to take part in a Court of Justice held by King Robert I in 1312 at Cupar.

Humphry, another son of William of Abercromby, and a brother of John, appears to have been a more ardent supporter of the royal Bruce. In 1313 or 1315, he received his charter of northern lands. After 1340, Humphry was succeeded in the north by his heir Alexander de Abercromby of Petmathen.

At Forglen, a charter shows that Alexander de Abercromby of Petmathen succeeded Humphry around 1340. He acquired "Park of Galcorse" about 1350, probably as a wedding present for David & his bride, Margaret of Leslie, daughter of Sir Andrew de Leslie.

Their son John of Petmathen was in the Battle of Harlaw, 15 miles N. of Aberdeen, on 24 July 1411. He was married to an unknown and died in 1430, the same year that his son Humphrey, of Petmathen, was born. On 4 June 1457, Humphrey de Abercromby received from King James II a charter of his lands of "Petmathen." He died ca. 1472.

Humphrey's son Alexander de Abercromby, Lord of Pitmedden and Ley, married ca. c1450 Agnes Johnstoun, daughter of Gilbert de Johnoun, the younger, and his wife Elizabeth Vaus, of "Caskieben" in Aberdeenshire. Alexander died after 1488.

Alexander and Agnes's son, Alexander de Abercromby, of Pitmedden and Ley, married Janet Ogilvy, daughter of Sir James Ogilvy of Deskford and Findlater, on 26 Sept. 1472 in the Cathedral Church of Aberdeen. They had at least four children before he died earlier than before 1505.

Their son, George Abercromby, of Pitmedden, Ley, & Birkenbog, received from King James IV a Royal Charter of the lands of Pitmedden, Pitmachie, Carden, Newton, & others included. Following his marriage to Christian Barclay in 1524, he was usually styled "Tenementer of Ley." They lived at Birkenbog in Banffshire. When he died in 1552, his body was interred in the Abercromby chapel of the Church of Fordyce, 3 miles from Birkenbog.

James Abercromby, of Pitmedden, son of George and Christian, on 13 July 1527, had charter of Pitmedden. At Tolquhon, on 13 July 1527, he married Marjory Hay, daughter of William Hay, 4th Earl of Errol, and Lord High Constable of Scotland. On the day of his wedding, his father granted to him by charter the lands of Pitmedden with the greater part of the Barony, reserving certain rights and liferents therein to himself and his own spouse, Christian Barclay. James was murdered at Towie in 1546 by "the Balquhain Leslies and their immediate following, as it did not extend to any other branch of the Leslie name."

James and Marjory's heir-apparent, William, had charter of Westhall, 14 May 1544; however, he died unmarried. Their second son, Alexander, Laird of Pitmedden, who married Elizabeth Leslie, of Pitcaple, daughter of Alexander Leslie, of Pitcaple, and his wife Margaret Gordon, in 1547. He had charter of Pitmedden on 19 April 1550. "Alexander and Elizabeth had a large family of sons and daughters, and their lives seem to have passed peacefully and happily for a good many years." That is until Elizabeth died ca. 1572. Alexander was married secondly to Margaret Leslie, of Balquhain. Alexander was murdered at the Moor (Moss) of Cokstoun, Morayshire on 12 March 1594.

His first son with Elizabeth, Alexander Abercromby, of Ley & Birkenbog, who was heir, of Towie, and later of Pitmedden, married a Gordon, daughter of Adam Gordon, Lord of Aboyne, Earl of Sutherland. Evidently, she died early, without children, since he was married secondly, 21 Sept. 1583, to Marjorie Ogilvy, daughter of Alexander Ogilvy, Laird of Findlater and his wife Barbara.

Alexander was succeeded by his son, Alexander Abercromby, of Pitmedden & Birkenbog, who was born ca. 1584. He succeeded his grandfather in 1594 as 12th of the Northern House of Abercromby and 11th of Ley and Birkenbog.

At age ten, he was still under the tutelage of his uncle, Mr. George Abercromby of Overcarden, who "continued to act in that capacity for some years". . . he "lived to see his nephew and ward arrive at the age of manhood, thought he seems to have withdrawn latterly from the management of his affairs in favour of Sir Walter Ogilvy of Findlater. . ."

As a youth, Alexander received a knighthood from King James VI of Scotland for whom he was Grand Falconer. Also, he became Grand Falconer to Charles I. In 1602, he was joined in marriage to Elizabeth, daughter of David Bethune (Beton, Betoun, or Beaton) of Balfour. He was a Puritan and acted as Sheriff of Banffshire from 1638 to 1641. When he died ca. 1641, he was succeeded by:

Alexander, who was born ca. 1608 in Banffshire, and became the 1st Baronet of Birkenbog on 20 Feb. 1636 with remainder of his heirs male. See:

"Baronets of Nova Scotia" by Marie Fraser http://www.electricscotland.com/canada/fraser/baronets_novascotia.htm

He opposed the attempts of Charles I to impose the Episcopal religion on Scotland. He was a "Zealous partisan against Charles I" and known as "a main Covenanter." In 1642, he was High Sheriff of Banffshire. "Abercromby led a body of troops to the Battle of Auldearn in 1645, taking the Parliament side against the Royalist forces under the Marquis of Montrose. After the victory of the king's men, Montrose moved east and his troops burned Cullen. Montrose himself occupied Birkenbog, his troops searching and damaging the mansion." "Sir Alexander Abercromby, of Birkenbog, M.P. for Banffshire, 7th in descent from George Abercrombie, whose lands were erected into Barony of Pitmedden 1513." Although Sir Alexander married three times, his surviving heir came from his third marriage to Elizabeth, daughter of Sir James Baird, 5th of Auchmedden and his wife Christian Ogilvy of Boyne.

Since there has been confusion about their grandson, James Abercromby, Attorney General for Colony of South Carolina, 1731-34, it needs to be understood that he was the son of their second son, Alexander Abercromby, of Tullibody, and his wife Mary Duff. The Attorney General became M. P. for Co. Clackmannan from 1761 to 1768 and "died unmarried in 1792."

At his death in 1684, the 1st Baronet of Birkenbog was succeeded by:

Sir James Abercromby, 2nd Baronet of Birkenbog, who was born 1668 in Banffshire. In the city of Aberdeen, on 31 July 1690, James married Mary (Marie) "Catherine" Gordon, daughter of "an eminent barrister" of Edinburgh, Arthur Gordon, Esq. (died 1680) and his wife Catharine (Isabell) Menzies of Kinmundy.

"Previously to his marriage, James had been brought up under the charge of his clever and lively mother and of his young stepfather only three years his senior in age." ("The Family of Abercromby," P. 83)

He and his wife, Mary Gordon, had 20 children, 10 of each. Member of Parliment for Banffshire, elected in 1693 to replace Lord Boyne. "The 2nd baronet sat as M.P. for Co. Banff in Scottish Parliamnet 1694. . ." (Debrett's Illustrated Baronetage"). He was an active supporter of the first Rebellion of 1715-16 since he was a strong supporter of the Stewart cause. He was "14th of the Northern House & succeeded his father in 1684, in a much diminished but unencumbered estate."

"In 1696, Sir James signed the `Act of Association' expressing loyalty to King William, but by 1700 his sentiments had undergone a decided change. The troubles created by the failure of the Darien colony scheme, in which Scotland had embarked almost the whole of her available fortunes, were now in their most acute stage. The active hostility of the English Government together with the jealousy and ill feeling of the East Indian Company and other Colonies led to the enforced abandonment of this promising scheme, thus entailing financial loss and ruin on all classes in Scotland. Feelings of intense indignation and resentment followed in the Northern Kingdom, where the regime of Stair and Breadalbane, the atrocious massacre of Glencoe, and the callous indifference of King William and his Ministers to Scottish hopes and interests had alienated many who had been most zealous in the cause of the new Sovereign." ("The Family of Abercromby," P. 84)

During the 1730s, he rebuilt Birkenbog House, surrounding the strong tower of probably the 13th or 14th century. "In a deed of 1636 it is 'The Tower, Fortalice and Manour Place of Borkenbog.' " ("The Family of Abercromby," P. 2)

He died 20 Sept. 1734 in debt "after which his son and heir, Sir Robert Abercromby (1705-1787), 3rd baronet, labors for several years to free the estate from accumulated burdens." (Brenda Abercrombie Ledet).

Also, from Brenda (Abercrombie) Ledet, who has done exceptional research on her Abercrombie ancestors of South Carolina:

"Those in North and South Carolina were, according to family tradition, descendants of three immigrant brothers, William Abercromby (1710-?), John Abercromby (1711-?) and James Abercromby (1713-?), who were the youngest of at least ten sons of Sir James Abercromby (1668-1734), 2nd baronet of Birkenbog, and Mary Gordon (1671-1742). These three immigrant brothers were first cousins to James Abercromby (1708-1775), who served as attorney general of South Carolina from 1730 to 1744 and who acquired a lot on Church Street in Georgetown and 6,980 acres of land, most of it on the Big Peedee River, in South Carolina between 1735 and 1739. In 1739 the attorney general's sister, Helen Abercromby (1713-1791), married her first cousin, Sir Robert Abercromby (1705-1787), 3rd baronet of Birkenbog, older brother to the three traditional immigrants, William, John and James."

Main source: "The Family of Abercromby," compiled by Cavendish D. Abercromby, a brother of Sir Robert Abercromby, 7th Baronet of Birkenbog, William Smith & Sons, The Bon-Accord Press, Aberdeen, Scotland, 1927.

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The above "Descendancy of the Baronets of Birkenbog from Abercromby in Fife," was written by Judith Drew Brittingham, (Drew-2083)

Categories: Clan Abercromby