George Robb and Penelope Thomson

‘I had also an Uncle George who died many years ago leaving children but I don’t know how many. I had also an Aunt called Penelope…’

So wrote my great-great-grandfather William Robb in his memorandum of 1885, a few years before his death. William’s Uncle George, the older brother of his father Charles, was born at Logie Newton, in the parish of Auchterless, Aberdeenshire, in 1769. Although I’ve written about George before, in this post I want to revisit what we know about him, as part of my plan to tell the story of this branch of the Robb family in proper order.

As with his younger brother Charles, my 3 x great grandfather, we have no other records for George Robb until his marriage. The parish records for Glasgow note that on 15 January 1805, George Robb, a merchant in Glasgow, married Penelope Thomson, daughter of John Thomson of Hillhead, in the parish of Eastwood, and that the ceremony was conducted by  ‘Mr William Robb, Episcopal Minister in St. Andrews’.

While there is no conclusive proof that this George Robb was my ancestor, the evidence seems to point in that direction. As well as the name of George’s wife fitting with William Robb’s memory of ‘an Aunt called Penelope’, it’s almost certain that Rev. William Robb was the older brother of both George and Charles Robb. Even without the coincidence of their surnames, it seems unlikely that a minister from St. Andrews would travel to Glasgow to officiate at a wedding, without a special reason. And we know that there was a family link with Glasgow, since Charles Robb had married Margaret Ricketts Monteith in the city only three years earlier.

Given that George would have been about thirty-six years old when he married Penelope, it’s likely that he had been living and working in Glasgow for some years before his marriage. It’s also possible that he had been married before, and some sources suggest that his first wife might have been a Sophia Thomson, perhaps a relative of Penelope’s, but I’ve yet to find any conclusive evidence of this.

Engraving by William Byrne from drawing by Thomas Hearne of the Cathedral Church of Glasgow and Episcopal Palace, built beginning in 1136, from ANTIQUITIES OF GREAT BRITAIN LLUSTRATED IN VIEWS OF MONASTERIES, CASTLES AND CHURCHES, VOL. I, 1807

Penelope Thomson, who was born in Glasgow in about 1777 (so would have been about 28 when she married George) was the daughter of John Thomson, who is described in some records as a saddler. I haven’t found any record of Penelope’s birth or baptism and don’t know the name of her mother. Penelope had a younger half-sister Elizabeth, who was born around 1779, never married, and died in 1847. She also had a half-brother Henry who was probably born in 1785, and whose mother may have been Marion Leitch.

George Robb and Penelope Thomson had three children, all born in Glasgow. George Robb junior was born in 1806, Elizabeth in 1807, and Jean in about 1810. I’ve yet to find baptismal records for any of these children in the old parish registers. This might simply mean that the records are missing, or it could be that they were christened in an Episcopal church.

George Robb senior must have died some time between 1810 and 1813 (though again, I’ve yet to find any record of his death or burial), when he would have been in his early forties, since his widow Penelope married again, on 27 June 1813, to John Young. I’ll write about Penelope, John and their children in another post.

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