By Marilyn Sears Lindsey
I invited my 8th Great Grandparents on my mother’s side to dinner last night. Their names are Duncan Stewart (23 Aug 1623 – 30 Aug 1717) and Anna, who prefers to be called Ann Winchurst (10 Dec 1642 – 9 Jul 1729). Ann insisted on doing the cooking because Duncan only ate his salmon and potatoes really well-done but he would eat his broses however it turned out since it was just barley, oats, beans and peas.
After I set the table, I had so many questions for him that he said he would start at the beginning. Duncan explained that his first name is from the Gaelic /Donnchadh/ and means “brown-haired man” or “chieftan.” Stewart is from the Old English /stigeweard/ meaning “hall” and “guardian.” So he is a brown-haired chieftan who guards the hall.
Duncan regaled us with many yarns of his parents and his early life in Scotland. His father had told him the ancient Parochial Registers listed the births in the parish starting in 1623 so he could get a copy of his birth certificate if I needed it for my genealogy.
He told us that his father had required all of his children to memorize the history of their country and said that in 1583, James VI escaped from his Protestant kidnappers, and resumed the throne of Scotland. When Elizabeth I died in 1603, James was her only heir; thus he became James I of England, as well as James VI of Scotland. James’ most lasting legacy is the King James Bible; the translation of the Bible into English is still favored by many Protestants. The union of the crowns did not; however, put an end to struggles in Scotland.
Duncan went on to explain that the civil war in England in 1642 pitted the Cavaliers fighting for King Charles I against the Roundheads of Oliver Cromwell’s parliament. When the victorious Cromwell forced the execution of Charles I, the Scottish proclaimed Charles’ son as their king. Cromwell, incensed, invaded Scotland, uniting the two countries under a strong, central, civil government. Upon Cromwell’s death, the English Monarchy was restored to the throne. Many Scots felt they had lost their independence, and the stage was set for uprisings in 1715. But he was safely out of the country by then.
He had espoused the cause of his kinsman King Charles II however, and in supporting him, at the Battle of Worcester in 1651, was captured by the army of Cromwell, and, with the other prisoners taken in those battles, sent to the American Colonies, and indentured as servants to the Colonists.
Duncan was landed at Ipswich, Massachusetts in 1654 and soon met and married Anna Winchurst of that town. They removed to Newbury in 1659 and for thirty years occupied a farm in Byfield Parish near the Rowley town line. They later removed to Rowley.
With a wistful smile on his face, Duncan said he was born in the Highlands of Scotland; in Kilmadock, a parish, in the County of Perth or Perthshire, 9 miles northwest of Stirling, Scotland. He related that he was sad to find out that the church where he’d been baptized, with the exception of the eastern gable, was taken down in 1744. The area derives its name from the dedication of its ancient church to St. Madocus or Madock, one of the Culdees which means “Companions of God” who were members of a Christian monastic community and who lived there in sequestered solitude.
It’s a land of steep craggy hills, winding rivers and lots of grassy fields for the Angus coos (cows), black face sheep and Highland cattle he went on to say. The River Forth runs along its southern boundary, and the River Teith runs south-eastward through the center. A flat tract of considerable breadth lies along the Forth Valley, flanked on each side by a hill-ridge. The valley is traversed by the Teith, and an upland tract, part of the Braes of Doune, ascends to the summit of Uamh Mhòr on the northern boundary.
Uamh Mhòr (older spelling Uaighmor, also anglicised Uam Var) is a summit in Kilmadock parish in Stirling council area, Scotland, north of the River Teith between Callander and Doune. The name means “Great Cave”, referring to a large cave in the cliff face which was a hideout for brigands into the eighteenth century.
As I listened, I glanced down at Duncan’s sword which had the Stewart crest on it showing the white unicorn with a golden horn and the blue and gold ribbons around the shield with 3 gold stars. The motto at the top of the crest – “O’er the sea yet home” – answered the Scottish question – /Quhidder will zie/ which translates as “Whither will ye.” It showed up so well against the Stewart tartan he was wearing of a bright blue, green, red and gold plaid.
Ann Winchurst Stewart said dinner would take about another half hour to cook and sat down with us to drink a glass of perry, which is made from fermented pears, and told us her story.
She said her first name is a form of Channah/Hannah from the Old Testament and it is mentioned briefly in the New Testament belonging to a prophetess who recognized Jesus as the Messiah. It was a popular name in the Middle Ages and it became common among Western Christians due to veneration of Saint Anna (usually known as Saint Anne in English), the name traditionally assigned to the mother of the Virgin Mary.
Her surname is a rare and unusual English surname; it has been recorded as Winchurch as well as apparently Wincehurst and Winchurst. There are several suggestions for the origin and meaning. These include ‘windy wood’ from the pre 7th century Olde English ‘win-hyrst’ or ‘The white church’, that is to say a church probably built of limestone from ‘winn cherche’, and just possibly Windy Church or even ‘winch wood’, a place where a winch was used for moving trees.
Ann was born in Rowley, Mass but she had a hard time remembering the year. She said after giving birth to 12 children in 22 years, her mind was a bit foggy. She also showed me how she’d lost a tooth for each birth – quite a dedicated wife.
While we ate our delicious dinner, Ann said they had 12 children – 6 girls (Jane, Catherine, Martha, Elizabeth, Mary and Anna) and 6 boys (Charles, John, Henry, Solomon, Samuel and Ebenezer). All of their children lived to adulthood and she said that was common in her family because of the healthy food they ate and all the fresh air they got from working outdoors. Ebenezer and his wife, Elizabeth Johnson, even followed in his parents’ footsteps and also had 12 children. Their youngest Richard Stuart who lived until 1808 would have been in the 1790 Census, but that is another story…