Kinsearching September 19, 2010




Marleta Childs
P. O. Box 6825
LUBBOCK, TX 79493-6825

     During the colonial era of United States history, many of the Scottish immigrants were so closely associated with Presbyterianism that present-day Americans often forget Scotland was not always a Protestant country. The recent trip to Scotland by Pope Benedict XVI emphasizes the fact that a number of Scots are still Catholic. David Dobson’s latest work, SCOTTISH CATHOLICS AT HOME AND ABROAD, 1680 – 1780 focuses on this topic.

     As the author explains in his informative introduction, the sixteenth- century Protestant Reformation in Scotland was relatively bloodless and swift. By the late seventeenth century, the majority of approximately one million Scots had converted. At that time, the number of remaining Catholics is estimated at 25,000. Most of them resided in remote areas of Aberdeenshire and Inverness-shire in the Highlands or in Dumfries and Galloway in the Lowlands.

     Scottish Catholics faced many obstacles. Prior to Charles II’s ascending the throne in 1660, the British penal laws drove the Catholic Church underground. Composing approximately twenty percent of the Jacobite forces that attempted to restore the House of Stuart to the British throne in 1715 and again in 1745, Scottish Catholics felt the harsh aftermaths of those uprisings. Forced by their landowner to convert to Presbyterianism in 1772, numerous residents of South Uist immigrated to Canada’s Prince Edward Island. Beginning in the late 1700s, the Highland Clearances saw Catholics leaving for the New World as part of an organized mass migration. Although most immigrants went to North America where they remained, some Scottish Catholics, including those destined for the priesthood, traveled to the European mainland.

     As a result of the repression of the Catholic Church in Scotland, genealogists have few official records for identifying Scottish Catholics in that period. With the repeal of the penal laws in 1793, Catholic parish registers began to be kept again in Scotland; however, only four predate 1680: Ballater from 1769, Braemar from 1608, Kirkconnel from 1730, and St. Mary’s in Edinburgh from 1777. This dearth of parish registers convinced Dobson to mine other resources.

     Utilizing documents in the Hudson Bay Records Archives, the National Archives in Edinburgh and London, the Scottish Catholic Archives in Edinburgh, various European archives, and Canadian repositories, Dobson has compiled data about approximately 2,000 people who resided in Scotland between the years 1680 and 1780. He divides his material into two parts. The larger section is a roster of names combined from his findings in a variety of sources. Although details vary from person to person, most entries give the individual’s occupation, a place, a date, and the source of the information. In many cases, entries also furnish facts like the person’s education, names of parents, spouse, or children, or other miscellaneous facts. An example of a typical entry is the one for John Watt, who was “a weaver in Nether Dallachie, with his wife Janet Paterson, in the parish of Bellie, 1710.”

     The smaller section reproduces names of some Scottish Catholic immigrants found on several ship passenger lists. Two examples demonstrate how widely the amount of details may vary. The entry for Donald MCDONALD states that he was from Fort William and sailed on the Pearl to New York in 1773; he settled before 1776 in Tryon County, New York. The 1790 ship’s list for passengers to Prince Edward Island only shows that Donald ADAMSON was a “pedlar from Moidart,” who traveled with his wife, whose name is not stated.

     Since material about Catholics in Scotland during the late seventeenth and the eighteenth centuries is scarce, Dobson has rendered an invaluable service to family researchers. SCOTTISH CATHOLICS AT HOME AND ABROAD, 1680-1780 is an important addition to the field of Scottish genealogy.

     Sporting a simple but attractive cover, the 116-page paperback contains a brief introduction followed by a list of references consulted by the author. Names appear alphabetically in each section of the volume. To the book's price of $19.50, buyers should add the cost for postage and handling charges. For U. S. postal mail, the cost is $5.50 for one book and $2.50 for each additional copy; for FedEx ground service, the cost is $7.50 for one copy and $2.50 for each additional book. The volume (item order number 9701) may be purchased by check, money order, MasterCard, or Visa from Clearfield Company, 3600 Clipper Mill Rd., Suite 260, Baltimore, Maryland 21211-1953. For phone orders, call toll free 1-800-296-6687; fax 1-410-752-8492; website

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