The Gilmour Story

Posted by on March 7, 2020 in Community & Family History, Featured Flag | 2 comments

For decades we have wondered who ‘Elizabeth Gilmour’s family might be (my 4th great grandmother). We thought that she married William Miller 14 April 1683 and that she was baptized in Mearns Parish, Renfrewshire, 25 Apr 1762 (E. Miller, 1993). This was later aligned to 14 April 1765 (considered most likely in later research) and her parents might be Agness Carselaw and William Gilmour. Until recently I accepted this information. Ted Miller, a research collaborator, recently pointed out that there were now four possibilities for Elizabeth showing up in the National Records of Scotland. A printout of possibilities from 2017 only showed two possibilities associated with Mearns. Additional research of the four possibilities now indicates that Elizabeth was most likely the first-born daughter of Allan Gilmour and Elizabeth Pollock, born 14 December 1766. A significant donation to the building of a Presbyterian church in Perth, Ontario by William Miller, two documents referring to the family home of Whitelee and the marriage of a son, to a Gilmour cousin, made this possibility more likely. It is interesting to note that in one document I reviewed, Kelvin Grove Park in Scotland is across the Kelvin River and opposite Gilmour Hill, now the location of Glasgow University, in Scotland. The Queensland Australia farm of William and Elizabeth’s daughter, Janet Miller Boyle, was named ‘Kelvin Grove’, for a favorite Boyle family spot in Scotland. And, thus began my research into the Gilmour family.

Elizabeth Gilmour

Elizabeth Gilmour was the first-born child of Allan Gilmour (1744-1793) and Elizabeth Pollok (1747-1816). Her baptismal record, in Mearns Parish on 14 December 1766 records her birth at East Walton, Renfrewshire on 9 December 1766.

Elizabeth married William Miller on 16 August 1783 in Dumbarton Parish, Dumbartonshire and her residence at the time is recorded as Beith Parish, Ayrshire. William and Elizabeth have eight children – Robert (1784), William (1786), John (1789), Jean (1791), James (1794), Peter (1796), Andrew (1799) and Janet (1801).

William and Elizabeth emigrated to Lanark Township, Lanark County, Upper Canada, sailing from Greenock, Renfrewshire on April 14th, 1821 with the Glasgow Canadian Emigration Society accompanied by 2 males over twelve years of age, 1 female over 12, and two males under twelve. They travelled on the George Canning, Potter Master, arriving at the port of Quebec, Lower Canada on 1 June 1821. They received a grant of land in the newly surveyed township of Lanark, north of the military settlement of Perth. Their location was Lanark Township Concession 1 Lot 15W. Their presence on the lot can be tracked through a series of military reports until it is noted in 1834 that widow Miller is alone on the property. It is believed that William died about 1833. Elizabeth’s death is recorded in the diary of Robert Mason, the school master in Lanark Village where he notes her passing on 13 December 1839.

The Ancestry of Elizabeth Gilmour

The earliest ancestors of Elizabeth Gilmour to be found were James Gilmor (1670 Bo’Ness Parish, West Lothian), (possibly the son of John Gilmour and Margaret Sim), married to Agnes Snodgrass (1673 in Kilbarchan Parish, Renfrewshire) and Heugh (Hugh) Stewart and Janet Glen who married 29 October 1693 in Stewarton Parish. They gave birth to Allan Gilmour I (1706 Renfrew Parish, Renfrewshire) and Jennet Stewart (1702 Stewarton Parish, Ayrshire), a couple who married in Stewarton, Ayrshire 1 April 1738 and my 6th great grandparents.

Allan Gilmour I (1706)

Scotland of the Time

Allan Gilmour was born during a time of turmoil in Scotland. The economy of Scotland had collapsed during the 1690s and the country had experienced a series of crop failures. People were dying of starvation. The Bank of Scotland was established, as part of the effort to stabilize the economy. A series of investments were identified by the investors, and it is estimated that a quarter of all Scottish wealth was lost as a result of the failed Darien project.[i]

In 1703, the Scottish parliament past the ‘Act of Security’ challenging the traditional relationship with the English monarchy and demanding that Scotland be granted free trade with England and the colonies. When the demand was initially refused, Scotland threaten to stop raising taxes for the English government and to withdraw troops from France. This threat was effective. The Act receives Royal Assent in 1704. In 1705 the English parliament retaliated and introduced the Alien Act which was designed to protect English interests in Scotland. Under this Act the English parliament demanded that the Scots negotiate a full union with England. If an agreement was not reached, Scottish assets would be seized, and an embargo placed on Scottish exports flowing into England. In 1707 the Scottish parliament was dissolved, not to reconvene for 292 years.

Into this mix of events, James Stewart, the Pretender, appeared and the Jacobite conflict emerged. His followers launched a series of skirmishes in their attempt to place him, and later his successor, Bonnie Prince Charlie on the throne of Scotland. After several defeats of British government forces, including at the Battle of Prestonpans, the struggle culminated in defeat for the Jacobite cause in the Battle of Culloden near Inverness in 1746. It is probable that both Allan Gilmour and his father James performed military duty during this time.

 Renfrewshire

Birth records indicate that Allan Gilmour I was born in Renfrew Parish, Renfrewshire, Scotland to James Gilmor and Agnes Snodgrass. One sibling has been identified – John Gilmor (1708)

The poll books of 1695 indicate that in the country part of Renfrew parish there were 51 families. It is recorded that, “at that time, and long after it, a great part of the parish lay unimproved and unenclosed, merely in a state of nature”. [ii]

Although after their lifetime, records of the parish in 1793 provide some insight into the communities of Allan and Jennet during their lifetime.

Allan Gilmour was born in Renfrew Parish, Renfrewshire. In the records, Renfrew parish is described as varying from three to four miles in length and breadth but having borders that were very irregular as a result of intersection with rivers and the Abbey parish of Paisley. The shire is split into two parts by the river Clyde, originally crossed by rowboat.

The town of Renfrew a royal burgh of Scotland, was passed into the hands of the Stewarts by a series of charters that confirmed its designated status through the centuries. Renfrew, located in Renfrew Parish, is three miles north of Paisley and five miles west of Glasgow. By 1793 the town is described as “half a mile in length, but in some places so narrow, that it is with great difficulty two carriages can pass each other. There are some small streets and lanes in it, besides the principal street”. By 1793 there are some small manufactures emerging but at the beginning of the century it would be an agrarian community with possibly a cluster of trades people in the village.

Soil in the shire is described as sandy but productive alluvial deposit. The land tended to be low and prone to dampness and fog. During the early part of the 18th century the Clyde river changed its course leaving the town, through which it formerly flowed, half a mile from the new waterway near the boundary between the counties of Lanark and Renfrew. Prior to this, “vessels of considerable burden were built close to the town”, afterwards the town required canals to access navigable water.

 By 1793 there are ten ‘heritors’ in the parish, and a great number of ‘portioners’, possessing what was called Burgher[iii] lands, holdings of the town. Three of the greater proprietors, either occasionally, or constantly reside in the parish. Unfortunately, they are not named. Some indication as to whom they might be may be deduced from landowners noted in 1845[iv]. “The principal heritors in the parish are the Incorporation of the burgh; Alexander Speirs, Esq. of Eldersly; Lord Douglas; W.M. Alexander, Esq. and others, proprietors of Walkingshaw; Miss Oswald of Scotstown; James Smith, Esq. of Jordanhill and Archibald Campbell, Esq. of Blythswood. It is interesting to note that some of these same people appear in a list of landowners in Stewarton Parish where Janet Stewart was born.

Jennet or Janet Stewart (1702-)

Janet Stewart, born in Stewarton Ayrshire, was a daughter of Hugh Stewart and Janet Glen who were married in Stewarton Parish 29 Nov 1693. Her siblings were Hugh (1694), William (1697), John (1704), and Margaret (1707).

Stewarton Parish

Stewarton parish is named for the recipient of a royal charter granting lands to James, High Steward, in 1283. Janet’s lineage has not been defined, but the number of Stewart families in the shire in later years suggest that the Stewart presence was retained in this area for many generations. Although long gone, it is reported that in 1793 the remains of their houses could still be seen near the town. In Janet’s time, the area was known as the district of Cunningham, a major landowner and leader in the community

Janet’s home, in Stewarton Parish, was not far from Glasgow (18 miles) and other growing centres of Kilmarnock (6 miles north), Irvine (8 miles north-east) and Paisley (15 miles). Roads were maintained and daily postal services provided. The parish, about four miles in breadth and ten miles in length, was bound by the parishes of Neilston and Mearns in Renfrewshire and Fenwick in Ayrshire. The land is relatively flat sloping gently upwards towards the moor land behind.

The primary focus of the population was agrarian, and soil and animal husbandry resulted in excellent crops and significant numbers of farm animals. The ‘Ayrshire’ cattle were large milking cows that came to be raised throughout the lowlands and later around the world.

The parish also had an ancient and respected history of bonnet making, described in 1793 as producing “French or Quebec caps” for over 100 years. By 1845 it is reported that the industry provided “almost the whole regimental and naval bonnets and caps … as well as those worn by the people in the country at large.”

The life of Janet Stewart would have been set in the same context as her husbands.

The economy of Scotland had collapsed during the 1690s and after the Bank of Scotland was established, it is estimated that a quarter of all Scottish wealth was lost as a result of the failed Darien project. In 1703, the Scottish parliament past the ‘Act of Security’ challenging the bond to English monarchs unless Scotland was accorded free trade with England and the colonies. Initially refused, Scotland threaten to stop raising taxes for the English government and to withdraw troops from France. This is effective as the Act receives Royal Assent in 1704. In 1705 the English parliament retaliates and introduces the Alien Act designed to protect English interests in Scotland. The Scots must negotiate a full union with England or have Scottish assets seized and an embargo on Scottish exports flowing to England. In 1707 the Scottish parliament is dissolved, not to reconvene for 292 years.

Into this mix of events, James Stewart, the Pretender, appears and the Jacobite conflict emerges, and his followers launch a series of skirmishes in their attempt to place him, and later his successor, Bonnie Prince Charlie on the throne of Scotland. After several government defeats including the Battle of Prestonpans, the struggle culminates defeat for the Jacobite cause in the Battle of Culloden near Inverness in 1746.

In 1845 it is interesting to note the following names, among the 83 landowners listed – all of which will reappear in later generations of Janet’s descendants:

  • W. Pollock, Esq. M.D., of Barnahill, non-resident,
  • Allan Pollock of Blacklaw, non-resident,
  • John Stewart, Esq. of Gabrochhill, non-resident,
  • James, John and Robert Lindsay of Auchintiber, and
  • James Gilmour of Clerkland.

Allan Gilmour and Janet Stewart

Allan Gilmour and Janet Stewart married in 1738 and appeared to have lived in Stewarton Parish for a time, and possibly for all their lives. No death records have yet been found. Allan was 32 and Janet 36 when they married, and it is not known if other children were born to them. Records have been found for three children Giles Gilmour (1739), Allan Gilmour II (1744-1793), and Margaret Gilmour (1748). There are many questions to be answered. Was this their first marriage? Did Allan return after military duty? How did the events of the times affect their lives?

To be continued …


[i] The Darien scheme was an unsuccessful attempt at establishing a Scottish colony on the Isthmus of Panama on the Gulf of Darien in the late 1690’s. The aim was to have an overland route between the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans. From its contemporary time to the present day, claims have been made that the undertaking was beset by poor planning and provisioning, divided leadership, a lack of demand for trade goods particularly caused by an English trade blockade,[1] devastating epidemics of disease, collusion between the English East India Company and the English government to frustrate it,[1] and a failure to anticipate the Spanish Empire’s military response. It was finally abandoned in March 1700 after a siege by Spanish forces, which also blockaded the harbour. Darien Scheme, Wikipedia

[ii] Old Statistical Account of Scotland, 1793.

[iii] Burgher is a title, a medieval, and early modern European title of a citizen of a town, and a social class from which city officials could be drawn.

[iv] New Statistical Account, 1845.

2 Comments

  1. Great story Diane!

  2. Fascinating reading, Diane!! Thank you for nudging me to continue with my research too!!

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