7. Laurence Keir (1738-1814) of Sauchie (Part I)

Welcome to the 7th 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 and grandchildren of Rodger Keir and Isabel Armour. Recall from the 5th installment that we looked at Rodger & Isobel’s son William Keir, his wife Mary Clerk and some of their children – promising to return to Laurence Keir (their eldest son and heir) at a later date. Now is that later date.

Laurence Keir, the first son and 3rd child of William Keir and Mary Clerk (or Clark) was born in December, 1738 in Aberdalgie (and therefore a grandson of Rodger Keir & Isobel Armour). Laurence was baptized in Aberdalgie on the 24th of December of that year, 1738 (cf: [FS/IGI FHL Film Numbers: 0993510 & 0102679]). This was in the ‘old’ Presbyterian parish church – as the new church, which still stands today, was, according to Samuel Lewis:

“… built [later] in 1773, and under it a vault was constructed for the Hay-Drummond family, though their ancient burial place is at the church of Kinnoull.” – S. A. Lewis, A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland (1846), pp. 1-23:

Neither contemporary documentation, nor family history tell us of Laurence’s childhood, but he would have grown up in and about Aberdalgie (parish & township) which (again from Samuel Lewis’ account) was:

“… 3 miles (S. W.) from Perth and beautifully situated on an eminence forming the northern boundary of the vale of Strathearn… The river Earn flows on the south, and, with its picturesque windings through  the strath, and its  banks ornamented with gentleman’s seats,  good farm-houses, and well-cultivated lands,  forms a principal feature in the interesting scenery of this locality.” – S. A. Lewis, A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland (1846), pp. 1-23:

We must imagine Laurence working on the Orchard farmstead (his father and mother having taken rental of this property after his grandparents demise in 1734 & 35); perhaps looking after his younger siblings and taking education in the well considered parish schoolhouse (of which there was but one, supported by the Earl of Kinnoull).

We are on firmer ground with Laurence’s documented marriage in Aberdalgie on Saturday, 7th of March, 1767 to Marrion (Marion) Paterson.[source: FS: Scotland, Marriages, 1561-1910] Scotland’s People has digitized the page from the appropriate church register and in this we read under the heading ‘Marriages 1767’:

March 7th: Laurence Keir in this parish [Aberdalgie] and Marrion Paterson in that of [neighbouring] Forgandenny and these names for proclamation in order to marriage.-[Source Scotlandspeople: O.P.R. Marriages 323/00 0010 0258 Aberdalgie]

Forgandenny township and parish is adjacent to Aberdalgie and only a few miles to the south. It is here in the 1768 Perthshire ‘Stents’ (rent books) that we find one “Lau Keir” (could this be an abbreviation for our Laurence Keir?) as proprietor of the land called “Stowie’s Hill and Keirs Feu” for which a John Paterson (tenant) pays a considerable rent for farming his part of this property. This is a tantalizing ‘clue’, suggesting perhaps some (daughter-father?) link between Marion Paterson and this John Paterson of Forgandenny, but alas so far all our research into this has been on the whole, fruitless. [The Perth Stents for the year 1744 has a John Paterson in possession of this same land, but we cannot tell if this is the same John Paterson as above – or a relative.]

ASIDE: Land “ownership” in Feudal Scotland was complicated and Perthshire was typical of this situation. In fact, until quite recently, all land in Scotland was ultimately the property of the crown – however, monasteries, parish-churches, burghs and the nobility were granted by royal charter, hereditary possession of certain barony, regions and lands. Thus throughout the 16th century we find that the Stirlings of Keir, Oliphants of Condie, Aberdalgie & Gast, the Rollos of  Duncrub, and the Murrays, Barclay & Spens families all had large land holdings in this region of Perthshire. [Keir’s Feu presumably relates to the earlier occupation by Stirling of Keir and not to ‘our’ Keir family of Aberdalgie.] The noble families acted as “lairds” or overlords and ‘sub-let’ land (via various legal means applicable only in Scotland) to others who may have been property owners themselves (with feu-duties to pay) or tenant-farmers paying an annual rent. Land ‘transfer’ via deeds and marriage settlements were common, and we suspect but cannot yet prove that this is how Laurence Keir  came to be in possession of Strowie’s Hill (farmstead) just a year after his marriage to Marion Paterson. It is perhaps pertinent to note that in the 1649 rental for Perth, one Robert Hay is proprietor of Strowie (or Struie Castle as it is now known). This is different to Strowie Hill as Timothy Pont’s 1580 map of Perthshire shows (Strowy or Strowie Hill being just East of the village of Condie (Kondy) with Strowy on the other side). It is known that this Robert Hay was related to the Hays of Balhousie, a sept of the Hays of Leys, who in turn are related to the Patersons of Carpow and the Paterson-Balfour-Hays of Mugdrum in Fifeshire. It is therefore a leap of faith (and pure supposition) that Marion Paterson is somehow related to this Fifeshire family clan.

South Pertshire part Pont 1580.jpg(Modified) Part of Pont’s 1580-1590 map of Lower Strathearn, South Perthshire (showing Stowy (top-left) in Forgandenny Parish) [Source: maps.nls.uk /creative commons]

Returning to Laurence and Marion – they settled down and had a dozen or so children in the next 24 years, as listed in the following table and family tree diagram.

LK & MP childten table.jpg

Descendant Chart for William Keir with only Laurence.jpgFamily tree diagram showing the children of Laurence Keir and Marion Paterson (- the grandchildren of William Keir and Mary Clerk) and their spouses.

The first fact to strike us is that both Mary and William (Laurence and Marion’s first children) are linked to the shire capital of Perth, indicating that the family were perhaps living there at the time (say 1768 to 1771). What is more significant is William’s baptism (if this is indeed the correct record – it is the only one we can find) takes place at the North General Associate Congregation, Anti-burger Church, which was located in the Perth southern suburb of Craigie. It is likely that George Brown or his successor was the minister of this non-conformist Seceder church at the time and the Brown family came from Forgandenny. While Laurence Keir is definitely listed as William’s father the North Church records gives a Jannet Paterson as the mother. As we will see Marrion changed her name throughout her life (being known as Mary Paterson later on) but this is the only mention of her being called Jannet. It could be a mistake (from a new church minister or clerk) or simply another form of Marion. (Interestingly, while Laurence seems to return to the established church of Scotland, some of his grandchildren remain non-conformist in their beliefs, as we will see in later sub-posts.)

In birth order, after Mary and William came George Keir, born (according to the FamilySearch database) on the 4th of January, 1772 (and baptized on the 15th) at Aberdalgie to father Laurence Keir and mother Marion Paterson [Source: Scotland, Births and Baptisms, 1564-1950. Salt Lake City, Utah: FamilySearch, 2013 – FHL Film Numbers:0993510 & 0102679]. Clearly Laurence, Marion and their young family have returned to Aberdalgie and it is implied by the FHL numbers that they are using the Established Church of Scotland, Parish Church (likely to be the closest one, situated only a few 100 feet from the door of Orchard Cottage), but as we see below this is misleading.

In regular order (every two years or so) we have born boys, Thomas, Laurence (Jr) and Alexander: ba. Mar 1774, b. 31 Jan 1776 & ba.Apr 1779 respectively – all in Aberdalgie to Laurence & Marrion. Unfortunately, Thomas doesn’t survive infancy (he was buried in 1775), but otherwise fate is kind to the family (perhaps an indication of a better than average living standards?).

Next in birth order, and two years later we have born the second of Laurence’s daughters  which they called Helen. Her actual Old Parish baptism record tells a story. It reads verbatim:

Octr 14th Was Baptized / Helen Keir lawfully procreated betwixt/ Laurence Keir & Mary Pattersen in the / Orchard of Aberdalgie by the Seceder Minister in Perth.

We immediately see that Marrion is recorded as Mary (perhaps an abbreviation of Mary-Ann?) with her surname spelt creatively as Pattersen (rather than the more usual Paterson). Next we note that while Helen was born in Orchard of Aberdalgie, she was baptized by the Seceder Minister in Perth. (He, the Minister, came to them or Laurence and Marrion traveled to the capital for this baptism – either option would entail some expense.)

Aside: The issue of funding a baptism may be a mute point as this statement issued on the ScotlandsPeople website implies:

“The Old Parish Registers (OPRs) comprise the records of births & baptisms, banns & marriages and deaths & burials kept by individual parishes of the Established Church (Church of Scotland) before the introduction of civil registration in 1855… 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… Registration in Church of Scotland’s registers was costly and unpopular, so many people did not bother to register events at all. Although details of some non-conformists can be found in Established Church registers, many members of other religious denominations chose to have events registered in their own churches. In addition, rapid urbanisation during the 19th century contributed to the diminishing influence of the Church and a decrease in registration in these areas…”


Laurence and Marrion (Mary) were not so fortunate with their next three children: Catharine born in 1783 (baptized 25 Sep 1783); died in 1791, (another) Thomas born 1785 (baptized 23 Oct 1785) who died still an infant in 1790 and John (~1787-~1787). We might speculate that these children succumbed to one of the many contagious childhood diseases that were rife in these medically more primitive times…

… To be continued shortly in Part II





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