The Fisherford connection

How much do we really know about the background of Charles Edward Stuart Robb, my 3 x great grandfather, and how much is speculation? I’ve been trying to strip away the things for which I have no evidence, in an effort to push my history of the family back beyond Charles and his brothers.

Our main starting-point is the register in the family Bible, together with the 1880 memorandum by Charles’ son William. From this we learn that Charles Edward Stuart Robb was born in Aberdeenshire. Although no date is given, we know that he was 72 years of age when he died in 1853, which puts his birth around 1781. We know that his eldest brother was Revd. William Robb, who we’ve fairly conclusively identified with the Episcopal clergyman and poet of St. Andrews. We also know that he had brothers named James and George.

We’re fairly sure that George is the Glasgow merchant who married Penelope Thomson in 1805. William’s memorandum states that his Uncle James ‘took possession of the property in Fisherford in Aberdeenshire’ on William’s death (in either 1830 or 1838). This both connects the family to a particular area of Aberdeenshire, and also suggests that William was the eldest son and James the next eldest to survive.

The only mention of the generation before Charles, William, James and George comes towards the end of the younger William’s memorandum, when he states that Viscount Stormont, supposedly the grandfather of Charles’ wife Margaret Ricketts Monteith, ‘was engaged as well as my Father’s father in the affair of Prince Charles attempt to gain the crown 1745/6.’

Based on these scattered pieces of information, other Robb family historians have concluded that Charles’ father was a certain George Robb, who appears to have lived in the Fisherford area. There is a record of a George Robb marrying a Jean Syme of Methlick in Auchterless in August 1762. This is probably the same George who is recorded as having a number of sons in the subsequent years.

On 28 August 1763, George Robb in ‘Loggie Newton’ had a son baptised named William. One of the witnesses was an Alexander Robb. On 25 April 1765, George Robb at the same location had a son baptised named John, while on 29 March 1772, he had a child baptised named James, the witnesses including one ‘William Robb in Newton’.

Then, on 16 December 1779, ‘George Robb in Fisherford had a child named Charles baptised.’ The witnesses were  ‘Alexander Robb in Logienewton and James Robb in Bruckhills’. 

The names of the children and the order of their births, together with the location, lead us to conclude with some confidence that this is my 3 x great grandfather’s family. Having now looked at a large number of the Scottish Old Parish Records, I’ve begun to see that the description of a person being ‘in’ somewhere often refers to a very small village, or even a single house or farm. Logie Newtown and Bruckhills were small settlements of this kind very close to Fisherford, suggesting that the Robb family had a number of properties – probably crofts or farms – in the vicinity. I’m still trying to work out the identities of the Alexander, James and William Robb who witnessed the baptisms of George’s children – perhaps they were his brothers, or might one of them have been his father?

Two question marks hang over these findings. The first one relates to the religious affiliation of the Robb family. If they were, as we believe, Episcopalians (Rev. William was an Episcopal minister, Charles baptised his children in Episcopal churches, and Jacobites tended to be Catholics or Episcopalians), then would their marriages and baptisms have appeared in the Old Parish Records of the established (i.e. Presbyterian) church? Apparently, some parish clerks included Episcopal and other nonconformist events in their records (the marriage of George Robb and Penelope Thomson by George’s brother, Rev. William Robb, being an example of this), but not all Episcopal records were included in the OPRs.

The second question mark relates to the information in the history of the Scottish Episcopal clergy, which states that the family of Rev. William Robb came from Buthlaw, Aberdeenshire. Buthlaw was somewhat to the north of Auchterless, closer to Fraserburgh and Peterhead. Might it be that the Robbs originated in this part of Aberdeenshire, but also had properties in Auchterless?

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