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Sorting the family of Rev William Robertson and Eleanor Pitcairn of Dreghorn

  1. Rev William Robertson the son of William Robertson and Eleanor Pitcairn.


Margaret Robertson, Burgh/Brugh Aunt of Rev William

Ann Turcan, another Aunt.

  1. Gilbert Robertson
  1. John Robertson
  • [[Robertson-11598|Robert Robertson ygr of Strowan]

Research Notes

The line is listed going UP to the Reverend. There is also another William Robertson inserted as living in James City Virginia and the subject of controversy.
There is reference to the book listed below....unable to find it..
Sutherland, Robert, comp. The Robertsons of Muirton and their Descendants, p. 35-49
"The Robertsons of Kinlochmoidart, Inverness-shire, are descended from John Robertson of Muirton, Elginshire, second son of Alexander Robertson of Strowan, by his wife, Lady Elizabeth, daughter of the Earl of Athole."

Research Reference

Text from Clan Donnachaidh DNA pdf. You can’t believe all you read This item discusses some family trees published on the Internet. The trees relate to Robertsons but the principles apply to all genealogical research. Two participants have recently mentioned Robertson family trees recorded on RootsWeb. These family trees have generated over 90 different references to claimed descents from a Scottish couple, William Robertson and Eleanor Pitcairn. In some of these trees they are said to have married around 1720 in Edinburgh, in others in 1652 in Ayrshire. Different lists of children are attributed to them, with descents claimed from several of these children. There is some interest in looking at this family tree because a number of people have associated themselves with it. The extract below sets out a version that seems to have been followed by a number of RootsWeb contributors, most of whom do not have the surname Robertson. The information has evidently been copied from a publication or website, not obtained from original research.

Name: William Robertson

Sex: M Birth: 1620 in Kindeace, Ross, Scotland Father: William Robertson Mother: Anna Marie Mitchell Marriage: Eleanor Pitcairn Married: 1652 in Ayrshire, Scotland Children: Jeffrey Robertson b 1654 in Edinburgh, Scotland William Robertson b 1657 in Edinburgh, Scotland Thomas Robertson b 1658, George Robertson b abt 1662 in Scotland Nicholas Robertson b 1664 in Scotland Nathaniel Robertson b 1666 in Scotland John Robertson b 1670 A number of descents from some of these children are listed.

Several questions spring to mind when reading through this basic information. A man born in Ross-shire in the north of Scotland, married in Ayrshire in the south-west, who brought up a family in Edinburgh in the south-east. Anna Marie is an unlikely name for early 17th century Scotland, where double names were rare.

The children’s ages, however, seem to fit in with the parents’ stated marriage date.

Further investigation on the website reveals some information about some of the children. Some of the entries quote sources.

William was the clerk of the Virginia Council, the clerk of William and Mary College, and clerk of the General Assembly of Virginia, appointed Oct. 27 1705. His portrait hangs in the lobby of William and Mary College. VIRGINIA MAGAZINE OF HISTORY AND BIOGRAPHY, V. 32, Jan. 1924, Issue 1, p. 54. Rev. George Robertson, a Scotchman, who was previously a chaplain in the navy, was licensed by Bishop Compton of London, as a missionary to Virginia. He became minister of Bristol Parish in 1693 and held the charge until his death in 1739. a report made by him to the Bishop of London in 1724 is in Slaughter’s Bristol 7 December 2007 6/10 Parish. ... Rev. Geo. Robertson married 1st ______ and 2nd prior to 1711 Mary, daughter of Peter Eppes. Issue (1st marriage) George of Chesterfield County, married Martha Field, daughter of John and Sarah (Randolph) Archer. (2nd) John married Ann Royal, James m ______, Elizabeth. These entries seem reasonably well documented in that sources are quoted. What about the parents?

Working backwards through some of the Internet family trees, it is possible to discover that the father of these seven sons, William Robertson, is supposed to be descended from the family of Robertson of Struan through the Robertsons of Muirton and Gladney. The source is Burke’s Landed Gentry.

A copy of Burke’s Landed Gentry can be found on the Internet. Burke sometimes does not mention dates, but it is not too difficult to work backwards. Some names in this work are familiar. WILLIAM ROBERTSON, of Gladney, in Fife, m a daughter of Dr Mitchell, and was father of THE REV. WILLIAM ROBERTSON, one of the ministers of Edinburgh, who m. Miss Pitcairn, of Dreghorn, and had issue. Their eldest son, DR WILLIAM ROBERTSON, b. in 1721, principal of the University of Edinburgh, royal historiographer, and author of the History of Scotland, &c., m. his cousin, Miss Nesbett, and d. 1793, leaving issue. So Burke’s Landed Gentry states that William Robertson and Eleanor Pitcairn had a son named William, born two generations after the children mentioned on the website – who became the famous historian, based in Edinburgh and not in Virginia. It would appear that his parents married around 1720. Investigation in the IGI reveals two marriage entries for Eleanor and William. One submitted by a member of the Church of Latter Day Saints records their marriage in the register of Borthwick in Midlothian on 20 October 1720. William was Minister of Borthwick; William and Eleanor’s son, the famous historian, was born in Borthwick. But the marriage is also recorded in the registers of St Cuthbert’s church in Edinburgh. (Both these entries are probably valid as Church of Scotland marriage entries refer to the proclamation not the marriage unless otherwise stated.) Another extract from the registers states that Eleanor daughter of David Pitcairn and Mary Anderson was born on 20 August 1701 in Colinton, a suburb of Edinburgh. What about the Ayrshire marriage mentioned on the Internet? Burke describes William’s wife as Miss Pitcairn of Dreghorn. Dreghorn is in Ayrshire, which presumably inspired the original compiler of this tree to locate the marriage in Ayrshire. It appears from further investigation on the Internet, which produced a reproduction of a documented printed history of the Pitcairn family, that Dreghorn is a territorial designation, like Robertson of Gladney. Eleanor’s name was Miss Pitcairn of Dreghorn. One further factor in distancing at least one of the Virginian Robertsons from the Robertsons of Gladney contemporary with them is the profession of the Rev. George Robertson as an Episcopalian minister. The Rev. William Robertson of Borthwick was a minister of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland and his son William Robertson the historian was also a minister of the Church of Scotland. People can diverge from their family’s views but making careers in two different religious denominations not particularly friendly to each other seems fairly unlikely. For the record, the daughter of Dr Mitchell was called Margaret (marriage record 1667, National Archives of Scotland). Thus there are very serious inaccuracies in the RootsWeb family tree. It is not known how there came to be two generations’ divergence between the genealogy in Burke’s Landed Gentry and the RootsWeb tree. As the parents are wrongly identified it may be suspected that the children listed are not brothers. Someone appears to have strung together the names of Robertsons in Virginia in the late 17th century and tried to assemble them into one family tree. Some Clan Donnachaidh DNA participants are descended from some of the men listed on RootsWeb as children of William and Eleanor. Recent documentary research indicates that some members of Robertson Group C are descended from the John Robertson, said to have been born around 1670, who is listed as the youngest son of William and Eleanor in the RootsWeb genealogies. It is not clear whether he was the brother of any of the other men listed. However, there are participants who apparently trace their ancestry back to one of the other supposed sons of William and Eleanor and these participants have a different DNA profile from the very distinctive profile of Robertson Group C. 7 December 2007 7/10

Anyone descended from any of the men listed as sons of William Robertson and Eleanor Pitcairn should take care to check published family trees against documentary research. However, this is the sort of situation where DNA research can be of great help. It is a very powerful tool in sorting out this kind of genealogical muddle, where full records may not exist or are hard to find. If it were possible to establish a genetic profile for all the men listed as the supposed sons of William and Eleanor, this would be of great value in verifying paper family trees.


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