Postgraduate Diploma in Genealogical, Palaeographic and Heraldic Studies
University of Strathclyde
The Scottish name McKill is almost unique to Galloway and Dumfriesshire. It appears in Dumfries prior to, but is common there throughout, the 18th century. Robert McKill, residing in Troqueer, Kirkcudbrightshire, in the early 1700s has been identified as a Roman Catholic. Evidence indicates that many of the 18th century Dumfries McKills are his descendants. It is impossible however, solely from Parish Records, to assert definitively the connection between Robert McKill and the various 18th century Dumfries McKills. The Dumfries OPRs routinely, in respect of baptisms, give only the father’s name. The establishment of the exact inter-relationships of the various McKills is therefore problematic and requires data from a wider range of soruces than OPRs, memorial inscriptions etc. The first aspect of the research has been to clarify such ambiguities and to test various hypotheses in respect of family connections.
Overwhelmingly the 18th century Dumfries McKills were socially comfortable, many being tradesmen, primarily tailors, with status in the town, as Convenors and Deacons of Trades Guilds. The great Scottish, and indeed world, political events of the century, religious divisions, the Jacobite risings and the French Revolution, had their local reverberations. Agains the OPRs give little evidence of this aspect of the McKill family history. The family disappears from Dumfries in the first half of the nineteenth century. Descendants moved to Glasgow, to Tobago and, possibly, to the United States.
The primary purpose of the research has been to explore the arrival in Dumfries, the family relationships, the social and civic status and the apparent disappearance from Dumfries of this 18th century trade family.
The efforts and assistance of the staff at Dumfries and Galloway Archives , the National Archives of Scotland, the Scotlands People Centre, the NLS and Edinburgh’s Central Library, and the volunteers at the SGS Library are gratefully acknowledged.
Research into the Dumfries McKills proceeded from investigation of the genealogy of Alexander McKill, shoemaker, (died Glasgow, 1870 ) whose parents are noted as James McKell, Dealer, and Ann Ferguson. The 1851 and 1861 censuses note him as Alexander McKill, born in Dumfries. These documents indicate a date of birth within the range 1795-1801.
No Dumfries baptismal record has been traced for Alexander McKill, son of James McKill and Ann Ferguson. An 1800 Dumfries baptismal record exists however for Alexander Scot McKill, son of James McKill, Broker.
Two other sources strongly suggest James McKill, tailor (his given occupation until 1800), and Ann Ferguson, as Alexander McKill’s parents. McDowall describes a family grave: ‘Of yet another Trade dignitary we obtain trace ….. bearing the name Anne Fergusson, wife of Deacon James McKill, died 10th June 1803, aged 32…. The inscription specifies the name of his son Robert, died at Concord, Island of Tobago, in 1821, aged 31.’ It also names Deacon McKill’s second wife, Margaret Thomson, and six of his children.
Secondly, a testament dative and inventory in respect of Robert McKill who died in Tobago, were executed in 1822 by Alexander McKill, ‘Shoemaker Dumfries Brother of the Defunct …’.
Alexander McKill, shoemaker, is therefore the brother of Robert McKill, son of James McKill and Ann Fergusson, who died in Tobago; Alexander McKill is also therefore James McKill’s son.
The research examines the genealogy, social and civic status of Alexander McKill’s Dumfries ancestors.
1 REVIEW OF LITERATURE
McDowall examines the relationship between the Dumfries Guilds and Merchants, and notes disputes between the Tailors’ Guild and the journeymen tailors in 1792.
Braudel analyses the role of trade Guilds which, having ‘controlled the bulk of trade, labour and production,’ had declined by the 18th century when the merchant class had become dominant.
Fry and Wilkins outline Dumfries and Galloway involvement in the Caribbean slave estates and the slave trade, from the 1740s.
McDowall and and Groome note improvements in the Nith’s navigability supporting 18th and 19th century Dumfries trade with the Americas.
Slaven notes early 19th century migration from Dumfries as part of a process of economic flux in which the industrial revolution was increasing the population of Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire, Dunbartonshire and Ayrshire by over twenty per cent in each decade between 1801 and 1841 .
Shirley outlines the early 18th century persecution of Roman Catholics in Troqueer.
Wilkins provides evidence of radical politics in Dumfries in Burns’s time. Meikle notes the corrupt nature of the Dumfries Burgh Council, the division of the population into ‘Government Men and Democrats’, and disturbances over the export of meal. McDowall notes Dumfries riots over ale duty in 1718 and meal prices in 1771.
2 RESEARCH AND METHODOLOGY
Initial research into OPRs revealed a complex web of Dumfries McKill families, exact relationships among which were problematic because Dumfries baptismal records habitually noted only the father.
The Dumfries Burgess Lists , extracted from Burgh Council Minutes, indicates the occupations and dates of five McKills who became burgesses.
The Scotland’s People Index revealed 33 McKill baptisms, 14 marriages and 23 deaths pre-1855.
Along with the information in the Burgess lists and in McDowall , these have been transcribed (Appendix 1) and descendant tables produced to illustrate the family groupings identified (Appendices 2-6).
The following, possibly connected, family groupings then become apparent:
• The children of ‘Robert McKill in Troqueer’ (Appendix 2)
• The family of James McKill, father of Alexander McKill (Appendix 3)
• Matthew McKill’s family (Appendix 4).
There were traced the families
• of James McKill, weaver (Appendix 5)
• of John McKill, shoemaker (Appendix 6).
There were also identified nine outliers (Appendix 7).
The research utilised Taylors Guild records, specifically the Registers of Apprentices and Journeymen and the Minutes, along with the Dumfries Council minutes (Chapter 3) to confirm family connections but also to provided detail on the McKills’ social connections, municipal and trade engagements, etc. Court records, local newspapers, sasines and Session records complemented this material.
Chronologies were then created (Appendices 11-18) for all individual McKills for whom a substantial role was established. This supports the analysis of evidence on a generational basis and the establishment of employment and status patterns. The data in these chronologies is presented in narrative form (Chapters 4-7) for each of the identified McKill generations.?
3 TRADES AND OTHER RECORDS
Beyond the OPRs and MIs already identified, there is a wide range of available data relating to Dumfries. The most useful and comprehensive are records of the trades guilds.
The most useful of the Tailors’ (or Taylors, as they are habitually spelled) records from a strictly genealogical perspective are the Registers of Apprentices and Journeymen and the Minutes.
On 17 April 1747, Robert McKill is noted as an apprentice to his father, James McKill. This must be the Robert McKill, born in 1732, and his father James McKill, shown in Appendix 2. This (and the fact of James McKill who was married to Janet Garmory being the same James McKill as was later married to Mary McVittie) is confirmed by two notes in the Taylors. Minutes, on 17 June 1751, where ‘James McKill Son to James McKill Freeman, craved to be Freeman” and on 12 September 1755, where ‘Robert McKill Son to James McKill Freeman, craved to be Freeman”. These must be James and Robert McKill, born respectively in 1715 and 1732, sons of James McKill and of his two wives.
On 20 September 1784, ‘James McKill, lawful son of Robert McKill, late Deacon’ was admitted a freeman. There is no reference in this period to any Robert or James McKill, other than those above mentioned. The key information here is that the Deacon McKill, father of Alexander Scot McKill and of his brother, Robert McKill who died in Tobago, was Deacon James McKill, son of Deacon Robert McKill.
One further genealogical gem came from the records of the High Court. In the 1824 precognition against Patrick Fox for housebreaking, evidence is taken from “ James McKill, Broker in Friar’s Vennell, Dumfries, aged 66 and married,” whose shop had been the subject of the robbery. Evidence was also taken from “Margaret Thomson or McKill, wife of James McKill preceding”. We know from McDowall that Deacon McKill’s second wife was Margaret Thomson. James McKill, Broker, is therefore James McKill, one-time Deacon of the Taylors, and Alexander McKill who died in Glasgow in 1870 is indeed Alexander Scot McKill, son of James McKill, Broker, baptised in Dumfries in 1800. (The minister of St Michael’s Parish in Dumfries, in 1800, was Alexander Scot.) This means that the families in Appendices 2 and 3 are directly connected and these Tables can effectively be amalgamated. The first outcome therefore of the examination of the Trades Records is the confirmation of a continuing line of descent from Robert McKill in Troqueer at the turn of the eighteenth century to Alexander McKill who died in Glasgow in 1870 (Appendix 6).
Furthermore, on 16 February 1744, the Taylors Minutes note that Matthew McKill, son of John McKill, late Deacon, craved to be freeman. Although no baptismal record had been found for Matthew McKill, that note clarifies that Matthew McKill (Appendix 4) is the son of John McKill (Appendix 2) and that Appendix 4 should therefore be amalgamated with Appendix 2 . That amalgamated representation of the McKills descended from Robert McKill in Troqueer is presented as Appendix 7.
As well however as confirming certain genealogical assumptions and hypotheses, the trades and burgh records, sasines and newspaper reports support the analysis of the McKill family as part of the social fabric of Dumfries in the eighteenth and early nineteenth century.
4 ROBERT MCKILL IN TROQUEER, THE PRE-DUMFRIES GENERATION
Robert McKill in Troqueer, represents the first reliably traced generation of the McKill family.
In 1702 a popish schoolmaster in Kirkconnel, Troqueer, was discharged from keeping a school ; ‘popish vestments and popish books’ were burned in Dumfries in 1704 ; and in Troqueer, it was alleged that ‘a great number of Protestants have been seduced and perverted by trafficqueing Jesuits ….(and) eleven Protestants…. apostacized.’ The Maxwells, the major Troqueer landowners, were Roman Catholics. James Maxwell, head of the family, educated at the Catholic seminary at Douay. William Maxwell of Carruchan had held a captain’s commission in the Jacobite army in 1745.
In March 1704 the General Assembly instructed Ministers to furnish ‘lists ….. of all Papists within their bounds.’ The 1704 Kirkcudbrightshire lists name exactly 100 alleged Catholics in Troqueer, including Maxwell. The Troqueer OPR meanwhile notes, between March 1704 and November 1705, five baptisms for which the fathers were registered as “papists”. These include a son of Robert McKill: 1704 June 27 Will: Son to Robert McKill in Carurken . Three of these named as Catholics appear on the Troqueer lists but Robert McKill and one other do not. Several, including Robert McKill, had already appeared in the Troqueer Session Minutes.
In December 1700, the Session ordered him to produce his testificate, suggesting a recent arrival in Troqueer. In January 1701 he failed to produce it. There is then a gap in the extant minutes. No further reference is made to Robert McKill until the 1704 baptismal record. That record explains the failure to produce a testificate from his parish minister: as a Catholic, he would not have one. After 1704, Robert McKill vanishes from the Troqueer records until 1718. There are several local deaths which might be his but no definitive proof has been established in any such cases. He does however appear in the Dumfries records at his children’s marriages: John (1709) , James (1713) and Jannet (1718) . Jannet’s is also noted in Troqueer OPR, in 1718, when her father is noted as residing in Cargen, Troqueer. It has proved impossible to ascertain the social status, occupation or family history of Robert McKill in Troqueer.
5 THE CHILDREN OF ROBERT MCKILL IN TROQUEER: THE FIRST DUMFRIES GENERATION
In 1707 Troqueer Session accused Robert McKill’s daughter, Jannet, of converting to Catholicism . She was called three times but did not appear. On the third occasion, however witnesses appeared; one, Jannet Garmorie, was her mother.
In July 1708, Jannet McKill appeared personally, promising to attend Protestant worship. She did not do so. When she appeared again she maintained her Catholicism, ‘that it was against her heart & mind to come to the Church, & that her inclination was for the popish way.’ She was indicted for apostasy but there is no record of what action the court took. Jannet McKill makes no further appearances in the Troqueer Session records. She married in 1718 in the Church of Scotland, in which her (only traced) child was baptised. Her apostasy appears temporary.
‘John McKill Taylor son to Robt McKill in Troqueer’, is first noted, on his marriage to Susanna Sharp in 1709 in Dumfries . He became a Burgess in January 1714 but his Burgess loyalty was strained in 1718 when the burgh was permitted, to finance the parish church’s rebuilding, to raise a duty on ale brewed and sold locally. A riot followed. Over a hundred citizens were charged with ‘convocation’, among them John McKill (or MacKaill), his wife, Susanna Sharp or MacKaill, and his sister-in-law, Jannet Garmory or McKaill. The magistrates however, withdrew the charges. In 1728 John McKill purchased a tenement property in Lochmabengate, Dumfries, and was noted as Deacon of the Taylors. In 1733 he qualified as a Constable, was again elected Deacon in 1734 and regularly elected one of the six Taylors Guild Masters . In 1737 he and his brother, James, jointly employed a journeyman.
The witnesses at the baptism of the first of his children for which there is a record were former Deacons of the Taylors and those at the next again merchants, his brother being the only family baptismal witness, and that only once . He had at least seven children. There is no traced baptismal record for the oldest, Robert, but a burial record places him as the first child. His daughters, Susanna and Marion, respectively married John Meikleroy, tailor and John Biggar, tailor . Three others died young. No baptismal record has been traced for Matthew, also a tailor. The Taylors Minutes however clarify that relationship .
John McKill was a successful tradesman, purchasing property, employing at least five journeymen and an apprentice, attaining status in the Guild and maintaining trade connections through his daughters’ marriages.
James McKill, is noted as ‘son to Robert McKill in Troquear’, at his marriage to Jannet Garmory in 1713 in Dumfries . He became a Burgess in 1714. Jannet Garmory died in January 1731; he married Mary McVittie in October 1731 . He employed at least two journeymen and seven apprentices, appears in partnership with his brother John in 1734 but does not appear to have held office in the Taylors Guild. He died in 1758, having acquired less obvious status than his brother. Three children of James McKill have been traced: from his first marriage, James and Elizabeth , and from his second, Robert .
These siblings have patently abandoned their ‘papist’ father, Jannet’s brief apostasy and an early propensity to riot. They have integrated into Presbyterian Dumfries and prospered, John McKill in particular attaining status and property.
6 THE GRANDCHILDREN OF ROBERT MCKILL: THE SECOND DUMFRIES GENERATION
MATTHEW MCKILL, SON OF JOHN MCKILL
‘Matthew McKill son of John McKill late Deacon’ became a Freeman in February 1744, was admitted Burgess in 1750 and married in 1751 . He had four children, John, born 1752 , Winifred born 1756 , George, 1758 -1761 , and Marion born 1761 . In 1755, he seised his late father’s tenement property in Lochmabengate, re-selling it eleven months later . In January 1761 the Taylors Guild “being willing to assist a brother unanimously agreed” to lend him twelve pounds , increasing the loan in March . It was finally called up in 1767 and was repaid, to a total of sixty pounds, in June 1768. Matthew McKill, his wife and three surviving children, then disappear from the records.
JAMES MCKILL, SON OF JAMES MCKILL
Apart from his baptism in 1715, the only one traced record for James McKill, in June 1751, notes ‘James McKill son to James McKill freeman’ admitted a freeman’.
Robert McKill, the son of James McKill and his second wife, Mary McVittie, was born in 1732 , booked apprentice to his father in April 1747, became a freeman in 1755 and married Jannet Dobbie in 1756 . In 1759 ‘Robert McKill Taylor son to the deceased James McKill Taylor who was burgess of this town’ sought to be admitted Burgess .
From 1765 to 1767 he was elected annually as one of the six Masters of the Tailors , admitted to the office of Constable in 1769 and elected Boxmaster of the Tailors in 1772, 1773 and 1774 and Deacon in 1775 and 1776 . Thereafter he was frequently re-elected one of the six Masters. He was granted a tenancy of land by the Tailors in 1784 . In 1795 he rented the Meal Market from the Burgh and in 1798 (the last traced record of him) rented the Meal Market, the Trons and the three ports.
Robert McKill and Jannet Dobbie had five traced children: Marion, 1757 -1779 ; James, 1760 -1833 ; Jannet, 1762 -1764 ; John, born 1765 ; and Robert, 1769 -1773 . John Biggar, a tailor, and the husband of his cousin, Marion McKill, witnessed the baptisms of three of his five children. No record has been traced of his son John after his baptism. His daughter, Marion, married Thomas Threshie, a tailor . His son, James, continued the family tradition in the tailoring trade and in Dumfries municipal life.
Robert McKill was a burgess and a constable, a successful tradesman employing at least three apprentices over his career, attained status in the Taylors Guild and rented land and public utilities.
7 JAMES MCKILL (1760-1833), THE THIRD AND LAST DUMFRIES GENERATION
James McKill, son of Robert McKill, became a freeman in 1784, was admitted Burgess a fortnight later and married Anne Ferguson, the daughter of a prominent Dumfries merchant family, in June 1785 .
He became an officer of the Taylors Guild in September 1785 ,. He was elected one of the six Masters of the Taylors Guild in each of 1790, 1791 and 1792 and again in 1801, 1802 and 1804 and Boxmaster in 1793, 1794 and 1796 . In September 1794, at Dmfries Burgh Council, “James McKill led vote for the Taylors,” i.e. he attended the Council, presumably as subsitutute for the then Deacon of the Taylors, and voted on the Tailors’ behalf . He was elected Deacon of the Taylors in 1796, 1797, 1798, 1799 and again in 1807 . He regularly signed the minutes and registers of the Taylors Guild as late as 1822 .
In November 1795 he stood surety for his father who had rented the Meal market . In October 1797, he is noted in the Sederunt of the Burgh Council at a meeting where it is recorded, in respect of a roup of public utilities: ‘Meal market To Deacon McKill as Prinl and James Denniston Cautioner £23:10/=’. In other words he sat on the Council which awarded a lucrative contract to himself.
In May 1800, The Provost informed the Council ‘that on account of the late appearances of tumultuous meetings on the high street and market places of this borough he had judged it expedient for the preservation of public peace and preventing tumults as much as possible, to cause the Council officer by warrant dated yesterday, to summon a considerable number of the active and respectable inhabitants, to appear this day, and be sworn in the office of Constabulary for this borough during the will and pleasure of the Council – which measure being approved’ 144 citizens, including James McKill the following inhabitants ‘appeared and were sworn into the said office’.
James McKill attained a powerful civic and professional status and was part of the conservative Dumfries hierarchy, one of the ‘Government Men’. Although a leading participant in the Taylors Guild until at least 1822, his status changed. At the baptism of his son, Alexander, in 1800 , he is noted as a ‘broker’. His son, John, is apprenticed in 1807, but to another tailor, John Frood . He is again noted as ‘broker’ after the 1824 burglary , but the papers also indicate the stock in his premises, including shirts, stockings, blankets and cloth. He has transformed from a traditional manufacturing tailor to a broker or retailer. That move, from ‘tailor’ to ‘broker’, represents a microsmic version of global patterns in which the power of the trades declined as the merchant class became increasingly dominant.
In September 1833 there was published the post-1832 Reform Act electoral list for Dumfries Burgh where he appears as ‘James McKill, Broker’. The very sets of merchant and trades representation on Burgh Councils, by which James McKill had membership of Dumfries’s municipal elite, were permanently ended. He died a month later .
James McKill married twice. His first wife, Anne Fergusson, was from a prominent Dumfries Merchant family. With her he had at least eight children: Mary, William, Janet, Robert, John, William, James and Alexander. The text on the family gravestone reads:
In Memory of
ROBERT MCKILL who died aged 31 on the estate of Concordia, on the island of Tobago, West Indies, on the 21 November 1821. Much regretted by all who knew him.
Also ANNE FERGUSSON wife of James McKill Late Deacon of the Tailors in Dumfries who died 10th June 1803 aged 32 years.
Also MARGARET THOMSON his second wife who died 13 October 1832, aged 70 years.
Also two Williams, Mary, James, Robert and Janet their children who died young.
It is an intriguing headstone. As McDowell stated, there is a blank where James McKill’s name might have been expected. It was patently erected after the death of Robert McKill rather than after that of Anne Fergusson, yet the names of the other children were patently not added until after Margaret Thomson’s death. Despite the fact that the children are noted as having ‘died young’, there are no burial records for any of them in the Dumfries OPRs. Two children’s names are not noted, John, born 1792 and apprenticed in 1807, and Alexander, born 1800.
Of the Robert who died in Tobago, some information is known. He was a manager on the Concordia estate. Robert McKill is noted on the Tobago Slave Registers of 1819 as ‘Robert McKell’ at Lucy Vale Plantation, Tobago, where there were 71 slaves. The 1819 return lists the slaves individually, by name, sex, colour, age, country of origin, employment and remarks.
Two years later, the 1821 returns note him as ‘Robert McKell Manager’ of the Concordia Estate, within St George’s Parish, Tobago, on which there were 169 slaves. McKill neither owned the estate nor the slaves but managed them.
Robert McKill left a son in Tobago. The Baptism Records of St. Andrew’s Church, Scarborough, Tobago, in March 1822, four months after McKill’s death, show the baptism of Robert McKill, son of Robert McKill, Manager at Concordia, and of Betsy Tait, ‘a free coloured woman’ .
Groome notes that from 1810 the navigability of the Nith was improved and 18th and 19th century Dumfries traded with the Americas. Wilkins analyses the sustained connection between Dumfries (and its hinterland) and the Caribbean slave trade, back to 1740s. Between 1795 and 1807 three local merchants, Samuel McDowal and George and Robert Tod, financed slaving voyages from Liverpool. Several of their captains were Dumfries or Galloway men.
Alexander Scot McKill moved to Glasgow. He worked as a shoemaker, married Agnes Urquhart, had three children and died in the City Poorhouse in 1870. Migration from Dumfries in the early 19th century was part of a process of wider changes and economic flux. The very processes which devalued the traditional trades, as exemplified in the case of James McKill, sucked others, like his son, Alexander, into the industrial metropolitan centres. Slaven notes that the Glasgow-Carlisle turnpike road was contracted for construction between 1817 and 1824 and that the industrial revolution was transforming the population of Glasgow and the counties of Lanark, Renfrew, Dunbarton and Ayr, which increased by over twenty per cent in each decade between 1801 and 1841, drawing masses from Ireland and across Scotland. while McDowall notes that, almost simultaneously and coincidentally, in 1817 the Burgh of Dumfries was on the verge of bankruptcy.
Although, as stated there is some ambiguity over exactly which of James McKill’s children ‘died young’, the other survivor appears to have been John McKill. There is evidence which suggests that John and a brother, James, may have gone to the USA. (See Appendix 19.)
8 IN CONCLUSION
This was a family steeped in one trade for a century. Of the six traced male children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Robert McKill in Troqueer who survived into adulthood, all were tailors. Three of the six played leading roles in the Taylors Guild and the municipality, roles which were intimately inter-connected with their business dealings. Moreover, the connections were also maintained by marriage: Robert McKill’s daughter and his three traced grand-daughters who survived into adulthood all married tailors. Of the male McKills however, only John McKill married the daughter of a tailor. It is not known however, except in the cases of Robert McKill (b 1732) who was apprenticed to his father, and John McKill (b 1792) who was apprenticed to John Frood, to whom any of the McKill tailors were apprenticed and whether there was any family pattern in this.
It appears the case that individual McKills migrated from Dumfries in the early nineteenth century although the abrupt and total disappearance from the Dumfries of Matthew McKill and his family after his financial embarrassment might suggest that he and they also left the Burgh. There is however no clear pattern of migration. By 1837 Pigot’s Directory notes no McKills among either the tailors or any other of the Dumfries trades. Evidence suggests that the surviving members of the McKill family saw no meaningful future in Dumfries in the early nineteenth century.
While James McKill (1760-1833) married into a Merchant family, no other evidence has been traced of such socially aspiring marriages. While members of the family appear to have enjoyed some prosperity, owning property and renting facilities for entrepreneurial purposes, the only recorded will which has been traced relates to Robert McKill (1790-1821) who died in Tobago, amounting to a sum of some two hundred pounds.
In one case, that of James McKill (son of Robert McKill in Trqueer, d 1758) there is no evidence of his having attained significant property or status. In another, that of Matthew McKill, there is evidence of his having financial difficulties, requiring the sale of inherited property and the receipt of an extended loan from the Guild. Alexander Scot McKill (1800-1870) died in the Glasgow City Poorhouse. The evidence suggests that this family became and remained moderately prosperous, without ever rising to affluence, over the course of the eighteenth century, but suffered with the decline of traditional trades during the early years of the industrial revolution.
While the connections among several McKill families, all of whom in the tailoring trade, have been reliably established or confirmed using Trades and other data, no definitive connections have been established with the weaving or shoemaking McKill families or with the various identified outliers. Nor have the family roots of Robert McKill in Troqueer been established. All of these offer potential for further research.
A POSSIBLE AMERICAN CONNECTION
James McKill (born Dumfries c 1795, died Vernon County, Missouri, USA, 25 January 1859) had two sons. Joe Yokley, a direct descendant, has privately published a family history which provides considerable data, backed by original sources, for each generation from James McKill’s sons onwards.
Yokeley’s data on the original James McKill is largely anecdotal, although there is a photograph of a grave: James McKill. Born 1795 in Dumfries Co. Scotland. Died Jan. 25, 1859 aged 64 years.
A local history notes James McKill Senior as ‘old Judge McKill’ (elected a county judge in 1856 ) and having bought land in Vernon County in 1846. His name was given to the southern edge of Harrison township, to the Methodist Chapel situated there and to McKill School house.
James McKill’s travels are suggested in an appreciation of his son, James McKill Junior, who was born in New York State in 1830, moved to Ohio when young and arrived in Missouri with his family in 1846. It may therefore be assumed that James McKill Senior was in New York State in 1830, Ohio later in the 1830s and/or early 1840s and that he reached Missouri in 1846. This is entirely consistent with developing United States communications patterns. In 1812, the introduction of the flat-boat made the Mississippi navigable, opening the land west of Appalachians. In 1825 the Erie Canal gave the eastern states, including New York, easy access to Ohio and ultimately to Missouri and Kansas.
Some confirmation of James McKill’s peregrinations is offered in the 1850 US Federal census which places James McKill in Bates, Missouri. James McKill is aged 50 (suggesting an approximate date of birth of 1800 rather than 1795), born in Scotland; Rhoda McKill, his wife is 49, born in Maine; Robert McKill (his older son) aged 22, born in New York; James McKill Junior, aged 20, born in New York; Elizabeth McKill (James Junior’s wife) aged 20, born in Pennsylvania; and Mary McKill (James Junior’s daughter) aged 1, born in Missouri.
It is less clear exactly when and how James McKill arrived in the USA. Hill notes regular trade, with tobacco as the main import, between Dumfries, as well as the smaller Galloway ports, with the American colonies, throughout the first half of the eighteenth century. The tobacco trade had however declined by the 1760s. From the late 1780s until about 1820, there was an upturn in Dumfries’s trade with America, especially the importation of timber. A triangular trade was developed in the 1830s between Dumfries, Liverpool and Canada by the Thomson company, a family business controlled by three brothers, one based in each of Dumfries, Liverpool and New Brunswick. By the 1830s this trade was valued at some eight to ten thousand pounds per annum. There was therefore a regular and established trading connection between Dumfries and the American colonies and later the United States and Canada.
James McKeil, aged 22 (with an approximate date of birth therefore of 1798) arrived in New York in early 1820. He is noted as having arrived in New York on the brig Greyhound, a merchant, from Halifax and intending to return there. There is a later arrival, in Maine, in 1836, of James McKeal, merchant, of the same age , again from Canada. This continuing Canadian connection rules out this James McKill/McKeil.
In 1820, in the three months ending 30 June, James McKell, aged 28 (with an approximate date of birth therefore of 1792), a cabinet maker, arrived in Philadelphia from Great Britain aboard The James. No more definitive arrival data has yet been traced.
John McKill, aged between 30 and 40, is noted in 1830 as head of a household in Portage, Allegany, New York.
On the same page of the same census return is one Jas. McKill, residing in a household comprising one male aged between thirty and forty, one male aged between twenty and thirty, two males under 5 years, and one female aged between twenty and thirty. Although this does not confirm the James McKill, later in Missouri, was resident in Portage in 1830, it is entirely consistent with that since his family exactly fit these descriptors. If so there may well be a connection between John McKill and James McKill, both in Portage.
John McKill, remained in Nunda, Allegany, New York, (Portage was formed in 1827 from a sector of Nunda, and both became part of the newly created Livingston County in 1846 ) in 1840; in Portage, Livingston, in 1850; in Portage in 1855 (noted as born in Scotland and as a tailor) ; and in 1860. He is buried in Oakland Hill Cemetery, Oakland, Livingston, having died on 25 July 1861.
It should also be noted that there is a John McKill, baptised in Dumfries in 1792 , who was a brother of Robert McKill and Alexander McKill.
This John McKill, and the James McKill who appears on the 1830 census in Portage may be brothers and that James McKill may be the James McKill who, it is established, resided in New York before he subsequently settled in Missouri.
Postgraduate Diploma in Genealogical, Palaeographic and Heraldic Studies