Some Background Research for Lyon Court
*Copies of letters with Lord Lyon are available to members in the MEMBERS ONLY Section.
In our previous communications with Lord Lyon, he had requested further research validating Thomson families in Lothian and the Borders. I have included examples of Thomson families being recognized by both
the English and Scottish sovereigns.
In every war-torn battlefield, the survivors are frequently faced with a conflict of loyalties. The Thomsons of the west Marche were no different and often sided with the likely winner or even more commonly with their own kin and neighbors. The Eskdale families (which included Thomsons) were forced into this condition after James V treacherously hanged the Armstrong leaders and supporters on 26 July, 1530. With their homes and farms destroyed, the only means of livelihood was the reiving and raiding of more prosperous communities south of the Border. The English Lord Wharton reported, “The Batysons and Thomsons of Eskdale, have burnt a town called Grange, with all the corn therein, and brought away nolt (cows) and other goods amounting to eche of them in their dividing 8 shillings.” Again in the 1540s, Lord Wharton reported, “The Batysons, Thomsons and Lytles of Esskdayle, Ewesdaill and Wacopdale burnt a town on the Water of Dryff called Blendallbush, and brought away 16 oxen and Keyne, some nags and with all the insight of the town.” Subsequently, in 1544, Lord Wharton invaded Scotland and brought the Scottish families ruthlessly to heel, even persuading some of them, under an English assurance, to restrict their raids to their fellow Scots. In a report to the Earl of Shewsbury, Lord Wharton wrote, “hundrethe of the Batysons of Eskdaill and the Thomsons, brent (burned) a town called Fastheughe, taking away all the insight, certain nags, and fiftie nowte.”The same two families attacked Branxholme and Mosshouse, “smoked very sore the towers, slew many Scots and then wane a tower of the Captains of Edinburgh Castle, called Burdlands, burnt all the roofs within the walls, and coming home took may oxen and shepe besiede one Scot slayne.”
While the English army was ravaging East Lothian in 1547, Lords Lennox and Wharton crossed the Esk to subdue the South of Annandale and Castlemilk, The country, being stricken with fear, the Lairds and all the families(clans) came and gave an oath of obeisance as subjects to the King of England. In Bell’s Manuscript, preserved in the Carlisle Cathedral Library, there is a list of the chiefs and their men who surrendered. The list contains some 304 Beatties, Littles and Thomsons ---all had served the English - some above a year, some more than three years. The peace arranged in 1551 provided that the West Marche “Debatable land” between the Esk and Sark would belong to neither kingdom.
On April 6, 1569 a bond was signed at Kelso to show support for the young King during the civil war between Queen Mary, her third husband, Bothwell, and the Protestant party under Regent for the infant king, referencing “the barons, landit men and gentlemen, inhabitants of Sheriffdom of Berwick Roxburgh, Selkirk, and Peebles.・The forsigned professed themselves specially enemies to all persons named Armstrong, Elliot, Nickson, Little, Beattie, Thomson, Irving, Bell, Johnstone, Glendinning, Routlege, Henderson and Scott of Ewisdale ・those families who had fought on the side of the Queen at Langholm.
The Parliamentary Register of 10 December, 1585 act in favour of John [Maxwell], Earl of Morton, his friends, and servants (and others) gave general abolition for “...all facts, and deeds, committed by him or any other person hereafter enumerated in this present ordinance including slaughter, raiding, reives, plunder, depredations, pillaging done at any time since April 1569 to the day and date of this Act shall be abolished and extinct forever. To the effect it may be clearly understood it shall only appertain the persons after-following: (some omitted for brevity) John Thomson in Millhead, Thomas Thomson, his brother; John Wallace elder of Carzield, Nicol Thomson and 20 others, John Nicolson in Corriewood, Roger Thomson, John Thomson, Roger Thomson, his sons, James Thomson, smith, David Thomson, his son, and 4 others, John Thomson of Know, and 6 others, John Turner in Carse, John Thomson, and 26 others, John Callan in Drumcrago, Thomas Thomson, and 3 others, William Thomson in Clynt, Andrew and John Thomson, his brothers, John Beattie in Glenbervell, 28 Beatties, Ade Thomson, Edward Thomson, John Thomson, Sim Thomson, John Thomson, alias Rowll, Dick Thomson, Will Thomson, 8 Littles, 4 Glendinnings, and 6 others, Christie Armstrong of Barnglies, John Murry, his man, John Thomson, Jock Bell, his servants and 6 others, Robert Graham, dwelling on Serk Water, Martin Thomson, and 8 others, Robert MacVitie, writer to Kinmont, Archie and Adam Thomson, Geordie Thomson in Kirgill, Jock Thomson, Adie and Jock Thomson, his brothers, Wat in Allebasterland, John Thomson, John Thomson in Kirkgill, Archie Thomson in Allebasterland, Nicky and Jock Thomson, John Thomson in Pollorane, Tom Armstrong, son to the Laird’s Rowe, Geordie Thomson, Ringane, Armstrong of Auchinbedrig, Sim Thomas, and 10 others, Captain John Maxwell of Aikenhead, Lieutenant John Thomson, and 19 others, John Edgar of Holme, John Thomson, James Thomson, and 162 other horsemen, Captain William Maxwell, Adam Thomson, Richie Thomson, and 164 other horsemen.”
In 1581, the Parliament of Scotland rendered a whole clan jointly answerable, in the way of retaliation, for the delinquencies of each individual. In another statute passed shortly after, the chief of each clan was made responsible of all the misdeeds of his surname. In consequence of these acts, a roll was made of the nobles, barons, chieftains and Clans residing on the Borders, and Highlands in 1587. In this roll (West Marche) appear the surnames; Scotts of Ewesdale, Batesons, Littles, Thomsons, Glendinnings, Irvings, Bells, Carruthers, Grahams, Johnstons, Jardines, Moffats, and Latimers. In addition, Monypeny’s Chronicle, published in 1587, enumerates sixty-five lairds and gentleman as residing in Dumfriessire. There were also twenty “chief men of name, not being lairds” among which are Young Archie Thomson and Sym Thomson.
A 1594 Act of the Scottish parliament for the “Punishment of theft, robbery, oppression and sorning” cited a “great number of wicked thieves, oppressors and peace-breakers of the surnames of ......Bells, Carlisles, Beatsons, Littles, Thomsons, Johnstons, et al.” (remainder omitted for brevity).
The oldest known Thomson Armorial is included in the 1565 Workman’s Manuscript, [folio 55, shield #5] and is believed by some to have been copied from the Forman Armorial, National Library, with additions from David Lyndsay and others. The arms of Thomson of That Ilk, as described in the Workman’s Manuscript (1565-1568) were never included in Lyon Court registrations. Be that as it may, successive Lyons have used the design in subsequent arms granted to Thomson Petitioners listed HERE:
THE ONE THING THE SURNAME THOMSON DOES NOT HAVE IS A RECOGNIZED CHIEF!
The preliminary research indicates there are several possible candidates who held positions as heads of the Thomson families, and deserve further investigation:
* Sym and young Archie Thomson of Dumfriesshire as listed in the Monypeny’s Chronicle.
* The 1585 Act in favor of John Maxwell has more than 40 Thomsons from 7 separate probable families in Milhead, Carriewood, Know, Clynt, Glenbervell, Kirgil and Allebasterland. If the first name listed from a certain village indicates the leader of that group then John Thomson could be termed “head of the Thomson family of Millhead.”
* Roger Thomson could be considered “head” of the 6 Thomsons from Corriewood.
* John Thomson of Know, is singled out as owning a heritable interest in the land.
* William Thomson and brothers from Clynt.
* The seven Thomsons of Glendervill.
* Georgie Thomson in Kirgill.
* Archie Thomson in Allebasterland.
We have recorded thousands of Thomson births, marriages and deaths in the Marches and Lothian regions, but basic numbers show little of the apparent Thomson tragedy. The analysis of Thomson families in the 32 parishes of Roxburghshire provides a representative sample of the Thomson family in the Borders:
* The names as recorded in the parishes, between 1600 and 1800 are: Thomson - 1435, Thompson - 98, Thomsone - 33, Thompsone - 19, Thomsen - 1 and Thomlisone - 1.
* In the first half of the 17th century there were only 58 births/christenings of which 43 were in the Kelso parish.
* The second half of the 17th century shows the number of births had increased to 132: Kelso - 34, Stitchel and Hume - 31, Jedburgh - 24, Harwick - 15, the remainder in 13 parishes.
* Overall during the 200 years there were 1570 Thomson births/christenings and 644 marriages.
* It is the early marriages in the border regions that portray the desperate situation of the people of the Borders. In all of Roxburghshire, there were only 8 Thomson marriages between 1600 and 1633. All of which were in the Kelso Parish. Seven (7) of these marriages were Thomson women into other surnames. Apparently all the Thomson men of marriageable age were either dead or fugitives. In this same 33 years, Kelso was the only parish out of the 32 in Roxburghshire that recorded any Thomson births or Christenings. The 16 Thomson parents had only 39 children. Parish data provided by Scottish archivists Mary Langton and Mary Thomson in Galashiels.
In summation: The early 16th century Thomsons of Scotland were primarily concentrated in Lothian (Edinburgh), the Kelso area of the East Marche and the Liddesdale/ Debatable land of the West Marche. The 1587 Roll of the Clans included the Thomsons of the West Marche, i.e. Dumfrieshire. They are listed with Scotts of Ewesdale, Batesons, Littles, Glendinings, Irvings, Bells, Carruthers, Grahams, Johnstones, Jardines, Mofats and Latimers. It is clear that these neighboring families were never “can”in the modern accepted sense of highland Clans. They were, however significant families with “chiefs, chieftains and captains” and some became recognized by Lyon as modern clans: Little, Irvine, Bell, Graham, Johnston, Jardine, Moffat, Elliot, Armstrong, and Maxwell to name a few.
UPDATE Apr 2010: Since we originally posted the information on these pages, we have had a number of our members do DNA testing and we have discovered that of the 10 or so with over 37 markers, 6 can prove they are genetically linked! They come from various parts of the US, had no knowledge of any ancestral connections, but it’s there in black and white now. AND......the ancestors they go back to (with a -1 or -2 marker) are from the Dumfriesshire/West Marche region of the Scottish border.
Why is this important??? Because it proves that today’s descendants are MORE than just “Patronymic surnames.”We are descended from related males in Scotland, in the border region. WE ARE FAMILY in fact....not just in name!
Thomsons were a Riding Clan and made their own way.........and we’re continuing in their footsteps as we restore their memory and say once again to those who stand in our way - DENY US NOT!