Douglas Family

Anne McEldin Douglass Dillon, commissioned a family history by the noted Maryland genealogist Harry Wright Newman. That work is titled "A Branch of the Douglas Family with its Maryland and Virginia Connections (Doubleday, 1967)".  Mr. Newman authored the book in 1966 after conducting research in Scotland and the United States.  Originally only 200 copies of the book were printed.  The book was reprinted in 1973.  Ms. Dillon's son C. Douglas Dillon served in the Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson administrations as Ambassador to France, Under Secretary of State, and Secretary of the Treasury.

A notable Douglas descendant is George Douglass.  A great article about George Douglass was written by Kenneth P. Woodington.

Mary Turpin Layton created much of the framework for Douglas family tree in the United States.  The Douglas Family Tree displays the handwritten notes of Ms. Layton.  The tree she created is thought to have been put together in the 1950s.

Mr. Newman's book "A Branch of the Douglas Family with its Maryland and Virginia Connections" is an exceptional work.  The hard work he put into this book is evidenced by the large number of records and amount of detail found on every page.  As with any genealogical work, especially earlier works, there is room for skepticism and reinterpretation.  Before presenting his data, Mr. Newman presents his conclusion that John Douglas of Charles County, Maryland is the same John Douglas, first born son of Sir Robert Douglas of Blackerstoun.  Unfortunately, there is little evidence for or against this.  With so little evidence, Mr. Newman fills in the gaps by mixing expanded stories about the known facts with flowering tales about life in Scotland.  To see an example click on the excerpt from page 29 of the book, the chapter about Colonel John Douglas. 

One must carefully examine the evidence in Mr. Newman's book to draw their own conclusion.  Below is the evidence that Mr. Newman offers that I have separated from the tales of Scotland:

"According to the History of Glasgow by Renwick and Lindsay, Sir Robert acquired through his father-in-law Gorbals and Brigend on the south banks of the Firth of Clyde which were free portions of the free barony of Blythswood erected by a precept of chancery for Sir George Elphinstone.  The lands of Blythswood were on the west side, now in Glascow proper."

"On June 20, 1649, Sir Robert Douglas of Blackcaster (sic) Knight, apprenticed his son John Douglas, to John Hamilton, Merchant, to learn the art and science of merchandising."

The record above is the only record that shows that Sir Robert Douglas of Blackerstoun had a son named John.  John is not mentioned in a Will, a Deed, other court records, correspondence, or any other Scottish record.  Although misspellings were common and the record above is likely referring to Sir Robert Douglas of Blackerstoun, there is a possibility that Sir Robert Douglas of Blackcaster Knight is a different person.

"He (John Douglas) honored his father by naming his second son, Robert."

Although John Douglas named his second son, Robert, there is no evidence who he was named after.  John Douglas named his first son, John and also had sons Joseph and Charles.  Although naming a son Robert would make the connection more possible, it is not conclusive.

"According to his own deposition, he was born about 1636 and arrived in America before June 3, 1654, at which time he was no more than 18 years of age."

This record would indicate that if he is the same John Douglas that was apprenticed, he would be 13 years old which is possible.

"The first land grant of John Douglas was surveyed on May 10, 1667, by Benjamin Rozer for 100 acres, on the north side of the Potomac River "nigh Pickawaxon" which borders on one side of the land of John Jenkins.  He named the plantation 'Blythswood'..."

Mr. Newman put a lot of faith into the fact that since John Douglas named his 100 acres "Blythswood", this must be the same John Douglas, son of Sir Robert Douglas, who acquired the free barony of "Blythswood" in Scotland.  It is possible, but certainly not conclusive.

"In 1674 he witnessed the power of attorney of Peter Small, of London, Chryrurgon, and John Harrison, of Hull, Merchant to, Henry Bonner, of the Province of Maryland, Gent.  If he were not in England at the time the powers of attorney were granted, then the two grantors were in Maryland at the time."

It is much more likely that the men were in Maryland when they signed the power of attorney.  Regardless, there is no dispute that John Douglas is likely from England or Scotland as most immigrants at the time were.

A 1678 record from Charles County, Maryland reveals that shortly before he died John Douglas gave 100 acres of land called "St. Edmond" to John Hamilton of Charles County.  The land was given for "love and affection".  John Hamilton had only been in Maryland for 4 years, so it is likely there was a family connection or other close connection in Scotland.  This record is important because of the 1649 apprenticeship of a John Douglas to a John Hamilton in Edinburgh, Scotland.

The ancestors of Sir Robert Douglas of Blackerstone are available on various internet sites.  Some of these sites/comments mention a Scottish record that indicates Sir Robert Douglas's sole heir was his daughter, Susannah.  Evidently, she was the only one mentioned in his will.

Milton Rubincam in his book Pitfalls in Genealogical Research, mentions work by another author, Dr. Neil D. Thompson who had concerns about the Douglas Family research by Harry Wright Newman.  Dr. Thompson published his concerns in April 1977 in an article entitled The Douglass Family of Charles County, Maryland: Some Further Observations.  Below is an except from Mr. Rubincam's book referring to the Thompson article:

"Mr. Newman did much good work as an expert on Maryland records, but he was also prone to attach families to illustrious ancestors from whom they were not descended. The final paragraph reads:  Finally, it ought to be noted that I cited certain evidence for the possibility that the emigrant was son of Sir Robert Douglas of Blackerstoun and had a lengthy ancestry, including royal descent.  On the same evidence, adding nothing at all, Mr. Newman has asserted this connection as fact.  It may be correct or it may not be.  But genealogy has suffered so much already from speculation and wishful thinking on the subject of royal and noble ancestry for colonial immigrants that it seems a pity to publish yet another example of such pedigree-mongering...  If the reader is descended from a family whose British ancestry has been traced by him, the lines should be tested very carefully before being accepted.  He was thoroughly familiar with records, and may indeed have made the connection.  On the other hand, a lady once commissioned me to investigate the Scottish origin of her Maryland ancestor which he had compiled to admit her cousin to a pre-colonial society.  The pedigree proved to be false."

If we are indeed connected to Sir Robert Douglas of Blackerstoun, it would be an honor.  Some of his notable ancestors are...

King James I (1394-1436), King of Scotland, King James II (1430-1460), King of Scotland, Robert the Bruce (1274-1329), King of Scotland, MacBeth, Duncan, other Shakespeare notables, and and many other Princes, Kings, Earls, etc.  A google search easily reveals a huge amount of this Royal family tree.  However, we should probably first find more evidence that our John Douglas is the son of Sir Robert Douglas.