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Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Donaldsons of South Leith - My Scottish Connections


As it is St. Andrew's Day here in Scotland, it seemed an appropriate time to mention  research into my husband's family - the Donaldsons of South Leith, near Edinburgh.

My father-in-law John Robert Donaldson came from South Shields, County Durham  and was proud of his Scottish roots, but vague on the detail, believing his ancestors came from around Edinburgh.

Research began by tracing the family back from South Shields, using birth, marriage and death certificates and census information.  I was delighted to establish the Scottish connection in the 1851 census where Robert Donaldson, mariner was listed as being born c.1801 in Leith - this was a great bonus as often English census returns just say born Scotland without specifying a parish. Another  one of those typical family history coincidences - Leith was the place where Robert's  great great granddaughter Gillian was then working.

There was only one obvious next step for research - the excellent http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk/ - the genealogical website of the General Register Office of Scotland.  Searching the pre-1855 Old Parish Records enabled me to trace the Donaldson line back to Samuel Donaldson, merchant who married in Leith in 1759.  

Research of the Register of Sasines for Edinburghshire in the National Archives of Scotland  brought to light property transactions of Samuel Donaldson of Leith, 1770-1785.  [An instrument of sasine is a Scottish legal document recording the transfer of ownership of a piece of land or property]

Samuel's descendants included his youngest son Robert, grandson Robert who went from South Leith to South Shields, and his son another Robert who moved to Portsmouth - the linking factor the sea, with family occupations as a merchant, master mariner, seaman, roper, ship's carpenter, caulker and river policeman.

A story of mariners and miners was revealed in sidelines of the family:

The White family of mariner origins with the name Matthew Iley White recurring down the generations.

The Hibbert family of coal miners from Derbyshire, Yorkshire and South Shields.

The Hawkyard family with a lodging house in Alnwick, Northumberland.


Watch this space for further insight  into the Donaldson Family research.  

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