View Full Version : Ross & Cromarty to Devon, Stuarts

19-09-2007, 4:48 PM
Since there is no Ross & Cromarty spot, I thought I'd just post here.

Samuel Stuart b. 1810 Kilmington, Devon - his parents were from Ross & Cromarty. How they travelled from there to Devon back then is incomprehensible! My sis thinks they may have taken a ferry and travelled overland some how. Anyhow, how would I go about researching the Stuart's from there.

And I have just answered my own ? of course I shalll try Scotland's People and start shelling out money for credits.|nopity|

But of course any help from anyone else would be appreciated!:D


15-04-2008, 5:06 PM
I have received new info regarding the Stuart's of Ross & Cromarty.

Appently the Stuart's left Ross & Cromarty in early 1800's when land was taken from the crofters by the landowners for shooting rights. They travelled by boat down the west coast to Devon.

I have tried googling Scottish crofting rights and shooting rights taken by landowners in 1800's but all I ever get is the reversal of landowner rights in the 1970's.

Does any one know Scottish history for this time period? I have unsourced information that the parents were born in Devon in the 1770's which conflicts with these memoirs I have received. It could be that the memoir dates are off or the unsourced info is.

When did the crofters lose their land to the landowners? Can any one help? I have tried Scotlands people but no joy there or anywhere else.

15-04-2008, 6:35 PM
Hi Vanessa.. Have you tried Google "Highland Clearances" and also their Book Search which would give ISBN #'s.

Our Wpg library is rich in such books as it forms an important part in the birth of Canada.

15-04-2008, 8:19 PM
Hi Peter

I will try that googling thing again....

I did find one book an historical guide to Ross & Cromarty thru amazon but there was no delivery time, none in stock and I don't really want to purchase something that won't help me.

But I shall try again unless some else can shed some light on this?

blue eyes
15-04-2008, 9:09 PM
Hi Vanessa,

On the site Ancestralscotland under Crofting 4th paragraph. Following some serious disputes with the lanlords the Napier commission was set up to look into the question of croft tenancies which led to the introduction of the crofters act 1886.
The 2nd link is to ScotlandGen Web Project Ross and Cromerty. Under history of the county there is paragraph about the crofters and the landowners.



15-04-2008, 9:29 PM
Hi Julie

Have seen both of those but those are post-1810 and I am looking for pre-1810. My gg grandfather born in Devon 1810. Lore has it that the crofters were forced off their lands by the landowners for shooting rights. I have been unable to find anything that relates to or verifies this.

Thanks anyway.

15-04-2008, 9:44 PM
I found this under "First Scotland Clearances" search.

It refers to various events which were pre 1800


blue eyes
15-04-2008, 9:55 PM
My 3x gt grandather came from Cromerty to Cornwall eary 1800's. I've no idea why, perhaps his was the same reason.

Have you tried the National Archives Scotland?

15-04-2008, 10:52 PM
Thanks Peter...I had been to this site before...I was looking for the wrong wording. Since my gg grandfather was a farmer this may explain things a little more clearly. I have bookmarked it to read later - 'tis dinner time here:)

To your greater intelligence and super sleuthing|bowdown|

Julie, maybe we've both gained a bit of knowledge regarding the clearances. :D Some of the stuff is too small to read and I have found it hard to peruse pages of this stuff - and probably missed what I needed to know what to look for!

16-11-2008, 2:00 AM
Hello Vanessa,

Being relatively new to this Forum, just over two weeks, I have just come across your posting re Ross & Cromarty.

Ross & Cromarty covers a huge swathe of the Highlands stretching from east to west coast and including some of the Hebridean Islands. It would helpful to know which part of this county your ancestors came from as different areas fared differently depending on who owned the land and on whether they were owners or tennants of their farm..

The period you are enquiring about was one of extreme turbulence in the Highlands of Scotland. The 1745 Rebellion had just been crushed and the whole of the Highlands were under military rule. The mere fact of being a Stuart in those times was risky business in itself.

Farming was basically cattle farming and the growing of wheat and oats. This became increasingly profitable towards the end of the century as the Napoleonic Wars in the continent closed off other sources of those products.

The policy was to increase farm holdings, making larger farms,at the expence of the local tenant farmers. Lowland and English landowners were encouraged to take possession of those farms, thereby displacing the local smaller farmers. The smaller farmer could make money out of selling out to the bigger farmer.

Once they made their fortunes they could afford to return south any way they liked, and sell their land on to the next Sassenach exploiter.

Those who were displaced, on the other hand, were encouraged to leave for the Colonies. The ships that brought goods back from the Colonies made regular stops off the coast of Scotland to load with human cargo, which was more profitable for them than go empty on their outward voyage. Your ancestors could be one of those who may have boarded in Scotland and decided to disembark in the south of England when their ship put in there.

How your ancestors got down south depends, therefore, on which group they belonged to. Hunting and shooting estates did not become popular until much later, mid-Victorian times, when it became fashionable.

Hope this helps a bit to describe the period you wish to know about.

Regards, Donald.

16-11-2008, 2:24 AM

How extremely interesting. A lot of information to digest and I will print it out to digest.

The information I have is that my ancestors Stuart/Stewart came down the west coast from Ross & Cromarty and settled in Devon. Probably put in at Bristol and went east to Devon. With the help of a 3 cousin we have managed to trace back to 1650 but still in Devon so the story that was handed down thru the generations is more than likely false or so long ago that it took on a life of its own.

There has never been found any mention of Scottish ancestory that we could find and the earliest appearance in Devon was 1650 born in Chard and Axminster. This information was compiled mostly from old parish registers, wills and the IGI. Most of them were ag labs and blacksmiths in the early years up to about 1870 when some moved on up towards London and Kent. Gardening was pretty important to them as one went to Howth Castle, Ireland in 1907 to be head gardener there and several others kept on as domestic gardening.

I am glad you were able to shed some light on the Highland Clearances. Perhaps I will try to find something on Scotlands People, but as I have no parent names to begin with and no actual place names it will probably be impossible.

One never knows what will turn up. Truly interesting, thank you |hug|

Elwyn Soutter
16-11-2008, 9:23 AM

I agree with Donald that in 1810 there were no real shooting estates as such in the Highlands. That came much later, largely in Victorian times, when the Highlands became very fashionable for wealthy visitors thanks mostly to Sir Walter Scott & the Royal Family who made them popular through romanticised novels and high profile visits.

Around 1810 the clearances were to allow the landowners (many of whom were Scottish) to put sheep on the land. If your ancestor was cleared off the land, it would be for that reason. However for every person who was forcibly removed there were a thousand who left voluntarily. People emigrated then for the same reason they do today. There was little local employment and insufficient food to feed them and their families properly. And remember that most of the Highlands is very poor agricultural land, especially in Ross-shire. So it was always a struggle to grow crops. They were often scraping a subsistence living. They mostly had little alternative but to leave.

The Highland Clearances are one of those emotive issues about which Scots (and I am one) often get quite agitated, frequently blaming exiled english landowners for clearing thousands of people off the land ruthlessly. This is mostly a lazy and emotional version of Scottish history. The vast majority left of their own accord seeking better lives abroad or in the towns and cities where the Industrial Revolution was starting in Lowland Scotland and England. There were some ruthless evictions (it led to rioting in Kildonan for 3 weeks in 1813), but usually involving comparatively small numbers of crofters. Many were offered alternative accommodation, time to go and a free passage to somewhere else. The population of the crofting counties in the Highlands actually rose from 300,000 to 350,000 during the period when the worst of the Clearances are said to have happened. So the notion, often put about that the Highlands were emptied by the Clearances is incorrect. Those who refused to move did so because they were deeply attached to their land where they had lived for hundreds of years, which is very understandable, but the harsh reality was that the land simply could not feed them all.

Your ancestor's journey down to Devon would have been a comparatively easy one. He would probably have travelled across to the west coast (probably on foot or on a pony or horseback if he was wealthy enough) to somewhere like Glenelg or Skye, where he would have picked up a boat going south. There was plenty of coastal traffic up and down the west coast of Britain at that time. The newspapers of the time (eg the Caledonian Mercury) were filled with reports of boat arrivals from the north or the south, often naming the main passengers. An overland journey was possible (Johnson & Boswell did their famous tour of the Highlands and Hebrides, from London to Skye, all effectively overland in the 1770s) but I suspect your ancestor went the easy way by sea.


16-11-2008, 5:58 PM
Thank you Elwyn for that additional information. I doubt that I will ever find any records journalled in newspapers as such since my Stuart's left in the early to mid 1600's, but the travel theory is what we have assumed to have taken place. I have not searched out the earliest editions of the Caledonian Mercury or even if it was in existence at the time. I don't think they were wealthy and were not literate. The early names went from Steward/Stewart and finally to Stuart by 1800.

Thanks :) It's nice to know that people read the old posts and do indeed respond!

Lesley Robertson
16-11-2008, 7:04 PM
Thank you Elwyn for that additional information. I doubt that I will ever find any records journalled in newspapers as such since my Stuart's left in the early to mid 1600's, but the travel theory is what we have assumed to have taken place. I have not searched out the earliest editions of the Caledonian Mercury or even if it was in existence at the time. I don't think they were wealthy and were not literate. The early names went from Steward/Stewart and finally to Stuart by 1800.

Thanks :) It's nice to know that people read the old posts and do indeed respond!

The spelling of scottish surnames pre WW1 is a fuzzy thing and not a reflection of the literacy of the people.ou gave your name to the Minister/Clerk and he wrote down what he heard. Kirk Ministers moved around, so the guiy wasn't recessarily hearing with the same accent as the locals were speaking.... In the 18th and 19th centuries, the Church of Scotland made it a duty that everyone should be able to read their own Bible, and the parishes ran schools which the children were expected to attend - or explain why not!

The title of this thread dates from before there was a R&C forum, so I think I'll make it a little more informative. Maybe pull in a bit more attention.

23-11-2008, 1:21 AM
Hello again,

Your posting dated 16-11-2008 suggests that your ancestors left R & C for Devon in the early to mid 1600s and not 1800s as previously suggested.

This would present a whole lot of different possibilities as to why and how they got to Devon. The Clearances, as we know them, would not begin for another 100 years. Any shooting usually involved shooting each other. Religious intolerance in Scotland was at fever pitch.

In 1603 King James VI of Scotland, a Stewart, became King James I of England. He moved to London with his Scottish Royal Court and a large proportion of the Scottish nobility. They would have taken their servants etc with them. They were settled on large estates in the South of England. Your ancestors could have been among that lot in some capacity.

Guy Fawkes attempted to blow him up along with his parlaiment in 1605 because of the percieved persecution of Catholics.

In 1625 James died and King Charles I ascended the throne. His ideas on religion and the Divine Right of Kings led to his execution in 1649, the English Civil War and the rule of Oliver Cromwell. He ws not one who would look favourably on a Stewart, however that name was spelt.

On one of his "excursions" to Scotland, Cromwell may well have frog marched your ancestors back to England as prisoners. They could have gone voluntarily if they were sympathetic to the Protestant, Puritan cause.

I believe that the way the name was spelt could identify whether one was sympathetic to the Puritan or the Catholic cause. Either way, here again we have a time when being a Stewart could be dodgy.

Someone may know how to find who the prominent owners of land in that part of the country were and it may throw up a link.

Regards, Donald.

23-11-2008, 2:17 AM

Thank you for breaking down the history timelines in a simplified way. (my mind fogs up when things get too wordy like history books)

My grandmother wrote down what little information she had about the Stuart's "arriving 1810 ish" and settling in Devon.

When I traced back, I quickly found that not to be true and in fact was able to get back to about 1740, when I stumbled on a distant relative who had done extensive research that matched mine and he was able to get back to 1650.

Anything prior to that will be very difficult to determine for want of lack of full names, dates, places etc.

What you tell of the pre and post Cromwell years sounds very plausible and more than likely closer to the truth than we were led to believe. (My family had once been told were related to Mary Queen of Scots|laugh1| but I always thought we were bastard cast-offs|laugh1| )

I have not found any land title deeds for anyone Stuart/Stewart in Devon and only a couple that actually owned small plots with enough money to leave a will. And none were RC.

I see I shall have to hunt up some old history books and see if I can find anything else out.

Thank you for sharing your historical knowledge.

23-11-2008, 2:54 AM
One thing to watch out for - your ancestor might have worked for a landowner in Scotland who also had estates in Devon. The transition might have been a movement between the two estates.

23-11-2008, 3:11 AM
Thanks Christine, I will keep that in mind :)

06-12-2008, 11:11 PM
Hello again V,

Following on from Christine's inspired tip here are the names of some of the major land owning families of R&C in the early 1600s. Perhaps you might come across one of the names in your search of the Devon land title deeds.

Mackenzie - The Earls of Seaforth - They owned and controlled almost all of Wester Ross as well as large tracts of Easter Ross.

Ross - Held lands in Easter Ross.
Munro - Held lands in Easter Ross.
Macrae - Held Glenelg.
Macleod - Held Coigach.
Urquhart - Held lands in Easter Ross and the Black Isle.

Your Stewart ancestors would have lived on land owned or controlled by one of those clans and therefore be subject to their bidding.

In 1626 over 2,000 men from Cromarty set sail to serve as mercenaries in the Protestant Army of Christian IV of Denmark during the Thirty Years' War. Many of them would have come back to an England gearing up for civil war and may well have got involved in the south.

In 1651 Mackenzie with troops raised from among the people on his lands marched with the Royalist Army that was defeated at Worcester. In fleeing that scene, heading for the remote parts of Devon and Cornwall could well have been an attractive option. Its not that far.

By the beginning of the 1600s the days of clan fighting clan had virtually come to an end. For the good Highlander this meant going further afield for a good fight. England and Continental Europe provided ideal sport and later on there was the whole British Empire to mess around in.

The Stewarts, being the fine Scottish clan that they are, would surely not have been happy to stay at home and miss out on all this.

Hope the above provides some useful leads.

Regards, Donald.

07-12-2008, 1:49 AM

I hope that you are a history teacher as you portray it eloquently. :) A couple of these names jump out at me as I have seen them in the early Devon registers. You have provided more than adequate food for thought and I will try to find the link. I wasn't expecting you to spend so much time on this particular era. Thank you.:)