Monday, 7 May 2012

Ancestors in the Time of Robert Burns

In the past couple of weeks there have been two news stories relating to Scotland's famous poet Robert Burns. The first is that a first edition collection of his poetry just sold for £40,000. The second is that a new art exhibition is themed around Burns' various romances.

I've always loved Burns' poetry, and through reading a selection of biographies I discovered that he had a fascinating life. He was born in Alloway, in Ayrshire, Scotland, in 1759, and spent much of his life in that part of the world. Indeed, many of his poems are inspired by the places he knew and loved. 

This brings me to the point of this post, which is that through researching my family tree I have come tantalisingly close to discovering a connection to Robert Burns. His mother was from Kirkoswald in Ayrshire, and he received part of his education there in 1775. 

One of the branches of my family tree are the Gordons, who were living in Kirkoswald at this time. Robert Gordon was born to William Gordon and his wife Elizabeth (nee McLatchy) in 1771. He also had an older brother, John, who was born in 1768. Robert married Helen McNeillie in Kirkoswald in 1804.

You may be thinking that this is a very tenuous link, and you'd be right. I have yet to find any information linking my ancestors to Robert Burns, or the Brown family of his mother. However, Kirkoswald is a very small place even today- I made a visit there. I'd like to think to that everybody knew each other back in the 1770s. I think it's incredibly exciting that there is a chance, however small, that one of my ancestors spoke to the young Robert Burns. 

It's the thrill of discovering information like this that makes genealogy so fascinating for me. It makes history come alive.

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