Andrew Burns, Margaret Blackwood, and Janet Bell and their antecedents

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Andrew Burns, Margaret Blackwood, and Janet Bell and their antecedents

On this matter on top of my own research I have been fortunate to have received a considerable amount of detailed information from Denise Marriott a descendant of Jane Burns' sister, Marion Burns. Marion was born 17th July 1813 and married a John Stewart 18th July 1833 in Ayr. Much of the detail is from a family history put together in 1889 by William Burns Stewart (son of John Stewart and Marion Burns) from notes by his father, and the rest is from an old family tree drawn up many years ago. (For a transcription of this diary - Click Here)It is also helpful that there are two "Burns" gravestones in the Old High Church of Ayr which have been transcribed, providing additional dates etc. (For further details of these stones - see Appendix M)

Andrew Burns and Margaret Blackwood marriage was recorded in the Ayr parish register on 7th November 1797. Andrew Burns was an only child, born 3rd January 1774 in Ayr, the son of Andrew Burns and Elizabeth Tulloch Campbell who were married on 27th February 1773 in Ayr.

Shortly after his marriage on 25 June 1798 Andrew Burns joined the Ayr and Renfrew Militia as a private. This was a time in Britain where an invasion from France was perceived as a serious threat and across Britain militias were being raised to protect Britain from the bogeyman Napoleon and his revolutionary hordes. This was the start of over thirty years service with the militia.

Andrew seems to have left Ayr with the regiment shortly after the birth of his first child, Elizabeth, as his next two children, twins, William and Mary, were born in Fort George, near Inverness, on the 18th April 1801, which presumably was where Andrew was stationed with the militia.

On 8th December 1802 Andrew Burns transferred as a corporal to the Royal Ayshire Militia. (I believe this became the Ayrshire Yeomanry, the senior Yeomanry regiment in Scotland and the seventh Yeomanry regiment in Great Britain.) Shortly afterwards Andrew and Jane seem to have moved south, this time presumably with the Royal Ayshire Militia as their fourth child, Janet was born in Dundee, on 7th November 1803, and their fifth, Andrew, at Gosport on the Channel coast, on 7th November 1807.

On the 15th February 1808 Andrew was promoted to Sergeant and about this time the regiment seems to have started north again as their sixth child, the aforementioned Jane, was born in Blechingdon, near Oxford, on 3rd August 1809, and for the birth of their seventh child, Thomas, on 29th June 1811, the family were back in Ayr. Andrew and Margaret's eighth child, Marion, was also born in Ayr on 17th July 1813, and ALL these births/baptisms, including those which occurred elsewhere were recorded in the Ayr parish register. (For further details of the children of Andrew Burns and Margaret Blackwood - See Appendix F.) It is amazing to think of Margaret following her husband and the regiment, covering at least 1500 miles in 10 years, and producing five children en route, finally ending up trailing six children under ten with her. Margaret may have had a child circa 1805 that died in infancy. The hardships and conditions would, I imagine, make most modem day parents cringe.In 1813 the regiment was sent to Perth, to guard the French prisoners of war there and shortly after to Ireland. It is unclear if Andrew went to Perth but he did not go to Ireland. Presumably with the end of the Napoleonic war in 1815 Andrew's military life went on the back boiler.

The death\burial of Margaret Blackwood was recorded in the Ayr OPR on 5 October 1821 Ayr. She was identified as "Margaret Blackwood, wife of Deacon Burns, Tailor, aged 47" and the cause of desth given as "Suddenly". (Possibly those years following her husband around Britain finally taking their toll?) She was baptised on 22nd August 1773 in Irvine to William Blackwood and Mary Barber, who were married on 12th February 1764 in Irvine. Margaret had at least three brothers and three sisters: -Thomas baptised 30 November 1764, Janet baptised 21 March 1773, Marion baptised l6 June 1776, Robert baptised 19 July 1778, James baptised 30 September 1780, and Elizabeth baptised 24 October 1782, all baptisms recorded in the Parish Register of Irvine. William Blackwood was a 'tide waiter' or coastguard in Irvine, although he also spent some time in Fairlie, near Largs. (For a copy of the Will of William Blackwood - See Appendix R)

On 27 May 1828 Andrew Burns remarried. His bride, Janet Bell, was born in Scone, Perthshire and, I believe, baptised on 13 January 1801, the daughter of James Bell and Janet Marshall, making her nearly thirty years younger than him. On 29th April 1829 Andrew and Janet had their first child, a daughter Margaret. On the 26th June of that year Andrew Burns was finally discharged from the Royal Ayrshire militia on account of "rheumatism and lumbago" after 30 years and 147 days service. His discharge papers describe Andrew as "about 55 Years of Age, is 5 Feet 10 Inches in height, Brown Hair, Grey Eyes, Brown Complexion, and by Trade or Occupation a Tailor".

Andrew Burns and Janet Bell went on to have a further six children over the next eleven years: - Ann born 26th August 1830, Isobel born 6th November 1832, Elizabeth Bell born 15th June 1834, Mary born 24 February 1837, Jemima born 22 November 1838 and Sarah Hunter born 19th August 1840, all of whose births/baptisms were recorded in the Ayr parish register. (For further details of the children of Andrew Burns and Janet Bell - See Appendix F.)

There is a listing under "Tailors" for Ayr in the "Piggot's Directory for Scotland" for 1837 for "Burns, Andrew, (& Clothier), 17 High Street, Ayr" and it is in the High Street that we find the family for the census of 7th June 1841, with Andrew Burns as the "Clothier" and his son Andrew Burns, his son, as the "Tailor".

1841 Census (7th June) Ayr (578) Book 2. Page 3.

High Street, Ayr.


Age Occupation Where Born
Andrew Burns 67 Clothier Yes
Janet Burns 40   No
Andrew Burns 35 Tailor England
Margaret Burns 12   Yes
Anne Burns 9   Yes
Isobel Burns 7   Yes
Elizabeth Burns 5   Yes
Sarah Burns l0 months    Yes
Helen Crawford 17 Female Servant Yes

Andrew went on to have a further two children with Janet - John born on 6th November 1842 and William born on 30th September 1844, the final son fathered in Andrew's seventieth year!!. For the census of 1851 Andrew and Janet were living at 38 High Street. I suspect the daughter Sarah aged 9 in this census is the same as the daughter aged 10 months in the 1841 census - obviously if she is the one and the same here age should be 10. The "visitor" Andrew Cowan is almost certainly Andrew's grandson by his daughter Janet and John Cowan.

1851 Census (31st March) Ayr (578) Book 1 Page 11

38 High Street, Ayr


Relationship Age Occupation Where Born
Andrew Burns Head 77 Clothier Ayr, Ayrshire
Janet Burns Wife 56   Scone, Perthshire
Margaret Burns Daughter 21   Ayr, Ayrshire
Isabella Burns Daughter 17   Ayr, Ayrshire
Elizabeth Burns Daughter 16   Ayr, Ayrshire
Sarah Burns Daughter 9   Ayr, Ayrshire
John Burns Son 8   Ayr, Ayrshire
William Burns Son 6 Scholar Ayr, Ayrshire
Andrew Cowan Visitor 22 Clerk to a Coal Agent Ayr, Ayrshire

According to the detail in the aforementioned diary Andrew was 5'10" (which agrees with his discharge papers), and weighed about 16 to 18 stone, and became Deacon of the Tailors, and Deacon Convenor of the Trades in Ayr. He was also a Grand Master Mason of the Royal Arch Lodge of Freemasons in Ayr. He seems to have been a very good tailor!! In 1839, aged 65, he took part in the Eglinton Tournament as an archer.

Andrew Burns died 11th March 1852, aged 78, and was buried in the burying ground of the Auld Kirk in Ayr. Janet Bell his second wife lived on to the age of 72, dying on 23 December 1872.  (For a Transcription of the headstone - See Appendix M.) In his will he left 441. 8. 3. (For a Transcription of the Inventory and his marriage contract with Janet Bewll - See Appendix J.)

His father Andrew Burns was a sailor for 70 years, spending most of his time in the Merchant Service although he also sailed on Man-o-war ships. He was 5'4" and a smoker, loving his pipe. His mother Elizabeth Tulloch Campbell died on 28 September 1807. Interestingly the transcription of the family gravestone just names her as Elizabeth Tulloch? Andrew remarried a coiple of years thereafter to Jean McDowal on 23 January 1809, in Ayr. He would have been aged about 75 and Jean about 53 (going by her age recorded at the time of her demise). Jean died on 3 January 1832, in Ayr. She was buried on 5 January and recorded in the OPR as "Jean McDowal, wife of Andrew Burns, Sailor, aged 79" and the cause of desth given as "Decay of Nature". Andrew Burns died 5th December 1834 aged 97.

Andrew Burns, the father, was baptised on 5th March 1738, the son of John Burns and a Janet Hunter. He was seven therefore at the time of the 1745 rising and remembered Prince Charlie's troops and hiding in a yard amongst some kail in fear of being killed. Andrew Burns had at least two sisters and one brother: - Anne and Martha baptised 12 May 1735, and John baptised 19 December 1742, all baptisms recorded in the Parish Register of Irvine. Presumably Anne and Martha were twins, the predisposition for which reappeared with William and Mary, born in Fort George on the 18th April 1801 to Andrew Burns and Margaret Blackwood.

The HUNTER in Sarah HUNTER Burns, daughter of Andrew Burns and Janet Bell born 19th August 1840, may well be a reference to Janet HUNTER the maternal grandmother of Andrew Burns!!