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The Supposed Ancestry of John Borthwick of "Langlees", Biggar, Scotland


In the 1950s and 1960s members of my family in Australia began searching for their ancestors in Scotland. Assistance was sought from the Scots Ancestry Research, many letters were written, visits were made to Scotland and a family tree was compiled.

I suspect, however that this tree is not correct. The first glitch I came across when working back was that my great-great-great-great grandfather John Borthwick, if his age on his headstone is correct, must have been born when his father was only 15 years old, and 7 years before his parents were married. This seems unlikely but I'm willing to be convinced!

In my research so far I have concentrated on discovering more about the life, times & families of our known Borthwick ancestors, John Borthwick & Elizabeth Dinwoodie of Scotland. At various times I've made some efforts to try to get back beyond John. This has not been easy as I've not found his birth, or any other documents that might lead to his parents. No wills, no deeds, no family bibles, no letters or documents.

For those reasons I am posting this information here - in the hope that someone else with an interest in these families may be able to confirm or remove my suspicions. In all my research so far, via public records, email and internet I have met only one Borthwick researcher with an interest in any of the families. She is interested in William Borthwick & Margaret Sinclair but does not have clear evidence yet that they were her own ancestors, ie parents of her ggggrandfather, Robert Borthwick.

If you know anything at all about any of the families listed here I would be very pleased to hear from you. Perhaps a mystery or two may be solved!

On this page I will work back from my known, definite, absolutely certain ancestor, John Borthwick, husband of Elizabeth Dinwoodie, who was a farmer at Langlees near Biggar, Scotland, when he died in April 1835. The supposed ancestry of John Borthwick is as follows:

      • William Borthwick & Margaret Sinclair, m.
      • Alexander Borthwick & Isabel Mitchelson
      • William Borthwick & Isabell Rutherford
      • then lots of gaps & supposition ....

William Borthwick & Margaret Sinclair

To begin with I hasten to say that I am not really sure how it was that we in Australia first discovered that William and Margaret were supposedly the parents of our John Borthwick. There is quite a lot to suggest that the Scots Ancestry Research Society (SARS) reached this conclusion when asked to do some research for an Australian Borthwick family member. The papers from SARS cannot be located however.

Marriage: William Borthwick & Margaret Sinclair were married on 18 September 1757 in Edinburgh Parish, Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland. The Parish Register, searched by a family member in August 2000, records:

Sabbath 18 September 1757 William Borthwick Merchant in the Tolbooth Kirk parish and Margaret Sinclair daughter to James Sinclair Fractor to William Sinclair of Frizwick in Cathnips now in the new Kirk parish.

Occupation: According to old research notes, the Register of Edinburgh Apprentices shows that a William, son of Alexander Borthwick, deceased farmer of Prestongrange, was added to the roll on 26 Aug 1762 (?) as apprentice to Patrick Drummond. A Directory of Edinburgh in 1752, by Gilhooley, under Apprentices lists a William Borthwick whose Master was Patrick Drummond, merchant. William's indenture year was 1752 so it seems that 1762 was a transcription error and should have been 1752.

The same Directory indicates that Patrick Drummond and Andrew Drummiond were "Seedsmen". In the list of Residents of Edinburgh Patrick Drummond's occupation is seed merchant and his address is given as Galloway's, Lawnmarket North.

The main source of the directory is a list of ratepayers from the city archives, They paid a window tax or a annuity tax. If you did not qualify for the tax you would not appear in the list. Canongate and other parts of present day Edinburgh were then outside the city walls.

Apprenticeship was an important employment practice in those times but obtaining an apprenticeship was not easy. Gilhooley lists the Total Indentured Apprentices in Edinburgh for the years 1746 to 1753. In 1746 there were none, apparently because following the Jacobite occupancy there existed no City Council to approve indentures. The figures for the following years were: 1747 (65); 1748 (45); 1749 (42); 1750 (49); 1751 (46) and 1753 (39).

SARS advised in 1960 that from the list of Burgesses and Guild-Brethren of Edinburgh it was found that William Borthwick became a Burgess and Guild-Brethren on 7 June 1758 by the right of his apprenticeship to Patrick Drummond merchant Burgess. This is a record of William in 1758 finishing his apprenticeship and being added to the list of Craftsmen. An apprentice was generally around 14 years old and apprenticeships lasted around seven years. If this is our William Borthwick he was 18 years old in 1752 and his apprenticeship lasted 6 years.

If this is the William who married Margaret Sinclair in September 1757, the marriage took place nine months before he finished his apprenticeship. However, William is referred to as a "merchant in the Tolbooth Kirk Parish".

Tolbooth Parish is in Edinburgh and is pronounced Toll Booth. It refers to a Toll Booth in the Canongate. As the name implies there was once a "Gate to the City" on what is now called "The Royal Mile" and at the Canongate there was a Toll Booth where people entering the City had to pay a Toll or Tax (Tacks) There have been many books written about this part of Edinburgh and it is often referred to as the Old Toun. (The New Town being to the North of Princes Street.)

Children: The children of this couple were apparently:

  • 1.1 John Borthwick, born 1759 in Edinburgh, not 1750 as should be expected if he were the John who later married Elizabeth (Betty) Dinwoodie
  • 1.2 James Borthwick, born 17 November 1760, Edinburgh Parish.
  • 1.3 William Borthwick (infant). LDS Scottish Church Records CD shows birth of a William Borthwick, son of William Borthwick & Margaret Sinclair as 8 April 1762. Same date shown on Scots Origins site Order #3588539. However, it seems that this child died and they named another son William in 1766.
  • 1.4 Jean Borthwick , born Edinburgh, 16 August 1763
    1.5 Alexander Borthwick, born Edinburgh, 4 March 1765
  • 1.6 William Borthwick, born 20 August 1766 and baptised Edinburgh, 21 September 1766. Our Australian Borthwick family was advised of the christening date for William in 1766 & also a birthdate of 20/7/1766, as a result of a search of the Old Parochial Registers of Edinburgh, conducted by the Scots Ancestry Research Society of Edinburgh & dated 31/3/1952
  • 1.7 Samuel Borthwick, born Edinburgh, 15 February 1768
  • 1.8 Margaret Borthwick, born Edinburgh, 28 March 1770
  • 1.9 Robert Borthwick, born Edinburgh, 8 December 1774
  • 1.10 Janet Borthwick, born 28 August 1777, baptised Edinburgh 24 September 1777.

Residences: The only Borthwicks listed in the 1752 Directory for Edinburgh are a Resident, Mrs Borthwick, no occupation, of Gedd's, Byres Close and under Apprentices, William Borthwick, apprentice to Patrick Drummond. I haven't yet tried to locate William and Margaret Borthwick and/or their family in any other directories or records as I am fairly well convinced that they are not the family of our John Borthwick.

Death: In 1963 Isobel M Allan of the Scots Ancestory Research Society advised our Australian Borthwick family that there was no will or testament registered for William Borthwick in the Commissariat of Edinburgh (which includes Prestonpans)

Who were William's parents?

Birth of William, son of Alexander Borthwick & Isabell Mitchelson: Again the reason for making this link is uncertain but somehow, somewhere, members of our family in Australia were told that the parents of William Borthwick (above) were Alexander Borthwick and Isabel Mitchelson.

A record of a William, born 1735, the first son, and apparently the only child, of Alexander and Isabel, was found in 1960 in the Old Parochial Registers at Prestonpans. This has been confirmed by recent research. It is recorded as follows:

Alexander Borthwick, Gardener and Isabel Mitchelson had a child born May 31 baptised William June 4th 1735. John Waddel and William Borthwick. (They were the witnesses).

According to SARS no further children of Alexander Borthwick and Isobel Mitcheson were recorded in that register. I have searched the LDS Scottish Church records CD, and the IGI (1992 version plus 1994 addendum), and also could not find any record of any other children of Alexander Borthwick and Isabel Mitchelson (or any similar surname).

As noted above we have nothing to prove that this particular William is the one who married Margaret Sinclair. Therefore, and even more importantly, we have nothing to connect him to John Borthwick, husband of Elizabeth Dinwoodie.

Alexander Borthwick & Isabel Mitchelson

Marriage: Alexander Borthwick & Isabel Mitchelson were married on 25 July 1734 at Inveresk with Musselburgh, Midlothian, Scotland.

Isabel is also recorded on various family trees as MITCHESON and even HUTCHESON. On the Scots Origins site and in LDS Scottish Church Records CD the name is spelt MITCHELSON. That is also the spelling in the Old Parochial Register.

Children: No other children have been located.

Death: According to one set of family notes Alexander died on 26 August 1752. I have not yet found a source for this. In 1963 Isobel M Allan of the Scots Ancestory Research Society advised EF Gill that there was no will or testament registered for Alexander Borthwick in the Commissariat of Edinburgh (which includes Prestonpans)

Who were Alexander's parents?

Birth of Alexander, son of William Borthwick & Isabell Rutherford: Again I don't really know how or why it was ever decided that Alexander (above) was the son of this couple but that is what we have recorded on the family tree.

In 1960 the Scots Ancestral Research Society provided the names of two sons of William Borthwick and Isabel Rutherford, Alexander and James, to our Borthwick family in Australia. Another problem. Alexander was said to have been born in 1693 or 1697 and John to have been christened in 1697, yet Alexander was not christened until 1706. Could this be mixed up? Was Alexander born about 1706? I checked the Scottish Church records CD at LDS and could not find any Alexander, son of William & Isabel, born or christened 1693 or any time nearby. Also searched the film of OPRs for Prestonpans for 1693 and could not find an Alexander birth or christening. It seems from family notes that the birth of this Alexander was not recorded in the registers at Prestonpans. One Australian family member searched the records of Prestonpans from 1700-1716 but no record of his birth was found there. On the other hand a christening date of 17 Feb 1706 was found on LDS Scottish Church records. So ... where did the SARS get the year 1693 ? And why do we believe that Alexander, son of William Borthwick and Isabel Rutherford, was our ancestor?

William Borthwick & Isobell Rutherford

Family histories written for our Australian Borthwick family in the mid- to late 1900s all state that "This is the earliest Borthwick to whom lineage of our Australian New England Borthwicks can be traced". As can be seen from the above, I don't think we have enough evidence to show that this is the lineage of our family. It seems that it was the SARS that advised family members in the 1960s that the parents of Alexander who had married Isabel Mitchelson were William Borthwick & Isobell Rutherford. I haven't yet seen any records which prove that.

Marriage: A marriage date of 1681 was found by an Australian Borthwick in the Old Parochial Registers at Prestonpans when she visited Scotland in August-September 1960. She recorded the name as "Isobel Rutherford" but it seems to have been recorded as "Issabell Rutherfoord" when the births and christenings of the children were registered (assuming of course that this is the same person!) At this period in history of course there was no convention about spelling names carefully or consistently.

I checked the LDS Scottish Church Records CD and could not find any record of this marriage. However there is a record which appears to be a birth record for William "about 1660" and it states that his spouse was Isabel Rutherford. I also checked th OPR microfiche for East Lothian, which includes Prestonpans, and found no record of this marriage. On the LDS IGI, however, I found a (guessed?) marriage of William Borthwick and Isabel Rutherford "about 1691" at Prestonpans, East Lothian, Scotland.

Children: Need to look for more children between 1692 and 1697. Either Prestonpans or Innveresk.

Who were William's parents?

Birth: As noted above the LDS IGI records an estimated date of "about 1660" for William's birth but also lists "spouse" as Isabel Rutherford so perhaps this is actually the marriage record (the computer record is confusing). It lists William as William Barthwick. Source is Film no 453864 page 22 Reference no 38499. This birth is NOT on the microfiche index to Old Parochial Records at Prestonpans however two volumes of those registers, from 1642-1688, are apparently missing. If this William does become important to our family we may need to search the Kirk Session records. And we need to find other documents to discover William's parents.

Birth of Isobell Rutherford: The church records for the children of William and Isabel use various spellings of her name. Although we have most often recorded her as "Isobel Rutherford" in Australian family trees etc, it seems that she, or the people who took her details, most often recorded her name as "Issabell Rutherfoord" or "Issobell Rutherfoord"..

On the LDS International Genealogical Index (1992/1994) the Isabel Rutherford who married William Borthwick is recorded as being born "about 1660". Film no 453864 page 23 Reference no 37495. Could not find Isabel's birth on Scottish Church Records CD.

Occupation: According to the baptism record for their daughter, Grissol, William was a gardener in "Olivestobo" in Parish of Tranont. There was a house/estate called Olivestob, just to the north of Tranent, very close to Prestonpans. Most of the owners were Hamiltons who had it at the time of this William Borthwick.

Children of William & Isobell: The children of William & Issobell, according to the IGI, were:

  • 1.1 Grissoll Borthwick, Born 9 September 1692 in Prestonpans, East Lothian, Scotland496. Baptised 11 September 1692 in Prestonpans. The LDS IGI records this birth of a daughter to William Barthwick and Isabel Rutherford. Here her name is recorded as Grizell Barthwick. Source is F#: 453864. Also on the Scots Origins site (Order #1091905). The original record states: "William Borthwick Gardoner in (Olive stobo?) in the Paroch of Tranont, and his wife Issaboll Rutherford had a Daughter brought forth on friday the 9th, and Baptised Grissoll on Sunday the Eleventh of Septb'r 1692. Witnesses John Borthwick, Rob't Nessbitt and John Rolly (?)." Microfilm No 1067855
  • 1.2 Rachell Borthwick. Rachell "Bortwich" daughter of William Bortwich and Isobell Rutherfoord was christened at Inveresk with Musselburgh on 24 February 1695.
  • 1.3 John Borthwick, baptised 21 February 1697 in Innveresk with Musselburgh, MidLothian, Scotland.
  • 1.4 William Borthwick, baptised 19 March 1699 in Inveresk with Musselburgh.
  • 1.5 Issobel Borthwick. Baptised 23 March 1701 in Inveresk with Musselburgh.
  • 1.6 Charles Borthwick. Baptised 18 October 1703 in Inveresk with Musselburgh.
  • 1.7 Alexander Borthwick, Baptised 17 February 1706 in Inveresk with Musselburgh. Said to have married Isabell Mitchelson. According to one set of family notes Alexander died on 26 August 1752. I have not yet found a source for this.

Other Clues - Fact or Fiction?

Other clues to possible ancestors or family relationships are as follows.

John Livingston Dinwiddie BORTHWICK was a grandson of John Borthwick and Elizabeth Dinwoodie, born in Philadelphia August 11, 1840. In "Annals of the Family and House of Borthwick," by Alexander E Borthwick, quoted in manuscript "A History and Genealogy of the Family of Borthwick" Part 1, Borthwicks of Scotland, 1945, p.29, it is stated that John was a cousin of Lord Glenesk twice removed, and was "allied" to the present Lord Borthwick. These possible relationships are being researched. In relation to Lord Glenesk, however, I have been able to trace back only as far as Thomas Borthwick and Jennet Blake, who were married in 1802 in Peebles, Scotland. I would be very interested to hear from anyone who knows more about the ancestry of Lord Glenesk.

Early generations of the family had a copy of the book "Lord Glenesk and The Morning Post" published in 19??. Was this just because it was about a Borthwick, or because there was some connection as suggested?

William Murray Borthwick III and Maude Mary Alexandra Johnston named their home in NSW "Crookston". Was this because they had some connection to that branch of the Borthwick family? If there was any connection then I would guess that John Borthwick of "Langlees" near Biggar, Scotland, was a younger son of a younger son of a younger son, etc. and therefore without any particular status or property of his own.

Members of the family who visited the Crookston Borthwicks in the 1950s and 1960s came away believing that they were related in some way. Unfortunately the details weren't revealed or recorded! Was this just a polite and generous impression given by an inclusive important member of the family?

Where to from here?

Where to from here? I really would like to track back another generation or two in Scotland but don't have much at all to go on.

If you "own" or have an interest in any of the families mentioned on this page I'd love to know more and would be happy to share my research with you.

A New Lead, February 2002

Jean Borthwick, daughter of John Borthwick & Elizabeth Dinwoodie, was baptised on 13 July 1787 in Tweedsmuir & apparently survived to adulthood. The Tweedsmuir OPR is as follows:

Baptisms 1787. July 13. Baptized Jean lawfull daughter of John Borthwick Shepherd in Riggs and Elisabeth Dinwiddie his spouse. Witnesses John Rennvick [?] Shepherd in Glenbreck and Alexander Borthwick Shepherd in Over-Minzion. (This certainly looks like "Minzion" in the OPR but was apparently spelt "Menzion".

Lilias B, a descendant of this family and excellent researcher of their history advises that Alexander Borthwick, born about 1750,

It is thought that Alexander's first wife was Janet Blaiklaw, with whom he had at least two children, Elizabeth and Robert. Then in 1891 Alexander married Agnes Hyslop, born about 1768. Alexander Borthwick have a large number of descendants.

For some photos of Over-Menzion click here. And for a page on the family of Alexander Borthwick, shepherd in Over-Menzion, who surely must be a brother or cousin of our John Borthwick, click here.)

Some References:
LDS, IGI, Scots Origins.


Copyright: Ann Carson 2001
All rights reserved.
Created: 29 April 2001