Return to James Donaldson

His Family & Their Descendants

  James Donaldson 1792 to 1834 2nd son of James Donaldson of the Devon Iron Works
  Janet Donaldson 1797 to 1861 1st daughter of James Donaldson of the Devon Iron Works
  John Donaldson 1790 to 1863 1st son of James Donaldson of the Devon Iron Works
  Robert Donaldson 1795 to 1854 3rd son of James Donaldson of the Devon Iron Works


Unmarried children of James Donaldson and Elizabeth Ramsey


  Anne Donaldson 1808 to 1820 4th daughter of James Donaldson of the Devon Iron Works
  Elizabeth Donaldson 1802 to 1839 2nd daughter of James Donaldson of the Devon Iron Works
  George Henry Donaldson 1807 to 1833 4th son of James Donaldson of the Devon Iron Works
  Mary Donaldson 1800 to 1805 2nd daughter of James Donaldson of the Devon Iron Works



Mary Donaldson
1800 to 1805

Mary was born at Sauchie on 16th May 1800. The church record for Clackmannan reads ‘ May 16th 1800. James Donaldson Clerk to the Devon Iron works and Margaret (assumed to be Elizabeth) had a daughter baptised Mary by Mr. Walters Burger Minister at Alloa 25th’. The family bible records her death as 31st October 1805 at the age of 5 years and 5 months.


Elizabeth Donaldson
1802 to 1839

Elizabeth, also known as Betty, was born at Sauchie on 26th April 1802. The church record for Clackmannan reads ‘April 26th  James Donaldson clerk at Devon ironworks & Elizabeth Ramsey had a daughter baptised Betty 9th May by Mr. Walters Burger Minister in Alloa.’

Elizabeth was the executrix for her father’s affairs. The inventory was dated 31 May 1838, three months after her father died. The Family Bible records that Elizabeth died on 25th October 1839 age 37½ years.


George Henry Donaldson
1807 to 1833

George Henry was born at Sauchie on 25 February 1807. The church record for Clackmannan reads ‘James Donaldson Clerk at Devon Ironworks & Betty Ramsey had a son B. George Henry 15 March at Alloa by Mr. Walters.’ The family bible records his death as 16th February 1833 age 26 years.


Anne Donaldson
1808 to 1820

Anne was born at Sauchie on 14 September 1808. The church record for Clackmannan does not have another date in the place where the baptism date is normally recorded. All the entries on the same page are similar. The entry reads ‘James Donaldson Clerk Devon works and Betty Ramsey had a lawful daughter B. Anne at Alloa by Mr. Walters.’ The family bible records her death as 14th December 1820 age 12 ¼ years. 
by Dominic Harper, August 2011



Death of Anne


Who died the 14th December, 1820, age 13 years

Think not too soon her spirit pure has fled,
Or aught of life’s short task was left undone.
The early primrose has its fragrance shed
Ere roses, blushing, own a kindlier sun.
Affection mark’d the spring flo’r’s fall, and mourned
Its short-liv’d sweets, just bath’d in morning dew;
Hope, pointing to an angel, heavenward turn’d,
And Faith believ’d, and wish’d to follow too.

Extracted from the book of Poems by James Donaldson of the Devon Iron Works




James Donaldson

James Donaldson was born at Sauchie near Alloa. The church record for his baptism in 1792 reads ‘July 1st James Donaldson schoolmaster at Sauchy and Elizabeth Donaldson had a son baptised James Law (legitimate) 8th in presence of Burger Congregation at Alloa.’ Strangely this is recorded in the parish records for Clackmannan rather than Alloa.

By 1820 he had moved to the parish of Cockpen. Cockpen, in Midlothian is 33 miles from Alloa, as the crow flies. There he married Margaret Haswell. The parish entry merely reads ‘Contracted in order to marriage March 4th 1820. James Donaldson and Margaret Haswell both of this parish.’ 

The Family Bible shows that all their children were born at Gowkshill near Dalkeith. The twins Helen and Anne were born on 16th December 1820. The church record for 1821 reads ‘ James Donaldson and Margaret Haswell his spouse had two daughters twins born at Drinkbetween 16th December 1820 and baptised 2nd January 1821 named Helen and Anne. Witnesses Messrs John Williamson and John Killgour.’ This place name spelling was clear to read. The entry with witnesses implies the baptism was private and not before the congregation. Of the five entries on the same page only one was ‘in presence of the congregation.’

 Their next child was James, born 21 April 1823, and baptised 5 May; then Elizabeth born 25 April 1825, and baptised 12 May; Alexander born 26 August 1827 and baptised 25 September; John born 30 March 1830 and baptised 26 April; and Robert born 20 May 1832 and baptised 18 June. These dates have been extracted from the index to parish records. The parish record for Alexander reads ‘James Donaldson and Margaret Haswell his spouse had a son born at Drinkbetween on the 26th  of August 1827 and baptised on the 25th of September following named Alexander. Witnesses Messrs John Williamson and Pt Lyle.’

 James died on 2nd September 1834. It is not until after his death that the records show his occupation. Both the death certificate for his widow Margaret in 1867 and the marriage of his son Alexander in 1860 show that James’s occupation was a farmer. After his death there was an inventory, this describes James as a tenant.

 A summary of the inventory is:-

1. Crops and stocking on the farm at Gowkshill  £107  14s
2. Household furniture in house.    £  30  14s  8d
3. Life insurance with Scottish Union Insurance Company  £300
4. Life insurance with Standard Insurance Company   £300
5. Body clothes     £    5    5s
  Total    £743   13s  8d

The date for the policy with Scottish Union Insurance was 21 March 1832 while that for Standard Insurance was 24 July 1832.

An obituary reads:-

‘At Gowkshill, near Dalkeith, on the 2d inst., in the 42d year of his age, Mr James Donaldson, of that place, much and justly lamented by a numerous circle of friends and acquaintances, whom his wide, varied, and bustling intercourse with the world had honourably gathered around him. Industry, with the golden rule for her motto, marked all his steps, and she was never absent from his service in rearing those olive plants with which God had so numerously surrounded his table and whose leaves, with those of the remaining half of the parent tree, his sudden removal to the dark and narrow house, has left in the deepest mourning.’
by Dominic Harper, August 2011


John Donaldson

John Donaldson was born at Sauchie on 23rd  February 1790. The event is listed in the Family Bible, into which James Donaldson carefully recorded his family’s births, marriages and deaths. His interest in, and his thorough approach to, genealogy is mentioned at length in his Obituary of 1838.

Unfortunately, the original Bible is missing. The reason for this is open to conjecture, but it seems likely that it went into the hands of another family, perhaps one which married into the Donaldsons. Another possibility is that it went overseas with a member of the family who emigrated. Fortunately, family members have since transcribed James Donaldson’s work, and although we end up with ‘copies of copies’, and as such open to error, the entries are nevertheless of immense value in building up a picture of James and his family.

John’s Baptism date is noted as 28th February 1790, in Clackmannan. I have found that the older records sometimes show Baptism dates as birth dates. John’s year of birth is recorded as about 1790 in 3 successive Scotland Census – 1841, 1851 and 1861. The 1851 and 1861 record his place of birth as Alloa, and the 1841 simply states Scotland. It might be worth bearing in mind that for the Scotland Census I do not have the full original entries.

At the age of 27, on 18th September 1817, in Walton on the Hill, Lancashire, John married Maria Lilias Hastie. Maria was a Liverpool girl, born 19 October 1796, this event also listed in the Family Bible.

The reason(s) for John’s move to Lancashire is unknown, but it may have been for work reasons – perhaps he was a travelling salesman of some kind, or worked for a shipping line.

By 1841, John and Maria had 3 almost adult children, and 1 younger child, living at home - James and Anne, aged 20, William, 15 and Robert aged 10. John’s occupation is listed as portrait painter and they are living at South College Street, no 5. Edinburgh St Cuthberts. They have a maid servant in their household, Mary Welch, aged 35. It may be a coincidence but the name Welch appears in the Donaldson family tree.  James is a clerk, and William a ‘Ap clothier’. It seems likely that, given his age, the ‘ap’ is an abbreviation of apprentice.

It may be relevant that at no 4 South College Street, in 1837, James Mackay was established as a bookseller. ( It seems that in 1841, the family lived a comfortable life, employed domestic help and worked in ‘white collar’ jobs.

The 1851 Scotland Census finds the family at 2 East Broughton Place, Edinburgh. The Dictionary of Scottish Architects ( lists the premises type as ‘business’ dating from 1849.

John, now aged 61, is listed as a portrait painter. He is living with his wife Maria and four grown up children. However, James H Donaldson is not now living at home, but another son, John Ramsay Donaldson, 28, is in the household. Anne remains unmarried and is a music teacher. William is a dressers shopman, Robert David is an ironmonger’s shopman, and John Ramsay is an ironmongers clerk or book-keeper.
NB. Robert David Donaldson married Agnes Hastie Welch. Is she a relative of Mary Welch, who worked as a maidservant for the household?

In 1861, John is a portrait painter. The family now live at Baynes Cottages, Trinity Crescent No 1, North Leith, Midlothian.  Have John and Maria moved from the city to the seaside for reasons of health? Anne, listed as spinster, and John Ramsay are still living with their parents. John continues to be an ironmongers clerk.

John Donaldson died at 1 Maitland Place, Newhaven, Leith on 4th September 1863. he was aged 73. His son William Donaldson was the informant. Cause of death was ‘old age’ (15 months). There does not appear to have been a medical attendance.

John’s actual renown as a portrait painter is a bit of a mystery. He does not appear to be of widespread fame. Perhaps he specialised in painting portraits of his own family, and those of friends, and for local clients. Even so, the occupation of portrait painter is noted over several decades, his family lives a comfortable life; he must have made a fairly good living.

by Mary Coish, May 2010


Robert Donaldson

Robert Donaldson was born at Sauchie near Alloa on 13 January 1795.  He was baptised in the presence of the Burger population at Alloa on 18 January, however this entry is recorded in the Clackmannan records. By 1822 he had moved to London.

On 31 May 1822 he married Sally Sharp Coker at the church of St Martin in the Fields in Middlesex, both were of this parish, and the marriage was after banns.  This Church is on one side of Trafalgar Square.

By 1825 they were living in Deptford. Deptford is on the River Thames, at that time it was in the county of Kent, but later it was absorbed into London.  Sally’s father had been working there in the dockyard as a foreman caulker. Her father’s will had been proved 5 months after Sally’s marriage to Robert Donaldson.

Their first child was Robert who was born in 1824 but died later the same year.  Their next child was James, who was born on 11 February 1825 and baptised on 14 August that year at St Nicholas Deptford, living at 71 Green. At that time Robert was a foreman Black Smith. Other children born in Deptford were Elizabeth Ramsey 1828, Robert Graham 1830, Ann 1833, and George Henry 1836. Although living in Deptford Robert corresponded with his father in Scotland, this is known as his father was aware of the births of the children in Deptford.

For the 1841 census they were living at the Green, with all the living children still with the family.  For the 1851 census they were living at 6 East Court. By 1851 James and George had left home, leaving Elizabeth and Ann still at home, both were shirt makers. Robert, born 1830,  was still with his parents, he was a brass moulder.

Robert died on the 23 October 1854 at home at 6 East Row Orchard Place Deptford. His daughter, Elizabeth, still living at home was the informant for the death. 

His occupation was varied.  In 1825 he was a foreman blacksmith, for the 1841 census he was a blacksmith, in 1851 a smith, but when he died in 1854 his occupation was recorded as commercial traveller.  On the marriage certificates for his children he is listed as ‘Gentleman’ in 1851 when James married, a smith when Elizabeth married in 1856, a Blacksmith at Robert Graham’s first marriage in 1860, but a moulder when he re-married in 1869.  When his widow Sally died Robert’s occupation was given as Brass Moulder.

by Dominic Harper, May 2010

Date last modified: Sat 01 Jun 13