6. The Daughters of Rodger Keir & Isobel Armour

Welcome to the 6th Blog entry in this current series of articles looking at the Keir family from Aberdalgie (and Kirkliston). In this (perforce) short blog we look at the daughters of Rodger Keir and Isabell Armour.

Continue reading 6. The Daughters of Rodger Keir & Isobel Armour

5. William Keir (b. 1709) & Mary Clerk

Welcome to the 5th Blog entry in this current series of articles looking at the Keir family from Aberdalgie (and Kirkliston). Following on from the previous blogs we are attempting to trace the children of Rodger Keir and Isabel Armour, but now for the first time we break with ‘birth order’ by skipping to William their 4th son and 5th child. (We will return to son George Keir & daughter Margaret Keir, a little later). Continue reading 5. William Keir (b. 1709) & Mary Clerk

4. Heugh Keir (b.1703)

Welcome to the 4th Blog entry in this current series of articles looking at the Keir family from Aberdalgie (and Kirkliston). Following on from the previous blogs we are attempting to trace the children of Rodger Keir and Isabel Armour. This entry will be brief as the previous one, as we know so little about Heugh (Hugh) Keir, the 2nd child of Rodger Keir & Isabel Armour. What we do know for certain can be summarized as a single line:

Hugh (Heugh) Keir was born to Rodger Keir and Isabel Armour on the 26th of March, 1703 (and baptized 9 days later) in Kirkliston, West Lothian, Scotland.

Name: Heugh Keir
Gender: Male
Baptism Date: 4 Apr 1703
Baptism Place: Kirkliston, West Lothian, Scotland
Father: Rodger Keir
Mother: Isabell Armour
FHL Film Number: 1066629, 1066630

Original data: Scotland, Births and Baptisms, 1564-1950. Salt Lake City, Utah: FamilySearch, 2013.

The following then is calculated guesswork and supposition:

Searching for a Hugh Keir of the correct age in Scotland reveals the following IGI (FamilySearch) records:

Name: Hugh Keir
Gender: Male
Marriage Date: 24 Nov 1727
Marriage Place: Portmoak, Kinross, Scotland
Spouse: Margaret Beath
FHL Film Number: 1040204
Name: Hugh Kier
Gender: Male
Marriage Date: 28 Dec 1727
Marriage Place: Dysart, Fife, Scotland
Spouse: Margaret Beath
FHL Film Number: 1040109

Original data: Scotland, Marriages, 1561-1910. Salt Lake City, Utah: FamilySearch, 2013.

Again note the ‘double marriage’ indicating that Hugh Keir lived in one parish (Dysart, Fife) and Margaret Beath in the other (Portmoak, Kinross) at the time of their betrothal. It is easily uncovered that this couple had (at least) 9 children, all baptized in Dysart: William (1728-~1732); Grisel (1730-); William (1732-); David (1734-); John (1738-1738); John (1739-)*; George (1741) and then ‘the twins’ Hugh and Robert born in 1742.

* [Note: we shall return to this John Keir (born 1739) at a later date as it is possible that he is the ancestor of at least two members of the ‘Keir Collaboration’.]

Unfortunately, apart for the baptism records there is no currently accessible (at least by us) conclusive documentation on these children. We humbly ask that any reader who has further information about the children of Hugh Keir and Margaret Beath to contact us.

This isn’t however the limit of our search: Hugh Keir (sr)’s death is recorded in The Commissariot of St. Andrew’s, Register of Testaments (1549-1800) Kincardineshire, Fife, Kinross, Perth, and Forfar collection for the 3rd of July, in the year 1745. This document – a testament & dative (including a brief inventory) can be purchased (for a small fee) from the Scotland’s People website.


This testament states that the umguil Hugh Keir, Salt-Grieve to the Lord St. Clare in the Parish of Dysart died on the 1st of August, 1744. He would have been relatively young, being only 41 years of age. The sole executor (executrix) is Margaret Beath relict (widow) of the said Hugh Keir. It is also from this document that we find that Hugh Keir was Salt-Grieve to the Lord St. Clare (Sinclair) in the shire of Dysart. The final record we have for Hugh and this family comes a year later when a Petition against Hugh Keir was published as “Answers for Hugh Keir, Salt-agent to John Sinclair of Sinclair, Esq., to the Petition of James Murray Merchant in Fraserburgh, and James Chrystie Ship-master There”. More about this case can be found in the National Records of Scotland – reference GD164/347. These are the collected “Papers of the Sinclair Family, Earls of Rosslyn”. The reference briefly describes the situation:

Papers regarding the sum due to Hugh Keir, salt agent for Lord Sinclair, by James Christie, shipmaster in Fraserburgh, and James Murray, merchant there, for payment of a salt bond for salt exported to Bergen, Norway. Hugh was obliged to pay the sum contained in the salt bond because it was alleged that the salt had been re-landed in Scotland after leaving Dysart. The debt was assigned by Margaret Beath [Beith], relict of said Hugh, to John Sinclair of Sinclair on 29 September 1745. – NAS GD164/347.

We can interpret this to mean that Margaret Beath is trying to recover (from John, Lord Sinclair) monies (a salt-bond) paid by Hugh Keir before his death. The other people involved, merchants James Murray and Thomas Urquhart, and shipmaster James Christie  are all mentioned in Hugh Keir’s inventory.

Again, unfortunately, we are unable to discover the outcome of this suit for Margaret Beath or what happens to her and her very young children afterwards.

Aside:  A Grieve in general was a manager or overseer. In the case of a Salt-Grieve it was that person’s task and duty to procure salt for his employer (generally a laird of the manor, a feudal overlord or member of the nobility). In the case of Hugh Keir working for Lord Sinclair, this would have been a position of some responsibility.

Salt played a much bigger role in the economy and society of Hanoverian Britain than in later times. It was required as a mild abrasive by tanners, as a glaze by potters, and to flavor and preserve certain foodstuffs. – [Source: Britain in the Hanoverian Age, 1714-1837; page 621; Authors: Gerald Newman & Leslie Ellen Brown.]

Salt until quite recently has been a valuable commodity (cf: the Roman’s and the derivation of the term Salary) and was frequently taxed as a means by which a cash-strapped monarch could raise urgently needed funds. It was for this reason that in 1693, William III (and his Dutch accountants) raised a stringent duty on alcohol, tobacco and salt. The mechanism of collection involved the notorious “Commission for Salt” and various local Customs and Excise officials (tax-collectors) around Scotland. Hugh Keir would have needed to understand the new laws in detail – and have been able to navigate the complex relationships between local manufacturers, continental suppliers, merchants and shipowners – in order to fulfill his remit.


  • Umguil (or sometimes spelt unquhile) means in Scottish (legal) dialect, deceased (former or late).
  • Assigning John St Clare (or St Clair) as Lord Sinclair is a mistake – due to certain earlier indiscretions and his involvement in the 1715 Jacobean Revolution (and his subsequent banishment and attaintment), John was only Master of Sinclair and did not succeed to his father’s title – Henry St Clair, was the 10th Lord Sinclair and last of that lineage. He died in 1723.


3. Alexander Keir (b.1699)

Welcome to the 3rd Blog entry in this current series of articles looking at the Keir family from Aberdalgie (and Kirkliston). Following on from the previous blog we were tracing the issue of Rodger Keir and Isabel Armour.

This entry will be brief indeed. We know that Rodger & Isabel’s first child, a son, Alexander was born in Perth, Perthshire in 1699, according to the parish records published by various organizations on different websites (including Ancestry.com and FamilySearch). But that is the last confirmed sighting of Alexander. Did he die in infancy? Or marry and have many children? We simply do not know! The documentary trail just ‘goes cold’ at that point.

We would greatly appreciate it if anyone with any further information (or suggestions) about Alexander Keir born in Perth around the 17th of July 1699, would contact us.

Supposition: The following is purely supposition based on further circumstantial evidence (which will be the subject of a future blog). We currently think that Alexander Keir (1699) did marry and had at least one son who bore his name. This Alexander Keir (jr) was born in 1718 – a date derived from his age at his death – but we currently do not know where or to whom. We are only guessing that he was the (probably first) son of the young (19 year old) Alexander Keir who is the primary subject of this article.

What we do know is that Alexander Keir (1718) married a Rebecca Smith in Brodsworth, Yorkshire, England on the 18th of September 1764. They had only one surviving daughter, Elizabeth Henrietta Keir who was born in Brodsworth in 1770 and married William Hett (jr) at St. Peter’s cathedral in Leeds on the 29th of November, 1790*. [Given that Alexander was about 46 when he married Rebecca it is not surprising that they had only one child.]

Rebecca Keir (nee Smith) died on the second of May, 1803 at her residence in Albion St., Leeds, Yorkshire; she was reportedly 73 years old (indicating she was born in 1730.) Newspaper reports for the following year state that Alexander Keir, Gent. (a merchant and property owner) died at his home in Albion St., Leeds on the 1st of January, 1804; aged 86 years old. He was buried 12 days later in the graveyard of St. John the Evangelist Church also in Leeds.

It is worth noting at this point that Alexander Keir (1718-1804) was a ‘gardener’ living in Brodsworth and that Brodsworth Hall was purchased by George Henry Hay (Viscount Dupplin) from Sir John Wentworth in 1713. [George Henry Hay became the 8th Earl of Kinnoull on the death of his father in 1719.],  It is not too far fetched to propose that Alexander was employed by Hay at Brodsworth Hall (in say the 1740’s). We could go as far as to suggest that George Henry Hay whose primary residence was Dupplin Castle, Aberdalgie, Scotland in fact brought Alexander Keir (sr & jr) from their homeland in Scotland to fulfill the duties of ‘gardener’ (see below) at his English retreat.

Aside: When we hear the term ‘Gardener’ today we think of mowing lawns and trimming hedges – menial tasks. However if we think of 18th century (landscape) gardeners we imagine the likes of  Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown who was both an architect and a designer of grand homes and formal gardens. Neither of these images capture the ‘ordinary’ meaning of the term ‘gardener’ as commonly used in England and Scotland in the 1700’s. In England a ‘gardener’ was more akin to a ‘House Steward’ or Agent (the equivalent of this in Scotland was a ‘Factor’). As we will see in future blogs the role of ‘Factor’ was one of significant standing and responsibility.

Estate steward/Agent and House steward. The key administrative role and one particularly necessary when the master of the house had to attend to business elsewhere. The stewards and/or agent saw to processing almost every aspect of management for the family and its affairs, communicating with lawyers, architects, suppliers, tenants, and other family members. ((Estate Steward/Agent Wage: 18th century – £40 & House Steward Wage – £35.) – countryhousereader blog


  • The Borthwick Institute Collection (North Yorkshire) holds the original standard Bond & Allegation document for Alexander’s marriage dated Brodsworth, 15th of September, 1764. We have transcribed this document which in essence states that Alexander Keir, Gardener & Rebecca Smith intend to marry by licence. The Bondsman is listed as being one Robert Senior of Doncaster in the presence of [Rev.] George Hatfield (Surrogate). The Licence (costing 200 pounds) was granted by a Dr Roper. [£200 was a princely sum in those days indicating that Alexander Keir was a reasonably wealthy gentleman.]
  • Alexander Keir and Rebecca Smith, were married by licence by Matthew Buck, Vicar. The Witnesses were: Chrr (Christopher) Brumpton, W Sutherland, Robert Hewitt, William Hett, Thomas Reynold. The Licence was granted by Dr Roper, Chancellor. [Source] Book: 1764 Collection: Yorkshire: Brodsworth – Parish records [(c) Ancestry.com] Witness William Hett (sr) was the father of the William Hett (jr) who married Alexander & Rebecca’s daughter Elizabeth Henrietta Keir.
  • It bears noting that when William Hett (sr) married Mary Bailey by licence at Brodsworth on the 4th of December, 1767, both were listed as servants at Brodsworth Hall to the then Archbishop of York, Robert Hay-Drummond, 2nd son of the late George Henry Hay. [Hay’s 1st son, Thomas Hay had become the 9th Earl of Kinnoull (and nominal owner of Brodsworth Hall) in 1758.]
  • It should also be noted that in Rodger Keir’s testament dative of 1734 (see blog#2), he was reportedly a ‘gardiner’ in Aberdalgie, Perthshire. [It is therefore cautiously suggested (without conclusive evidental proof) that Rodger Keir worked in this capacity for the Earl of Kinnoull (Hay family) at Dupplin Castle and that his grandson, Alexander Keir (jr) fulfilled a similar role at the Earl’s English estate – Brodsworth Hall, Brodsworth, near Doncaster.]
  • The existing Brodsworth Hall is a relatively recent structure built for Charles Sabine Thellusson in 1866. It is part of the English Heritage Scheme.


The authors of this blog (the ‘Keir collaboration’ [formally The Keir Family Genealogy Group]) ask that if any reader has access to or knows of the whereabouts of the Brodworth Hall Estate records, could they contact us.

2. Rodger Keir & Isobel Armour

Welcome to the 2nd post on the Keir Family Genealogy blog site.

Rodger (or Roger) Keir is presently our confirmed eldest relative. As such, we know very little about Rodger’s early life and would greatly welcome any input from our readers (especially documentary evidence).

We are guessing that Rodger Keir was born circa 1670 AD probably in Scotland (but even this is in doubt as we have a ‘theory’ that perhaps he was the child of one of the many Scottish military families who were displaced in the late 17th century and found their way to Holland). Rodger (or Roger) is a rare name in Scotland (but not in Holland where it is derived from the old Dutch name Rutger or Rogier) and is certainly unusual in the Keir family history that we have been able to uncover.

The first documented evidence for a Rodger Keir (in Scotland) is a marriage recorded for Rodger Keir and Agnes Gilchrist in Kirkliston on the 24th of May, 1695.

Name: Rodger Keir
Gender: Male
Marriage Date: 24 May 1695
Marriage Place: Kirkliston,West Lothian,Scotland
Spouse: Agnes Gilchrist
FHL Film Number: 1066629, 1066630

Original data: Scotland, Marriages, 1561-1910. Salt Lake City, Utah: FamilySearch, (c) 2013.

It would appear that Rodger and Agnes had one child, named after her mother. Agnes Keir was born on the 11th of September, 1696 also in Kirkliston (to the aforementioned parents). It would appear that Agnes Gilchrist died before June 1698 as in that month Rodger Keir remarried to a lady named Isobel Armour (who we presume was living in the parish of Aberdalgie, Perthshire at that time).

Name: Rodger Keir
Gender: Male
Marriage Date: 19 Jun 1698
Marriage Place: Aberdalgie, Perthshire, Scotland
Spouse: Isobel Armour
FHL Film Number: 0993510, 0102679
Name: Rodger Kier
Gender: Male
Marriage Date (confirmation?): 2 Jul 1698
Marriage Place: Kirkliston,West Lothian,Scotland
Spouse: Isobell Armour
FHL Film Number: 1066629, 1066630

Original data: Scotland, Marriages, 1561-1910. Salt Lake City, Utah: FamilySearch, (c) 2013.

As is usual in Scottish records of this period, the marriage appears twice – presumably the earlier parish record recording the actual marriage (in the bride’s home parish of Aberdalgie) and the second (by law) confirmed in the Groom’s parish of residence (if different, as was the case here). [Rodger was probably still living in Kirkliston at this time – which raises the question, sadly unanswered, as to how the two met and under what circumstances?]

Rodger and Isobel then gave birth to (at least) 8 children between 1699 and 1716 – all but the first, Alexander, being recorded in the parish records for Kirkliston (these are shown in the family tree diagram below). Alexander Keir, uniquely, was baptized in the city of Perth (the old capital of Perthshire) on the day of his birth, the 17th of July, 1699.

Name: Alexander Kier
Gender: Male
Birth Date: 17 Jul 1699
Baptism Date: 17 Jul 1699
Baptism Place: Perth, Perthshire, Scotland
Father: Rodgert Kier
Mother: Isobill Armor
FHL Film Number: 1040333

Original data: Scotland, Marriages, 1561-1910. Salt Lake City, Utah: FamilySearch, (c) 2013.

[Note the imaginative spelling of Alexander’s parents names. It was quite usual in these early days for spelling to be loose and phonetic. There of course remains the slight possibility that we are looking at two different pairs of married couples with the same names.]

Figure 1.1 - Family tree Roger & IsobelBrief family tree of Rodger Keir derived from existing parish records.

We will discuss the family history (as we know it) surrounding the children of Rodger Keir and Isobel Armour in later posts, but here we continue our review of the extant data about this couple.

Aside: As noted on the always informative Scotland’s People website: How do the surnames of married women appear in the index?

In Scotland, married women generally retained their maiden surname in the records.
In census records, however, married women are usually recorded under their married name, although a widow might revert to her maiden name after the death of her husband.

As such Isobel retained her surname of Armour throughout her lifetime.

From their children’s baptismal records it would appear that Rodger and Isobel remained in the parish of Kirkliston (near Edinburgh) for most of their lives – at least until 1716, when Rodger would probably have been in his late 30’s or early 40’s. Unfortunately there is no indication of Rodger’s occupation during this time. In fact the next proven record that we have for Rodger is in the form of his Testament Dative which gives the date of his death as the 8th of November, 1734,’Orchard  in Aberdalgie, Perthshire, Scotland’.

Aside: Rather than the English Will and Probate system, the Scottish equivalent was a Testament and a Dative. Again from the Scotland’s People website, we have this explanation: What is a ‘testament dative’?

This was the document drawn up by the Commissary Court some time after the death to appoint and confirm executor(s) to administer the deceased’s estate. It includes an inventory of his or her possessions (or a list of debts if the executor was a creditor of the deceased and the testament had been confirmed for the sole purpose of authorising their discharge). It does not include a copy will, and therefore does not indicate how the deceased wished to dispose of his or her possessions.

It is highly unlikely that Rodger Keir made a will at all, so all we can rely upon is the data derived from this testament dative record.

Rodger’s testament is readily available (on payment of a small fee from the Scotland’s People website) and makes brief but interesting reading. In here we find that he names his wife (Isabell Armour) as sole executor and beneficiary and that he was employed as a ‘gardiner’ (gardener), probably for the Earl of Kinnoull at the nearby Dupplin Castle Estate. [The Earl being the overlord (Laird) for the Parish and the actual feudal proprietor of the sizable Orchard farmstead.]RK&IA T&D.jpgWhile “Orchard of Aberdalgie” no longer exists on current maps of the area, its location within the small village is shown on this later (1783) map of the Aberdalgie Parish. Perth is located just off the North-East corner of this map and the Dupplin Estate is about a mile down the (SW) road (past the Sauchie farmstead which will become significant in later posts). The river shown flowing through the parish is The Earn as previously stated.

1783 map showing Orchard in AberdalgiePartial 1783 map of Aberdalgie Parish showing the location of Orchard in Aberdalgie. Reproduced with the implicit permission of the National Library of Scotland

Unfortunately, Isobel did not survive her husband by more than a couple of months dying on the 8th of January, 1735. Her Testament Dative records only one name – that of her executor, heir and youngest son, William Keir. Speculation of why it should fall on 24 year old William to be executor (rather than his other surviving brothers) will be the detailed subject of future blogs, it suffices here to note that William was a Gardener like his father and the only son to be living in Aberdalgie at that time.


Historically, Kirkliston was both a small town and parish within the Scottish county of West Lothian – situated about 10 miles West of the capital, Edinburgh.

Aberdalgie is a village close by the River Earn, and located 2.5 miles South West of Perth. Historically in Perthshire it is now in the Scottish council area of Perth and Kinross.

Wikipedia states that Aberdalgie in Gaelic is Obar Dheilgidh, meaning the ‘Confluence of the Thorn-Stream’