Overview-Melvilles


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THE MELVILLES OF THE DOLL AND RELATED FAMILIES

An Overview

My ancestors on my mother’s Melville side of the family originated, as far back as I can get a location identified with certainty, in the parish of Clyne and more particularly in the village of Brora and the hamlet of Doll in Clyne on the east coast of Sutherland. The community of Doll is situated between Golspie and Brora in an area is one of mixed farmland, with easy access to the sea and close to forested countryside and hill land.  Doll is in the parish of Clyne but the Sputie Burn which separates the parishes of Golspie and Clyne runs close to the eastern edge of this scattered community.  Some of the land inhabited by my ancestors and a few of the houses were in the parish of Golspie though most in early times were in the parish of Clyne.


It is said that the Melville name comes from the barony of Malaville or Malleville in the Pay de Caux, Normandy with Melvin, the diminutive form, more often used in rural communities.  In my family the change in the recorded spelling of the name in Old Parish Records has been from Melven or Melvin to Melville with a fair degree of spelling variation. Some branches of the family were recorded as Melvin almost 50 years after others were given as Melville. This is not surprising since some of those ‘Melvilles’ probably did not know how the name was spelt and those recording the names could be equally unsure of the spelling.  This variation in spelling was not a big issue and there is the instance of the celebrated reformer James Melville who, in his own diary, spells his own name as Melville and Melvin even on the same page.  Black in his book ‘The Surnames of Scotland’ notes that Melven and Melvin are the vulgarised forms and he quotes a number of other alternative spellings including Mellon and Mailing.

In my family history writing I have used the modern spelling, Melville, in most instances so as to avoid confusion but note on my database of information and text how the name was recorded in the official records and on memorials. Other names, in addition to Melville, have been standardised too and this again purely to aid understanding and for convenience.  Though at times Sarah was spelt Sara and Mackay variously spelt as McKay, MacKay and Mackay I have generally used a consistent form, namely Mackay.

What brought the Melvilles to East Sutherland is unclear and it is not certain when they first arrived. The Melville lands are, in the main, in the central and southern parts of Scotland .  The traditional Melville areas are in the Lothians,Fife and Angus. However, it is clear that there were Melvilles in East Sutherland from the late seventeenth or early eighteenth centuries.  In addition to the group around Doll, from which a sizeable descent, there was also a group in the Loth/Kildonan area which has not, as yet, been linked to the former group other than indirectly though marriage.  The Melville families in this latter group were also in the Sutherland area at an early date and may well have had a common ancestry with the Doll group.

Before my research the Melvilles were generally thought to have been a small family who came into the area in the late 19th century but both assumptions have been proven to be wrong.  The family became very widespread 19 and 20th centuries in the parishes of Golspie and Brora and there was much inter-marrying with other ‘local’ families and incoming Border families associated with the introduction of sheep at the time of the Sutherland Clearances.  There was also a considerable amount of inter-marrying between Melville cousins in the various family lines. Between the four lines considered to be the principal descents from a small nucleus of early ancestors there are considerable numbers of inter-connections.  The closest and most obvious are best outlined in diagrammatic form though even then much study of charts is required to understand those relationships and identify other less obvious inter-marriages.

Below a map of the area where the Melvilles were most prominent.

  

The following diagrams identify the main Melville lines and the possible earlier structure leading to a common ancestor or family group with a close relationship to one another.  The evidence so far uncovered suggested that a William Melven could be the progenitor of the main lines in the Doll area in which I have an interest and there is the possibility that this individual was also the father of a number of early female Melvilles whose parentage has not been apparent from the available records.  In my Melville database those females are listed under the family of ‘? Melven’ but it is possible that William Melven and ‘? Melven’ are one and the same person.

Even if William Melven (Wilam Melven and Ana Sutherland on their gravestone) are not the originators of all the Melville lines the Melville families are, nevertheless, all inter-related.  The diagram below shows just a few of the more obvious linkages between the different families and groups.  There are many other inter-marriages between the families in Doll and Brora with such a complicated structure that producing the situation diagrammatically on one chart is quite impossible.

                                                                                          

 

                                                                                        

The most significant feature of the distribution of the Melvilles of the Doll, leading one to look for a common ancestor, is the way in which the main family lines converge so rapidly in pyramidal form to a relatively small number of ancestors in the early to middle 18th century.  This structure, unlike that found for families of long standing in the area, leads one to the conclusion that the earliest Melvilles in the area probably date from the late 17th century or the early 18th century.  There is the evidence of old grave stones to Alexander, Hector and Adam Melven in Golspie cemetery the details of which are outlined below.  The former could be the memorial to Alexander (c1755) who married Sarah MacKay but the other two are more problematical.  Adam Melven is considered later but the lack of Hectors in the family until their emergence in the ‘Coalmine’ line is puzzling.  It is possible there could be some connection here with the earliest identified generations of the Loth/Kildonan Melvilles where the name Hector does appear at an early stage.  There is the vague possibility that there is some connection between the two separate Melville groups through an early Hector Melville and whether this Hector came from Loth to Clyne or went from Clyne to the Loth area is never likely to be determined.

The very early Melville burials that can be identified are in Golspie cemetery and it is later that memorial stones to Melvilles appear in Clyne cemetery and the Clynekirkton graveyard.  Those early burials are almost totally in the same area of the Golspie cemetery in an area half way from St Andrew’s Church and the outer wall and in a direct line towards the top end of Duke Street .  The stones in the main Melville area comprise a row of upright memorials at the foot of which lie older flat stones and two table stones to the rear of the upright stones but still within the same general grouping.  The inscriptions on the stones indicate that a significant number of members of individual families and of related but separate family lines are buried or commemorated. The oldest stone in this area which can be tied with some degree of accuracy into the family under investigation is the one to Wilam Melven and Ana Sutherland. It is clearly a memorial of some age but has the puzzling inscription towards the top of the stone where the words ‘Betsey Melville’, The Doll is carved.  Close examination of the stonework suggests that the lettering in this latter inscription is newer than the William and Ana stonework.  It is open to speculation why Betsey’s name should have been added later and above the other names though the reuse of older lairs was not uncommon.  Lying flat at the foot of this stone are Melville memorials from the mainline in which I have a principal interest. Those grave placements, and the study of forename naming patterns, suggest that this William Melven stone marks the last resting place of the earliest identifiable progenitor of this line.

It would appear that though Doll was in the parish of Clyne the majority of burials took place in the grounds of St. Andrew's Church in Golspie.  Despite the longer distance to Golspie and the more undulating route it is said that the families of the dead were happier to go to the extra effort rather than cross the River Brora.  The Clyne cemetery was, however, not the one presently in use and the further distance to the old burial ground at Clyne Kirkton might have been a factor.  An earlier George Melville (b. 1803) and some members of his family and descendants are buried in this Clyne Kirkton cemetery near where he farmed.




Above the area of Golspie cemetery where the majority of identified Melville graves from the 19th century are located.  In the background is St Andrew’s Church and beyond the wall separating the cemetery from the school grounds.
 

The majority of the Melville gravestones in Golspie were not very obvious until they were unearthed and cleaned by members of a voluntary team in the 1980s.  The writing on the upright stones was cleared of algae and flat stones were found beneath turf.  All the stones except two can be linked directly to known family members.  One flat stone closely associated with vertical stones in the same plot is that of William Melville (Melven) and Ana Sutherland and it is this comparison of names and position of the stone has lead to the belief that this could be the parents of my first certain ancestor,  Alexander Melville of Brora and Doll.


            

The William Melven and Ana Sutherland Stone and the Adam Melven and Elizabeth Elphinstone Stone in Golspie Cemetery .


Nearby is a flat table stone with a considerable amount of carving upon it and some names and writing on it were easily discernible after cleaning though within a year or two the deterioration in the state of the stone was significant.  This stone seems to pre-date all the others and is a memorial to Adam Melvin and Elizabeth Elphinstone.  After some work, and with knowledge of local names I was researching, it was relatively easy to read the almost the full inscription, ‘ Here lyes the dust of  Adam Melvin who departed this world (date unclear) and his spouse Elizabeth Elphinstone’. Unfortunately the corner with the important date is badly worn and partly broken away.  All efforts to enhance the inscription, including an attempt to enhance a photograph of the damaged corner, have failed and there is little likelihood of it providing further information. Position within the cemetery, stone type and the inscription suggests that the memorial is from the 17th century and marks the last resting place of a couple of no little means.  It also represents a family who had a tradition of marking graves with a stone of some distinction and possibly even a family who brought such a cultural outlook with them from elsewhere.  While this stone is not the only one of a table type in this area of the cemetery it is fair to say that there are few stones of its kind and it appears to be one of the oldest of its type in the burial ground.

The name Adam does not seem to appear again in the Melville family except in the interesting marriage between Melvilles in Australia outlined earlier.  This makes the existence of the stone and its place in the family's history all the more perplexing.  Elphinstones were present in the parishes of Golspie and Clyne at least as early as the Melvilles and also there are some Elphinstone and Melville connections in Doll in the early and mid-19th century.  A further Elphinstone presence in the area is associated with that family’s connection to the Sutherland family and Dunrobin Castle .  It is clearly possible that this connection is the reason for the Elphinstone and Melville burials in Golspie.  If the first Melville was married into the Elphinstone family associated with the Sutherland Earldom then it is possible that this is the reason that Melville burials, even for individuals living outwith the parish, continued in Golspie Cemetery.


The above mentioned stone is engraved with the surname as Melvin and this spelling was normal in the Old Parish Records for my Melvilles in the 18th century and the early years of the 19th century.  Indeed, as late as the 1850s one John from my line had his name spelt as Melvin rather than Melville which became the accepted spelling later.  A great variety of spelling is, in fact, to be found in the various sources.  Melvilles are variously designated as Melven, Melvin, Melvell, Melvelle, Melvil, Melvill and, of course, Melville by those who recorded the names.  It is likely that apart from the difference in spelling caused by the differences in the level of education of those carrying out the recording that the people themselves saw the different spellings of their names as being acceptable. All were seen as just minor difference of interpretation of the same designation.  How the name was pronounced is open to debate but it is likely to have been closer to Melville in the formal situation with Melvin being used as the diminutive form and maybe the familiar form, particularly in country areas.


In the tidied Golspie cemetery I came across two interesting fragments of stone.  One engraved Alexr Melvin, about 2 feet by five feet but irregular in shape, and the other engraved Hector Melvin.  The latter stone also had the name Katr engraved on it.  They were situated about 30 yards from the bulk of the Melville stones but the second mentioned of the fragments might have been out of place. It was about 2-3 feet square had been placed between other, larger existing stones.
 

It is obviously possible that this was the Alexander of Alexander and Sarah but no proof exists. To my knowledge, the name Hector is only found, in early times, in one instance in the Melville family of the Doll but it is found in the Melvilles who lived 12, or so, miles away in the Portgower area of Kildonan parish.  Some of those Melvilles have only been indirectly connected to the Melvilles in my study.


The two isolated stones, particularly the fragment belonging to Hector, since looking a little out of place where they are may are probably not be in their original positions though it has to be said that this area of the burial ground has stones from an early period.  They are not particularly soundly anchored, even allowing for being flat, and the stone to Hector is not of the same colour as those around it.  It is possible that those stones have been moved at sometime in the past and possibly even when the cemetery was extensively cleaned in the 1980s by the voluntary group.  This group did an excellent job clearing away the turf which had hidden so many of the stones.  After this had been done black polythene was laid and stone chips put on top.  I am told that some stones were lifted and that some actually had the inscription on the bottom side.  This inscription, it was said, could be read as clearly in the soil as an imprint as on the stone.


The clearing of the ground and the cleaning of stones enabled myself and other family historians to collect information that had been hidden for decades.  A negative side, however, of the work is the fact that some of the stones cleaned have now deteriorated to such an extent, due to weathering, that they can no longer be read.

The Golspie cemetery, amongst many others, has had its memorial inscriptions surveyed by A S Cowper and I Ross and published by The Scottish Genealogy Society.  Those recorders put in much work in a labour of love and produced an excellent gravestone record for future generations.  Their work is generally very accurate and it is only where stones have been very difficult to read or have had family information which has been particularly difficult to interpret that errors have crept in.  In my work I am only aware of one stone where a significant amount of potentially important family history data has been overlooked.  This being the much carved table stone to Adam Melvin and Elizabeth Elphinstone.

      


  The Hector Melvin and Alexr Melvin Stones in Golspie Cemetery .


Close to where the fragments of stone were found I noted more recent stones in a Ferguson plot with a Margaret Melville (b. 1818) on one of them.  This Margaret was the daughter of Henry Melville (B. 1790) and Christina Gordon (b. 1797) and she was the wife of John Ferguson (b.1804) who worked as a farm servant.  John Ferguson's family lived at Rose Cottage, Golspie and one of his sons became a tea planter in India and another was Factor at the Duke of Sutherland's Estate at Lillieshall in Shropshire .


Henry's son George, mentioned above, married a Margaret Grant, daughter Euphemia married William Turner and son William married twice and founded an Australian branch of the family.  His first wife was Annie MacDonald whom he married in Australia and his second wife, Annette Bayles, was also wed in there.  Comprehensive information on the above marriages and their descendants can be obtained from my charts and tables.


Returning to the flat table stones, there are some interesting points and questions regarding the ‘whys and whens’ of some of those memorials.  Apart from the Adam Melven table stone there is another table stone to Alexander and Lillie Sutherland.  This is an impressive but later memorial erected to a Brora merchant and his wife.  Now at first it is a puzzle as to why they are in Golspie cemetery but examination of the OPRs gives some clue.  Their two children were born in ‘The Dole of Brora’ and this would seem to suggest that this Alexander, though not yet identified with certainty as being in my Melville lines, was, nevertheless, a member of the family of the Melvilles of the Doll.  His most likely place in the scheme of things is in the family of Alexander Melville and Sarah Mackay. There are a number of spaces in this couples births and it is almost inconceivable that they would not have followed naming pattern tradition and had an Alexander.

There were, in fact, three Alexander Melvilles having family in the Doll area at the same time.  The first, and very certainly in my main line, was Alexander Melville who was married to Sarah MacKay.  His first children were born in Brora but from about 1800 he was having children in the Doll.  In an OPR entry he is described as Alexander Melvin ‘Forry’ and this was clearly a by-name to distinguish him from the other Alexanders.  The second was Alexander who married Lillie Sutherland and his by-name appears to have been ‘Drumer’.  I am not sure if this was a mis-spelling and he was indeed a drummer.  And finally Alexander Melville of Crislich, whose spouse was Margaret Graham, was designated ‘Sergeant’.

The former’s descendants are well documented  in the reference section of my family history and the latter’s descent now seems clearer since the discovery of Alexander and Margaret’s son, John, in Edinburgh and his descendants in Australia.  This connection to the main line is documented later and suffice to say, at present, it is very clear that this Alexander is in the centre of the Doll Melville group but exactly where is still to be determined.  The very fact that he married two sisters from the ‘Coalmine’ line, his ‘cousins german’, indicates his closeness to the Melvilles of the Doll.

One of the biggest puzzles in the Melville genealogy involves the number of Melvilles named John who crop up in the OPRs and the statutory records.  At first it appeared that there were either many more branches of the family in existence in the second half of the 17th century.  However, this is not entirely born out by other evidence albeit that it is fairly circumstantial.

There are three major lines apparently originating from a John Melville. One leading to the ‘Coalmine’ Melvilles from John Melville and Helen MacDonald, another leading to McBeaths in the Doll from John Melville and Kate Sutherland and another to the ‘Torbeg’ line from John and Elizabeth Munro.  At first glance there are too many Johns and there is the impression that they are all of a similar age.  However, the OPRs give some guidance on the matter if read carefully and if naming conventions are considered and places of birth are taken into consideration it is possible that there were just two Johns of different generations.  However, since family tradition in Scotland and abroad indicates that all the Melvilles were from the same stock and so the question of one, two or more John Melvilles is in a sense purely academic.  As noted earlier, the Melvilles of the Doll and the related families knew that they were cousins, albeit in some cases distant cousins and joined often by inter-marriage, and stated as much both orally and in official documents.

The family of John and Kate are key elements in the Melville structure as they had a John and an Isabella but also probably an Alexander and maybe other children besides. Clearly, Alexander Melville who married Lillie Sutherland or Alexander who married Margaret Graham are possibilities and there are a number of unidentified female Melvilles from the second half of the 18th century who are contenders.  Naming patterns suggest that they are members of the family being researched and that some, if not all, are from the family of William Melven and Ana Sutherland.  It is interesting to note that the sons of Alexander and Lillie and Alexander and Margaret who would by tradition be named after their paternal grandfathers are, in fact, John.  This theorising leaves a number of possibilities relating to the positions of the Alexanders and the Johns.


1.  Since Alexander and Sarah had William as their first child by naming pattern then Alexander’s father would have been William.

2.   Alexander and Sarah surely had an Alexander though not directly found.  Place in the tree can be speculated upon with some degree of confidence due naming patterns of Alexander and Sarah's family and that of Alexander and Lillie. Also the places of residence and births of children at various times adds to the likelihood that the Alexander married to Lillie Sutherland came from this line. Finally the placement of the other Alexander who married Margaret Graham in a different line is further evidence.

3.  It is very likely that Alexander ‘Forry’, husband of Sarah Mackay had a brother John.

4.  Sergeant Alexander Melville and Margaret Graham named their first son John and, as will be seen in the next paragraph, had a grandson who married two sisters who were the grandson's cousins This leads to the conclusion that JohnMelville and Helen MaDonald were Sergeant Alexander's parents.

5.  Alexander and Margaret's grandson, Alexander Graham Melville, married Isabella and Mary Melville. They were sisters and he described them as ‘cousins german’.  This would normally indicate them to be first cousins though second cousins in the direct male line is also a possibility.  They could not have been first cousins but they could be second cousins in the male line if Alexander Melville who married Margaret Graham and John Melville who married Mary Sutherland were brothers. In other words they came from the John Melville and Helen MacDonald line.  Family relationships, dates and other circumstantial evidence makes this very likely.

Returning to Adam, his place in the scheme of things may never become clear.  As stated earlier, it is very unusual to find such an early ancestor with no one named after him.  He may not be a member of the family in which I have an interest or the child/ren named after him may have died young.  However, from the placing of his gravestone he is likely be a member of the family being researched and from the type of stone it is possible he was one of the earliest ancestors in the area.  Despite this the earliest identified likely ancestor is William Melven and must remain so until further evidence can be found on Adam.

What can be safely said is that the Melvilles from Golspie and Clyne grew in number from a relatively small group of people, possibly one or two families, in the late 17th or early 18th century to a world-wide family inter-related by inter-marriage but also with clearly definable descent lines.

 

The Golspie Melville Line – My ‘Mainline’ Melvilles and a few connected families


This family report section reports briefly on the Golspie Melvilles and dips into some of the related and interesting Melvilles  For more detail on those Melville families and many other Melville lines it is best to read the more detailed family activities and the database descent lines.


  My mother's maiden is Melville and her father, George Melville, was born in the Doll in 1875.  Annie Isabella Fraser Melville, is the youngest of nine children born in 1923 at Culmailly to George and Annabella (Annie)  Fraser or Ross.  George was a ploughman at Culmaily Farm, Golspie at the time of her birth.  Annabella Fraser or Ross was the illegitimate daughter of Christina Fraser (b. 1853) from Invercassley, Rosehall and John Ross, said to be a pupil teacher, from that area who after fathering Annabella moved to England to study and died there.  It is said he was a weakly youth and his death was not all that surprising.  Unfortunately, at present little more is known about him though the small amount of information about him is almost certainly correct as it was told to my mother as she nursed her own mother before she died.  Additionally, on the marriage certificate of George Melville and Annie Fraser the latter’s father is given as John Ross.  However, in this instance he is listed as a crofter and not as a pupil teacher.  The two are not entirely at odds as it is possible that he was at one time a pupil teacher but this does throw some doubt on the story of his death.


All that was left in the 1980s  of the house George Melville (1875) was born in at the Doll.


One further snippet of information about John Ross is that he had a brother Daniel (Donald maybe) who went to New Zealand and became rather successful in sheep farming.  Correspondence from him was said to have been sent to a Rosehall woman who at first gave brief information regarding his life in the Southern Hemisphere and then claimed to have lost the address when she was asked for it by Annabella Fraser.


Christina Ross later married George Ross (b. 1854), blacksmith of Rosehall and Brora, and had a large family to him before he went to Canada to work on the building of the Duke of Sutherland's railway.  George Ross, unfortunately, died in Canada before he could send for his own family and Annabella.  Family tradition has it that George was a prolific and successful poacher on the River Brora and that the Duke was more than pleased to get rid of him to Canada- he may even have almost been 'exiled' there.  The Ross descendants of the marriage of George Ross and Annabella are numerous and widespread.  There are many in Sutherland, particularly Brora, some in Caithness and other parts of Scotland and some even further afield.  Further information on the Ross family and its connections to Frasers, Blacks and other families in the Rosehall area and North West Sutherland follows the Melville information in this section as does information on the related Sutherland, McLean and Young families from the Doll.


George Melville was also illegitimate.  His father was John Melville (b.1854), a farm worker from Strathsteven in the parish of Golspie, the son of a horse breaker and coachman.  John later married Margaret Munro (b.1861) from Lairg and they had nine children born at various farms in East Sutherland where he worked.  George's mother was Catherine Sutherland (b.1854), known as 'Kate Roy', from the Doll.  Catherine never married and as far is as known she had no more children.  She died in the poorhouses at Mosshill, Brora in 1925 having been put there after her house in the Doll burnt down.  It is said that she left some herrings in a covered pan on the fire to cook while she walked to Brora to the sacraments at the Free Church and while away the thatch caught fire. While the herrings story cannot be verified it is true there was a fire and as a pauper she had no alternative to move to Moshill.


Kate was interred in the old part of the Golspie cemetery near the wall separating the burial area from the primary school grounds.  The grave is unmarked but was shown to me by my uncle Neddie (Janatus) Melville shortly before his death.  He was present at the funeral and remembered the place of the grave.  This grave is in the same section of the burial grounds as the graves of the Melvilles of the Doll but is some distance from their lairs.  It is likely that Kate was buried with her parents as there were few new lairs available in this section of the burial ground.


The direct line from my mother through, George (b. 1875), John (b. 1854), John (b. 1821), Henry (b. 1785) and Alexander Melville (b. c1755) takes us back to the mid-18th century.  This line has the other related lines outlines above running parallel with it.  One is headed by a John Melville and Kate Sutherland and also originates in the middle of the 18th century and, as earlier noted,  there is the likelihood that John and Alexander were brothers.  However, as both lines are joined at an early stage by the marriage of Sarah Melville (b. 1814) and Francis Melville (b. 1815) even if there had been no prior relationship they can be legitimately incorporated into the overall family tree just as other lines can too.  Sarah's parents were William Melville (b. 1799) and Elizabeth Sutherland (b. 1786) and Francis's parents were John Melville and Elizabeth Munro. This John Melville may have been the son of an earlier John Melville who may have married twice or had children to two different women. Firstly to Kate Sutherland and later to Helen MacDonald though dates of births of children to those individuals tend to make such a supposition hard to sustain without evidence of actual birth dates..  Evidence for those marriages or liaisons and the relationship of the Johns is thin being circumstantial, by way of the study of OPRs, through naming patterns and  family tradition.




The Henry line is the 'Mainline' or Golspie Melvilles and the John and Mary Sutherland descent is the 'Coalmine Line'.


                                                                                                      


Two memorials from the 'Mainline' or Golspie Melvilles in Golspie Cemetery . The gravestone of Henry Melville (1785 – 1874) and the adjacent one recording the burial of John Melville of Strathsteven (1821 – 1893) and Isabella Chisholm.
                                                                                                                                       

John Melville, the son of John Melville and Helen MacDonald, married in Cromarty and returned to the Doll.  This family were the forebears of the 'Coalmine' Melvilles and later members of this line emigrated to Australia .  An Australian descendant of this line, Richard Snedden, was a former member of the Highland Family History Society and I have corresponded with him after I responded to a query of his in the Society's journal.  He initially sent me some information on his Australian relatives including the news that one relative was Kerry Reid (nee Melville), the former Australian and Wimbledon tennis star and another had wed Miss Australia 1947!  Over recent years he has provided me with much detailed information on Melvilles in the Southern Hemisphere.


John's family to Kate Sutherland originated a line connecting to many families still in the Doll and Brora areas including Murrays and McBeaths. In addition to a daughter, Isabella, who was an ancestor of those in the ‘McBeath’ Line, John and Kate had a son John.  This John married Elizabeth (Betty) Munro.


The John Melville/Betty Munro descent, or 'Torbeg Line', produced a number of interesting family connections into the other Melville families and other Doll families.  It was, however, often dogged by bad luck and illness and never became as widespread locally as my own direct line from Alexander Melville who was born circa 1750.  However, those members who did survive and leave the area made good in the antipodes.  There is also a line extant in the Doll at the present time.


Regular correspondence over a period of some years with two avid family history researchers, Heather and Una Melville, in New Zealand resulted in a very useful exchange of information.  Much detail of Melvilles in the Southern Hemisphere was received from them and the information clearly relating to my own Melvilles has been reproduced in this family history research.  Heather and Una descend from Donald Melville born in the Doll at the end of the 18th century.  Sadly, Heather died in February of 1991.


The various ancestors who went to Australia seemed to grasp the opportunities presented to them and they made their way successfully in their new surroundings.  Medicine seems to have been one of the favoured professions though others did well in land speculation and another, Donald Melville,  reached 'giddy' heights in government in Australia .  By all accounts he was not the only politician as one Melville, an expert in forestry, brushed aside a question from Heather Melville about his ancestors by saying 'they were all mad politicians'!  Though this Melville did not co-operate at that time in the quest for information it is reported that he did tell others at the University in Christchurch that he was related to the Accommodations Officer, Heather Melville.


The inter-linking of the Melville families in the Doll with their own lines and with other families seems to have continued in Australia and New Zealand .  A number of members of the same family travelled to the other side of the world, met with 'cousins' from Clyne and Golspie and married.  Some of those 'cousins' were close relatives while others were related distantly by marriage in the land of their birth.


Some of the Melvilles of the Doll settled in Canada and though I have not corresponded with their descendants I hear mention of them from time to time from other family members who are interested in family history research.  Since a number of individual Melville family members disappeared in the early years of the 19th century it is likely that while a number would have followed relatives to the Southern Hemisphere others probably crossed the Atlantic .


A family I wanted to find much more about held the lease of Crislich at the head of The Black Water to the upper end of Loch Brora.  An Alexander Melville, son of John Melville and Helen MacDonald, had at least five children while residing there  -  John (b. 1806), Katherine (b.1808), Margaret (b.1810), Jean (b. 1814) and William (b. 1816).  The only tenuous lead I had as my search developed was the marriage of an Adam Graham Melville in Australia who married twice to sisters Isabella and Mary Melville in Australia .  The descendants in Australia said that Adam Graham Melville's ancestors came from Brora and that he had his married cousins.


Since Isabella and Mary were the daughters of John Melville and Roberta Pope, the 'Coalmine' family, the other members of this family including a son Hector and another daughter Davidina went to Sydney it was certainly possible that my missing family was cleared from their croft at Crislich and emigrated.  The last reference to Alexander Melville and Margaret Graham found was in estate papers in 1818 where they received the lease of Crislich at £60 per year.  However, correspondence from Clearances authority Dr Bangor-Jones, after he had read an article I wrote for the Highland Family History Society,  indicated that they had left for Dundee in 1820.  They could have been either looking for work in the industrialising south or in passage to one of the colonies.


Just when it appeared that the mystery was never to be solved the word came from Richard Snedden in Australia that Adam Graham Melville had been born in Edinburgh and married there.  A visit to New Register House resulted in the discovery that Adam was the son of John Melville who was in turn the son of the missing Alexander Melville and Margaret Graham.  Now whether or not they were in Edinburgh themselves it is clear that at least one member of their family, John, lived and worked there.  Further research is required to find out if they also moved to Edinburgh or to elsewhere.


It is worth pointing out that the marriage of those cousins is yet another link between Melville lines.  However, it also further suggests that there was a common ancestry for all the Golspie/Clyne families.  Alexander from Crislich could only have been a ‘cousin german’ or close cousin, as he was described on Adam and Isabella Melville’s marriage certificate, if he came through the John Melville and Helen MacDonald line.


Adam Graham Melville appears to have been a bit of a character.  Married to two sisters, who were his cousins, and after the death of his second wife to an Elizabeth McKennery or Trennery.  His second marriage to Mary Melville was in Adelaide and he described himself as a bachelor.  They were only resident in Adelaide for one week at the time of marriage and it has now become clear that as they were cousins they could not marry in Melbourne at that time.  The reason for Adam saying he was a bachelor is not entirely clear.  It could have been a mistake on the part of the person recording the marriage though it is more likely that while he was not breaking and law in South Australia he did not wish to take any chance of being challenged on the matter elsewhere.


Another interesting link within the Australian Melvilles is created by the marriage of Adam Graham Melville's great grandson to Christina Leslie who is described as his cousin.  The Leslies were from the Doll but earlier, in Australia , Margaret Melville (b. 1833) married a cousin Donald Leslie.  This Margaret was the daughter of Donald Melville (b. 1797) in the Doll) and Margaret Jolly (b. Aberdeen ) and the grand-daughter of John Melville (b. c1760 and Betty Munro (b. 1774).


Returning to my mainline and my more immediate ancestors, while researching in the Brora records office, Jack MacLennan, the registrar, told me that he had met great, grandmother Kate 'Roy' Sutherland in the early twenties as they sheltered at the Iron Bridge at Strathsteven in a particularly fierce storm.  He was returning to Brora after watching a Boys Brigade football match in Golspie and she was making her way from her house in the Doll to visit George Melville and his family at Culmaily.  This was a journey that she made regularly until near the time of her death.  Sometimes she would follow the line of the road but more often she would follow the track passing a little inland by the Big Barns and Dunrobin Farm.  I believe this is close to where, at an earlier time, a prosperous merchant by the name of Munro operated.

Some speculation on the origins of the Melvilles of the Doll suggested that they were descended from a family of Melvilles who came to work at the Brora coalmine.  Further it was thought that the extent in number of the family members was not very great.  Both those suppositions have proved to be incorrect with the discovery that the Melvilles were in the area before family members went to work at, and eventually lease, the coalmine and the number of Melvilles in the Doll, Golspie and Brora areas was larger than had been imagined.  Not only were the individuals holding the Melville name found to be large in number but also a complicated marriage and inter-marriage structure between the families of the area resulted in many cross-links. So many, in fact, that constructing separate family trees proved extremely difficult and charts became difficult to follow and number in a logical way.

The Sutherland origins of the Melvilles is unresolved at present though I am of the opinion that they were in the area from at least the early 1700s and the first Melville may have, indeed, arrived at the end of the 1600s.  A suggestion that they came in with the sheep as shepherds is not sustainable as they were in the area at an earlier stage pre-date most, if not all, the clearances and suffered themselves with the advent of the sheep. In any case, they tended to be lotters, crofters and small farmers and later many were farm labourers as their families grew and the small tenancies could not support all family members.


Since the Melville lines lead back in pyramid form to what appears to be a common ancestor around the time above it is reasonable to speculate that a single family or individual appeared in the area and lines from this source developed but had not become very widespread before records began to be kept of births, baptisms and marriages.  In other words, if Melvilles had been in the area for a longer time it is likely that there would have been a number of lines which I could not link back to a single or almost single source. Though there is some uncertainty regarding the number of early John Melvilles the only unidentified Melvilles are females born about the  mid-1700s.  They could easily be the daughters of William and Ana and sisters to Alexander (c1755) and John (c1750).


Examination of Sutherland Estate records has been of little help in identifying the time of arrival of the Melvilles in the Doll area.  To date the records found there for before 1800 are in the lists of rentals and arrears from 1727 and of men able to hold arms in 1745 though there is one reference to a Melville paying a hearth tax in the latter part of the 1600s.  The Rental and Arrears lists a Paul Millain at Lothbeg and a Donald and a John Millain at Cracaig.  While I have no proof that Millain and Melvin/Melville are synonymous it is certainly possible that we are looking at the same family name. The military records include a John Melvin in Lothbeg, a Paul Melvin in Kintradwell and John Meline in Kilbrora.  Those records add further weight to the aforementioned suggestion that Millain and Melvin refer to the same family. In addition, there is a John Melvin listed as a member of Captain Gordon's Militia Company from 17th February 1745 to 1st July 1746.  This John may be one of the above mentioned Johns.  Whether this indicates other Melvilles in the area prior to William Melven or sons or brothers to this William is uncertain.  It does, however, raise the possibility that the Melville families were present on the East  Coast of Sutherland at a very early date and that maybe the Doll Melvilles and the Loth/Kildonan Melvilles derive from families in this area between Brora and Loth.


Movement from the Melville 'homelands' in central Scotland might have been directly in response to the need for certain skills in the Sutherland area or might have taken place in stages through Aberdeenshire and North East Scotland. There is also the possibility that the Elphinstones, who had links with the Sutherland family at Dunrobin may have been responsible for bringing the Melville name north. The Golspie Cemetery memorial to Adam Melven and Elizabeth Elphinstone may relate to this early connection to Dunrobin and the impressiveness of the grave stone suggests a family of some importance and resources.

Golspie's Story by Margaret Grant outlines a number of periods of improvement in East Sutherland and many of the influences that moulded the communities along the Sutherland coast.  There was clearly a great deal of movement of people by land and sea into and through the area and the Melville family could possibly have arrived in one of those periods of change.  It is possible their arrival was associated with changes at Dunrobin Castle or the Sutherland Estates or may have been connected to the Gordon's of Carroll who were landowners in the Golspie and Clyne area.  It is also worth considering the possibility that the first Melville was a soldier who settled in the area during or after active service.  He could have been granted a tenancy for service rendered in any one of a number of campaigns not least the possibility that there was a connection with the Jacobite uprisings of 1715 or 1745 or even earlier at the time Cromwells troops were in the north.  Naming evidence suggest a definite Protestant family with the name James not appearing until later in the 19th century and Charles being absent until the 20th century.  The fact that Alexander Melville of Crislich was described in the Sutherland Estate records as Sergeant Alexander would also indicate a military connection and that he was at the very least a local volunteer.  It is also interesting that John Melville, born at Crislich and later to appear in Edinburgh , married the daughter of a military man.  It is possible that the connection with the army led to the meeting and union of John and his wife.


Not a great deal is known of fine detail about the 'roots' of great, grandmother Kate ' Roy ' Sutherland's family.  They appear to have been residents of the Doll and also Golspie parish around Strathsteven living of the land in similar fashion to those around them.  Her father was Alexander Sutherland (b.1810) and her mother Janet Matheson (b. 1817). Her grandfather on the paternal side was also Alexander married to Jane Murray and on the maternal side the grandparents were John Matheson and Catherine McLean.  Those grandparents can be traced back a further generation to William Matheson and Mary Young and John McLean and Ann McIntosh.


The tabulated lines show the descendants of Alexander Sutherland and Jane Murray to be rather more extensive than those of the line on the Matheson/McLean side.  However, neither line has been examined closely enough in a 'sideways' direction to reveal the inter-linkages, if they indeed exist, to other families as the extent of those in the Melvilles.


The area of residence of the Sutherlands after what appears to have been a move from Strathsteven was in the lower area of the Doll on the Brora side of the Doll road that leaves the main A9 at Sputie.  This is on the opposite side of the Doll road from Lingmore and Torbeg the home of some of the Melvilles, including the John Melville and Betty Munro line.  It is interesting to note that Frasers who married into the Sutherland line through a cousin of Kate ' Roy 's, also called Catherine, resided at Lingmore.


The movement of my grandmother Annie Fraser or Ross to Brora with her mother, step-father and step-siblings led to her meeting with George Melville my grandfather.  The Ross family moved, as was noted earlier, from Invercassley near Rosehall.  Mother Christina Fraser and her husband George Ross had eight children of their own in addition to Annabella Fraser (Annie Ross) by Christina's liaison with John Ross the pupil teacher and crofter.


Christina had at least five brothers or sisters and was the daughter of Alexander Fraser (b. 1811) and Ann Black (b. 1809).  Alexander was born in Assynt and his wife was born in Durness, Sutherland while her parents originated in the Borders having move north with the sheep at the time of the Clearances.  Ann's  father James Black was a shepherd born in Roxburgh and her mother Jane Turner came from Yetholm. The Frasers, too, were shepherds and Alexander Fraser was the son of John Fraser and Isabella MacDonald.  He had a number of brothers and sisters born in Assynt.  Alexander moved with his family to Invercassley, Rosehall while a number of the Fraser lines eventually settled in Easter Ross.




One interesting family member who stayed on at Invercassley was Christina Fraser's brother, John.   Old Johnnie, as he was known, was a shoemaker who died aged 91 years at Invercassley in 1930.  It is said that he was dead for some days and guarded by his dog before he was found.  There is also a suggestion that he may have been mutilated by the dog after his death.  The family house in which he stayed was in a ruinous state in 1967 and by the mid-70s it had been raised to the ground. The area now is covered with a new planting of conifers and deciduous trees.

The Fraser House at Invercassley as it was in 1967.

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27/09/2012