|Near Westerkirk. JH photo|
In 2008, when my husband and I visited Scotland for the first time, our tour guide took us to view Grey Mare’s Tail, a waterfall high in a pass between the hills of Dumfries and Galloway in southwest Scotland. I scrambled a short distance up the rocky path leading to the waterfall and photographed a couple of sheep that had wandered onto the road. It was a beautiful spot, but I remarked that this would be a pretty remote place to live. I had no idea that some of my ancestors had actually lived in the nearby parish of Westerkirk.
I knew that my great-grandmother’s name was Isabella Glendenning. (Somewhere along the line, the spelling of the family name changed.) She was born in Scarborough, Upper Canada in 1834, married James Hamilton in 1859 and died in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1912. When I researched her ancestry, I discovered that one of my distant relatives, Ian Glendinning, a genealogist in Aberdeen, Scotland, had spent years researching the Glendinning family.
The enormous family tree he has posted online (http://www.glendinning.name/index.html) shows that our ancestors lived in Westerkirk parish, Dumfriesshire, as long ago as the 1600s. There is a place named Glendinning in Westerkirk and the ruins of a castle named Glendinning, but my ancestors were tenant farmers.
According to the Statistical Accounts of Scotland, in 1793 the population of Westerkirk parish was 655 people, 150 of whom were under 20 years of age, and 17,500 sheep. There was good pasture for sheep on the hillsides and the light loam in the river valleys produced good crops if it was well managed. The main crops grown were oats, barley, peas and potatoes.
The church, built in 1788 and located near the center of the parish, was said to be one of the best country churches in Scotland at that time. There was a school next to the church and the church also provided money to help the area’s poorest residents. The parish roads were good and there were 16 stone bridges across various streams and rivers.
According to the Glendinning family tree, James Glendinning (born 1676) and Agnes Little (born c. 1680) were married in Westerkirk in 1701 and had seven children. Their death dates are unknown.
My direct ancestor was their second son, Archibald (1704-1751). He was an elder of Westerkirk parish church, and he and his wife, Jean Beattie (1724-1773), probably lived their entire lives in Westerkirk. They were both buried there.
James Glendinning, the youngest of their five children, was my direct ancestor. Born in 1738, he was a tenant farmer of Johnstone of Westerhall estate at Glendinning, Westerkirk. In 1762, James married Isabel Beattie (1737-1815), daughter of Walter Beattie and Marion Black. They had eight children and 43 grandchildren. James died in 1810 and he and Isabel were also buried in Westerkirk.
Their children were the first generation to leave Scotland for Canada. They were: Mary (Glendinning) (1768-1847) and her husband David Thomson, who settled in Scarborough, Upper Canada (now a suburb of Toronto, Ontario) in 1799; probably Walter Glendinning (1770-?), my direct ancestor, and his children, who also settled in Scarborough; James Glendinning (1774-1856), who moved to Streetsville in Upper Canada; and William Glendinning (1777-1866), who settled in New Brunswick. James and Isabel’s four other children remained in Westerkirk.
In my next post, I will write about how the Glendinnings became founding settlers of Scarborough, Ontario.
Notes and Sources
http://www.nts.org.uk/Property/Grey-Mares-Tail-Nature-Reserve/Pictures/ This is the website of the Grey Mares Tail Nature Reserve.
Westerkirk’s most famous son was Thomas Telford (1757-1834), a civil engineer who built roads, bridges and canals throughout Scotland and England, and the famous Menai Suspension Bridge in Wales. He was not related to my family.
James Glendinning and Agnes Little are listed at http://www.glendinning.name/ancestry/glenfam/pafg01.htm#320 on Ian Glendinning’s family tree. From here, you can use the arrows to skip to other generations, consult the list of names or go back to the home page. The site also includes some photos and a map.
“Westerkirk, County of Dumfries, OSA, Vol. XI, 1794”, Statistical accounts of Scotland, 1791-1854, p. 514-519, http://stataccscot.edina.ac.uk/static/statacc/dist/home, accessed Dec. 2, 2016