Laird of Cragganfearn

Cragganfearn, Logierait Parish, Scotland in 2018. Photo by Eddie Thomson
Cragganfearn, Logierait Parish, Scotland in 2018. Photo by Eddie Thomson (https://www.heartlandtours.co.uk/)

Many families have a story from the past that takes on mythic qualities in the retelling. In genealogy, however, it is important to examine the story critically and evaluate the evidence. (1)

The Fleming family’s story has been about the “laird of Cragganfearn”,  the belief that Alexander Fleming’s grandfather had been “laird of Cragganfearn”, an estate of some 260 acres in the central part of the Atholl region of Perthshire. As the story goes, Alexander Fleming’s father, John, met his future wife Janet Ross at Cragganfearn where she was a servant. John’s father, the laird, banned the marriage and disinherited his son when John disobeyed. Very romantic, but how much is true? To be a laird means owning a substantial estate. Did a Fleming own that estate?

Others have wondered. In 2006 there was a heated thread at Rootschat in which three Fleming descendants sought information about the laird. One respondent (not a descendant) with the handle Tickle pointed out that the entire area had been owned by the Duke of Atholl in the 1700s, and that rental records at the Blair Estate in Blair Atholl (north of Logierait and Cragganfearn) would have the answer.

We examine the sources of this story, the information itself, and the evidence from land records and other accounts. We will see that the “lairdship” story began as wishful thinkin and continued thus. Continue reading

Derby Township Assessment Rolls

In investigating the lives of our ancestors much can be inferred from the tax assessment rolls.  In researching the Flemings of Derby Township we can see  acquisition of acreage, clearance of forests for pasture and crops, and the growing value in real property. Five of Alexander’s sons (James, John, Alexander II, Donald, and Charles), and his son-in-law (James Agnew)  became established as farmers. William, the sixth son, left his farm and moved to Owen Sound in the early 1880s.

Assessment rolls were completed annually by the township in order to determine taxes payable by its residents.

Assessment rolls are used to record information about a resident’s property in order to determine the amount of taxes payable on real property.  The following information is recorded: land and building value; status as residence or business, religion (for school taxation purposes), age, and occupation of head of household and number of people living on the property.  Other information is collected from time to time reflecting local or provincial requirements. [Source: Finding Municipal Record, Research Guide 209, Archives of Ontario]

Continue reading

From Petition to Patent

Obtaining land from the Crown in Upper Canada began with a written petition to the Crown stating who you were and what you sought, and culminated in receiving the patent (as the deed was called) to the land.

In the summer of 1847 Alexander Fleming with his son James walked from Vaughan, near Toronto, north to the newly opened Derby Township in Grey County. Their purpose was to examine available lots and make a selection. Alexander likely submitted a petition to request Lots 9 and 10 in the 6th Concession, and , after paying the ₤ 157.12, received patents for the land 23 November 1847. We know from a copy of the receipt kept by the family that most of the payment was made in script, a type of voucher given to soldiers that could be redeemed for land or traded to others for money.

His next recorded purchase was Lot 6 Concession 9 in 1858, but we learn from papers Continue reading