I’m probably spending too much time on genealogy stuff and not enough time on other things I could be doing. It’s how I relax, though, and the “other stuff” will wait until tomorrow.
Stumbled upon this story at the JP Kirkpatrick site. It’s a recounting of how some folks set out west in wagon trains, heading for the gold rush in California. Some made it, some didn’t. This particular story involves my Third Great-Grandaunt, Susan Emily (Kirkpatrick) Stockton and her family.
I found the story to be very moving and my heart hurt for Susan as she left some of her most precious memories behind her. But the story is also full of interesting details about life in the wagon trains. Here is a little bit of it:
We crossed the Mississippi river at Warsaw, on the ferry, The Missouri, at St. Joe, the same way, tho’ we had a long wait for an opportunity to cross. We had to take our turn, a few among thousands, all setting out on the same mission. So great was the need that every conceivable kind of boat was pressed into the service. So anxious was the multitude to get on their way, that they were willing to risk their lives, in an old leaky skiff or raft. The river was high and muddy as usual, which added to the difficulties. Sometimes horses and cattle would become frightened and jump over board, upsetting the boat. I do not recall that anyone was drowned, while we were there, but few outfits got over with all their livestock. It was nearly the end of May when the long wagon trains began moving out through western Nebraska, on the California Trail. When we got across the river we thought our troubles were about over. Really, they were just beginning. The trail was nearly a quarter of a mile wide – that is, a row of wagons fifteen-hundred feet across, and extending in front and to the rear, as far as we could see – a vast sea of white flapping wagon covers, and a seething mass of plodding animals.
I’ve written before on what I have discovered about Watties Neach (there ain’t one). Now I have stumbled upon some fresh evidence that I am correct in my assumption!
In an old edition of the Kirkpatrick Newsletter, dated Jan-Feb-Mar 1990, I found this letter to the editor. It was written by a fellow named Charles Jacobs and reads, in part:
Most of the family information from Scotland states that Alexander and his brother Andrew were born at Watties Neach in Dumfrieshire. In talking with local historians in Dumfries, I was told that there is no such a community in the area and such a name would be meaningless. Before we arrived there, a genealogist ran an inquiry in the local paper about Watties Neach. Several replied that there was a Watties Neuk [Neuch] on property known as Denby Yett. The translation would be something like Walter’s Nook or corner. Watties Neuk is nothing more than a pile of stones in a pasture at this time.
So there you go. Where my previous post says it is Wallace’s Neuch, this one says Walter’s, but in all other details we are in agreement. And the search goes on!
I’ve know for some time that the Kilpatricks were kin, their name being a variation of Kirkpatrick. Tonight I stumbled upon an interesting explanation for the difference. The source is an old Kirkpatrick Newsletter dated Oct-Nov-Dec 1989. It was published by Nathan L. Barlow of Rison, Arizona, whom I have not been able to locate online. If anyone knows of him, please contact me!
Anyway, the article was written by George M. Kirkpatrick of North Syracuse, NY.
While there were many with the surname Kirkpatrick in America prior to 1800, it is difficult to find documentation to establish family lines. A further difficulty is found in the use of various surname spellings, particularly prior to 1800. Kirkpatrick and Kilpatrick are used almost interchangeably (and also Killpatrick). It seems likely that Kilpatrick is closer to the original surname spelling and that Kirkpatrick is the anglicized version… The Kilpatrick spelling is still found near Glasgow, Scotland as in the towns of ‘Old Kilpatrick’ and ‘New Kilpatrick’ while the Kirkpatrick spelling is common near the English border, e.g. near Closeburn and Dumfries. All three versions are still in use, however.
I stumbled upon an excellent blog post about how to deal with those “family legends” – some of which are true, some not; some of which are good, some not-so-good. Sometimes it takes a whole lot of tact and diplomacy.
When you interview your family, sooner or later you will encounter a pretty tall tale. The novice researcher gets excited at the possibility of belonging to an exotic ethnicity; the more jaded historian dismisses the stories of war-time heroics out of hand. Neither approach is particularly constructive. In this article, we’re going to walk through how to prove (or disprove) a family legend.
The more research I do into the Kirkpatrick clan, the more I love and respect ‘em. No doubt there were exceptions, but for the most part I’m finding tales of love, strength, dignity and loyalty. Those who knew them seemed to be unwaveringly devoted to them. The Kirkpatricks as a whole lived life with a wicked sense of humour, strong family ties and a mighty work ethic.
My grand-uncle, Samuel D. Kirkpatrick’s “words for posterity” pretty much sum up the family code: “Live life with enthusiasm, with moderation, with service, and sympathy for less fortunate people in the world.”
More examples of the Kirkpatrick viewpoint:
Family legend tells that when many Native children in Canada were being put into residential schools the B.C. Kirkpatricks refused to break up their families in this way. They chose to remain strong family units, teaching their children how to play musical instruments and become industrious, contributing members of society. (Most of us Western Canadian Kirks have at least a smattering of Native blood.)
Another family legend tells of how some of the first American generations went south to Georgia, then came back north again because they were disgusted with the idea of slavery.
Going back even further to old Scotland, we see this about Sir James Kirkpatrick (d. 1804) in Records of the Closeburn Kirkpatricks by Major-General C. Kirkpatrick:
The Dumfries Weekly Journal of the 12th June 1804 described him as “the representative of an ancient and respectable family, which had inherited that estate in succession, for upwards of seven hundred years. Descended from this ancient race, he was inferior to none of his predecessors in that generous spirit and fortitude by which they were distinguished. Mild, gentle and courteous in his manners, he possessed at the same time that firmness and stability of mind which made him tenacious of his purposes, constant in his friendships, and steady in his principles. His principles were no other than the two great sources of human excellence – piety to God, and benevolence to men”. etc.
In another obituary reference to him it was said:- “His publick character was strongly marked by disinterestedness [free from bias or partiality] by generosity and by a firm determined spirit. Possessing in a high degree all the publick and social affections, he was always amongst the first to promote any measure which he considered as of general utility and never suffered his own private interest to stand in the way of what appeared to him to be a publick good. Warm and stead in his friendships, he never deserted those to whom he once attached himself, nor declined any exertions, however inconvenient for himself, that could [be] beneficial to them.
When I was tramping through graveyards in Scotland, over and over again I saw words like “deeply loved” and “we miss thee, dear” on Kirkpatrick gravestones.
But the story that has moved me the most in my genealogical studies so far is the tale of Alexander Richard Kirkpatrick of Dublin, Ireland (1813 – 1891). He was a scholar at Cambridge and was called to the Bar in 1840, according to Chronicles of the Kirkpatrick Family written by Alexander de Lapere Kirkpatrick.
From the book:
Mr. Kirkpatrick was beloved by all who knew him, rich and poor; the grief evinced by the latter at his funeral was very striking, and many and most touching were the tokens received by his family of their affection for him. Whilst on his other properties it was said by both Priests and others that they had never seen such deep and widespread grief, extending even to the children. He was carried to his grave by his own tenants, several of them quite poor, who had come a long distance, and at no small cost, but they looked on him as a Father and a Friend.
Wow. Would that we all could be remembered this way upon our passing.
From the book Records of the Closeburn Kirkpatricks by Major-General C. Kirkpatrick, C.B., C.B.E.:
When the loch [at Closeburn Castle] was drained in 1859, a number of relics were found. Amongst those, was an oak canoe 12 feet long in a good state of preservation. This was sent to the Antiquarian Museum in Edinburgh. The tradition is it was used to carry the dead of the Kirkpatricks across the loch to the family tomb in Closeburn kirkyard.
The 3rd Baronet [Sir Thomas Kirkpatrick] had the family coat of arms carved over the gateway of the tomb, with the Grierson fetlock impaled (his wife’s coat of arms; the addition conforming to heraldic custom).
The words engraved on the stone, read;- “vanitas omnia vanitas” [vanity, all is vanity], and inside, on the walls over the gateway, is inscribed:-
“Nos, nostraque Morte dobemus
De Closeburn Baronetus
Extratruendum curavit. 1742″.
“Sic transit gloria mundi”.
Signifying, Sir Thos. Kirkpatrick Baronet of Closeburn caused this to be created A.D. 1742.
“We and our relatives
have all to die.”
Thus earthly glory passes”.
Hardly an original thought, but a true prophecy, for his house went up in flames six years later, and he lost all his possessions.
Detail of one of the engravings on the Kirkpatrick mausoleum at the old Closeburn kirkyard.
This is the same mausoleum I wrote of in this post – the one of the skull wearing glasses!
When I first began researching my family history, I was brought again and again to John and Carol Kirkpatrick’s website. Although the homepage needs a serious facelift, it’s what’s inside the site that makes a visit worthwhile.
Judging by the surname list and the name index, this site must have hundreds, if not thousands of pages of fabulous information. With it, I was able to take my family tree back several generations from where our records ended. I found my grandparents’ information onsite and even emailed John to give him my own information, which he added.
From what I can tell, this site is constantly evolving and being updated as visitors contribute information. With it, I have been able to find where my tree joins with distant cousins’ trees, for instance, or with someone’s whom I’ve met through this blog. The notes give interesting stories and background info and sources are scrupulously named.
One caveat is that it doesn’t look as though the site is being updated any longer. Pages are starting to look dated and my last email to them has remained unanswered for some time. Still, for the sheer volume of Kirkpatrick information, jpkirkpatrick.com is a priceless resource.
Kirkpatrick family researchers have read the story many times about how Sir Roger Kirkpatrick aided Robert the Bruce in killing Comyn in Greyfriars Church. But could we have spun the story just a little? Could it be that the great Bruce was in fact an opportunist and that things didn’t happen exactly the way we have handed the story down through the ages?
The records are pretty explicit about how our family crest was given to us by the Bruce in gratitude for our loyalty (the Kirkpatrick and Bruce families had been close for generations), and perhaps the words “Mak siccar” were actually uttered by Sir Roger, but what about the circumstances surrounding the murder itself?
Undiscovered Scotland, in its article on Robert the Bruce, paints a slightly less than flattering picture:
By the end of 1305 there were signs that Edward I believed that Bruce was plotting against him: but Bruce’s repeated switching of sides meant he was also little trusted by many in Scotland. Bruce, it seems, was planning to seize the arguably vacant crown of Scotland for himself. His main obstacle in Scotland was John III Comyn. On 10 February 1306 the two met to discuss their differences in the safe and neutral Church of the Grey Friars in Dumfries. It seems they disagreed, either because both wanted the Scottish crown for themselves, or because Comyn refused to lend his support to Bruce’s planned uprising against the English. Robert Bruce drew a dagger and stabbed Comyn in front of the high altar of the church. Bruce fled the church, telling waiting comrades outside what had happened. One of them, Sir Roger Kirkpatrick, went back in and finished off the seriously wounded Comyn.
It is unlikely that Bruce had gone to the meeting intending to murder the leading member of the most powerful family in Scotland: and certainly not in a place that caused revulsion in an age well used to savagery. But the die was cast and Bruce had no choice but to press on with his plans, in very different circumstances to those he had hoped for. His first move was to take the strongholds of the Comyns in Southern Scotland. His second was to confess his crime to the Bishop of Glasgow and receive absolution, on condition that as King he would be suitably respectful of the church. There is strong evidence that Bruce’s plans – the murder of Comyn aside – were supported in advance by many in the Church in Scotland.
And this segment from the fabulous A History of Scotland series from BBC tells a similar story.
So, which is it? Did Sir Roger voluntarily and impulsively state “I make sure” before finishing off Comyn? Or did the Bruce send him in afterward, possibly at the urging of the clergy, to do the dastardly deed? And does it really matter? After a faulty start, Robert the Bruce went on to become one of Scotland’s great heroes who did much to garner her independence from England.
When I was in Scotland I found an old mausoleum that had some carvings around the inside wall. One of them was of a skull that seemed to be wearing glasses. I have searched the ‘Net and can’t seem to find an explanation – does anyone know anything about this type of carving?
Around the walls there was also an inscription that said in Latin, Sic Transit, Gloria Mundi, which apparently means, “And so the glory of this world shall fade.”
Interesting puzzle, no? Any input would be welcome! By the way, the mausoleum was apparently erected in 1742.
Well, the longer I keep this blog running, the more I realize that the majority of the visitors here are looking for solid information on research into the Kirkpatrick family history. I say, good on ya! There is so much misinformation out there and I want to help you (and me) figure out what’s true and what’s not.
To that end, I’m thinking of forming a “community” for us here – a place where we can discuss our research and share our branches of the family tree. You wouldn”t have to be a genealogy buff to participate – do you know your own branch and the place where you live? You do? Then you’re in! Of course, if you can offer tidbits of research that may help us all figure out where we’re from, you would be welcome to share that, too.
I would be interested to hear if there is a call for that kind of thing. Are you interested?