Alexander’s Scottish Roots

 

            Turbulence in his native Scotland characterized Alexander’s life and in America, his new country. At his birth in 1755, Scotland was experiencing tremendous conflict among those persons loyal to the deposed Stewart royal family and those loyal to Hanoverian kings of England. No records have been found that reveal the identities of Alexander’s parents. Many marriage and birth records in Scotland were destroyed during the conflicts of the mid-1700's and thus tracing an individual’s ancestry is difficult if he or she were born before and during that time. Moreover, tracing Alexander’s origin is a more burdensome one because the Stewart surname is common in Scotland. Footnote The fact that Stewart is a common surname is reflected in a search of ship registries for those persons arriving in the colonies during the 1700's. A search of ship registries for persons arriving in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1773, the year and likely place where Alexander arrived in America, reflected that three individuals named Alexander Stewart arrived then. Anyone (or none) of these men could have been our Alexander. A 1999 computer search of Scottish birth and christening records reflected a list of forty-seven persons named Alexander Stewart who had been born or baptized during the period 1753 to 1757. Any or none of these listed individuals could have been our Alexander.


            The Stewarts are not a clan in the usual sense (though there were Highland branches), nor are they a family. The origin of the Stewart structure was Alan fitz Faald, the Celtic Breton, who came to Britain with or shortly after William the Conqueror. Two of his sons entered the service of David I of Scotland, and one of them, Walter fitz Alan, became Hereditary High Stewart, Steward of Scotland. Our name originates in an occupation, like so many others. For Additional information on the Clan Stewart, click here.


            At least eight variations of the Stewart name are known. One common spelling, Stuart, is incorrectly assumed to be "royal." More correctly, it simply echoes the fact that many of our ancestors joined the French against England during the Auld Alliance and adopted the French spelling. There is no "w" in the French or Gaelic alphabet. At one time or another, Stewarts have held dukedoms, at least seventeen earldoms, scores of other noble positions, and have been identified with more than 160 Scottish localities. Among the major branches that developed across the expanse of Scotland were STUART OF BUTE, and the STEWARTS OF GALLOWAY, and ATHOLL.

Queen Anne

            The last Stewart sovereign, Queen Anne, died in 1714 without a surviving child though she endured sixteen pregnancies during her life. After her death, the crown passed to George I, the great grandson of James I, a Stewart. Footnote


            Support for the Stewarts remained strong in Scotland. James III (James VII of Scotland) had fled England in 1688 and with the aid of the French monarchy created a court there. His grandson, Bonnie Prince Charlie, returned to Scotland in 1745 and for a time rallied the Scots against the English. In 1746, the prince fled Scotland in defeat and no other challenge was made to the English usurpers. To this day, however, many of Scots, if not a majority, seek independence from England.


            Some facts about Alexander may be inferred. Alexander was educated and literate because he served as a judge and left a small library to his family. In addition, it has been a persistent rumor through many branches of Alexander’s family that he was born to a noble family. Unfortunately, no evidence exists to confirm this family folklore. Footnote


The Galloway Connection

 

 

            Substantial evidence suggests that Alexander was a grandson of James Stewart, the Fifth Earl of Galloway, in the Scottish Lowlands. County Galloway lies along the English border in southwest Scotland. The Earls of Galloway settled in the County of Galloway in the mid-1600's. Newton Stewart was founded in the mid 17th Century by William Stewart, youngest son of the 2nd Earl of Galloway. The “New Town of Stewart” was granted Burgh status by charter from King Charles II allowing a weekly market and two annual fairs to be held. Sited on the banks of the River Cree, the town prospered. It was on a pilgrimage to the shrine of St. Ninian at Whithorn. In 1329, Robert the Bruce forded the Cree River where the present Cree Bridge stands. It is possible that Alexander was descended through William, the Fifth Earl’s fourth son.

 

 

            James Stewart, Fifth Earl, married Catherine Montgomery around 1694. They had eight children whom they named in order of birth James, George, Margaret, Catherine, Anne, Euphemia, Alexander and William. Alexander, the Fifth Earl of Galloway’s third son became the Sixth Earl of Galloway, because his two older brothers, James and George, did not survive their father. It is noteworthy that our Alexander named three of his daughters Margaret, Anne and Euphemia - the same names as his possible sisters. In addition, he named his youngest son, William, his possible father.

 

 

            The second son, James, died in London in 1768, and in his will, he mentions only a daughter, Jane. William, the third son, moved to Ireland after a military and political career in the Galloway area. He died in Ireland living issue. No one knows the names, however, of his children. Thus, confirming this theory of Alexander’s lineage is impossible. Footnote


            Although we do not know definitively Alexander’s parents, we can assume that his father’s name was either Charles, Isaac or William (also the name of 5th Earl of Galloway’s fourth son) since these are the names chosen for his sons. Similarly, we can assume that his mother’s name may have been Margaret, Mary, Elizabeth, Anne or Euphemia, the names of his daughters. A 1999 computer search of birth and baptism records from Scotland for the period, 1753-1757, revealed the following Alexander Stewart’s born of a father named William: (1) Alexander baptized on May 4, 1755 in Kingarth Parish; (2) Alexander baptized on May 15, 1754 in Banchory Devenick Parish; (3) Alexander born June 26, 1755 in Avondale Parish; and, (4) Alexander baptized on June 1, 1756 in Blair Atholl & Stowan Parish (mother listed as Isobel Robertson. Alex anders born of a father named Charles were: (1) Alexander baptized on February 9, 1755 in the Blair Atholl & Stowan Parish (mother listed as Helen McIntyre); (2) Alexander baptized on October 18, 1757 in the Glasgow Parish (mother listed as Katharine Love; and, (3) Alexander baptized in Dowally Parish on November 11, 1753 (mother listed as Beaty Feruson). No Alexander is listed with a father named Isaac.

            Alexander and his progeny have shown a restlessness for “moving on” and the family has emigrated when economic or other circumstances warranted. Few of Alexander Stewart's descendants remain in Knox County, Kentucky, the family's first stop in Kentucky. Alexander’s youngest child, William, moved to Letcher County (then renamed Perry and then renamed Knott) in the late 1830's. Footnote After a brief stay there, William and most of his family moved to Rowan County during the Civil War. A little more than one half a century later, most of the descendants of these early Rowan County pioneers moved to the Midwest for jobs and a better life for their children.

 

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