Melrose, Scotland

I wanted to write a bit about Melrose, Scotland today.  It is the reason that my genealogy got a kick start back in the late 90s.   Aunt Betty, my father’s sister, did research for years and generously shared her findings with me.  Because I was raising my 3 daughters, I didn’t have the time or money to do much research on my own.  She sent me a family tree that went back a few generations, something to get started with she said.  I refer to it often.  It’s really special and in her beautiful penmanship, she was a teacher once upon a time.  Now that she’s gone, I really appreciate the value and how much it’s helped me over the years.

She told this to me years before I started my research.   According to her, our distant grandfather, James Melrose from Melrose Scotland, was the first of this side of the family to come to America.  The way it came about is that he was kidnapped at the age of 12 and pressed into service on an English ship and never saw his family again!  This is what good adventure stories are made of, think of Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson.   Now,  when I first heard this story, I was very young and I pictured my distant relative very like James MacArthur who played the lead in the Disney movie of the same name!

As I started my research, it was important to me to try to get the facts straight and not jump to romantic conclusions.  I actually wrote to a history professor (sorry, I can’t remember his name, it was saved 4 computers ago).  At any rate, he advised me that while that is an exciting story, they usually didn’t take young boys (he was 12 at the time).  A more likely scenario is that he signed up as a cabin boy to see the world.  It is apparently what young men did in those days for an adventure.

He must have traveled for a few years and I think he probably did go back to see his family.  He met and married Mary Thompson from Carlisle, North England at some point, and probably closer to 20 than 12.  He is also mentioned in a supplementary book of the DAR for collecting fire wood for the American solders during the Revolution. He died in 1783 in New Jersey, and his son moved to West Virginia. It was his grandson, Archibald Melrose that moved to Grayville, Illinois where my father was born and raised.

The first place I wanted to visit when I started my research was Melrose, to see for myself where it all started for my father’s family going to America.  As fate would have it I learned of my cousins in Sussex and wound up starting there.  I am so happy for that and for the relationships that were forged.  However, I do so want to go to Melrose for many reasons.  I also want to point out that I have been in touch over the years with many people that are doing family research.  I have run across a few that I am distantly related to through the Scottish Melroses.  I got an email from one of them who was also from America and actually went to Melrose to check it out.  He looked up some Melroses that are still living there and knocked on the door. Apparently they were not at all impressed that they have relations in the US and really were not interested in starting an acquaintance!  Like all Americans, we think that the world revolves around us and everyone should be thrilled to be in our sphere!  I say that with all humility and humor and have learned the error of my ways over the years:)

Here are a few things that interest me about Scotland and Melrose:

The history-Melrose Abbey, Robert the Bruce and his heart being buried there, you can’t get a better story than that.  War, loyalty, love, respect, it’s all there in a bit of history if you have the intellect to be interested in history.  Also my own history, where the family lived, the graves if I can find them, the country where generations built their lives.

The rugged beauty of Scotland, I can’t say enough of how it affects me and I haven’t even been yet.  I’ve only watched it on TV and movies and read about it in books.  I have a longing to see it that I can’t explain:)

The food-I have heard that Scotland has the best and most pure salmon in the entire world ( I read it somewhere) Neeps & Tatties, Scotch Eggs, Shortbread… I will most likely not taste true haggis, but I will go for the vegetarian option.  I mean no disrespect to anyone, but it really doesn’t even look appetizing:)

I will end with this lovely dessert that I experienced in London, still it is a Scotish recipe and very delicious! I give you

Raspberry Cranachan

Happy Travels!


3 thoughts on “Melrose, Scotland

  1. Lovely comment Linda. Scotland is indeed beautiful if a little wet and colder than southern England of course. Richard and I travelled up with a couple of friends in our dim and distant past, in November of all months! We went up the west coast and came down the east, stopping over in Perth, Aviemore, Glencoe, Inverness, Moffat, Edinburgh and John o’ Groats to name only a few places. It is worth the trip, even if you have to leave us out here in the deep south, as there is so much to see. On a last note, I thought your ancestors got married here in Billingshurst before they left England. No?


    • It does look so lovely and wonderful!
      You are thinking about the Gravetts/Johnsons in 1852. I am referring to the Melroses in the 1740s. Although, James actually left in 1730,
      I believe. I’d give anything to have his journal (if he had one)!
      We should have Claire weigh in one whether or not they actually married in Billingshurst. The ships records show the girls as Johnson, so I always assumed they married in America.
      What an amazing trip you had in Scotland. You should write down what you remember about it and all of the things you experienced. So much has changed since then. Wasn’t it in the 70s?
      I would love to read about it:)


  2. Ooooh, I forgot. Apparently haggis is really nice (never had it myself). All it is after you take the skin off, is herby meat loaf. I reckon it would taste nice with fried tatties!


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