Do we have the wrong John Raitt?

We know that our great great grandfather was John Raitt born in 1805 in Arbroath and that his wife was Elizabeth Dorward born 1808 in Arbroath. John’s father was Alexander Raitt (born 1768 in Arbroath) and his mother was Susan Millar (born 1775 in Monifeth). We also accept that Alexander’s father was also a John Raitt and his mother was Jean Meikison born about 1742 in Arbroath and they married in 1763 in Arbroath.

However, while it is tacitly believed, it has never been fully proved just who this John Raitt is and thus that our ancestors were really his parents Thomas Raitt (Reat) ostensibly born about 1699 in Arbroath and Helen Hunter born 1700 in Forfar. Thomas and Helen married in 1724 and had at least five children between 1725 and 1733. Their son John was christened on 7 July 1727 in Arbroath. Thomas was a sailor according to the information given on his children’s birth extracts and certainly seafaring was in the blood of my Raitt ancestors. In point of fact, there does not seem to be a Thomas Raitt born in Arbroath in 1699, but there was one born in Arbuthnott, Kincardineshire in 1700.

We are not sure who Jean Meikison’s parents or family were (we will speculate on this anon) but she married a John Raitt on 8 June 1763 in Arbroath and they had at least four children between 1765 and 1770. Our Alexander was their third child and born in 1768.

Now given that young men married in their early twenties in those days and women even younger, then we could assume that if she had her first child in 1765 then Jean Meikison was probably around 20 when she got married in 1763 – hence her estimated birth date of about 1742 (it could even be somewhat later, say 1745).

If her husband was the John Raitt, son of Thomas Raitt and Helen Hunter and born in 1727, then he would have been 36 when he married Jean and so 15-18 years older than her. Of course, he could have been married before, but it would have been unusual for there to be such an age difference and for him to marry so late in that day and age.

So perhaps Jean Meikison's husband was not the John Raitt born 1727, but  rather the John Raitt born 19 Jun 1739 at Grange of Conon, St Vigeans to David Raitt/Reat (born 1690) and Jean Leslie/Lesly (born abt 1699). This would be a much better fit with the age difference: 1739 for John and about 1742 for Jean. And he seems to be pretty much the only other John in that neck of the woods around the right time. He would have been 24 at marriage. One possible problem with this is that David and Jean had an earlier son John in 1724 - to name a second son John often implies the first had died. There was also a John Raitt born in Kinnell, Angus in 1727.

In the Arbroath/St Vigeans churchyards there are a number of old gravestones that bear the name Raitt (or variations). Since official records have long been lost for this period, analyzing the names on the stones affords some interesting possibilities regarding relationships (there are Meikisons mentioned) – but they appear to tie in certain individuals with the scenario above. But that is the subject of another blog another day.

Sunday, 4 October 2009