33. Three Fates at the Battle of Pinkie

The three soldiers mentioned in this article were all direct ancestors, by way of the Bowers descent from the McQueen and Mackintosh families. This descent, and many more stemming from the Mackintoshes, are fully described and referenced in the book The Omnibus Ancestry: 619 Documented American and European Lines. It is available for download through Lulu.  Below, it is referenced as “OA”.

On 16-17 September, the Scottish Battlefields Trust will recreate the 1547 Battle of Pinkie. An announcement appears at http://www.scotsman.com/news/bloody-battle-between-scots-and-english-to-be-staged-again-1-4535901. This promises to be an interesting historical spectacle for those fortunate enough to find themselves in Scotland at the time.

More formally known as the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh, the battle was part of the “Rough Wooing” of Scotland by King Henry VIII of England and his successors, undertaken in part to secure the marriage of the Princess Mary (later the famous Mary, Queen of Scots) to Henry’s son Edward. The battle, fought near Musselburgh, co. Midlothian, Scotland, was between a Scottish army variously estimated at 22,000 to 36,000, and an English army of about 17,000 men.

In spite of its numerical superiority, the poorly positioned Scottish army was subjected to fire from three sides, and the result was slaughter . It continued, in the practice of the time, during the army’s disordered retreat. Some 6000-15,000 Scots were killed and another 2000 taken prisoner, against a few hundred English deaths. The English, however, did not achieve their marriage goal because the Scottish would not agree to terms, and Mary was smuggled out of the country to France [1].

I’d like to highlight three ancestors who are known to have been at the Battle of Pinkie, and who met very different fates.

Archibald Campbell

Archibald Campbell (1502-1558), “the Red”, was the 4th Earl of Argyll. He held a number of offices under King James V of Scotland, including Justice-General, Master of the King’s Household, and Master of the King’s wine-cellar. At the battle of Pinkie, he commanded the right wing with 4000 Highland troops. He is said to have served with distinction, and as a result was rewarded with the greatest share of the estates of the Earl of Lennox, who had joined the English and suffered forfeiture for that reason. Later in life, Archibald joined the Reformed faith under the influence of John Knox. His sword, bearing a 1543 date, was in an Edinburgh museum as of 1884.

We descend from Archibald Campbell by way of a direct Mackintosh intermarriage [OA, 2,3].

Campbell sword
Sword of Archibald Campbell

 John Mackenzie

John Mackenzie (1480-1561) was the 9th chief of Kintail in co. Ross and Cromarty, Scotland. He was a survivor of the Battle of Flodden in 1513, where it is said he was captured but escaped. He was shortly after appointed Guardian of Wester Ross, and sometime after 1538 was a courtier of Mary of Guise, the Queen of King James V of Scotland — and the mother of Mary, Queen of Scots. Answering the muster of the Earl of Arran in 1547, although advanced in years, he was captured at the Battle of Pinkie, and released after payment of a considerable ransom.

We descend from John Mackenzie through a direct Mackintosh intermarriage [OA, 4].

Andrew Halyburton

Andrew Halyburton (ca 1527?-1547) was of Pictur, in Ketting parish on the border of Forfarshire with Perthshire. Very little is known of this young man besides his marriage to Margaret Maule, by whom he had a son George, our ancestor. However, it is known that he died at the Battle of Pinkie, among the thousands of unfortunates to lose their lives in that conflict.

We descend from Andrew Halyburton through Mackintosh -> Graham -> Halyburton linkages [OA].

Please keep these ancestors in mind as we mark the 470th anniversary of the Battle of Pinkie.


[1] Information retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Pinkie_Cleugh (2017).

[2] Information retrieved from https://www.revolvy.com/main/index.php?s=Archibald%20Campbell,%204th%20Earl%20of%20Argyll&item_type=topic (2017).

[3] Information retrieved from https://archive.org/stream/historyofcampbel00newy/historyofcampbel00newy_djvu.txt (2017).

[4] Information retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Mackenzie,_9th_of_Kintail (2017).

Picture attribution

Sword of Archibald Campbell: Believed to be in the public domain.


29. Seven Gateway Ancestors to Royalty

All of these lines are extensively traced and referenced in the Omnibus Ancestry (available for download at Lulu).

Recently researchers unveiled a reconstruction of the face of King Robert the Bruce of Scotland (1274-1329, reigned 1306-1329), having applied anthropological forensics techniques to a cast of his skull. The lifelike result can be seen at this link. It does not particularly resemble the much-reproduced, ahistorical portrait illustrated here, which was painted in 1633.


In my family, the reconstruction’s announcement led to a discussion of our relationship, if any, to King Robert. As it happens we do descend from him, and many times over, through one of our seven gateway ancestors to royalty. In this article, I describe some of Dugal McQueen’s royal descents as well as as those of our other six “gateway” ancestors. A gateway ancestor is an immigrant progenitor whose own ancestry traces to royalty — and all of whose descendants accordingly do as well.


The Gateway Ancestors

  1. Dugal McQueen

An ancestor of my mother’s father, Dugal McQueen (ca 1666?-1746) and his family have been the subject of several articles on this blog, especially 4. Dugal McQueen, Scottish Rebel and Gateway Ancestor to Royalty; and 26. A Visit to the Home of the McQueens of Pollochaig. In the listing of gateway ancestors, he has pride of place, because he descended from the most recent of all of our royal ancestors, King James II of Scotland (1430-1460, reigned 1437-1460). This makes the descent rarer, because in general, the later a king lived, the fewer descendants he has and the harder it is to find a line of descent from him.

Through James II, Dugal descended from Kings James I, Robert III, Robert II, and Robert II’s maternal grandfather Robert I, “the Bruce”. However, there are not just one but many descents from Robert the Bruce, because Dugal descended from multiple children of each of those kings. All but the most recent, that is. His one connection to James II was through James’ daughter Mary Stewart, who married Sir James Hamilton, 1st Lord Hamilton.

Others of Dugal’s relatively recent royal ancestors include Jean II, “the Good”, King of France (1319-1364, reigned 1350-1364), through his son Philip II, “the Bold”, Duke of Burgundy; and King Edward III of England (1312-1377, reigned 1327-1377), through Edward’s son John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster and Aquitaine.

  1. Ralph Lewis

An ancestor of my mother’s mother, Ralph Lewis (ca 1649-1712) was a Quaker of co. Glamorgan, Wales, who removed to Pennsylvania in 1683. He owned land in what is now Delaware county, and was the subject of a blog entry, 25. The True Parentage of Ralph Lewis, of Darby Township, Chester (now Delaware) County, Pennsylvania .

Ralph was technically the second most recently royally descended of our gateway ancestors, at least when reckoned by birth year. One of his ancestors was King Pedro, “the Cruel”, King of Castile and Leon (1334-1369, reigned 1350-1368). The line of descent is through Pedro’s daughter Isabel of Castile, who married Sir Edmund, of Langley, 1st Duke of York, son of King Edward III of England (who with a birthyear of 1312 was older than Pedro, and thus less recent). The descent is unusual because it comes through Edmund’s and Isabel’s daughter Constance Plantagenet by way of her scandalous live-in relationship as the unmarried “wife” of Sir Edmund de Holand, 4th Earl of Kent.

  1. Mary Need

An ancestor of my mother’s mother, Mary Need (1645-aft 1708) was the wife of Edmund Cartlidge, a Quaker immigrant to Philadelphia. Her grandfather, a member of the yeomanry of co. Nottingham, England, had converted to the Quaker faith in 1647. In turn he was a descendant of the Lords Clifford, of Shakespearian fame, and through them of King Edward III of England (1312-1377, reigned 1327-1377).

This descent is somewhat unusual because it passes through Edward’s son Lionel of Antwerp, Duke of Clarence and Earl of Ulster, who left relatively few progeny.

  1. Elizabeth Gerard

An ancestor of my mother’s father, Elizabeth Gerard (1630-1716) was a native of co. Lancaster, England, whose Catholic birth family immigrated to Maryland in 1638. She married as her first husband, Robert Ellyson, of James City county, Virginia.

Elizabeth was a descendant of King Edward I of England (1239-1307, reigned 1272-1307). The line runs through Edward’s daughter Elizabeth Plantagenet, who married as her second husband, Humphrey de Bohun VIII, Earl of Hereford and Essex, and Lord High Constable of England, and then down through the Fitz Alan and Goushill families.

  1. Susannah Gerard

An ancestor of my father’s mother, Susannah Gerard (ca 1632-1677) was like her sister Elizabeth (above) a descendant of King Edward I of England (1239-1307, reigned 1272-1307). She married as her first husband, Robert Slye, of St. Mary’s county, Maryland.

  1. George Yate

An ancestor of my father’s father, George Yate (aft 1636-1691) immigrated to Maryland sometime before 1666, where he became a large landowner of widespread properties in Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Calvert, and Prince Georges counties. He was of an old Catholic family of Berkshire, England.

George was a descendant of King Henry III of England (1207-1272, reigned 1216-1272), through Henry’s son Edmund Plantagenet, called “Crouchback”, Earl of Lancaster and titular King of Sicily. From Edmund, the line runs down through the Beaumont and Botreaux families.

  1. Lawrence Dameron

An ancestor of my mother’s father, Lawrence Dameron (1615-1660) was an immigrant from co. Suffolk, England, who became a large landowner in Northumberland county, Virginia. His Dameron ancestors held a manor in co. Suffolk as early as 1552, but his royal ancestry was through his grandmother Marjorie Clench. Her ancestor was Robert de Vere, 5th Earl of Oxford, whose most recent royal line of descent appears to be to Henry I, King of France (1006-1060, reigned 1031-1060) via the Quincy and Beaumont families. This is the most remote of the gateway ancestries.


Some Thoughts About Gateways

The fact that there are seven gateway ancestors in my family history does not mean that it’s easy to identify a royal descent. For many years from around 1950, when my father began genealogical research on our family, we discovered one “gateway” descent after another that proved not to be true. In part this was due to the tendency of amateur genealogists to insufficiently source their information — one big reason why I emphasize sourcing so much today in my book-length publications.

Another aspect of the difficulty traces to the long, serial nature of such descents. With so many generations lined up one after another to get back to a royal ancestor, and with every generation needing to be accurate, it is easy to make an error somewhere along the way. Sometimes it’s as simple as attributing a child to one wife of a male ancestor, when the child was actually by a different wife. Sometimes there are confusions of similar names, so that evidence seeming to link an ancestor to a preceding generation actually concerned an entirely different person. Finally, for Americans there are particular difficulties associated with “hopping the pond”. Immigrant ancestors often left little or no evidence about their origins, and so mistakes are easily made when attempting to identify the correct individuals in European records.

There are nevertheless ways to improve your chances of tracing a royal line. One of the most important is to trace every ancestor possible. Every generation back doubles the number of ancestral lines, and you never know where a gateway will open up. Our first discovery of a gateway ancestor – I mean a real discovery, one that has thus far stood the test of time – was Ralph Lewis, and it didn’t occur until 1994, almost a half century after my father started his research. It occured only because I was determined to trace my mother’s Withers ancestors, opening up a host of Pennsylvania Quaker lines. Even then we got some details wrong, as I have written in 25. The True Parentage of Ralph Lewis, of Darby Township, Chester (now Delaware) County, Pennsylvania.

All of these lines, and much more, are documented in my book The Omnibus Ancestry. The culmination of almost 70 years of effort, it contains nearly 600 interconnected ancestral lines. Many thousands of dollars went into its research. By investing in the book, you invest in the ongoing research that has made it possible, and that will continue to support updated editions going forward. For those who have made and are making the investment, I am truly grateful. For others considering it, here is the link to The Omnibus Ancestry.


Picture attribution: Public domain.

26. A Visit to the Home of the McQueens of Pollochaig

The ancestry of Dugal McQueen is extensively traced and referenced in the Omnibus Ancestry (available for download at Lulu). Other blog entries on the McQueens include 4. Dugal McQueen, Scottish Rebel and Gateway Ancestor to Royalty; 18. Witches, Wizards, Ghosts, and Things That Go Bump in the Night; BRIEFLY NOTED: A McQueen 300th Anniversary; and 24. Tartan Day and Our Scottish Origins.

On June 15th I was privileged to visit Pollochaig in the Scottish Highlands, the home of my mother’s McQueen ancestors. My wife Joan and I had slated the location for a special visit while on our vacation in Ireland and Scotland.

We parked at a sheep gate at the two-house settlement of Ruthven above the town of Tomatin, Inverness-shire, and hiked in. In retrospect, we could have opened the gate and driven most of the way, but walking certainly set the scene for what would come.

The day was a wild one, with constant rain showers and cold, blustery winds. Though wearing ponchos and jackets, our legs and feet were quickly soaked. We passed along the Findhorn River, its green banks grazed by sheep.


A couple of miles in, the first view of the ruins took my breath away. The dark remains of buildings against impossibly green pasture, the multitude of bleating sheep, the towering dark hills in the background with cloud-obscured tops, and the small burn in the foreground leading down to the river, made an impression that a sunnier day could not possibly have equalled. Joan would later call it her “Quintessential Scottish experience.”

On inspection it became apparent that the upper, more distant structure had been a house, because a hearth and the lower remains of a chimney were built into the north end.  One entrance, at least, had been through a door on the east side.


The lower structure was more enigmatic to our amateur eyes. There appeared to be one large chamber with an attached byre, an inside corner of which is barely visible to the right of my picture below. There was no evidence of a hearth at any of the walls. Also the walls did not appear to be thick enough for the structure to be an older home of the blackhouse type [1], which would have had no chimney and a possibly less detectable central hearth. Perhaps the structure was simply a barn, larger than the house up above.


Records suggest that Pollochaig was “probably in sheep before 1800” [2]. Certainly it has remained so, with dozens if not hundreds of sheep bleating in greeting as we arrived. They all mysteriously went silent as I started capturing a movie, so that bit of geographical magic remains unrecorded!


A bit up the road after we left, I turned for my last misty view of Pollochaig. Inevitably I thought of my ancestor Dugal McQueen, looking back while taking much the same route in 1715 as he left to join the rebel army [3]. It would be his last glimpse of home. A lump came to my throat, unbidden.


[1] Information retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackhouse (2016).

[2] Information retrieved from http://theses.gla.ac.uk/3914/1/2002EppersonPhD.pdf (2016).

[3] Boles, D.B. (2016). The Omnibus Ancestry: 589 Documented American and European Lines, 2nd ed. Available for download through Lulu.

24. Tartan Day and Our Scottish Origins

Happy Tartan Day! It’s probably safe to say that most Americans don’t know about this commemoration of Scottish heritage, or that the U.S. Senate in 1998, the House in 2005, and the President in 2008 recognized it. Whether official or not, it has spread to other countries of the Scottish diaspora — notably Canada, Australia (although there it is celebrated on July 1st), and Argentina. It has even gotten back to the home country of Scotland, where regional councils are attempting to promote it as a global celebration [1].

Why April 6th? That was the date in 1320 that the Declaration of Arbroath was signed, declaring Scottish independence from England. I have written about the declaration previously on my Bolesbooks Facebook page. Considered by many a foreshadowing of our own Declaration of Independence, it denied the divine right of kings and left to the nation the choice of its sovereign.

Some Scottish Origins

In the case of my family tree it was understood from an early date, certainly the early 1960s if not previously, that we had discernible Scottish origins among its many roots. However, this came from an indirect assessment of surnames more than from direct evidence. Ancestral “Mc” surnames such as McCrosky, McFadden, and McIntire were recognized as most probably either Scottish or Scotch-Irish, even though repeated searches failed to turn up evidence of specific places of origin. The later additions of my wife’s ancestral families of McClain and McMurtrie fell into the same vaguely Scottish category.

Today we have hints of whispers of the origins of a couple of these families: Possibly co. Antrim, Ireland, for the McCrosky (McCoskery) family, and co. Antrim, Ireland, for the McMurtries, who in both cases were therefore most likely Scotch-Irish [2]. But actual hard evidence of specific geographic locations has been slow in coming. Below I’d like to highlight three ancestral lines for which hard evidence exists, namely the Ellyson, Boles, and McQueen families.

The Ellyson Family

I descend from Virginia’s Ellyson family through my mother. Her ancestor Deborah Harbour’s mother was a Thomas, her mother was a Jordan, and her mother was Susanna Ellyson, daughter of Joseph Ellyson, a Quaker of New Kent county, Virginia. From there the line is traceable to two Robert Ellysons, father and son, who lived in Gloucester and James City counties. The two are almost universally confused both because they shared their given name, and because they died nearly simultaneously (1668/9 in the case of the son, and about 1669 in the case of the father) [2,3].

Their distinctness, however, is attested by an extraordinary family Bible entry written in the late 1700s, reciting the ancestry of one Robert Allison (Ellison) three generations back to the younger Robert Ellyson, then to his father Robert, and finally to the immigrant ancestor John Allison. The entry concluded with a geographic payoff: John was stated to have come from Windyedge, co. Lanark, Scotland, sometime before 1625 [3].

This account has been sufficiently corroborated through other evidence that it can be taken as largely accurate. One thread of evidence is that an Alison family is historically known at Windyedge, a farm located in Avondale parish in the vicinity of Strathaven. One member was James Alison, born 1621, who resided at Windyedge. His sons John, Michael, and Archibald all took up the cause of the Covenanters, a nationalist Presbyterian movement that dominated Scottish politics between 1638 and 1651, but which was doomed to defeat by the forces of Oliver Cromwell and later King Charles II [3,4]. John was taken prisoner at the Battle of Bothwell Bridge in 1679, and banished to Virginia. Michael fled to Ireland after the military defeat at Airsmoss in 1680, and was at the siege of Londonderry in 1688/9. Archibald, however, was the most unfortunate. He was executed at Edinburgh in 1680, his dying statement appearing in the book A Cloud of Witnesses [3].

The Virginia Ellyson family, incidentally, provides a major royal descent from King Edward I of England, as well as from a raft of noble families. This thread came into the family from the marriage of the younger Robert Ellyson with a Gerard wife, about the year 1655 [2,3].

The Boles Family

I have written extensively about the Boles family origin in a previous post, 8. The Kelburn Castle Origin of the Boles Family: A DNA Success Story. The American ancestor was James Bole (1752-1836), who died in Armstrong county, Pennsylvania, and whose son William (my ancestor) added the friendly ending “s” to the name [2].

For many years we thought the Boleses might be English. However, their true origin began to emerge when it was discovered, from the apparent statement of a grandson, that James was born in Ireland. That, and his known Presbyterian religion, pointed clearly to a Scotch-Irish origin. In other words, James was almost certainly the descendant of a Scot who had crossed to Ireland, probably specifically to Ulster [2].

The next realization was the family might ultimately have been from Kelburn, Ayrshire, Scotland. This hypothesis emerged as it began to be appreciated that the spelling of the surname varied in American records, and Bole could sometimes appear as Boyle. A family named Boyle, now Earls of Glasgow, have been seated at Kelburn castle continuously since at least the late 1200s, plenty of time to generate cadet lines, one or more of which may have crossed to Ireland. Furthermore until early in the 20th century, the surname Boyle was pronounced in Ayshire as Bole, potentially explaining how the Bole and Boyle spellings could refer to the same family.

The Kelburn hypothesis recently received a ringing confirmation when it was discovered that a male-line descendant of James Bole has a Y chromosome with similar genetic markers to that from a male-line descendant of John Boyle (1688-1740), the 2nd Earl of Glasgow and a member of the Kelburn family. The relationship certainly was not close; my ancestor may have left the castle, never to return, around 1430. Nevertheless it affords a second specific Scottish location to feel a connection to, one that is all the more meaningful because it connects me to the origin of my surname.

The McQueen (MacQueen) Family

The family most appropriate to recognize this Tartan Day, however, may be the McQueens. Unlike the Ellysons and Boleses, who were Lowlander families having little to do with tartans, the McQueens were Highlanders and presumably did wear the plaid (see graphic).

The MacQueen Tartan

I have written extensively about my ancestor Dugal McQueen (ca 1666?-1746) in two posts, namely 4. Dugal McQueen, Scottish Rebel and Gateway Ancestor to Royalty, and BRIEFLY NOTED: A McQueen 300th Anniversary. It is sufficient to say that he is known to have been of Pollochaig, Moy parish, co. Inverness, Scotland, a location made possible to identify through an English prison record establishing his Moy origin [2]. Today the manor house at Pollochaig is in ruins but can still be visited at its location near Tomatin.

Dugal’s known ancestry is very extensive, being known in his male line for an additional two generations back to 1644, with a family presence at Pollochaig likely back to about 1510, and for many generations back through his mother and numerous intermarried Scottish families [2].

Dugal came involuntarily to Maryland in 1716, exiled and probably in chains, having been captured in the Battle of Preston the previous year [2]. Whatever one’s views of the failed Jacobite rebellions of the 1700s, their participants saw them as nationalist expressions of freedom from English overlordship. That seems appropriate to recognize on Tartan Day.

Final Thoughts

The difficulty of genealogically “jumping the pond” to Scotland should not be underestimated. Looked at together, the three geographic locations I’ve described were all the result of unusual discoveries. They included a remarkable family Bible entry, a converging pair of Y-DNA tests, and an obscure prison record from a failed rebellion. Other families, like the McClains, McCroskys, McFaddens, McIntires, and McMurtries, have so far proved impossible to trace back to Scotland. In most cases this is due to the stretch of years taking family origins beyond available church records, and in some if not most cases due to intervening lost generations spent in Ireland.

Nevertheless unusual records sometimes exist, and they make good material for the genealogist’s craft. Keep weaving your threads together! But on today’s Tartan Day, feel free to celebrate your Scottishness no matter how it is known.


[1] Information retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tartan_Day (2016).

[2] Boles, D.B. (2016). The Omnibus Ancestry: 589 Documented American and European Lines, 2nd edition. Available for download through Lulu.

[3] Boles, D.B. (2005). Snyder-Harbour Ancestry. Available for download through Lulu.

[4] Information retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Covenanter (2016).

Picture attribution: Owner Celtus, “MacQueen tartan (Vestiarium Scoticum).png”, retrieved from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:MacQueen_tartan_(Vestiarium_Scoticum).png. Used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license.


BRIEFLY NOTED: A McQueen 300th Anniversary

Today I’ll be wearing a Scottish flag pin and quaffing a dram of Drambuie in honor of my ancestor Dugal McQueen. It is 300 years to the day since he was captured at the Battle of Preston, setting in motion the legal proceedings that resulted in his transport to America as a rebel against the King. It was a sad day for him, to be sure, but a great day for the future of his family in America. For his story, see “4. Dugal McQueen, Scottish Rebel and Gateway Ancestor to Royalty”, archived under January 2015.


Picture Attribution: Public domain.

18. Witches, Wizards, Ghosts, and Things That Go Bump in the Night

Superstition and magic have no doubt played a role in society ever since there was society. By spanning many countries and several centuries, the genealogist’s craft occasionally uncovers interesting anecdotes that appeal to the modern sense of the offbeat, quirky, and downright spooky. What better time to stir them up from the bottom of a bubbling pot, than Halloween?


The most elaborate witch story in my background is that of the McQueen witch, who cast her spells around the end of the 17th century. John McQueen of Pollochaig, co. Inverness, Scotland, was a famous sportsman who went out one day hoping to kill a deer. After a long way he came across one, which went down when shot. But when John scoured the area for his prize, it couldn’t be found. He returned home empty-handed, and that night told the story at his fireside.


Certain he had killed his quarry, he returned the next morning to the spot. There he met an old woman, who said to him, “Black John son of Dougall, take the lead out of my foot which you put into it yesterday.” This he did, and when finished he asked her for a wish or blessing. She thought a moment, and replied, “Your best day will be your worst day, and your worst day will be your best day.”

Years later this prophecy became true, when John’s son was captured at the Battle of Preston and was subsequently transported overseas. It was John’s worst day for the future of his sept in Scotland.  But it was his best day for the future of his many descendants in America [1, 2].

Other ancestral lines had their witch anecdotes as well, of a much deadlier shade. In 16th century Germany, one of my direct ancestors through the Foster family was Gertrud Stuell, wife of Hans Stuell, a householder near Siegen. In 1590 she was accused of bewitching livestock, found guilty, and burned [1, 3].

Nor were family members absent from the other end of the legal system. My wife’s many-great-uncle John Emerson was one of the accusers in the infamous Salem witch trials in Massachusetts in 1692. That year his own uncle, a minister of the same name, contributed to the witch hysteria by claiming to have witnessed a shooting of three men, who then rose up and fired a silver gun with a type of bullet never seen before. Rev. Emerson wrote:

The Devil and his Agents were the cause of all the Molestations. The Ambushments of the Good People of Glocester were caused by Daemons in the Shape of Armed Indians and Frenchmen. [1, 4]

My favorite witch story, however, had a very different ending from the horrifying ones of Siegen and Salem. My ancestor Jeremiah Collet, Sr., from whom I descend through the Withers family, was a fishmonger of Devizes, co. Wiltshire, England, who immigrated to Pennsylvania. A few months later, in Feb 1683/4, he served on a jury in Chester (now Delaware) county, and heard the case of Margaret Matson. Matson was accused of practicing witchcraft, specifically of killing livestock by bewitching it and appearing in spectral form. After hearing the case, Jeremiah and his fellow jurors returned their verdict. The accused was found guilty not of witchcraft, but of “having the common fame of a witch” — for which she merely had to post bond for good behavior!

The case is considered historically significant in reflecting hostility in the Quaker colony toward witchcraft accusations, in sharp contrast to attitudes that would be revealed in Salem a decade later. There is even a legend, possibly apocryphal, that when dismissing the charge of witchcraft against Matson, William Penn affirmed her right to ride a broomstick [1, 5, 6].


The wizards in my family were Thomas Ashton (ca 1394?- aft 1445) and Edmund Trafford (ca 1393-1457/8), ancestors through both the Snyder-Harbour and Ellis families. These co. Lancaster gentlemen claimed to have discovered an elixir that restored youth and changed base metals into gold and silver. In my opinion their major claim to wizardry, however, is that in 1446 they managed to persuade the King to override an earlier law prohibiting alchemy, and to grant them a patent to practice it [1, 7, 8]. Otherwise I presume their deaths, if not their lack of riches, tended to discredit them.


The legend of the ghost of Phillip Babb (ca 1602?-1670/1), my ancestor through the Withers-Davis families, was known to author Nathaniel Hawthorne. Phillip, a fishing master on Hogg Island in the Isles of Shoals off the coast of what is now Maine, was held to have been a crew member for the notorious pirate Capt. Kidd [1, 9]. In 1852, Hawthorne reported:

Old Babb, the ghost, has a ring around his neck, and is supposed either to have been hung or to have had his throat cut, but he steadfastly declines telling the mode of his death. There is a luminous appearance about him as he walks, and his face is pale and very dreadful. [10]

As with all good stories of the supernatural, the legend became more elaborate as time passed. In 1873, a Shoals historian named Celia Thayer reported:

There is a superstition among the islanders that Philip Babb… still haunts Appledore [another Shoals island]; and no consideration would induce the more timid to walk alone after dark over a certain shingly beach on that island, at the top of the cove bearing Babb’s name — for there the uneasy spirit is oftenest seen. He is supposed to have been so desperately wicked when alive that there is no rest for him in his grave. His dress is a coarse, striped butcher’s frock, with a leather belt, to which is attached a sheath containing a ghostly knife, sharp and glittering, which it is his delight to brandish in the face of terrified humanity. One of the Shoalers is perfectly certain that he and Babb have met, and he shudders with real horror, recalling the meeting. This is his story. It was after sunset (of course), and he was coming around the corner of a work-shop, when he saw a wild and dreadful figure advancing toward him; his first thought was that someone wished to make him the victim of a practical joke, and he called out something to the effect that he “wasn’t afraid”; but the thing came near with a ghastly face and hollow eyes, and assuming a fiendish expression, took out the knife from its belt and flourished it in the face of the Shoaler … [10]

In 1929, Oscar Laighton went still further. In his account, also set on Appledore Island, Babb had dug for treasure – presumed to be Capt. Kidd’s – making a deep pit 30 feet wide. An iron chest being discovered at the bottom, Babb and a friend broke it open, upon which smoke and red hot horseshoes flew out. From his death until the Coast Guard built a structure on the spot, Babb’s ghost persisted near the cove’s head — to which no islander would come near [10].

Things That Go Bump in the Night

I end with an anecdote concerning Elizabeth Addams Bull Rossiter (1713/4-1810), my ancestor through the Speece-Robinson familes. In a letter soon after her death, a granddaughter wrote:

. . . our respected grandmother left this world in April; her illness was very short and she was quite sensible until the last few minutes. The day before she died she mentioned to her son and daughter that she had distinctly heard three little taps on the head of her bed, and on that hour the next day she would depart, as her father had heard the same, and she believed it a token for her to be prepared. At the hour mentioned she expired. [11]

Presumably my esteemed many-great-grandmother bequeathed her ancestral death taps to a child other than the daughter who was my ancestor. In my branch of the family they have not been heard this many a generation. But with October 31st fast approaching, one never knows. Happy Halloween!


[1] Boles, D.B. (2016). The Omnibus Ancestry. Available through Lulu.

[2] The story is traditional, but I am endebted to Donna Hechler Porter (http://theflyingshuttle.blogspot.com/2014_05_01_archive.html) for suggesting which day was the worst and the best, a point left vague in the traditional telling. It’s about as perfect an ending to the story as one could wish.

[3] Boles, H.W., & Boles, D.B. (1990). Foster Ancestors: Some Europeans, Immigrants, Colonists, and Pioneers. Decorah, Iowa: The Anundsen Publishing Co. Available through Lulu.

[4] Information retrieved from http://suite101.com/article/ebenezer-babson-and-the-1692-gloucester-massachusetts-mystery-a328784 (2015).

[5] Boles, D.B., & Boles, H.W. (1998). Withers-Davis Ancestry. Decorah, Iowa: The Anundsen Publishing Co. Available through Lulu.

[6] Information retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margaret_Matson (2015).

[7] Boles, D.B. (2005). Snyder-Harbour Ancestry. Available through Lulu.

[8] Boles, H.W., & Boles, D.B. (1994). Ellis Ancestors: Some Immigrants, Colonists, and Pioneers. Kalamazoo, Mich: Private print. Available through Lulu.

[9] Which however was certainly untrue, in that Kidd’s piracy did not occur until a generation after Phillip’s death (Withers-Davis Ancestry, op. cit., available through Lulu).

[10] Rutledge, L.V. (1965). The Isles of Shoals in Lore and Legend. Barre, Mass: Barre Publishers.

[11] Boles, D.B., & Boles, H.W. (1997). Speece-Robinson Ancestry. Ozark, Mo: Dogwood Printing. Available through Lulu.

Picture attribution:

“A Visit to the Witch” by Edward Frederick Brewtnall (1882). Public domain.

4. Dugal McQueen, Scottish Rebel and Gateway Ancestor to Royalty

The Scottish ancestry of Dugal McQueen is fully extended in the The Omnibus Ancestry. It is available through Lulu.

Dugal McQueen arrived in Maryland in 1716 aboard the ironically named “Friendship”, probably in chains and certainly under edict never to return to his native Scotland. He had been captured the previous autumn at the battle of Preston, part of the doomed first Jacobite rebellion aimed at restoring the Stuarts to the throne [1]. Given a choice between exile and the barbaric ritual of hanging, drawing, and quartering, he and his fellow transportees had sensibly chosen exile.

From this ill-starred beginning descended a numerous and prosperous American family. It included the actor Steve McQueen, star of The Blob, The Great Escape, The Cincinnati Kid, The Sand Pebbles, Bullitt, The Getaway, Papillon, and many other films of the 1950s through 1980 [5]. He was my distant cousin, for I descend from Dugal McQueen through my grandfather Loren Ellsworth Bowers [1].

My genealogical interest in Dugal has been intense, because he is my only confirmed Highland immigrant ancestor. He was recorded at his prison in Lancaster Castle as a resident of the parish of Moy, co. Inverness, Scotland [1]. There the Macqueen clan was seated at Corrybrough, Little Corrybrough, Pollochaig, and Raigbeg, among other locations.

The Mackintosh Muniments

A major advance in tracing the exile’s genealogical origins came from a message thread hosted by Ancestry.com, implying that Dugal was mentioned in the published muniments (i.e., archived documents) of the Mackintosh clan [1,2]. I was subsequently able to access this at an out-of-town library during a personal trip. The_ruins_of_Shenachie

What I found was extraordinary. Dugal was mentioned as being of “Pollockack” [Pollochaig] in 1714 when he leased land from the Mackintoshes at the west end of Ruthven, a tiny settlement on the northwest bank of the Findhorn River near Tomatin. He had married in Scotland a woman of social prominence, namely Elizabeth, the sister of Lachlan Mackintosh, the 20th chief (or laird) of clan Mackintosh. By her he had a daughter Anne [1,2]. Neither Elizabeth nor Anne joined Dugal in exile. From other sources I learned he remarried years later in Maryland, ca 1726?, to a wife named Grace who bore his American children, one of whom was my ancestor [1]. Presumably this followed Elizabeth’s death.

Antiquarian Contributions

Even more extraordinary discoveries were to follow, courtesy of a great genealogical revolution. (I mentioned another such revolution, the creation of the International Genealogical Index and its successors, in a previous post.) Just within the last few years a great many out-of-copyright books have become available as high-quality PDFs through such free services as Google Books, the HathiTrust Digital Library, and the Allen County [Indiana] Public Library Internet Archive. Because the late 1800s and early 1900s were a golden age of genealogical publication, this has placed a great deal of research within easy access of any computer browser.

Among the recently accessible books was an antiquarian publication dating from the 1890s [1]. Its author aimed to tell the history of the parish of Moy. Noting that the parish was dominated by the Mackintosh clan, with the laird holding nearly 70,000 acres including land along the river Findhorn, he nevertheless launched into a brief history of Pollochaig, which had long been in possession of the Macqueens. In his account there was an interesting piece of information: A John Macqueen of Pollochaig, son of Dougal and living in the early 1700s, had married Anne, sister of chief Lachlan Mackintosh [1].

If John lived in the early 18th century, his father was of too early a generation to be the exile. Thus while the appearance of the name Dougal seemed meaningful, what relationship if any existed to the later Dugal the author could not or did not say.

That information, fortunately, was provided by another out-of-copyright work, this time a Highland historical magazine also dating from the 1890s [1]. It indicated that John Macqueen, certainly the same man referred to above, had a son Donald [sic], who married Elizabeth, also stated to have been the sister of chief Lachlan Mackintosh. Furthermore, the son was stated to have been an officer of the 1715 rising and as a consequence was banished to America. This was a clear reference to Dugal (not Donald) McQueen, known from the Mackintosh muniments as the husband of Elizabeth Mackintosh and certainly a man banished to America [1].

Dugal, the immigrant, was therefore the son of John Macqueen and Anne Mackintosh. But how could both father and son have married sisters of chief Lachlan Mackintosh?

That answer was provided by published Mackintosh genealogies, for Lachlan, the 20th chief, was the son of Lachlan, the 19th chief [1]. Manifestly, John had married Anne, sister of the 19th chief, and his son Dugal had married his first cousin Elizabeth, sister of the 20th chief. Such marriages were not uncommon following their legalization in 1567 [3], accounting for perhaps 3.5% of marriages among the landed gentry (although that figure is for the British Isles more generally) [4].

In any case Dugal, it was clear, was the son of John Macqueen by Anne, daughter of William Mackintosh, the 18th chief, and his wife Margaret Graham [1].

An Explosion of Prominent Scottish Landed, Noble, and Royal Lines

Anne Mackintosh was what one might call “connected”, and massively so. Through her parents she descended from dozens of the most prominent Scottish families of the 1600s on back. They included among others the families of Beaton, Campbell, Drummond, Gordon, Graham, Grant, Halyburton, Hamilton, Keith, Kennedy, Learmonth, Lindsay, Mackenzie, Maule, Murray, Ogilvy, Rollo (Rollock), Rose, Ruthven, Scrymgeour, Sinclair, and Stewart [1].

A number of noble ancestors were among them, the latest-living of which was Sir John Murray, Earl of Tullibardine (1550-1613). There were also royal descents from King James II of Scotland (1430-1460), King Jean II of France (1319-1364), and King Edward III of England (1312-1377), among many others. In other words, Dugal McQueen was a gateway ancestor. A gateway ancestor is a genealogical predecessor, generally an immigrant, whose own genealogy can be traced to kings and queens, thereby providing all descendants with such ancestry [1].

In this case intense genealogical interest paid off . . . royally.

The Scottish ancestry of Dugal McQueen is fully extended in the The Omnibus Ancestry. It is available through Lulu.


[1] Boles, D.B. (2016). The  Omnibus Ancestry.  Tuscaloosa, AL: private print.  Available through Lulu.

[2] Information retrieved from http://boards.ancestry.com/localities.britisles.scotland.inv.general/650.3/mb.ashx (2015).

[3] Parker, H. (2012). “In All Gudly Haste”: The Formation of Marriage in Scotland, c. 1350 – 1600. Thesis presented to the University of Guelph.

[4] Information retrieved from http://ije.oxfordjournals.org/content/38/6/1453.full (2015).

[5] Information retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_McQueen (2015).

Picture attribution: Frances Watts, The ruins of Shenachie – geograph.org.uk – 667349.jpg, retrieved from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_ruins_of_Shenachie_-_geograph.org.uk_-_667349.jpg#file. Used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. (NB: Pollochaig has been mapped as “Shenachie” since 1908-9.)