Research Findings

I believe travel, especially abroad, is a virtue unto itself, so this trip to Scotland would have been well worth it even if I’d been konked on the head and forgotten everything I knew about Mary Milligan and her husband Robert Littrick. Fortunately, I am as yet unconcussed and have made good progress with my research.

Mary Milligan was born February 16, 1773 in Balmae, Kirkcudbright, Scotland. She was the daughter of Anthony Milligane and Elizabeth Raphael. While our 21st century eyes see “Raphael” as the name of an Italian painter or mutant turtle, I’m pretty sure she pronounced it “raffle”.

Anthony and Elizabeth were married May 6, 1768 in Kirkcudbright. According to the Old Parish Records, Anthony was a laborer from Kirkcudbright and Elizabeth was from Crossmichael, a parish just north of there. They had at least two other children besides Mary, Helen born September 27, 1770 and Basil born March 2, 1785.

Mary Milligan next appears in the records when she gives birth to Joseph Sorbie, the illegitimate son of John Sorbie, November 13, 1808. This is my connection to the Sorbie family whom I met over the weekend at their family reunion.

Two years later, she marries Robert Littrick in Dumfries on December 23, 1810 and they have a son William about three years later on January 20, 1814. Then, at some point later, at least Mary, Joseph and William emigrate to the United States and Mary dies in Hancock County, Ohio on September 27, 1850.


Her husband Robert Littrick has been more of a challenge. All I can write with any certainty is that he was married twice. His first marriage occurred around 1794 to a Margaret Kirk. I know this because on August 27, 1802 he appeared before the church and confessed to having been “irregularly” married eight years earlier and was rebuked. That means he and Margaret did not go through the proper procedure of issuing banns so that someone could have objected to the marriage. Margaret was still around in 1802 and unable to write so she signed the “confession” with her mark. Margaret dies at some point before 1810 because Robert Littrick is noted to have been a widower in his marriage record to Mary Milligan.

And that’s all I know about Robert Littrick. His name does not appear in the road tax records, nor the court records, nor the jail records. One of the many kind librarians and archivists who have helped me summarized him thusly, “He must have been poor but honest.” I was really hoping to find a tombstone with his name on it and thus visit my first ancestral grave in Europe but his name appears in no index of memorials and no death records. My best guess is that he was buried in the paupers section of St. Michael’s Kirkyard, a lawn of green, far in a back. Although I did not succeed in finding his grave, spending three days walking around old Dumfries, the same streets he walked, admittedly 200 years earlier, visiting pubs that he may have visited, hearing the nagging cries of the distant descendants of the gulls that composed the background music of his life, all this has made my trip to Scotland a resounding success.


St. Michael’s Kirkyard Paupers Section

About Bartholomew Barker

Bartholomew Barker is one of the organizers of Living Poetry, a collection of poets and poetry lovers in the Triangle region of North Carolina. Born and raised in Ohio, studied in Chicago, he worked in Connecticut for nearly twenty years before moving to Hillsborough where he makes money as a computer programmer to fund his poetry habit.
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3 Responses to Research Findings

  1. writenaked says:

    Love that you’re able to find so many concrete details about your ancestors, while others remain elusive. Very inspiring. I am jealous your family lineage is English-speaking – makes it so much easier for you to communicate with folks in those countries and read documents. Your travels are more an adventure than a trip!

    Liked by 1 person

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