Raitt - Meikison Origins

The material uploaded on the Raitts of Angus (and prior to that on the Raits of Hallgreen and Anniston) has prompted me to look at my origins anew. Just which John Raitt married Jean Meikison on 8 June 1763 in Arbroath? And when and where was Jean born and to whom? We know they had at least four children born in Arbroath: Anne in 1765, William in 1767, Alexander in 1768 and Jean in 1770. Unlike other Raitts in the general area there is no abode given in the Old Parish Birth Registers. If there were that might indicate a degree of relationship with say the Raitts of Colliston,  Cononsyth, Tarry or elsewhere. As it is, the fact that there is no abode given may imply that the parents were married, and the children born, in the town itself rather than the surrounding parish. Not that that helps too much, except it does possibly rule out that John was a farmer. Living in the town then might suggest he was a weaver (later generations were) or that he was a seaman – like his grandsons.

It was assumed that Jean Meikison was born about 1742 – presumably because she’d be a decent marriageable age of about 20 in 1763. An initial assumption by others about John seemed to be that he was the one born in 1727 to Thomas Raitt and Helen Hunter – probably because this John was born in Arbroath like his offspring. However, as I have noted elsewhere this would make him considerably older (some 15 years) than Jean at a time when couples were pretty much the same age. Of course, it might be that Jean was an older woman - possibly a widow - though given that she had four children after her marriage to John, then this is probably unlikley. I myself considered it more likely that John might be the son of David Raitt and Jean Leslie (various spellings) born in Arbroath in 1739 (they appear to have had another son called John born in 1724 – but presumably he died and as we have seen parents often (or at least sometimes) named another child after an earlier one who had died young). The name David has been carried down through the generations in my family ancestry (as have also the names of John's siblings James and William), whereas the name Thomas has not. And a birth of 1739 is closer to the approximate date of 1742 for Jean. (As an aside, if the naming conventions were upheld, then the father of David Raitt/Reat (husband of Jean Leslie) may well have been James Raitt since this is the name of David and Jean's eldest son.)

But I thought I’d look at other possibilities for John’s date of birth and parents in Angus or possibly Kincardineshire in case his ancestors were offshoots of the Raitts of Hallgreen. If the year 1727 had been considered, why not other dates around that time. So in 1723 we had the John, son of Francis Rate and Anne Low in Guthrie; in 1724 in St Vigeans the John, son of David Reat and Jean Leslie; in 1725, there was the son of David Rait and Margaret Brown in Dundee; in 1727 we had John, son of Thomas Raitt and Helen Hunter in Arbroath, as well as the John son of William Raitt and Margaret Greig in Kinnell. These are all rather old  I feel to have married in 1763 for presumably the first time and later to have had children.

Thus more likely are any of the following: the John born in 1737 to Alexander Rait and Margaret Archibald in Carmyllie; the one born in 1738 to William Rait in Arbuthnott, Kincardineshire; the John born in Fordoun, Kincardineshire to John Raitt; or the John born in 1739 to David Reat and Jean Leslie in St Vigeans. (Out of these the names of their fathers Alexander, William, John and David have all been carried down.) There is also a John born to David Raitt in 1747 in Liff, Benvie and Invergowrie; and one born to Thomas Raitt and Margaret Symmers in 1748 in Monikie – but these are probably too young and as noted the name Thomas has not been carried down.

Going back to the meagre parish records, the witnesses to the wedding of John Raitt and Jean Meikison were John Meikison and William Raitt. The witnesses to the birth of daughter Jean in 1770 were the same pair – the same names crop up at the other baptisms. I think I had thought originally for some reason that witness William was possibly the brother of John, but now I believe he was, in fact, more logically the father and that John Meikison was the father of Jean, rather than a brother. If traditional naming patterns were being used, then the first son of John and Jean would be named after his grandfather, i.e. William. And that is the case here! (Though I don’t, as yet, have any further details on this son apart from his birth in March 1767 and the fact that a William Rait married in 1785 and another in 1787.) So we could surmise that a William Raitt was the father of John Raitt. From the list above, there appear to be only two possibilities: John born to William Raitt and Margaret Greig in 1727 in Kinnell; or John born to William Rait in Arbuthnott, Kincardineshire in 1738. As noted above, I feel the latter date of birth is the more likely.

Now, in Arbuthnott, William Rait is given as the father of ten children between 1735-1750 including John in 1738. The only irritating problem is that there appear to be two William Raits who married in Arbuthnott! One married Janet Christyson on 13 Feb 1734, the other married Ann Robert on 22 August 1734. If this is correct, which children belong to which mother? That is not easy to resolve since none of the names are duplicated, three have no first name, and two were born in the same month and year. Neither William appears to have been born in Arbuthnott – although several children were born there between 1694-1704 to David Rait and Anna Allardes who married there in 1691; and also to John Rait and Elizabeth Molyson who married there in 1692. There were also earlier as well as later Raitt marriages there (I hope to prepare a separate piece on the Arbuthnott Raitts).

To marry in 1734 would mean that William would probably have had to have been born around 1710-1715 in principle, but there are three births of William Raitts in Angus and Kincardineshire between 1700-1706 (Montrose, Monikie, Arbroath) and four between 1714-1719 (Glamis, Tealing, Dundee and Guthrie) – all places where various Rait(t)s were ministers! If he was not born in Arbuthnott, then presumably either he was born relatively nearby or else he moved there for work. Arguably the estate of Arbuthnott, with its house and castle, was probably the biggest employer in the area. But apart from Montrose, all the other birth towns are relatively far away and nearer to the larger cities of Dundee, Forfar or Arbroath where there would presumably have been better employment opportunities.

If the net is expanded either by age or county (Aberdeenshire), then we find William Raitts born in the 1690s in Kinnell (Angus), Bervie (Kincardineshire), Fyvie (Aberdeenshire) and again in Fyvie in 1705 and 1711. However, Fyvie is too far away really and Kinnell is closer to Arbroath. The William Rait born in Bervie on 22 Nov 1698 to William Rait (who looks to have married Janet Cooke there on 20 July 1693) might be a possibility since Bervie is only a stone’s throw from both Hallgreen and Arbuthnott. However, this William would be 35 when he married – somewhat old I feel.

If William was born around 1715, then his father would have been born about 1690 or so. And if William was the eldest son (which is, of course, not known), then he would probably have been named after his grandfather – who would have been born around 1665-70. However, William might have been the third son and thus named after his father, who would have been born somewhat earlier than 1665. This, of course, puts these Raitts in the frame for descendants of the original Raits of Hallgreen!  

Going back to John – if indeed he was the one who was born in Arbuthnott in 1738 – then at some point before 1763 (the date of his marriage to Jean Meikison) he must have made his way from Arbuthnott to Arbroath. Whether this was for work or because his father moved the family there is not known. If John wanted be a seaman, there were closer opportunities in Aberdeen and Montrose, and Dundee was also a possibility. If he was drawn by work in the weaving industry, then Arbroath was likely, but even more so were Brechin or Dundee. Farming provided much closer work to home.

But if the William who was John’s putative father, was the one born on 8 Nov 1706 in Arbroath to Robert Rait and Jean Steven, then maybe he had moved up north for some reason and then decided to move back to Arbroath bringing his family with him. This William would be 27 at marriage – not too unreasonable (though the name Robert has not been carried down through my ancestral family).

The (incomplete) tree of the Raits of Hallgreen and their descendants shows many of the names in my family. But there are several other names besides Thomas and Robert that have not been continued in my family and they include George, Francis and Patrick – to my mind that probably precludes me being descended from those bearing that name.

In fact, I, and my cousins of course (including Scottish, American and Australian at the very least), am descended from Alexander Raitt, the second son of John Raitt and Jean Meikison. If the logic of naming is applied, then this would imply that either he should have been named John after his maternal grandfather (i.e the John Meikson who witnessed Jean’s marriage) or else that John Meikison was not in fact Jean’s father. The name patterns also seem to break down though because Alexander, born 1768, named his first born Alexander when it should have been William after his (possible) paternal grandfather (unless there was another child born and died beforehand). This Alexander presumably died as a baby because the second son a year later (1799) was also named Alexander. The next son, John, was named “correctly” – his maternal grandfather (though it could equally have been after his paternal one.)  However, son Alexander does name his first born after his father, John (i.e the child’s grandfather), and his third born after himself. The second son is named James – though his maternal grandfather appears to have been called John.

One interesting thing, though, is that this Alexander Raitt (i.e born 1799) is “laid before” (buried in front of) Alexander Meekison’s stone (along with John Raitt – presumably his paternal grandfather, and James Stormont – presumably his father-in-law) in Arbroath Abbey and there is a gravestone to him (Alexander Raitt) erected by son James on which is also mentioned John Mikeson and his wife Agnes Shakirt. The wording on the stone is John Mikeson, maltman burges, died 14 Feb 1694, aged 63, wife Agnes Shakirt, died 4 March 1703, aged 59 - followed by crossed shovel and broom, and initials A.S. John and Agnes married in 1671 and had a son, John, in March 1672. He may have died as they seem to have had another John in October 1673. They also had a son James born in April 1677. I am wondering whether Alexander was possibly another son of John and Agnes - though he could have been a son of the John born 1672. I am also wondering whether  Alexander was the father of the John, who I now believe was Jean’s father.  

If John Mikeson was born in 1631 and married Agnes in 1671, he would have been aged 40 - rather old to be married for the first time (she was 27). So perhaps he was married before - maybe to Agnis Thomson in 1666. Although John’s approximate date of birth can be calculated from the gravestone, there seems to be no actual record of his birth extant. There are, though, several events in Arbroath around his time that might refer to siblings and/or cousins (rather than a parent). For instance, Alexander Mikisonne became a father in 1654, as did George Mikisonne. A Patrick Murisone married Agnis Balfowre in 1665 - this might be the Patrick Mickison and Agnis Balfour who had a child in 1672. John Mickison married Agnis Thomson in 1666, while John Mickison married Jane Talbert in 1670. In 1671 John Mickison (also Migesone) married Isobel Wiseheart. Patrick Mickison married Jeane Reid in 1673 and John Mechison had a child with Agnis Richart in 1677. Alexander Meikeson from Arbroath married Jean Repar in 1682 in St Vigeans, and Patrick Migesone (also Magiesone) married Margrat Torrie in 1693.  

None of these would appear to be children of the John Meikison who married Agnes Shakirt (Shakkart), and clearly, since there are several Johns, they cannot all be his brothers!

There are other Meikisons in Arbroath though with variant spellings and more work is required to establish the relationships between them. For instance, there was a John Migieson was born in July 1733 in Arbroath to John Migieson and Jean Mathieson and there was a James Meikison who was a shoemaker in Arbroath in 1766. And we know that on 25 Mar 1827 a child (John D. Raitt who died of fever) of the above Alexander Raitt (born 1799) and Mary Stormont was buried in Arbroath on the right of Swt (Stewart?) Meekison's stone. So who was he? A Stewart Mickieson was born in St Vigeans in September 1793 to David Mickieson and Mary Shand who married in 1789. (This suggests that the child’s middle name might have been David.)  A Stewart Meekison married Elizabeth Esson on 8 Apr 1831 in Arbroath and this is probably the the same Stewart (i.e son of David since in fact he appears to be the only Stewart Meikison - or whatever variation - bearing that name). His occupation at marriage was given as mariner - which would tie him in with Alexander Raitt who was also a mariner. However, the child John D. Raitt was buried long before this Stewart died - so either there is another lurking around, or else the description of where John D.’s grave was located was given some time later after  Stewart had died.

David Mickieson’s date of birth and parentage is not known. However, he is unlikely to be a brother of Jean Meikison given that he married in 1789. However, there is a David Meekison who married Janet Reid on 4 Nov 1752 in Arbroath and at a pinch he might be an elder brother of Jean.

I think then that, on balance, I am now reasonably confident enough to add John Meikison/Agnes Shakirt to the family tree as the most distant ancestors known so far of the Meikisons, but whether there are two generations or three between them and Jean I am not sure yet. I am tentatively suggesting that the John Meikison, who witnessed her marriage and the birth of at least one of her children, was her father. He might conceivably be the John Meikeson who married Jean Bathie on 20 Feb 1725 in Arbroath. They had two known children: James in 1726 and John in 1733. At present I have found no other likely suitable person, whether called John or not. See additional information on the Meikison name under Related Coats of Arms.


The tree below shows some of the family members and descendants where known down to my great grandfather’s generation and starts with John Raitt and Jean Meikison of whom we are sure.