Erskine-Marrs connect

Connecting to Earl of Mar by name of ERSKINE

© Copyright by Jean Leeper 2000, 2006

From book, Update to Erskines/Marrs Volume 1, by Jean Leeper and Uploaded Feb 2006

No reproduction without permission

Background is a picture of Braemar Castle taken in 1995


At present we have not been able to connect to an Earl of Mar by the name of Erskine. I have pretty much ruled out that the surname in Scotland was MARR. The people with the MARR surname were more of a peasant class of people from what I have read in Scottish history. See page 583 of The Surnames of Scotland by Black. It appears our ancestor could read and write, see page one of Volume II, so probably not of the peasant class. My researcher did say that the name MARR is found in Dundee, Scotland today.


As we analyze family stories, we need to keep in mind the following:

- Some stories have grains of truth, but with the facts all mixed up.

- Some stories were meant primarily to entertain, not to inform.

- Some stories were inadvertently altered in the repetitive telling.

- Some stories were altered to make them "make sense."

- Some stories were created to hide or obscure humble origins.


The story about Grandpa's daddy is really about Grandma's daddy, the button from the Revolutionary War is really from the Civil War, and so on. We must take no story on faith (no matter how much we love the storyteller) and investigate every particle of information.

These tips for analyzing family stories, listed above, are from an article by Patricia Law Hatcher, CG, FASG, March 31, 20001, Ancestry Daily News. (

The list below contains summaries of various ideas put forth by the family during the 1800's and early 1900's. See Volume II The William Erskine Marrs Family in America for more details.

  • "...youngest son of an earl of Mar..."
  • "...escaping punishment...being tied to the tail of a wild colt and turned loose in the streets of Edinburgh..."
  • "...changed name from Mar to Mars or Marrs...."
  • "...used Marrs instead of name Erskine in America..."
  • "...body guard to a king..."
  • "...commanded the Queen's Gunadies...." (could have ca 1704 to 1714.)
  • " ...lived in Bristol, England with two brothers, both unmarried...."
  • "...William Marrs was a grown man before he left Scotland...."
  • "...Nobleman of Scotland.."

Any of the above could be true as my study of British history can not prove wrong.

The following can be proved wrong.

.....While in Scotland in lived in the Royal Castle of Balmoral located in the Mar District of Scotland....

There was no royal castle Balmoral in the 1700s but there was a small castle on the grounds.

....The Earl of Mar sent his three sons to the Colony's in order to watch over a parcel of land granted to him by the King. While in this country the three brothers became sympathetic to the Rev. cause. Their father hearing of this ordered them to cut off all ties to the Rev. They refused and joined the cause. Their father the Earl disowned them....

There was no earl during the time leading up to the revolutionary war. John lost the earldom in 1715/1716 and he died in 1732 in France. His son Thomas was deprived of the title and on the 17th June 1824 John Francis Erksine who was as 'grandson and lineal representative' of John, Earl of Mar, had the 'Honors, Dignities and Titles of Earl of Mar' restored to his family. Summarized from page 633 of The Scot's Peerage.

I recently read that while in exile John was called on for favors for the English government. I quote "After 1716 he lived in exile, until 1725 in association with the exiled dynasty, though after 1719 as a double agent currying favors with the Westminister government." from The Oxford Companion to British History 1997 page 616 Could he have gotten permission for natural children to come to America to land grants provided by someone in the English government? So there could be a grain of truth in the above.

I can find three possibilities, where we might connect.

1. Charles Erskine having a son soon after his death.

2. Mary Maule Erskine having a child with Colonel John Erskine.

3. Bastard/natural child of John Erskine, 23rd Earl of Mar.

Let's look first at Charles the 22nd Earl of Mar. He died at the age of 39. There was a rebellion in the Highlands in 1688. Charles lost Kildrummy, Braemar and Corgraff castles, all burned. He may have been imprisoned for a short time during the Rebellion. The new king, King William III restored him to his offices in 1689. He died a short time later in May 1689. It is believed his death was sudden. His youngest son was born two years before. There could have been a child born that we do not know of, near the time of his death, and he might not have been christened the same place the other's were. Could he have been named William after King William III? Did Charles' wife flee south, to family in England? Charles was still a young man and they were having children about every two years. His wife remarried in 1897.

Let's look second at Mary Maule Erskine. "...She married in 1697 Colonel John Erskine, depute-governor of Stirling Castle. According to his testament dative )he died without making a will in 1741, ref: CC6/5/25) his eldest son was named John and was an advocate, but he may have had another son not mentioned here, making him of an age when he would perhaps have been likely to emigrate, and indeed to marry almost twenty years later." From letter from Dr N J MILLS Scottish Record Office, Edinburgh, Scotland.

Now lets look at the third possibility. I have a book by James F. Jamison 1985 Descendants of John and Catherine (Surplus) Marr of Kittery. They trace their ancestor to be John Marr (formally John Erskine), born in Hilston Park in Monmouthshire, England. This is near Monmouth, Wales, now. This gentleman was born on 6 January 1694, natural son of one Sir John Erskine, 23rd. Earl of Mar. Mother's name ? Jane of Newcastle, Monmouthshire.*

In his book he tells how in ca 1824-1835 ( when earldom returned to Erskine) and again in ca 1875 ( when two lines in Scotland were vying for the tittle), this family line tried to claim the earldom and failed. The family is believed to have spent nearly $70,000 in their quest. James F. Jamison in 1978 wrote to Wales for the christening records. Wales now had them for the church he needed. Wales wrote back and said they had no christening records for 1688,1689,1690 and 1694 (year John-natural son of John Earl of Mar was to have been born.) He then hired a researcher who believes that the 1694 record still existed, at least, until 1841. How interesting that it disappeared near the time they were in the British Isles trying to claim the Earldom. Sounds like one will only find what the powers that be, want us Americans to find.

*I uncovered an interesting bit of information. John Francis Goodeve Erskine, (#87 on page 59 of Volume I), was born in 1836 and was married in September 1866 to Alice Sinclair eldest daughter of the late John Hamilton, Esquire of Hilston Park, Monmouthshire. John Francis became Earl of Mar in 1866 after his Uncle's death. Could the record(s) of birth have disappeared in ca 1866. Someone could have taken for proof or someone else could have destroyed so no record would be found.

John Erskine 23rd Earl of Mar was christened 21 Jan 1675 at Alloa, Clackmannanshire, Scotland. Some of his siblings are believed born in Yorkshire, England, but he and all known siblings were christened in Alloa, Clakmannanshire, Scotland. He would have been 19 when John of Hilston Park was born. In The Scot's Peerage Vol. 5 he is called "... 'a man of good sense, but bad morals'..." p 631. He married 6 April 1703, so could have several natural children born 1694-1703 and they could be anywhere either in the British Isles or America, having immigrated.

His father Charles died in 1689, when his last child was about two years old. In previous letters to Scotland I had them check to see if they had a son William born ca 1689 , christened elsewhere, to Charles. They wrote back that the Scottish peerage did not list any. NOTE: the records for the years 1688-90 are lost for the church in Monmouthshire, England. Were they ever down that far??? I believe so. John was married in 1703 at Twickenham near London as was his sister Jeane in 1712. Interesting!!!!!

I would like to quote from "The Scot's Peerage" Vol. 5 p633 "...*lawful heir-male of his grandfather Charles, Earl of Mar, in default of heirs-male of the body of John, Earl of Mar, and also in default of lawful heirs-male of Charles Erskine...." (*Lawful heir - male refers to James' son who married Frances daughter of John - 23rd Earl of Mar.)

The present line is from James (brother of John (23rd Earl of Mar) In 1820's the earldom was given back to his line. James' son married his first cousin Francis- dau. of John 23rd Earl of Mar. Their oldest child, John Francis on 17 June 1824 was made Earl of Mar because he was the grandson and lineal representative of his grandfather. If anyone could prove they were from another male child of Charles or from a natural son of John, 23rd Earl of Mar; this might change some of the Scottish history. I do not believe anyone will be able to get any information out of Scotland on the natural children of John, 23rd Earl of Mar, or of another son of Charles. (if they exist)

Lineage Earl of Mar by name of ERSKINE

1. John Erskine ca 1562 -1634 19th. Earl of Mar

2. John's son John Erskine by first marriage -built Braemar Castle

1586-1653 20th. Earl of Mar

3. John Erskine 1617-1668 21st. Earl of Mar

4. Charles Erskine 1650-1689 22nd. Earl of Mar

Charles Lost Braemar Castle. Is there an unrecorded son - William?

5. John Erskine 1675-1732 23rd. Earl of Mar

6. Bastard/Natural son????? of John #5



Now let's compare the portrait of John 23rd Earl of Mar b. 1675 in Scotland and a photograph of Sarah (Alta) b. 1880 in Missouri.

Sarah Alta (Marrs) Lafollett's father John Marrs, has the long slender fingers of the 23rd Earl of Marr and is slim and has the same nose. I have a picture of three of the sisters of John Marrs. Of them Nancy Elvira, who is my husband's great grandmother, looks the most like the picture of the 23rd Earl of Mar. None as much as Sarah Alta. The Scot's Peerage Vol. 5 p361 "...He {John} appears to have been somewhat deformed in person, as he is said to be called the 'crouched backed count'..." Sarah Alta's dad is said to be"hump-backed" when an old man. Maybe someday DNA testing will be used to solve such genealogical issues.

I have another book called Erskine Family and Related Families Genealogy by Bonnie Erskine Heetland 1995. From it I find the following:

"Charles Erskine (probably son of James) came to America from Ireland. He assumed the name Christopher and died near Lexington, Massachusetts of shock or war wounds. Charles (Askine) Erskine and younger brother Robert Erskine, landed in America in 1720 at Boston, Massachusetts. No further record of Robert Erskine. The canard that he came 3,000 miles over the stormy Atlantic in a small ship to collect a small money debt must be accepted for what it was, "Pure Camouflage," for there can be no doubt but what he served under John *11th or 23rd. Earl of Mar at Sheriffsmuir November 13th, 1715, and was a hunted man who no doubt sought sanctuary in Ireland where other Erskine relatives lived. Many in Ulster, Ireland since 1605, and Thomas Erskine (descendant of Alex of Gaynor brother of John, **6th Earl of Mar and Regent of Scotland 1571-2 Mp for Ulster), died 1636 and was buried in St. Michael Church, Dublin."

*Yet a different counting system for Earl of Mar.

**I have this John as 6th Lord or 1st Earl of Mar of name Erskine.

"All of Charles (Christopher) Erskine's adult heirs were soldiers of the Revolutionary War, and the War of 1812-1814, according to Massachusetts war records." From "Erskine Family and Related Families Genealogy" by Bonnie Erskine Heetland

NOTE: "The Scot's Peerage" does not mention this Charles and Robert, as children of James. Could they be James' bastard/natural children or not his at all?

It is interesting that Charles Erskine (alias Christopher Erskine) and Robert came to Massachusetts in 1719/20. This is the same time that William Erskine Marrs came to America. Nothing more is known of Robert. Did he die unmarried or change his name as did Charles. Maybe William Erskine Marrs is the same person. It is worth looking into. Note: Some believe Robert's line died out in the second generation.


Una (Argo) Leeper Solmon Erskine


Note pictures of Una (Argo) Leeper and Salmon "Solmon" Erskine taken at Pulaski, New York, 1865. I saw this picture on the cover of Bonnie Heetland's book and knew he resembled someone. My husband's mother, Una (Argo) Leeper is the some one. Is this another clue that we are related back to the Earl of Mar line?

It is probably true that many Erskine's age twenty to twenty-five took part in the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715 and probably had to flee after it was over. Even some who never fought, fled just because their name was Erskine.

William Erskine Marr had a son Henry Munday. There are Mundie (Mundy) in Scotland, at that time. Both at Longside, Buchan and Munday near Aberdalgie in Perthshire. There was a Henry Erskine, his father had a grandson who became Earl of Buchan. Was William Erskine Marrs married to a Munday. Could they have met and married in Buchan area or is unknown wife (Munday) an American Indian as some say?

No matter what, my gut feeling is we somehow relate to an Earl of Mar, by name of Erskine. I have tried to present all of the possibilities, even through I believe William Erskine Marrs was probably the youngest son of Charles - 22nd Earl of Mar. If not his son probably a natural son of John the Jacobite leader of 1715.

In Volume I, Erskines of Scotland - Earls of Mar, I showed a couple places, where we might link, though I feel less likely than those mentioned in this article. These possible links are found on page 37 and 42-43 of Volume I.




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