For some years my distant cousins and I have been researching our McKenzie ancestors who first appear in Bowden Old Parochial Registers in 1808, when my 3*great grandfather George was baptised 9th February 1808 and then again in 1810 when a second son James was baptised. They were the sons of William McKenzie and Janet Brown, who lived in various villages along the course of the Ale Water in Roxburghshire in the Scottish Borders.
No recorded marriage for William and Janet has been found in any records. In a fragment of the Bowden Kirk Session records, there was a record of fees made to proclaim marriage banns for William McKenzie and Isobel Henderson, 20 April 1803. There is no record in the County index of the marriage ever having taken place or of issue to the couple. A marriage of a Janet McKenzie to James Turnball was also recorded in Bowden registers dated 19 January 1806, William's sister perhaps? What is known is that Janet was the daughter of John Brown and Margaret "Peggy" Butler who married in Melrose, on 7 March 1779, the records show that their Cautioner was a Robert Grierson, both being of the parish. The OPR entry actually states booked for marriage so I presume it took place on the given date. John was a weaver and they had five children all born in Darnick and baptised in Melrose, Jean 27 March 1779, Janet on 28 May 1780, Margaret on 29 December 1782, George 24 July 1785 and John 2 November 1788.
Margaret was the daughter of William Butler and Agnes Watson. She was christened in Melrose 1 May 1748 and her sister on Agnes on 14 May 1750. There are a number of Butler families and have I been unable to tie William down but Margaret's parents were James Watson and Isobel Henderson. They married at Melrose on 26 July 1711 and Agnes was one of three children christened at Melrose - Elizabeth 22 August 1712, Gideon 10 October 1721 and Agnes 11 May 1724.
There are a number of John Brown's and James Watson's in and around Melrose at the time. I have not been able to tie either back to any particular family, nor have I researched John or James' other children. There are as number Brown gravestones and monuments in Bowden Kirk.
William McKenzie first appears in the Roxburghshire Lieutenancy records in 1799, listed as being a servant at Lilliesleaf Mill. The 1797 Militia Act for Scotland required only those aged between 19 and 23 to be listed for balloting, which gives a birth date between 1776 and 1780. On the 1801 list for balloting there is no William at Lilliesleaf but there is another another William Mckenzie, joiner, at Nisbet which in Crailing parish. He is not on the Militia List for 1799 and is thought to be the son of James McKinzie of Crailing (see later). My William's age does not quite fit with that stated in the 1841 census of Lilliesleaf but I think there is high probablility of the 1799 entry being my William. We have, however, traced those of William McKenzie and Janet Brown. Whilst we know that their son George was baptised at Bowden, his birthplace is not known. James his brother was born 4th April 1810 in Chesterknowes and baptised 3 June 1810 in Bowden by the Reverend Stalker. Following this a daughter, Mary Mackenzie was born on 30 May 1814 and baptised at Ashkirk on 28 August 1814 and in the parish register entry, William's occupation was given as labourer at Sinton Mill. At that time the proprietor of the mill was John Corse Scott, he and his wife Catherine Scott had a son Henry, born at Edinburgh 29 November 1813 and recorded in the Ashkirk OPR. The mill still exists and is now Syntonmill. Their last recorded child was Kenneth who was baptised in Eckford 1817 he too went on to become a miller and may have worked at Sinton. The 1841 census places Kenneth at Hermiston as an agricultural labourer in Lilliesleaf parish. Whether William always worked at Sinton Mill is unknown but all the churches are within a few miles of it and all on connected by the River Ale. From her death certificate we find that Janet had been a servant.
The only other McKenzie found in the Lilliesleaf district on the 1851 census was a Margaret aged 39, an agricultural labourer, who was born in Lilliesleaf and was visiting Walter Deans, age 77, a landed proprietor; but no connection to the family has been established. Interestingly she was still there in 1861 at West Riddell age 47, marked as not in houses. In 1881 at Melrose asylum a 62 lunatic of the same name is an inmate and this could very well be her as Lilliesleaf is her birthplace and she was a domestic servant.
By the 1851 census, William has died and Janet supposedly age 68 is head of the household and has been joined by her 35 year old son, Kenneth, described as an invalid formerly a miller, born in Eckford. Janet still has her grandson James 13, scholar, born in Lilliesleaf with her and another grandson Alexander has joined him, aged 4 born in Lilliesleaf; Jean is now 10 and shown as Jane. Mary is working and living at Riddell House as general servant along with 26 other woman and 12 men all employed by Mark Sprot a landed proprietor of 1,705 acres. Mary is shown as having been born in Lilliesleaf but this may be down to whom-ever filled in the census.
In the meantime, William and Janet's elder son George had moved to Edinburgh and was employed as a gardener and living at Jamaica Street. On 11 July 1830 age 22 he married Isabella Losh, at St Stephens and in the margins of the parish register his name is miss-spelt McKinzie. Isabella was born in Wigton, Cumberland the daughter of William Losh and Eleanor Irving in 1800 and in 1830 was living at Heriot Row in St Stephen's parish Edinburgh. She had married John Allsop Petty by whom she one daughter, Isabella, baptised at Kirk Andrews on Esk 27 August 1827. George and Isabella first child, born in 7 October 1831, William Losh McKenzie was christened 30 November 1831 by the Reverend Walter Scott at the United Associate Session Church when they were living at 4 Shrub Place, Leith Walk, Edinburgh. By 1834 George and Isabella had returned to the Borders and their daughter Ellen (or Eleanor as she was also known) was christened at the Associate Congregation or Free Church in Jedburgh on 6 February 1834. They then moved south to Otterburn where three other children were born - Elizabeth in 1839, George 1841 and Janet in 1843. George is thought to have worked at Otterburn House as a gardener; then the family moved to Teesdale where they settled for the rest of their lives at No 1 Bowbank, Lunedale where George was for 39 years bailiff to the Wemmergill and Streatlam Castle estates of John Bowes. He had his own 7 acres by 1881 and died in 1883.
He is buried with Isabella, who died in 1876, at Laithkirk. By an account to John Bowes Esq dated 23 October 1869 he was earning £80 a year. On John Bowes's death those estates passed to his relation the Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorn. William Losh McKenzie went on to become managing director of the Tyne Soap Company in Gateshead for many years and his eight children were all born there.
Janet Brown died at Lilliesleaf at 10.30 pm on 25 October 1859 from "paralysis some years" and was interred in Lilliesleaf churchyard. The informant of her death was her daughter Mary, who had returned to care for Janet and her brother Kenneth.
By 1861 Mary is described as a washerwoman and is looking after her brother, Kenneth, pauper and agricultural labourer, and Mary has another daughter Georgina age 9 born in Hawick. This arrangement prevails in 1871 with Mary now a gardenerís labourer at 56 and Georgina, 18, a pupil teacher, but shown as born in Lilliesleaf. Kenneth is a pauper and I have yet to check the Kirk Session records to see if he was in receipt of any handouts. Another McKenzie family had settled in Lilliesleaf, Kenneth a master baker, age 28 born in Edinburgh and his wife Marion, 27, from Traquair and sons Kenneth, 7, born Edinburgh and Archibald, 5 born Perth. They were gone by 1881.
By 1881 census Mary, a laundress is at home in the High Street Lilliesleaf, next to the police station, with daughter Georgina, 38 and still unmarried but qualified as a school teacher, possibly in Lilliesleaf itself where there is a school; although the extant building was erected a few years later. Kenneth had died unmarried at 9 am on 6 January 1880 of pthises pulmonalis several years, Mary was the informant.
Georgina left Lilliesleaf and married John Weir (born 1852 in Cathcart,Glasgow and a farm labourer) on 24 May 1882 at St Andrews , No.6 North Street, David Street, in Edinburgh and they were living in Ayshire at Barr by Girvan in 1891 and Colmonell 1901. Georgina taught at both as a general teacher. John Weir's family were settled in Barr and he and Georgina had three children - John Weir, born 1883, James McKenzie Weir, 1886, and George McKenzie Weir, 1887, all born in Colmonell, Ayrshire. On her marriage certificate, Georgina, named her father as James Moodie McKenzie and her mother as Mary McKenzie, nee Brown. From what data I have on the family, this appears to be a cover-up; intrigingly there was a James Moodie baptised in Lilliesleaf in 1817. Could this be Georgina's father or mere coincidence? Georgina died in Girvan Ayrshire in 1924, George McKenzie Weir married Jeannie Owen Comrie in Perth in 1922
Of Mary's brother James no trace has been found, although several pieces of evidence exist, one is a marriage of a James Mackenzie to Agnes Clarence on the 29 April 1829 at Melrose. Otherwise there are no possible marriages on the OPRs, except in Edinburgh where he may have followed his brother George. But it is such a common name that much more research is required, including burial records. A James Allardyce Mackenzie was vicar of Bowden in the mid 19th century and an inscription on the church wall commemorates him to this day but that is pure coincidence.
Likewise Mary's son James has not been traced, but her second son Alexander married Elizabeth Hutchinson in Edinburgh on, 21 January 1874. Elizabeth was born in Musselburgh, Midlothian in 1849. They had three children - James McKenzie and Henry Hutchinson McKenzie born in Broughty Ferry, Forfar, 1875 and 1877 respectively followed by Alexander and Elizabeth born 1880 and 1883 in Dundee; Charles, born 1885 in Edinburgh St Andrews, followed by Georgina 1887, Robert 1890 and Kenneth January 1891. Alexander was a life assurance agent at the time of the 1881 census in Dundee but by 1890 they resided in Edinburgh, 19 Beaverhill Terrace and the family were still there in 1901, although Alexander died in 1898.
Mary died at 4.50 am 3 May 1890 at Lilliesleaf and was described as an agricultural labourer age 75 by her son Alexander, acting as informant. He, incorrectly, gave her father as James, agricultural labourer and mother, correctly, as Janet Brown. As Alexander was born in 1847 he was probably too young to know his grandfather William. Jean was no longer in Lilliesleaf nor has a marriage or death been traced in the registers. There is a marriage in Melrose on 3 August 1855, when she would have only been 15, to Oliver Turnball, but I have not proved this was her. The certificate shows that Jane's age as 19 and states born in Edinburgh, with parents John McKenzie, a blacksmith, and Mary Veitch. Oliver and Jane give their residence as Melrose, where Oliver was a postboy.
In Lilliesleaf churchyard there is gravestone, "William McKenzie died at Lilliesleaf and his wife Janet Brown died 25.10.1859 aged 77 years and their son Kenneth died sixth Jan 1880 and Mary their daughter died May third 1890". Which of the children or grandchildren erected this monument I do not know and there my Borders connection would seem to end. The two James are proving elusive, George and his descendents in Northumbria and farther afield can be found on the website .
I understand that the early parish registers in the Borders are incomplete and much has still to be unearthed, William's ancestry for one. There was a McKinzie family at Crailing in the 1770-80s. Coincidentally, in Edinburgh, George surname was mis-spelt McKinzie. James married Margaret Robson 26 June 1774 there and they had six children all christened at Crailing - John 18 February 1778, William 2 November 1770, Betty 13 March 1782, Agnes 10 March 1785, Thomas 29 November 1788 and James 22 January 1791. Margaret herself was christened in Jedburgh on 4 March 1754, her father being George Robson, which if this were my William's family, might account for the naming of his second son, George. Following this family there is a marriage of a John McKinzie and a Nelly Nichol on 10 February 1804 at Oxnam and the birth of a Nelly McKenzie to that couple on 5 June 1804. A Betty McKenzie married Hugh Rutherford on 16 June 1806 at Ancrum, followed by her sister, Agnes to James Oliver on 24 February 1811.
There was another McKinzie family at Roxburgh where John McKinzie had two children christened Margaret on 13 March 1772 and John on 3 March 1774. A Margaret McKenzie married Robert Hall at Bedrule on 27 July 1782 and there were a few at Yetholm.
Suffice it to say that without the complete records I may never be able to link these families or find my William's ancestors. In the 1790s and early 19th century around a third of the population, in the villages mentioned, were Burghers and anti-burghers and it may be that the missing links are within their records, should they exist. There were also many irregular marriages in the Borders at the time.
Your are visitor number
If anyone has more information or a connection I would be pleased to hear from them.
Send email to Bill McKenzie
Go to McKENZIE family tree and charts
Return to Table of Contents
Return to Home
Copyright © William Ernest McKenzie 2002-2004
27 March 2002 and last updated 9 March 2004
The original of this article was published in the June 2002 issue of the Borders Family History Society magazine.