Historical relations

One of a set of watercolors depicting the Eglinton Tournament of 1839 by James Henry Nixon, inspired by an earlier time. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

As I work on a genealogy of the Livingston family in Scotland and America, I am roughing out appendices covering the family of the 4th Lord Livingston, the Livingstons of Dunipace and Kilsyth, and the Fleming and Hamilton families in seventeenth-century Edinburgh: this is the family circle around the Rev. John Livingston (1603-1672), whose son and grandson emigrated to New York later in the century. All of this is meant to answer the questions, To what extent did the Livingstons feel connected to their Scottish kin, and are there clues to be found in some of these connections?

After a read through the Rev. John Livingston’s memoirs[1] to supplement the pedigree-making, I can see that he viewed himself as the member of three cadet Livingston branches. He writes: “My father was Mr. William Livingstone, first minister at Monyabrock [Kilsyth]… His father was Mr. Alexander Livingstone, minister also at Monyabrock, who was in near relation to the house of Callendar, his father, who was killed at Pinkie field, anno Christi 1547, being [a] son of the Lord Livingston’s… [William’s mother] was Barbara Livingstone, come of the house of Kilsyth. My mother was Agnes Livingstone, the daughter of Alexander Livingstone, portioner of Falkirk, come of the house of Dunipace.”[2]

Edwin Brockholst Livingston’s The Livingstons of Callendar[3] sets out to trace the various Livingston lines from Sir Andrew Livingston, Sheriff of Lanark, at the end of the thirteenth century. In this account,[4] the Livingstons of Callendar become Lords Livingston and then Earls of Linlithgow; the Livingstons of Dunipace descend from a brother of the 1st Lord Livingston; and the Livingstons of Kilsyth from the 1st Lord’s uncle. The Rev. John Livingston’s memoir supplements E. B. Livingston’s treatment of these families.

“[When] I was but very young, I saw somewhat of the example and carriage of sundry gracious Christians, who used to resort to my father’s house…”

As a child, the example around him was a devout one: “…when I was but very young, I saw somewhat of the example and carriage of sundry gracious Christians, who used to resort to my father’s house, especially at times of the communion, such as Mr. Robert Bruce[5] and several other godly ministers, [and] the rare Countess of Wigtoun, Lady Lilias Grahame,[6] who also at my baptism desyred my name, because her father, her husband, and eldest son, were all of that name…”[7]

Likely in Lady Wigtown’s lifetime, her daughter Anna married Sir William Livingston of Darnchester (the contract was dated 5 November 1607); according to The Livingstons of Callendar, Sir William was the second cousin once removed of the Rev. William Livingston (1576?-1641), John’s father.[8] A few years later, Lady Wigtown’s son and heir (the future 2nd Earl of Wigtown) married Lady Margaret Livingston,[9] daughter of the 7th Lord Livingston and 1st Earl of Linlithgow.[10] Through his father rather than his mother, the Rev. William Livingston would be Lord Linlithgow’s second cousin, with all of whose surviving children John Livingston had dealings: Alexander, 2nd Earl of Linlithgow (head of the Livingston family in John’s youth);[11] James, 1st Earl of Callendar, whom John served as a chaplain; Anna (Livingston), Countess of Eglinton;[12] and Margaret (Livingston), Countess of Wigtown.

Lady Eglinton and her sister, the younger Lady Wigtown, lived to see young John Livingston become an important figure in the Scottish church during the seventeenth century, and both supported him financially. (He was not too proud to acknowledge this.) So, in addition to the elder Lady Wigtown’s friendship with the Rev. William Livingston, there were two family marriages at the turn of the seventeenth century that would, to a society premised on family connection, have attracted notice: Lady Anna Fleming’s marriage to Sir William Livingston, and the young Lord Fleming’s marriage to Lady Margaret Livingston. By the same token, the relationships between the younger Lady Wigtown’s siblings and the family of the Revs. William and John Livingston are demonstrable, so it would seem that the Rev. John Livingston did indeed know enough about his family background – tempered by social intimacy with cousins of higher status who would certainly have denied a fictitious connection – to report it accurately.


[1] [John Livingston,] “A Brief Historical Relation of the Rev. John Livingstone, Minister of the Gospel…,” in W.K. Tweedie, Select Biographies Edited for the Wodrow Society…, vol. 1 (Edinburgh: Printed for the Wodrow Society, 1845), 127-97, with other materials pp. 201-370. There are a number of editions of John Livingston’s autobiography.

[2] Livingston, “A Brief Historical Relation,” Select Biographies, 1: 129-30.

[3] Edwin Brockholst Livingston, The Livingstons of Callendar and Their Principal Cadets: The History of an Old Stirlingshire Family (Edinburgh: Printed at the University Press by T. and A. Constable for the author, 1920).

[4] And Sir James Balfour Paul, The Scots Peerage, 9 vols. (Edinburgh: David Douglas, 1904-14), 5: 183-94 [Kilsyth], 421-51 [Linlithgow].

[5] The Rev. Robert Bruce (1554?-1630), son of Sir John Bruce of Airth and Janet Livingston, a daughter of the 5th Lord Livingston. The Bruces were connections on the Kilsyth side, while Janet Livingston was his grandfather’s first cousin. Robert Bruce was himself a towering figure in Scottish religious and political history.

[6] Lady Lilias Graham, daughter of John Graham, 3rd Earl of Montrose; her widower then married Sarah (Herries), Lady Johnstone, whose first husband died 6 April 1608 (Paul, The Scots Peerage, 6: 231, 237, 239 [Montrose], 7: 46 [Perth], 8: 545-46 [Wigtown]). Lady Wigtown’s circle was devout, as can be seen elsewhere in Select Biographies, vol. 1: a letter to her from the Rev. John Welch appears in “The History of Mr. John Welch…,” 1-45 at 17, 18-26.

[7] Livingston, “A Brief Historical Relation,” Select Biographies, 1: 130-31.

[8] Livingston, The Livingstons of Callendar, 213, 215, 216, 218, 223, 224, 446-47.

[9] Early in John Livingston’s career, he served as the Wigtowns’ chaplain at Cumbernauld Castle (Livingston, “A Brief Historical Relation,” Select Biographies, 1: 137).

[10] Livingston, The Livingstons of Callendar, 65-66, 67, 72, 78, 96, 97, 101, 110, 446-47.

[11] Livingston, “A Brief Historical Relation,” Select Biographies, 1: 146-47.

[12] Of Lady Eglinton, Livingston wrote: “[although] bred at Court, [she] yet proved a subdued and eminent Christian, and [an] encourager of piety and truth.” Her sister has an entry in the memoirs, but no text was included; Lady Wigtown is not named as among those present at Livingston’s marriage to Janet Fleming in June 1635 (Livingston, “A Brief Historical Relation,” Select Biographies, 1: 347, 152).

About Scott C. Steward

Scott C. Steward was the founding editor at Vita Brevis; he served as NEHGS Editor-in-Chief 2013-2022. He is the author, co-author, or editor of genealogies of the Ayer, Le Roy, Lowell, Saltonstall, Thorndike, and Winthrop families. His articles have appeared in The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, NEXUS, New England Ancestors, American Ancestors, and The Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine, and he has written book reviews for the Register, The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, and the National Genealogical Society Quarterly.

One thought on “Historical relations

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.