Family history quest

The following piece of family history has been sent to us from Australia with a plea for any more information regarding these family names.

My GG Grandfather, an Ulster Scot from Newry, was an explorer. After the North Australia expedition with the Augustus brothers he went gold prospecting in California.

His mother and wife were Spottiswoodes of Newry. His mother’s sister, Sarah Blackham, and her family also immigrated to Adelaide on The Eden in 1838.

If you know anyone who is into the Wilson family would you pass this email on please? You never know what they might have.

It is impossible to research the Wilson line due to the name being so common. There were a couple of Captain Wilson’s plying the Scaur and a John Willson who sailed on the HM Lyme.  I have not yet found any evidence that Newry merchant John Swanzy Wilson at Sugar House Quay Newry had a connection with the Spotswoods or Cluxtons (Clugstons).

Instead I have been trying to track the rarer Spottiswoodes.  Being merchants, printers, booksellers and lawyers, the family set up branches in India, Jamaica, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Canada, South Africa etc. I doubt my line is closely related to the famous Governor Alexander Spotswood and related naval officers. My family seem a bit too liberal leaning.

Their fascination with science, antiquities and exploration leads me to imagine they are more likely to come from priests, lawyers or merchants. The family rumour is that William Wilson was a grocer. That is consistent with a merchant.

In the 1600s the Spottiswoodes started in Berwickshire, it seems they spread to Edinborough and Midlothian. There is a lot of info about the famous ecclesiastical Spotswoods. Being close to Royalty can be hazardous. There were plots to kill the Queen and heads getting chopped off. Branches spread to Kirkcudbright, Northumberland and some fled to Durham. Militia duties may have taken them to Westminster and Limerick, then connections with the Connolly estate took them to Tralee, Kilcullen. I think the family split on Catholic/ Presbyterian lines during the 1790s rebellion. Mine (the Protestants) settled as saddlers in Newry by 1788.

Needless to say, the links between the various locations are pretty speculative. I have so much data but have not brought it together in a useable format. Plenty of work to do. At least I have learned a lot of history.

Family memoirs have it that John Spottiswood of Warrenpoint married Elizabeth Cluxton. We have found no record of it.  It may be that Elizabeth was deaf as the Cluxton website tells of twin brother brother and sister around there. She left a minimal paper trail, unlike my GGG.

Elizabeth’s first son drowned at sea when the Green Hiou sunk (1828) returning to Ireland from America. Her daughter Sarah married her cousin, James Spottiswoode Wilson in 1837 (My GGG). James wrote 3 books that I know of. Ancient artifacts he discovered in Ecuador were shown at the Great Exhibition and are housed in the British museum. He was an inventor and avid geologist.

I wish I could connect him to the famous Wilson’s involved in the Declaration of Independence. The radical Dublin printer, William Spotswood fled to Pennsylvania(1785) where he associated with revolutionaries at that time. He married his second wife Alicia Stewart in Newry apparently abandoning her for good when he emigrated.

The intertwined families of my Ulster Scot ancestors came from the border of Scotland right back to medieval times. What is weird is how those Border families are always found together even now, hundreds of years later. Just look at the employees of the public service in any Commonwealth country.

If anyone can contribute anymore information to this piece of family history, please contact