The Trotter Family of Sprouston - Errors found online & busting tricky inter-family relationships.
Last week I received the news that 'George' is being prepared for his journey north so to make ready for a homecoming. 'George' is the affectionate term used for a portrait of George Smith of Horncliffe Loanend near Norham who died in 1860. (My paternal 3rd great-grandfather.) The painting has passed through the safekeeping of several family members in the south of England and is about to return to Tweedside from South Wales for his next stint. George has certainly seen a bit of the country in the 80 years or so since he has been away!
The complexity of the relationships is one reason for my procrastination. It has been on my 'to-do' list since my blog about the South African branch of the family, published in December 2013. Another, is the tricky issue of dealing with online errors. Despite polite messages to tree owners some mistakes remain, are copied by others, and the cycle of misinformation continues.
Errors in public online trees.
'Why bother?' and 'so what?' I hear you ask. With DNA increasingly used to verify familial relationships and discover new ancestors, it is more important than ever that mistakes and incorrect family alignments in trees are kept to a minimum. Ancestry draws its hints and proposed pathways between matches from the trees in its database. If enough connected testers have the same incorrect ancestors in their tree, it will deliver a false positive pathway. This is why it is so important that errors are corrected where possible and theoretical relationships and research trees remain private.
Now, eight years later and somewhat overdue, here is the start of what is known, drawn from a variety of sources that remain in the family's possession. In future, anyone searching online for the history of the Trotters of Sprouston will hopefully find these posts helpful in their research and further misinformation will be avoided.
Our Trotter connections were first researched by George Aynsley-Smith. Although I do not have his files to hand (they are safely elsewhere), I do have a copy of the family tree drafted by him in 1938 on which he states:
'The particulars in this pedigree have been provided by documents in the possession of the Cargey family [cousins], Church Registers & Monumental Inscriptions.' G Aynsley – Smith. 8.9.1938
He further adds:
'The family is extinct in the male line unless George Trotter in Natal left issue'
But is this statement correct? Although I believe it may be correct for the extent of the pedigree recorded to date, I have recently uncovered clues that make me wonder if another connection may have been missed. Knowing the vigour of George's research, however, makes me thoroughly examine any conflicting evidence. Wherever possible, I have also verified the information in his family tree. Whilst family entries in the Sprouston parish registers can be patchy, they have left a plethora of other documents and Wills verifying many relationships.
A top tip here is to pay attention to the inventories to Wills not just the bequests, as family members sneak in here too. Loans to raise capital or provide help in times of need are not uncommon.
A collection of old family letters and paperwork connected to the administration of legacies that provide interesting insights into the times in which they lived, as well as proving relationships. Revisiting old documents invariably throws up new clues, and where there is an element of doubt, it is clearly stated. I have also divided the pedigree into sections as the family is complex and the associated research lengthy. The following constitutes 'Part One' and looks at the generation and immediate family connections of Christian Trotter, the wife of George Smith.
Trotters of Kerchesters
Kerchesters Farm at Sprouston forms part of the Roxburgh Estate and it is not known exactly when the family entered into the tenancy. I am inclined to believe it was at some point after the death of a Robert Young in 1719.
A notice in a Perthshire newspaper dated 7th November 1838 suggests the Trotters may have been amongst the Estate's oldest tenants and in possession of the farm for approaching 300 years. If true (which seems unlikely), their occupation dates from circa 1538, 25 years following the Battle of Flodden. It would be interesting to know where the author of the snippet in Kelso Mail obtained the following information.
Furthermore, if the Trotter family were in occupation from as early as the sixteenth century, their presence remains well hidden. Although there are obvious gaps, the Parish Registers date from 1635, where there is not a squeak until 1725. There is the odd exception, such as a marriage between Christie Davidson and Christian Trotter on the 17th December 1640. But no familial connection to these oddities has yet been established. Nor is the family mentioned in the early Session Minutes (from 1650, but with gaps), I have had time to read.
Top Tip – check the availability of parish registers and other dissenting records. It is pointless looking for a baptism or marriage if a) they do not exist or b) the event was unrecorded in the first place. Trust me, in this case you will never find the record. But the necessary evidence may be contained in other documentation relating to the family.
The first mention and record of the current family that can be confidently placed in the tree is a baptism of another Christian Trotter in 1725. From this point forward the name appears regularly until the middle of the nineteenth century. The absence of any death records does not help, especially as there are notable absences of known family members amongst the parish baptisms. The monumental inscriptions for Sprouston and elsewhere, however, plug the gaps in part.
Christian Trotter 1773 - 1742
Christian Trotter is a paternal 3rd great-grandmother to me. She was born to parents George Trotter and Agnes Turner and baptised at Sprouston on 17th July 1773. (Five of the 13 pre-1855 baptism records for individuals named Christian Trotter in Roxburghshire are recorded at Sprouston.) Christian married George Smith at Kerchesters in 1800, although there is no record in the Parish Registers. It is said that 'After their marriage, the bride and groom rode tandem to their new home at Loanend' where she lived until her death on 15th September 1842. She died of 'english cholera' graphically recounted as events unfolded in a letter between her sibling daughters Agnes and Jane. Agnes and another sister Phyllis contracted the illness while visiting the Trotter family at Cheswick. Mrs (Margaret) Trotter was an aunt by blood and by marriage, of which more presently.
Christian was one of nine children born to George Trotter and Agnes Turner and one of five who survived until adulthood. There were three boys: John, James and Ninian and two girls, herself, and sister Janet. Christian was the second child of the name, as was her brother Ninian evidencing previous children who died in infancy. It also suggests the names had family significance.
Other known children include Robert, baptised in 1767, and George. There is no further record of Robert Trotter and no mention of George Trotter junior except for a mention on his parent's headstone. It is thought they too died as youngsters, although the absence of Robert's name on the family headstone prompts caution.
'In memory of GEORGE Trotter tenant in Kerchesters who died 21.5.1811 aged 76 years also his spouse Agnes Turner died 20.8.1805 aged 65 years, also Christian, George and Ninian their children also their son James late tenant in Kerchesters died 31.5.1829 aged 63.'
Thus, Christian Trotter was NOT
Alert – the remainder of this article carries a serious boredom warning – unless you are connected to the Trotter Family of Sprouston it may be of limited interest.
James Trotter of Kerchesters c.1698 – 1770.
Before looking at Christian's siblings and the complex interfamily relations, a quick note. Her grandfather, James Trotter, was married twice. His first wife was Janet Young, a relative of Robert Young of Kerchesters. Janet, who died in 1741, was the mother of at least five children including Christian born circa 1725, (mentioned above), and Christian junior's father George born in 1736. James' second wife was Jane Hood. Jane was the mother of a further seven known children including James junior born circa 1750. Again, his baptism is not in the register. The other children of both marriages are not discussed here, but knowing how Christian, George and James are related is key to understanding the following sections.
Top Tip – Before the introduction of statutory registration in Scotland in 1855, it was not compulsory to record birth marriage or death events in the parish registers. At times, there was even a charge as this extract from the Sprouston Kirk Session Minutes (Burials) for 1784 demonstrates.
Siblings of Christian Smith nee Trotter
John Trotter 1763 - 1845
Christian’s brother John commonly appears out of context. The eldest of the family, he was baptised at Sprouston, the 10th March 1763.
He married his first cousin Christian Richardson, at date and place unknown. Christian Richardson was the daughter of Christian Trotter and her husband Henry Richardson. The couple's only child, George, was baptised at Warenford, Northumberland, by the Rev Mr Nichol in September 1796.
For a large part of his adult life (after 1798 but before 1811), John Trotter farmed at Stacks in West Lothian. In 1841, aged 75, he was still farming at Stacks with his son George, George's wife Grace nee Young and four of their children, including a grandson, John. Graces' sister, Margaret Young, and John's sister-in-law, Isabella Richardson aged 85 were also living with the family.
George, Grace and family, together with Margaret Young emigrated to KwaZulu Natal. They feature in my post of Dec 2013.
John Trotter died at Stacks on the 6 April 1845 and is buried in the new churchyard at Carriden. He is described as a farmer and elder in his burial record. The date and burial place of his wife Christian is not known.
Thus, John Trotter born Sprouston 1763:
HIs son George Trotter
James Trotter 1765 - 1829
James was the second eldest child. He was born in Sprouston around 1765, but his baptism is unrecorded. He married a half first cousin, Margaret Trotter, on the 12th December 1812 at Abercorn, West Lothian. Margaret was the daughter of his father's half-brother, James Trotter and his wife Marion Cunningham. James Trotter senior farmed at Newton, Abercorn just a couple of miles to the east of Stacks in West Lothian.
On the death of his father in 1811, James junior took over the tenancy of Kerchesters. The couple's first child, a son named George, was baptised at Sprouston in 1813. Five further children followed.
Tip - Note the traditional naming pattern.
James died at Kerchesters on 21 May 1829. He left an extensive Will in which he made provision for the farming tenancy to continue in Trust for his eldest son George, 'should he show an inclination to be a farmer'.
George was 16 at the time of his father's death. The trustees were good to their word and continued farming operations until 1838 when their occupation of Kerchesters ended. In 1839, John Clay began his tenancy of Kerchesters.
Soon after, son George, aged 25, went to live with his maternal uncle John Trotter at Oatridge Farm, Ecclesmachan, (now an agricultural college opposite the Scottish National Equestrian Centre). He is recorded as a 'fund holder' in the 1851 and 1861 census. John Trotter was brother to his mother Margaret Trotter and a half-cousin to Christian, the wife of George Smith. He married George Smith's niece, Sarah Smith, at Norham in December 1834. A further connection between the two families.
George died at Rosshill House, Dalmeny on the 3rd October 1867, the home of his mother and siblings, rented from the Earl of Rosebery on the Rosebery Estate at Dalmeny
James and Margaret's daughter Agnes married a land agent named George Cargey at Dalmeny on the 20th December 1853. George Cargey was the son of Gilbert Cargey and Elizabeth Aitchison born at Ancroft, Northumberland in 1814. George Cargey and Agnes Trotter had two children that top a branch of Trotter descendants still living today. It is the records in their possession that G.A.S consulted when compiling the 1930s edition of the family tree.
Agnes was the only child of James and Margaret Trotter who married. Christian, the youngest child, was the last to pass away in 1900 at her home in Craigmillar Park, also called Rosshill. The lists of creditors taken from the inventory attached to her sister Marion's Will proved in 1885 provides a glimpse into the lives of the two spinster sisters.
James Trotter is one of the few family members not to be misaligned, however, few have made the familial connection between the two families. The same is not true for his wife Margaret Trotter and his son John:
Ninian Trotter 1777 - 1832
Ninian Trotter was baptised at Sprouston on the 9th November 1777. He was the Minister at Sprouston from 1809 until his death during the Cholera epidemic of 1832. He died unmarried. Amongst other small loans listed in the inventory attached to his Will owed by known family members is a reference to a Bond and Disposition for £150 owing from a John and Elizabeth Trotter in Kelso. Their potential connection will appear in a separate post.
Janet Trotter 1784 - 1862
Christian's youngest sibling was her sister Janet, baptised at Sprouston on the 3rd March 1784.
Janet also married a half first cousin, James Trotter, at Abercorn on the 23rd March 1817. James Trotter was another son of James Trotter and Marion Cunningham. He was brother to both John Trotter, farmer at Oatridge, and Margaret Trotter, wife of James Trotter of Kerchesters. He also farmed in West Lothian at Westfield, Newton, near Abercorn. By 1851 James had retired from farming, and he and Janet were living at East Linton, Prestonkirk, where Janet died on the 28th May 1862.
Janet and James Trotter had four known children. Their sons George and John traded as a General Dealer and Druggist in Main Street, East Linton until their respective deaths in 1859 and 1880. Of younger brother James, there is no trace after the 1841 census.
Again, only one of the four children married. Their daughter, also named Agnes, married Dr John Crallan Hislop M.D. at Abercorn in 1835.
Between the years 1838 and 1861, Agnes and John had a small army of children. Henry Hislop, born in 1856, was their 12th child of 15. (Their 10th child, a daughter named Esther, married Adam Sibbett of Greenses House son of John Sibbett and Mary Ann Smith – another connection with the Smith family).
Janet Trotter is another of Christian's siblings married off in online trees to the wrong people!
I appreciate this blog may have limited appeal to many of my regular readers beyond those with connections to the Trotter family. It does, however, highlight some important points re errors in public online trees. It is good practice to adopt a couple of basic principles to guard against the spread of misinformation:
 Extracted from National Registers of Scotland, List of Old Parish Registers for Peebles Roxburghshire and Selkirk, Downloadable PDF
 There are two marriages in the Sprouston register for the marriage of George Trotter and Agnes Turner. The first was on 21st May 1762 and the second the 1st October 1773. They are believed to be the same people.
 Carriden Parish Burials Pre 1855, Central Scotland Family History Society, July 2004.
 James Trotter wrote on land improvement in West Lothian which appeared in The Scots Magazine - Tuesday 1st October 1811. Available as a free eBook from Google Books from page 767.
 Scotland's People, 1885 Trotter, Marion (Wills and testaments Reference SC41/53/14, Linlithgow Sheriff Court)
27/11/2021 03:07:35 pm
Interesting about the Trotters, always thought they were from sarth London lol but know East Linton well - great pub(s) and an excellent butcher! Highly recommended.
28/11/2021 10:42:21 am
27/11/2021 06:58:24 pm
Interesting to see some more about a longstanding Sprouston family. I encountered some early Trotters at Stichill- not too far away on the other side of Kelso- when one of them, a Jeremiah Trotter married Margaret Pearson, a daughter of my 8 x great grandfather, Thomas Pearson, notar public of Nenthorn, and clerk to the Stichill Baron Court for a period, later the owner of the ancient property Charterhouse in Makerston Parish, which eventually found its way down to his great grandaughter Agnes Pearson who married Andrew Davidson tenant of Holefield in Sprouston parish. Agnes and Andrew fell into debt and Charterhouse was eventually sold to settle the debts.
28/11/2021 11:04:09 am
Leave a Reply.