Leaps and bounds in isolation

December 8th 2020. I have travelled to Singapore during the Covid-19 pandemic to visit my son. Singapore is vigilant about passengers arriving from other parts of the world where the virus is rampant, and made me stay isolated in a hotel for 14 days. During this tedious time I have spend several hours updating my family history.


I kind of knew that we were descended from Aberdeen in Scotland. But I was delighted to find that not only do we have some aristocratic blood (very diluted now of course) but that one of my ancestors served Robert the Bruce in 1323.


I am using Find My Past again to trace my family. I have toyed with other systems, but find FInd My Past is the easiest system to use. Find My Past has millions, if not billions, of records and has a brilliant system of offering hints, which you can use to expand your family tree. But once you go further back than the mid 1800s there are few official records available. But there are baptism and burial records reaching further bsck, and other members' trees can be compared to see if there is common ancestry.. I pursued my Jaffray ancestry, as I have been doing for many years now, and had a breakthrough when I discovered that a distant Jaffray – Alexander to be precise 1550 - 1620 – had married into the Burnett family. His new wife was Christian Burnett. She was the eighth child of Alexander Burnett of Kynneskie, who in turn was the younger son of the 4th Baron and the 9th Laird of Leys. He was born in 1500. This branch of the family built Crathes Castle in Kincardineshire, not too far from Aberdeen.


Having found that out, it was very easy to get back to the Normans, thanks to tremendous research done by the current Burnetts. Our branch is a long way from aristocracy now, but I can claim that my 22nd great grandfather gave rise to a long line of Lairds and Baronets, having given stalwart service to their sovereigns, Robert the Bruce and later, James II.


Wikipedia informs me that Alexander Burnard, almost certainly of Farningdoun, is considered "The first of the Deeside Burnards, or Burnetts as they were later called". Alexander was an adherent of Robert the Bruce and for his services to the king he was rewarded in 1323 with land in Banchory and a position as the Royal Forester of Drum. He also received a charter of that king of the lands of Kilhenach, Clerech, and other lands in Aberdeenshire dated 28 March 1324. This was about the time the Burnard or Burnett family first took up residence on an artificial island called a crannog, on the Loch of Leys.


The history of the family from this time onward is recorded in detail. During the next three centuries the Burnetts came to gain prominence in the area by making connections with the church, granting lands and other endowments. John Burnet "of Leyis", the fifth laird, was the first in this family to bear

the distinction "of Leys" which from this time onward was applied both to the lands and to the family who held them. His son, Alexander Burnet of Leys was the first 'Baron of Leys' during the reigns of James II of Scotland, James III and James IV.

In 1553, Alexander Burnet of Leys, the ninth lord of Leys - and the point from which my family started to diverge from the Burnetts - began construction on Crathes Castle, which was finished by his great-grandson, another Alexander, the twelfth lord, in 1596.



Left: 3rd Laird of Leys



But I haven’t forgotten the other branches of my family. The Jaffrays also descended from Norman knights - Geoffroi we think was his name.


Other branches produced shipwrights from Cornwall, stone masons from Devon - both of these were the Shapcotts - a master poulterer from Highgate (Weatherly), a gas fitter from south London (Richard Evans), and his son Frederick who became the Secretary of a gentlemen's club in London, a great grandfather Jaffray) who found his way back from Melbourne, Australia as a boy, having lost his parents in an accident of which I can find no mention anywhere, a whole branch of farmers from Donegal (Knoxes and Armstrongs), a customs official in Coleraine (Bell), an opera signer - my grandmother Annie Elizabeth Bell, and – the chap who got me started on all of this - Alexander Jaffray (1614 - 1673) a bailie in Aberdeen. It is his diary that got me interested.


It’s absolutely fascinating to keep researching. It never stops.I can pick it up when I have time, and drop it when I don't. I am anxious that the younger members of the family should know where they come from.


Our family has diverged hugely in the 20th and 21st centuries. My sister married into a Spanish family, with its own rich history. My nephew has married into a half-Ghanaian family. My son has married into a Singaporean Chinese family, and my grandchildren can look back at millenia of history in Asia, Africa, and Spain as well as Scotland, Ireland, England, and Wales.