Jean Millar & James Burns
When people joined the emigration societies of 1820-21 and traveled to Canada, they often left family members behind in Scotland. Jean, daughter of William Miller and Elizabeth Gilmour married and established a family before her parents left in 1821. It appears that the Miller/Millar family used both spellings or the name.
Jean Millar, eldest daughter of William Miller and Elizabeth Gilmour, was born in Dumbarton parish, Dunbartonshire, Scotland on 3 August 1791 and was baptized on the 7th of August. Jean died in Anderston, Glasgow, Lanarkshire and was buried 2nd May 1846 in the cemetery of the Glasgow High Church in Glasgow, Scotland.
The daily lives of the women of the day are not well documented for us but we can often gain insight by looking at the lives of their husband and children.
Jean Millar & James Burns
On 21 October 1809, Jean Millar married James Burns in Dumbarton parish, Dunbartonshire, Scotland. James Burns, son of James Burns and Sarah Brown, was ten years older than Jean who was eighteen at the time of their marriage.
Until James joined the military, he lived in Glasgow and he was employed as a shoemaker. James joined the military in April 1808 at Stirling, Stirlingshire – he may have been a victim of a press gang – and served in the military until June 1830, suggesting that Jean bore primary responsibility for raising their family.
Robert, their eldest son, arrived very soon after their marriage on the 1st February 1810, in Dumbarton Parish. Robert Burns was soon joined by siblings. Elizabeth, their only daughter, was born 3 November 1811 and died shortly after birth. While Jean was pregnant with Elizabeth, James traveled to the continent as a member of the military. Elizabeth’s birth was followed by the birth of William in 1814, James in 1815 and John in 1818.
The Military Career of James Burns
James’ military career took him away from Scotland for many years. His military records detail the battles he participated in during the Napoleonic wars and gives us some insight into the realities of life for a military family of that time. His military records indicate that he spent four years in Portugal, Spain and France between 15 April 1808 and 18 September 1815, serving in the 91st Regiment of Foot and eleven years in the Canadas.
On 2 April 1808 he became a private, military number 13, in the 91st Regiment of Foot, his attestation taking place at Stirling, Stirlingshire. He seems to have been transported to Europe very shortly after.
In November 1808 the British army advanced into Spain with orders to assist the Spanish armies in their struggle against the invading forces of Napoleon. The British, led by Moore, decided to attack the French, led by Soult, and his scattered and isolated 16,000-man corps’ at Carrión. Moore opened his attack with a successful raid by Lieutenant-General Paget’s cavalry on the French picquets at Sahagún on 21 December.
Abandoning plans to immediately conquer Seville and Portugal, Napoleon rapidly amassed 80,000 troops and debouched from the Sierra de Guadarrama into the plains of Old Castile to encircle the British Army. Moore retreated for the safety of the British fleet at La Coruna and Soult failed to intercept him. The rearguard of La Romana’s retreating force was overrun at Mansilla on 30 December by Soult, who captured León the next day. Moore’s retreat was marked by a breakdown of discipline in many regiments and punctuated by stubborn rearguard actions at Benavente and Cacabelos.
Soult pursued the British across northern Spain. Both armies suffered harsh winter conditions and when they eventually reached the port of Corunna, on the northern coast of Galicia in Spain, a few days ahead of the French, they found their transport ships had not arrived. The fleet arrived after a couple of days and the British were in the midst of embarking when the French forces launched an attack. They forced the British to fight another battle before being able to depart for England. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peninsular_War
James is recorded as being present at the retreat to Corunna, Spain and the evacuation of troops in January 1809. The last of the ships would sail on the 13th of January 1809. James and Jean married on 21 October 1809. They may have been required to wait for approval of the military to marry and Jean pregnancy helped to gain that permission. Robert was born in February 1810 and Elizabeth in October 1811 suggesting that James was able to stay in Scotland for a period, perhaps recovering from injuries or illness resulting from the battles and retreat to the coast of Spain.
James returned to the continent and fought in the battle of Sorauren in the Pyrenees in late July 1813. This was part of a series of engagements called the Battle of the Pyrenees, in which a combined British and Portuguese force under Sir Arthur Wellesley held off Marshal Soult’s French forces attempting to relieve Pamplona.
James also fought in the battle of Nivelle in November and the battle of the Nive in December of 1813. In 1814 he participated in the battle of Toulouse. The armistice was declared 17 April 1814.
It appears that Margaret was pregnant when he departed from Scotland in 1813 as William was born 3 Jan 1814.
In 1815 James received the Waterloo Medal. At the time he was serving in the 32 Regiment of Foot. Later in the year he reenlisted as a private in the 70th Regiment of Foot, serving until June 1830, when he requested release from service while stationed in Templemore, County Tipperary, Ireland. It seems that Jean and the family remained in Scotland throughout his career.
James’ records indicate that he served for eleven years in the Canadas. It is not known what years James spent in Canada but the regiment embarked in August 1813 and were garrisoned in Montreal and later in Cornwall during the Anglo-American war of 1812-15. The regiment remained in Canada until 1827. It is unlikely that James would have returned home during this period.
James was discharged in Ireland June 1830. It may be that the troops were sent there upon their return from North America. James may have been in poor health at this time as he died in October 1833, shortly after leaving the military. He is buried at the Glasgow High Church.
Although all the children of James Burns and Jean Millar were born in Dunbartonshire parishes, Jean and the children moved to Glasgow during their lives.
Robert, born 1810 in Dumbarton married Janet Burns, born in 1815 in Kilmaronock, daughter of William Burns and Hellen McAullay. Robert and Janet had eight children. Robert is a machine maker, first in Dumbarton and later in Glasgow. In 1881 he is a mill merchant in Glasgow.
Elizabeth was born 15 October and died 3 November 1811.
William, born 3 January 1814, became a cotton spinner and married Margaret Duncan, daughter of James Duncan and Helen Stewart, in 1838. They lived in Duntocher, West Kilpatrick, Dunbartonshire for most of their lives. They had seven children and in 1866, when their son John dies at the age of eleven, William is listed as a picking master. William and Margaret’s family settles in either Dumbartonshire or Renfrewshire. One son, Alexander Duncan Burns emigrated to Canada.
James Burns became a cotton spinner and married Cicilia Wilson in 1837. Sometime between 1841-1843 the family moved from Old Kilpatrick, Dumbarton to Glasgow where he is listed as a ‘sewer’. It appears he died about 1849 and after his death Cicilia returned to Dumbarton where the family lived with her parents David Wilson and Margaret Smith. In 1851 Cicilia is listed as a power loom weaver. James and Cicilia had a family of five children, four of whom seem to have reached adulthood and who returned to Glasgow for employment.
John Burns, born 1855 in Renfrewshire, died at the age of ten in Kilbarchan, Renfrewshire. His death is attributed to gastric scrofula diarrhea. Scrofula is a condition in which the bacteria that causes tuberculosis causes symptoms outside the lungs.