Discoveries Abroad

I’m in the UK for a vacation, not genealogical research, but have had discoveries nonetheless.

Thinking back on my Scots-Irish post, it’s funny that it took me this long to make that connection. Nearby Edinburgh Castle, inside Geoffrey (Tailor), I looked over all of the family heraldry and there were my family names again: Martin, McNeely, Henderson, Livingston. I didn’t buy any heraldry-related products; I wasn’t sure I needed a McNeely keychain. It was just interesting to see them all and to see the tartans that were associated with these names.

Geoffrey (Tailor) also offers name look-ups, whether Scottish or not. I’m always skeptical about these things, but what appealed to me here was to find out when my surname first appeared on the rolls in the UK. I also wanted to know where it showed up. I’ve traced us back to the 1700s in Virginia, but I have not found an immigrant and although I assume they came from England, I’m not sure. What I found out was that our name first appears on The Shropshire Pipe Rolls, during the reign of King Richard 1, in 1191. There are also place names in the 1086 Domesday Book.

I probably shouldn’t have, but I purchased the document that they offered which stated this and shows the related coat of arms. They say they have a linguist on staff who translates the info about the surname into modern English and a heraldic artist on staff who uses that translation to then draw the coat of arms. Of course, from what I’ve read an English coat of arms was given to a person and not a family, so it’s not really mine per se. I got caught up in the history though and couldn’t help myself.

I wanted to learn more about the surname rolls and found the online Surname Database to have a wealth of information on most names.

We don’t ever necessarily trace back to the folks who these surname explanations are based on, but you never know…


I have a pretty big love for Ireland, it’s people, music and literature. It has nothing to do with my ancestry, it just is. In fact, I’ve always assumed I don’t have anything beyond a drop of Irish blood.  As I learn more about my ancestors, while that may still be true, I’m also pointed toward a people I had never thought much about: the Scots-Irish.

It’s silly that I hadn’t thought of them before as half of my family has been in one or another part of Appalachia since the 1700s and 90% of the early settlers of Appalachia were Scots-Irish; it only makes sense.

So how did I realize this? I was searching back on my dad’s side through the Rayfields, Martins, Robersons and then I hit the Boggs family. As I started to research a distant great-grandfather, Samuel Boggs, I started to find others who had already done a lot of research. Many of them made mention of an old family story of how the Boggs’ got their name.

The story goes: John Livingstone was born in Linlithgow, Scotland and he was a Presbyterian. When Oliver Cromwell was made Protector  by Charles II in Britain, he began rooting out the Presbyterians (Charles II was Episcopalian) and many were exiled to Northern Ireland.  Brothers John and Hugh Livingstone ended up in Londonderry, Northern Ireland and took the surname Boggs. John’s son James Boggs came from Londonderry in 1724 with his ten children to New Castle, Delaware. The family ended up in an area of South Carolina called Long Cane . Samuel Boggs married Mary Campbell, also of Scots-Irish descent.

Now I’m not sure if the Livingstone/Boggs story is true–there’s really no documented proof. What is true is that I trace back to James Boggs who did indeed come from Londonderry, Ireland during a mass migration of Scots-Irish from Northern Ireland to the US.  For the next several generations, the family stay in the Long Cane or Abbeville County area of SC and married into other known Scots-Irish families: Roberson, Clackler, Martin and Henderson.

The Scots-Irish mainly originate in the Lowlands of Scotland or the border towns in Northern England. People in Ireland would think of them as Ulster Scots. Now that I look at all of the surnames in a row, they actually sound Scottish to me. I always just assumed they were English, but now I’m thinking again.