1. RIGGEND, Lanarkshire (1830–1878)

by Alan Craig

I want to thank Kay McMeekin of the Cumnock History Group for a number of useful contributions to the research into this family. For example, Kay discovered the various marriages of Helen McKay (my g-g-grandaunt), and this information has made our story more complete than it otherwise would have been. 

John [1] McKay

The first person that we know for sure bore our family’s “McKay” name was a John McKay of Aberdeenshire. We can trace to him quite easily through his descendants, but his death certificate (1878), unfortunately, does not name his parents — so there the line stops … perhaps. In 1841, he was entered in the census for Greengairs in North Lanarkshire as a 35-year-old labourer who was not born in that county. Greengairs is a small village about 6 km (4 miles) north of the market town of Airdrie, and close by the hamlet of Riggend — and all part of the Airdrie and New Monkland parish (see map of North Lanarkshire). The village is about 20 km (12 miles) east of Glasgow and sits at the northern end of  the great Lanarkshire coal fields. Other family locations within the Lanarkshire coal fields include Bellshill and Bothwellhaugh, which lie 15 km (9 miles) to the south. The Summerlee Coal Company began mining ironstone at Greengairs in the 1840s, but coal was later to become the main product.

Given that the adult ages in the 1841 census were generally rounded down to the nearest ‘5’, John’s age could have been anywhere between 35 and 39, putting his birth year to between 1803 and 1807. [In the following tables, my direct ancestors are marked in purple]:

1841 SCOTLAND CENSUS: Greengairs, New Monkland, Lanarkshire 1Source: 1841 Scotland Census; 651/ 25/ 7; New Monkland, Lanarkshire.

John [1] McKay; 35; Lab.; not born in Lanarkshire
Mary McKay [Kilpatrick]; 35; born Ireland
James McKay; 8; born Lanarkshire
John [2] McKay; 6; born Lanarkshire
Helen McKay; 4; born Lanarkshire
Jean McKay; 2; born Lanarkshire

The census in 1851 does not, however, help secure his birth year, as he was then registered as as a 52-year-old coal-cutter; however, we discover he was born in Aberdeenshire. Suddenly, though, his birth year was pushed back to a possible 1799:

1851 SCOTLAND CENSUS: 73 Braes o’ Town, New Monkland, Airdrie, Lanarkshire 2Source: 1851 Scotland Census; 651/ 8/ 29; New Monkland, Lanarkshire.

John [1] McKay; Head; Mar; 52; Coalcutter; born Aberdeenshire
Mary McKay [Kilpatrick]; Wife; Mar; 48; Coalcutter’s Wife; born Lanarkshire, Airdrie [actually Ireland]
James McKay; Son; Unm; 18; Coalcutter; born Lanarkshire, Airdrie
John [2] McKay; Son; Unm; 16; Coalcutter; born Lanarkshire, Airdrie
Helen McKay; Daur; Unm; 14; Cotton Mill Weaver; born Lanarkshire, Airdrie
Jane McKay; Daur; Unm; 7; At Home; born Lanarkshire, Airdrie

At this point, all we can say for sure about John [1] McKay’s birth is that he was probably born between 1799 and 1807 in Aberdeenshire. However, there is one more check we can make. A search of the Scottish parish baptismal records for Aberdeenshire for that date range returns just one possibility:

1804 SCOTLAND BIRTHS: Parish of Tyrie, Aberdeenshire 3Source: 1804 Scotland O.P.R. Births; 248/ 30 40; Tyrie, Aberdeenshire.

August 14th John Lawful Son of James McKay and Eliza Stephen was baptised in presence of Joseph Hendry and Ann Sutor both there viz. in New Pitsligo

We cannot be certain that this record is definitely for our John McKay — only that it is possible and, given it’s the only available record that might fit, it’s worth noting in the family tree.

So, in 1851, we see John [1] with his wife, Mary, and their growing family. The surviving children were all 10 years older than they were in 1841, validating their ages, though our patriarch was suddenly much older than the previous census suggested. However, after this, a mystery evolves: neither John (1 nor 2) was anywhere to be found in Scotland or England in 1861 — and though John [2] reappears in the Ayrshire records when he marries in 1863, his father was only next reliably seen in the public record on his death. So, where were they?

Mary Kilpatrick

Here we can concentrate on Mary Kilpatrick (my g-g-g-grandmother) for clues. No marriage record for John and Mary has been found, but they had six (possibly seven) children between 1830 and 1844, most born at Riggend. The parish entries for this couple’s children contain some puzzling anomalies that are difficult to resolve. The first records we come across in a search for possible children of John and Mary McKay are two “lawful” baptisms in February 1833: one for a John, born 26 Dec 1830; and, immediately following, for a James, born 19 Oct 1832 — from this record we are given Mary’s maiden name, and we can infer that she married before December 1830, perhaps even a year or so earlier. Seemingly, having overlooked baptising John when he was born, the couple were motivated to ‘do the right thing’ when James came along.

However, in 1834, a second John was born, and because his age generally matches with the census records (see above), we can guess that the first John has died, and his parents have re-used the name. This second John (John (ii) [2]) is, therefore, my g-g-grandfather. Continuing with the search, we find the couple’s first daughter, Helen, born in 1836 — but then, mysteriously, no record exists for the two-year-old “Jean” from the 1841 census. She should have been found in early 1839 if the census record is to be believed, but here confusion reigns. Instead of “Jean”, we find a second “James”, born 23 Feb 1839 (baptised in March)! What is going on!?

As we look back at the census records above, we can see that no second “James” makes an appearance in 1841 or 1851, and “Jean” only appears in 1841. We can track the first James right throughout his life (1833–1907), so my best guess is that the entry for a “son James” in 1839 should have been for a “daughter Jean”: a monumental scribal error, no doubt, but I’ve heard of worse. The mystery doesn’t end there, however.

The next (and last) child recorded was Jane, born in 1844. In Scotland, the names Janet, Jane and Jean are essentially interchangeable; they are effectively the same name, and we see this regularly throughout our family tree. Many women with this name will often use all three forms at various times in their lives. So, it would not be at all unexpected to see the “Jean” of 1841 registered as a “Jane” in 1851 — except that she would have been 12, not 7. My theory is that the first “Jean” was erroneously recorded as “James” when baptised, and then died young (perhaps quite shortly after her birth, so a rushed baptism). The parents then re-used the name when the next girl came along (as they did with John (ii)). Perhaps she was baptised “Jane”, but the church clerk heard “James” — we will never know.

However, by the time of the 1861 census, all the boys had left home, and one of the girls was already a widow — and, significantly, the father is nowhere to be seen:

1861 SCOTLAND CENSUS: 3 Shanks Street, Airdrie, Lanarkshire 4Source: 1861 Scotland Census; 651/ 1 26/ 10; New Monkland, Lanarkshire.

Mary McKay [Kilpatrick]; Head; Mar, 56; born Ireland
Ellen McKay; Daur; W. ; 24; Cotton Factory Worker; born Lanark New Monkland
Jane McKay; Daur; Un ; 17; Cotton Factory Worker; born Lanark New Monkland

The son James was now a coal miner and married to Jeanie Logan, and they lived nearby in New Monkland with their baby boy — but the two Johns are nowhere to be found. Parish death records before 1855 are notoriously bad, and most deaths were rarely recorded, so John [1] might have died between his appearance in the 1851 census and the introduction of statutory recording of deaths in 1855. Importantly, though, his wife Mary does not declare herself a ‘widow’ in 1861, so John [1] was likely to be still alive at that date. Interestingly, a valuation record for 59 Bell Street, Airdrie in 1865–66 shows a John McKay as a co-tenant with three other men — a tantalising possibility, but not certain. However, by 1871, Mary McKay was living alone, and now declared herself to be widowed:

1871 SCOTLAND CENSUS: NE Row Riggend, New Monkland Landward, Lanarkshire 5Source: 1871 Scotland Census; 651/ 2 5/ 18; New Monkland Landward, Lanarkshire.

Mary McKay [Kilpatrick]; Head; Widow; 59; Pauper; born Ireland

So, is John dead or not? Well, as far as Mary and her son James were concerned, John [1] was deceased, as her death certificate in 1874 shows:

1874 SCOTLAND STATUTORY DEATHS: Airdrie, Lanarkshire 6Source: 1874 Scotland Statutory Deaths; 651/1 295; Airdrie, Lanarkshire.

Mary McKay, Widow of John [1] McKay, Coal Miner
died: 27th October 1874  (10:15 pm); age: 61 years
at: 7 Albert Street, Airdrie

father: John Kilpatrick, Horse dealer (deceased)
motherHelen Kilpatrick M.S. Crawford (deceased)

cause: Affliction of Stomach & Bowels; General Debility; doctor: J Montgomerie Alston MD
informant: James McKay, His  X  mark, Son, Darngavel; witness: MU Whyte

We can now confirm that Mary McKay was born Mary Kilpatrick — and we have one more generation: John Kilpatrick and Helen Crawford. We can reasonably assume these were likely to be a Northern Irish family of Protestant extraction, because the names Kilpatrick and Crawford are well-known ‘Plantation’ names. The ‘Plantation’ refers to the migration of about 200,000 Scots, and some English, to Ulster during the settlement schemes of 1605–1695.  The migration (mainly from Ayrshire) happened in two or three broad phases that were largely organised by the government (the Crown), but which included large numbers of fortune seekers. The schemes had two aims: to clear Scotland of poverty-stricken lowlanders, and to populate Ireland with loyal followers of the Crown.

We know nothing else of Mary Kilpatrick, but we can tentatively summarise her as follows: She was born around 1806 to a Protestant merchant, probably in County Donegal or County Down (where her parent’s names are common). She married John [1] McKay of Aberdeenshire somewhere around 1830, and they were living at Riggend when her first child was born on Boxing Day, 1830. She had six children by March 1844, but two of them died while young. Her husband worked as a coalminer in and around Greengairs and New Monkland until at least 1851 — but, by 1861, he had left her (or she threw him out), and Mary remained a deserted wife living in New Monkland until at least 1871. She died a pauper at Airdrie in 1874, having lost contact with her husband and her third child, John (ii) [2].

Cumnock, Ayrshire

As noted above, John [1] McKay had disappeared from the records from 1861 onwards — but, almost miraculously, he turned up again at Cumnock, Ayrshire in 1878 —on his deathbed:

1878 SCOTLAND STATUTORY DEATHS: Parish of Old Cumnock, County of Ayr 7Source: 1878 Scotland Statutory Deaths; 610/ 18; Old Cumnock, Ayrshire.

John [1] McKay, Collier
(Widower of Mary Kilpatrick)
died: 19th March 1878  (11:15 pm); age: 93 years
at: Glengyron Row

parents: [not named]

cause: Natural decay; doctor: Not certified
informant: John [2] McKay, His X mark, Son; witness: David L. Scott, Registrar

So, John [1] McKay was not deceased in 1871 as reported on his wife’s census. His death certificate identified Mary Kilpatrick as his wife and, as we will see later, his son John [2], the informant for his death, always recorded his own birth as being in New Monkland around 1834 — this is our John [1] McKay without a doubt. The age at death was given as 93, but it would more realistically be 73, so may be a scribal error.

Why John [1] was absent from the 1861 and 1871 censuses is a mystery, but it certainly wasn’t because he had shuffled off his mortal coil. A search of the Old Cumnock Parish valuation rolls for 1875 shows a John McKay living at Glengyron Row — a kilometre (0.6 miles) southwest of the main village/town, and owned by the Eglinton Iron Coy — paying an annual rent of £4/16/-. This is almost certainly the son John [2], whose family had moved to Glengyron Row by June 1874. It is quite likely that John [1] was living with his son, and daughter-in-law Elizabeth McMeekin, as he died at their address in 1878.

That is all we can say about John [1] McKay. His namesake son (my g-g-grandfather) has his own story to tell on one of the following pages, but below is a summary of his three other children who are known to have survived childhood.

This chart is an extract of the main McKay-Brown charts shown in full on page 3 of this story. This sample shows the immediate family of John [1] McKay and Mary Kilpatrick. It is likely this couple had separated by at least 1861.

The Children

James McKay b. 19 Oct 1832 at Riggend.8Source: 1832 Scotland O.P.R. Baptisms; 651/ 60 170; Airdrie or New Monkland, Lanarkshire. An older brother, John (i), was also baptised on this day; he was born 26 Dec 1830, but had died before 1834. James was married in 1859 9Source: 1859 Scotland O.P.R. Marriages; 651/1 5; Airdrie or New Monkland, Lanarkshire. to an Irish lass named Jeanie Logan, and had at least 10 children between then and 1879. James was a coalminer, and most of his life was spent in New Monkland. He died in March 1907, aged 74.10Source: 1907 Scotland Statutory Deaths; 652/2 147; Coatbridge, Lanarkshire. His wife, Jeanie, died at Shettleston in 1915.11Source: 1915 Scotland Statutory Deaths; 644/19 245; Shettleston, Lanarkshire. I have at least five DNA connections to James’ descendants.

John (ii) [2] McKay was born on 12 Sep 1834 at Riggend, Lanarkshire12Source: 1832 Scotland O.P.R. Baptisms; 651/ 60 189; Airdrie or New Monkland, Lanarkshire. and is my great-great-grandfather. He married Elizabeth McMeekin on 6 Mar 1863 in Cumnock, Ayrshire, and they had seven children (I have DNA connections to at least 10 known descendants of John [2].) Elizabeth came from Penninghame in Wigtownshire (probably Newton Stewart), and her family story is told in the next chapter, while the story of John [2] and Elizabeth at Cumnock appears here.

Helen McKay, b. 29 Apr 1836 at Riggend.13Source: 1836 Scotland O.P.R. Births; 651/ 60 219; Airdrie or New Monkland, Lanarkshire. Helen was working as a cotton-mill weaver at 14, but married James Barr, a miner, in 1855.14Source: 1855 Scotland O.P.R. Marriages; 651/1 135; New Monkland, Lanarkshire. He died soon after the birth of their only child, Robert, and Helen was back with her abandoned mother for 1861. No further records have been found for James and Robert, and it is possible both died before 1861 (TB would be reasonable suspect). In 1863, she married Hugh Gemmell,15Source: 1863 Scotland Statutory Marriages; 498/ 28; Kirkintilloch, Dunbartonshire. the son of the cotton factory manager, and had two children by him; however, the girl, Alison, died just after her first birthday in 1866. Hugh then died of TB in 1867,16Source: 1867 Scotland Statutory Deaths; 651/1 99; Airdrie, Lanarkshire. and Helen was widowed for a second time. However, she moved up in the world when, in 1874, she married the widower Nisbet Sinclair, the Superintendent of Police.17Source: 1874 Scotland Statutory Marriages; 651/1 43; Airdrie, Lanarkshire. Helen helped bring up some of his children and gave him one boy, James. The couple moved to Camlachie, Glasgow after his retirement, and he died in 1889.18Source: 1889 Scotland Statutory Deaths, 644/3 1644; Dennistoun, Lanarkshire. Helen outlived all her siblings, dying aged 72 in 1908.19Source: 1908 Scotland Statutory Deaths; 644/2 299; Camlachie, Lanarkshire.

Jane McKay, b. 27 Feb 1844 at Airdrie.20Source: 1844 Scotland O.P.R. Births; 651/ 60 380; Airdrie or New Monkland, Lanarkshire. Jane was still living with her mother in 1861 and working, like her sister, as a cotton-factory worker. She married John McWilliams, a lead and coal miner, in 1867 at St Margaret’s Catholic Church in Airdrie,21Source: 1867 Scotland Statutory Marriages; 651/1 69; Airdrie or New Monkland, Lanarkshire. the only member of her family to marry outside the Church of Scotland. She was a steam-loom weaver at the time, and went on to bear John five boys and six girls between 1866 and 1889. Jane died of a cardiac disease in December 1901 at Airdriehill Square by Airdrie, aged 57.22Source: 1901 Scotland Statutory Deaths; 651/ 611; Airdrie or New Monkland, Lanarkshire. Her husband lived till 1916,23Source: 1901 Scotland Statutory Deaths; 651/ 611; Airdrie or New Monkland, Lanarkshire. and her oldest child, Arthur, died in 1946 at Buffalo, New York. At the latest count, I have four known DNA connections to Jane’s descendants.



1. Riggend: 1830–1878 — 8 Comments

  1. Hello Alan I came across your research today.
    My 3rd Great Grandfather was Colour Sgt Samuel William Kilpatrick born 1780-82 at Lisburn, County Antrim Nth Ireland. Samuel joined the British 64th Regiment who were in Nth Ireland 1800.I do not know who Samuel’s parents are. I know Samuel married a Bridget Maloney and they were in Surinam West Indies and a son William Samuel was born 1813. They also had an elder son Samuel born before 1813. 1812 thy were in Nova Scotia and later in Antwerp then back to England and to Ireland, Mayo and Bandon in Cork. Sgt SWK applied to obtain work in British Nth America (Canada) in 1830’s but this wasn’t approved. Among his papers he mentions he has 3 daughters.The daughters are born after 1813 but no names are known. I was interested if you have had your autosomal DNA tested?
    Ross Kilpatrick Australia

    • Hello Ross,

      Many thanks for your post. Your 3G-grandfather sounds like he had a very interesting life. Is the 64th the one raised as Louden’s Highlanders and later the 2nd Staffordshire? My wife’s 3G-Grandfather was a Walter Ferguson who served with the 72nd. His story is on these pages.

      Date-wise, it is certainly feasible that your Samuel could be a brother to my Mary Kilpatrick. She, too, was born in Ireland, and her parents were named as John Kilpatrick and Helen Crawford.

      I do have a DNA test on Ancestry.com, and have several matches who are descendants of Mary Kilpatrick (my mother’s side). I’d be delighted to see if we have a match. That would certainly be a decider for a connection between my Mary and your Samuel. If you have an Ancestry account, my user name there is KarlAlan_Craig.

      Let me know how that goes.


      Alan Craig
      Brisbane, Queensland

      • Hello Alan sorry for the long delay in reply.
        Maybe you have learnt more about Mary Kilpatrick?
        I have had Y-DNA and autosomal DNA tests with My Heritage and FTDNA but I am not associated with Ancestry.com.
        I have a GEDMATCH account which I uploaded my autosomal results.
        My email address is Rosskilpatrick1234@gmail.com

        All the best
        Ross Kilpatrick

        • Hi Ross,
          Many thanks for your note.
          Sorry to say, but I haven’t had any further luck with the Kilpatrick connection.
          However, my DNA is uploaded to MyHeritage and FTDNA, so perhaps you can check to see if we are a match.
          My FTDNA Kit No is B384240
          If you search for that, you might see how we’re connected.
          Let me know.


  2. Hi Alan

    I came across your correspondence regarding Mary Kilpatrick/John McKay. One of my great grandmothers was their daughter Jane McKay (27/2/1844-8/12/1901) who was married to John McWilliams (24/12/1844-25/6/1916) and they had 11 children, one of whom was my grandmother Helen McWilliams (16/2/1881-01/02/1961j. She married Richard Smith (1884-17/7/1942) in 1908 and had 5 children , the youngest of whom was my father, who was also named Richard.

    The furthest back I can go is John McKay’s father, also named John born around 1775 and who married Helen Crawford born around 1780.

    Just thought it might be of interest.

    Robert Smith

    • Hello Robert,

      Many thanks for your note.

      Yes, I have your g-granny Jane in my tree, who married John McWilliams (1867) – in fact, I think they had 13 children, of which your Granny Helen was the 10th.

      I have never been able to find the old John McKay’s parents with any certainty. In later census records he says he was born in Aberdeenshire, and probably around 1804 (averaging the various ages he gave in life). One possibility was James McKay and Eliza Stephen from New Pitsligo, who had a John – but that’s just speculation

      Mary Kilpatrick, we know, came from Ireland, and her death certificate shows her parents as John Kirkpatrick (horse dealer) and Helen Crawford. Unless Irish records come on line, that is probably as much as we will ever know.

      I am descended from your Jane’s older brother John (my great-great-grandfather), who moved to Cumnock in Ayrshire and married Elizabeth McMeekin (from Wigtownshire) in 1863. His father (the old John) seems to have left the family and joined his son there, and we have his death at Cumnock in 1878. Mary Kilpatrick remained in Airdrie and died in 1874 at your great-granny Jane’s home at 7 Albert Street, Airdie. It looks like old John and Mary had been living apart from before 1861.

      I’d be happy to send you any charts or person/family sheets I have – just drop me an email to: kacraig@me.com

      I tell my “McKay” story here: https://www.craig-galt.info/mckay-sugzda/mckay-overview/

      Best regards,

      Alan Craig,
      Brisbane, Australia

      • Hi Alan

        Many thanks for your reply. I have just started looking into my family history and I will add your information to my own. I never knew any of my grandparents as they had all passed away before my time and it’s quite confusing sometimes how often certain forenames appear again and again across the generations.

        I am no longer working (64 next month) but my last 7 years were spent at a firm at Newhouse in Lanarkshire and I’ve since discovered that my granny Helen McWilliams’s grandfather was killed in a mining accident in 1867 at a pit about 5 minutes away from where I worked. Quite amazing.

        I’ve read a lot of your research and you’ve obviously spent a lot of time on it and it’s really interesting.

        All the best from sunny Scotland ( it actually is today !).

        Robert Smith

        • Hi Robert,

          Yes, it’s amazing what you discover about your family when you start building your family tree. I’ve got a few relatives who were killed or injured in the mines (my great-grandfather lost a leg at Bothwellhaugh in 1911).

          I see a couple of hints from your tree in my Ancestry.com this morning – so thanks for that. You would have been a 3rd cousin to my mum (Pat McKay) – so, you and I are 3rd cousins once removed. I don’t think my mum ever knew about the McKay connection to Airdrie. I’m 72, but one generation later than you.

          And it’s finally sunny here in Brisbane after several weeks of rain! But only 9°C this morning – winter has arrived! :-))



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