Are you are a McDougall (and all variant spellings!) with ancestors from the Border counties of Berwickshire, Roxburghshire or North Northumberland? If so, the chances are your research will have ground to halt in the mid-eighteenth century. If not, rightly or wrongly it is likely you have tapped into the pedigree of the McDougall families of Stodrig and Makerstoun and at some point along the way. But are you correct? Both myself and the McDougall Surname DNA Project are now on hand to help you discover more about your McDougall ancestors from the Borders than ever before.
There are other benefits to joining FTDNA or a surname project too – a small fee of $19 unlocks the many additional tools such as a chromosome browser – an essential piece of kit for those serious about cousin matching. Membership of a project also usually attracts significant discounts against all types of future testing.
My interest in the project was sparked in March this year when I was contacted by Mike McDougall in California and his paternal aunt Marty. Mike was busy planning a trip to his ancestral homeland and wanted to ‘pick my brains’ for places to visit and information that would add context and colour to the extensive family tree that had been researched by his late Grandfather, John (Jack) Errol Malcolm McDougall back in the 1960’s. From the point of emigration in 1833, Jack’s research into his family history is some of the best I have ever seen, and Mike and Marty have very generously made it available for members of the McDougall surname project to consult.
Mike and Marty’s ancestor was John McDougall, who together with his wife Margaret Purves and four young children emigrated from the Scottish Borders to Quebec, Canada in 1833. John was born on 25th July 1805 to parents John McDougall senior and Janet Wilson at Donaldson’s Lodge in the Parish of Cornhill on the English side of the border. Sadly, Mike and Marty’s earliest known ancestor John McDougall senior had been aligned to a baptism in 1782 at Coldstream to parents Alexander McDougall and Isabel Foster. This was an easy mistake to make - right geographical area and right time frame - nor were they alone in arriving at this conclusion. This circumstantial evidence has been incorrectly replicated in many other family trees not just those associated with the family!
Three key pieces of information came to light very quickly during the research process that would prove beyond doubt that this connection was misplaced:
The 1841 Census, the death record for John McDougall senior and his monumental headstone in Foulden Churchyard all point to a birth year of 1771, some seven years before Alexander McDougall and Isabel Foster were married on 22 November 1778. So just who were John’s parents if not Alexander and Isabel?
Whilst living at Donaldson’s Lodge John and Janet baptised a total of 9 children at Coldstream:
Typically for this region no marriage has yet been found for the couple, however, John’s occupation of labourer was a red alert to the possibility that there may have been other children and to date two have been found. The earliest baptism to be identified was for a son named James McDougall baptised at Yetholm on 14th June 1800 where John was recorded as ‘Hind at Mindrum’ the second was for a William McDougall baptised at Sprouston on 1st May 1803 where father John was recorded as a ‘Hind at Pots Close’. Clearly these two boys and a sister Isobel had died young, as children born to the couple at later dates were given the same names. Although no death records survive for Sprouston beyond a couple of pages for 1633-37 and the headstone itself is long gone, a record of the memorial inscription remains which provides some vital information.
In memory of John McDougels son William who died 21.7.1804 aged 1 year 4 months, also his daughter Isabel who died 21.4.1808 aged 11 months, also his son James who died 27.3.1814 aged 14 years. Reverse: In memory of William M__ who died ?4.1805 aged 80 years.
Whilst further research produced several options for potential parents of John McDougall born in 1771, the registers and other available sources of information were unable to provide conclusive evidence. What has become clear in the course of the research is that whilst John McDougall’s occupation acted as a ‘red alert’, it may also have been a bit of a ‘red herring’.
By the mid 1820s John senior had sufficient capital to take the tenancy of the Mill at Foulden and establish himself as the Miller. Before he emigrated his son John was a clerk at the Gunsgreen Distillery and had sufficient capital not only to fund his family’s move to Canada, but to set himself up in business. Firstly as the keeper of a general store and ‘steamboat agent’, then becoming President of the ‘Three Rivers Gas Company’, acquiring several plots of land and being elected Mayor of Three Rivers in 1855 before purchasing the St Maurice and L’Islet Ironworks in 1862. His brothers also enjoyed a high degree of success, mostly as Millers or Merchant Millers in both Quebec and Ontario. They may have been workers and labourers in Scotland but in Canada they were very much the business owners and employers of men.
Families were large, with often upwards of 8 children. A record for Gordon parish suggests at least two families in the eighteenth century had families that were even larger still. One farmer had 15 children by one wife and another, a meal maker, had 20 children by two. It is worth remembering that under the Scottish Law of primogeniture, the eldest son inherited his father’s interests in freehold property or land (immoveable estate), therefore younger sons would need to find, and quite often fund, their own path. Whilst some remained in the immediate area, others often moved away to areas that afforded better opportunities.
To help track down his correct ancestral line Mike has tested both his autosomal and Y DNA. He also joined the McDougall surname project which has provided some interesting results. There is most definitely more than one McDougall line who have been resident in the Scottish Borders for some considerable time!
McDougall’s Flour and other connections with Coldstream
There is a distinct family line which is descended from James McDougall, believed to be eldest son of Alexander and Isobel of Coldstream. After a varied career as a Shoemaker, School Master then Pharmacist he invented self-raising agent and founded McDougall’s Flour. As their pedigree was drafted by the ‘College of Arms’ it is almost certainly the line of the McDougalls of Stodrig and thus is believed to be linked to the family who had owned the Makerstoun Estate from the mid-fourteenth century. Although this line is not a DNA match with Mike, theirs is also a fascinating story and like ‘sheep dip’ which was invented by George Wilson, a druggist in Coldstream in 1830 (a relative of Janet perhaps???) is another innovation linked with the Town albeit rather loosely.
Another McDougall family not yet connected to the project but also associated with Coldstream are the McDougalls who were saddlers and leather merchants. John S McDougall saddler appears on the Town Map of Coldstream in 1862 with premises on the High Street which was, until very recently Coldstream Post Office. Later the business moved from the High Street to the Market Square.
Other Border McDougall families.
A family descended from a William McDougall b. 1782 at Ednam left Roxburghshire for Dalkeith and subsequently emigrated to Ohio. Initial test results would indicate that this is potentially a close match to Mike but to date a connection on paper has not been found.
Aside from those known to have tested their DNA, another John McDougall born at Kelso, Roxburghshire in 1802 emigrated to Ontario in the 1850s - their family home is now open to the public. But perhaps most intriguing of all is yet another John McDougall born in Berwickshire circa 1826 who also emigrated to Quebec and who was the owner of the Caledonia Ironworks. To date researchers have been unable to determine if the two families of Iron Foundry fame, who were clearly in close contact, were in fact related.
Of course there are also the families who did not stray at all such as the McDougal farmers of Gordon, who are still faming the same land as their ancestors some 300 years ago. The numerous memorials in the Churchyard at Gordon stand as testimony to the many generations of McDougals that went before.
McDougalls in North Northumberland
Hopping over the Border to Cornhill in Northumberland, there is evidence of McDougall families living in close proximity to John and Janet McDougall whilst at Donaldson’s Lodge. A Robert McDougall recorded as a Husbandman at Melkington may well prove to be a relative of Mike – was John McDougall senior possibly working for a relative? – for an agricultural labourer to stay in one place for approximately 17 years is somewhat unusual. There was also a William McDougall a tailor and a James McDougal and his wife Jane Sutherland baptising children there at the same time as John and Janet.
Perhaps 21st century technology and the ability to trace family heritage through our genes will finally reveal if and how these families were connected, possibly many centuries ago. If you are related or descend from any of the families outlined above, or more importantly the many others that have NOT been mentioned, do please get in touch. There is a free Y-DNA test awaiting one potential tester who can prove their McDougall ancestry from either Berwickshire, Roxburghshire or indeed North Northumberland. Even if you would rather not test your DNA the information you hold may very well prove to be the key to unlocking these complex relationships, so please do contact us
My personal interest in where the McDougalls sit the region’s history has kicked in and I have been busy mapping the McDougalls of Berwickshire and Roxburghshire into family groups. A not inconsiderable task but hopefully not impossible! So just how many of them were there?
McDougall Families in Berwickshire
Note re Scottish Parish Registers
It is important to remember that for various reasons Scottish Parish Registers were also often incomplete - there may be valid reasons why you can't find your ancestor in the parish you expect.
“The parish minister or the session clerk usually assumed responsibility for maintaining the registers, but since there was no standard format employed, record keeping varied enormously from parish to parish and also from year to year. As a result, the information may be sparse, unreliable and difficult to read. The oldest register dates from 1553 (baptisms and banns from Errol, Perthshire), but although there was a requirement from 1552 that parishes record baptisms and marriages, many did not commence until much later, and some more remote areas only have registers from the early 19th century. Some registers have been lost or destroyed and the condition of the surviving 3500 is variable.”
A detailed list of the Parish Registers and notes regarding their coverage can be downloaded as a PDF from the National Records of Scotland - do you use it! Also bear in mind that Baptisms and marriages outside of the Established Church of Scotland will not appear in the Parish Registers - double check records for non-conformists too.
McDougalls in the 1841 Census for Berwickshire
In the 1841 census for Berwickshire there were 138 Individuals living in 45 Households across 15 Parishes. 14 were living on their own or with other families as servants or otherwise.
There were four parishes with a single McDougall occupant; Channelkirk, Cranshaws, Hume and Ledgerwood.
Of the 76 females - 9 were born in Scotland but not in Berwickshire and 2 were born in England.
Of the 62 males – 4 were born in Scotland but not in Berwickshire and 4 were born in England.
McDougall Occupations in Berwickshire where stated
McDougall Families in Roxburghshire
McDougalls families in the 1841 Census for Roxburghshire
In the 1841 census for Roxburghshire there were 94 Individuals living in 32 Households across 12 parishes. 13 were living on their own or with other families as servants or otherwise.
There were four parishes in Roxburghshire with a single McDougall occupant: Jedburgh, Oxnam, St Boswells and Wilton.
Of the 50 Females 11 were born in Scotland but not in Roxburghshire and 1 was born in England
Of the 44 Males 4 were born in Scotland but not in Roxburghshire and the birth place of 1 was ‘Not Known’.
McDougall Occupations where stated
The above are just a few of the facts and figures I have gleaned to date. There is a whole lot more including the outline trees illustrating the various family groups which have been researched to date. This research into the McDougall families of the Borders will also be made available to members of the McDougall DNA Surname Project, alongside that generously provided by Mike and Marty. If interested in the project or the free Y DNA test that is up for grabs, or have any information you think might be useful do please get in touch. We are here to help.
 Scotland’s People, Baptisms, Coldstream OPR 733/ 30 90.
 Scotland’s People, Baptisms, Coldstream OPR 733/ 30 103.
 Scotland’s People, Baptisms, Coldstream OPR 73/ 30 111.
 Scotland’s People, Baptisms, Coldstream OPR 73/ 30 129.
 Scotland’s People, Baptisms, Coldstream OPR 73/ 30 132.
 Scotland’s People, Baptisms, Coldstream OPR 73/ 30 149.
 Scotland’s People, Baptisms, Coldstream, OPR 733/ 30 160.
 Scotland’s People, Baptisms, Coldstream, OPR 733/ 40 13.
 Scotlands People https://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk/guides/church-registers