52 Weeks: #3 John Sinclair, Barbreck, Lochawe
I am thankful for so many things this year, and this week in the United States we take time out to reflect on the many blessings in our lives as we gather about our dining room tables with our friends, families and loved ones. Thankfully my friends, family and loved ones have kindly taken the responsibility on to prepare the festive feast, as I have just rolled in a few hours ago laden down with jet lag from Scotland.
I’ve been off in Edinburgh, Glasgow and my heartland of Argyll performing preliminary research for an upcoming project. So thankful am I to be able to have such opportunities. My sister came up from Oxford to join me, and we researched, walked, laughed and ate our way across ten days of fun. So thankful am I to have been blessed with such a bright, charming, adventurous, intelligent and incredibly giving woman as my sister. Nevertheless, this isn’t about you, girl! ‘Member I’m all about the dead folk.
Barbreck, Loch Awe
However, I’ll admit I’m torn this week. What ancestor shall I focus on? The star of the show for me during the trip was a magnificent walk about the farm of Barbreck that sits overlooking Loch Awe near Kilchrenan, Argyll. Formerly part of the large estate of Barbreck owned by the Earls of Breadalbane, Barbreck is an ancestral homeland for me. This beautiful rugged landscape calls to me, and this week I answered that call with a commitment to explore her history in not only documents but with boots on the ground and eyes on the sky.
There will be more to come on that in later days, but for now, I’ll focus my grateful heart on the earliest ancestor I currently know of who resided at Barbreck. John SINCLAIR, a master grocer by trade raised a family with his wife Flory CAMPBELL somewhere on this damp, hilly patch of Argyll. It is assumed that John and Flory were married about 1785, a scarcity of surviving records for this time period making research difficult.
What is known is that John and Flory are recorded in the Old Parish Records five times between 1786 and 1808 for having children baptized. The initial three listed the couple “in Kilchrenan,” and the last two at Barbreck, Parish of Inishail.
- “27 June 1786 John Sinclair and Flory Campbell in Kilchrenan had a son baptized named Gilbert” 1
- “05 November 1787 John Sinclair and Flory Campbell in Kilchrenan had a daughter baptized named Marion” 2
- “26 December 1789 John Sinclair and Flory Campbell in Kilchrenan had a son baptized named Archibald” 3
- “June 1798 Gilbt son to John Sinclair & Flory Campbell his spouse Barbreck” 4
- “06 November 1808 Alexr son to John Sinclair & Flory Campbell his spouse Barbreck” 5
One of the important components to acknowledge while researching families in the village of Kilchrenan or the former estate of Barbreck is the Parish boundary line between the united parishes of Kilchrenan and Dalavich, and Glenorchy & Inishail. The boundary follows the Kilchrenan burn that runs north to south along what appears to have been the western edge of the Barbreck estate. The main drove road through the area and down to the Port Sonachan Ferry splitting this western area of Barbreck and falling within Inishail parish. The parish church for Kilchrenan lying on the Western side of the road north of the estate of Barbreck was considerably easier to access than the Parish church of Inishail which was located on an Island of the same name in Loch Awe. Therefore, both parishes should be scoured for sources.
It was not unusual with the high infant mortality rate in earlier generations for parents to name a subsequent child after one that did not survive to adulthood. In John and Flory’s case, they had two Gilbert’s, one in 1786 and one in 1798. It is likely the first child did not survive his youth and was most certainly deceased by 1798.
In 1803 a list of men eligible for militia service in Lorn between the ages of 18-45 was drawn up. Under the parish of Inishail at Barbeck nine men were included:
- Dond McLullich Farmer
- Peter McArthur Shoemaker
- Arch Campbell Wright
- John Campbell Taylor
- John McArthur Surgeon
- Dun McArthur Servant
- Dond McLullich Farmer
- Dun Sinclair son to Dun
- John Sinclair son to Dun 6
There are two Sinclair men who appear on the list, both sons of Duncan. There are no sons of John appearing on the list. This would be correct as with the death of the first Gilbert, by 1803, the eldest known surviving son of John, Archibald would only be fourteen years of age at this time.
Currently, it has been assumed that the John Sinclair named on the list, is John Sinclair, husband of Flory. The couple is accepted to be living in Barbreck between the baptisms of their sons Gilbert (1798) and Alexander (1808). This would suggest that John’s birth date would fall between 1758-1785. Given that John was fathering children in 1786 that time span can be tightened up to 1758-1765.
The list of militia age men also provides two additional pieces of information for John: an alleged father and brother. Put that into the new leads to follow up pile!
The 1841 Census shows five Sinclair head of households at Barbreck. Two have been identified as sons of John: Archibald, age 50, an agricultural labourer, and Alexander, age 30, a shoemaker. Also enumerated was Widow Sinclair, age 78, living with a thirty-year-old Mary. Widow Sinclair has been recognized as Flory, wife of John Sinclair utilizing Mary Sinclair’s death record in 1866, which identified her parents as John Sinclair, Master Grocer, and Flory Campbell, both deceased. 7
By the 1851 census enumeration, the number of Sinclair households had been reduced to two: Alexander Sinclair, shoemaker and living next-door his sister Mary, a pauper. 8 9 Widow Sinclair appears to have passed away between censuses.
The last that was heard of John was in 1820 when he was put to the horn and outlawed for the crime of assaulting and discharging loaded firearms at officers of the revenue.<10 A little more research and that will be a story for another day!
Standing here amongst the bracken as the winter sun dips her head behind the surrounding mountains, her last rays dancing like fairies with the sparkles of Loch Awe, I am thankful for the opportunity to connect with the land that gave life to so many who went before me. Thank you, Argyll. Thank you Loch Awe. And thank you, John Sinclair, for raising your family in this heartland so that I might stand here and admire her unequalled beauty.
- Baptism (OPR) Scotland. Kilchrenan and Dalavich, Argyll. 17 June 1786. SINCLAIR, Gilbert. 517/00 0010/00 040. www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : accessed 15 November 2018.
- Baptism (OPR) Scotland. Kilchrenan and Dalavich, Argyll. 05 November 1787. SINCLAIR, Marion. 517/00 0010/00 042. www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : accessed 15 November 2018.
- Baptism (OPR) Scotland. Kilchrenan and Dalavich, Argyll. 26 December 1789. SINCLAIR, Archibald. 517/00 0010/00 045. www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : accessed 15 November 2018.
- Baptism (OPR) Scotland. Glenorchy and Inishail, Argyll. June 1798. SINCLAIR, Gilbert. 512/00 0010/00 156. www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : accessed 15 November 2018.
- Baptism (OPR) Scotland. Glenorchy and Inishail, Argyll. 06 November 1808 1808. SINCLAIR, Alexander. 512/00 0010/00 162. www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : accessed 15 November 2018.
- List of Men of Military age (i.e. 18-45 years) dated 1803, including the parish of Glenorchy & Inishail. FH23 (CA/1/11/6). Argyll & Bute Archives, Lochgilphead, Argyll, Scotland.
- Deaths (CR) Scotland. Glenorchy and Inishail, Argyll. 16 October 1866. SINCLAIR, Mary. 512/00 0012. www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : accessed 15 November 2018.
- Census records. Scotland. Glenorchy and Inishail, Argyll. 30 March 1851. SINCLAIR, Alexander (head). 512/00 007/00 017. www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : accessed 15 November 2018.
- Census records. Scotland. Glenorchy and Inishail, Argyll. 30 March 1851. SINCLAIR, Mary (head). 512/00 007/00 017. www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : accessed 15 November 2018.
- Minute Books of the West Circuit Court of Justiciary, 1708-1998. Minute Book, 26 April 1820-03 October 1820. JC13/48. National Records of Scotland.