Can’t find a marriage record? Look for the Gretna Green

What is Gretna Green?

I found this blog about missing marriage records. It suggests looking for the Gretna Green. Websters defines Gretna Green as a place many eloping couples are married. After reading, I would restate the definition as a place where the marriage laws are not as strict. I was curious of the meaning and origin of the name, and in researching encountered a bit of English and Scottish history.

First a bit of English history

In England, prior to 1695, marriage was governed by cannon law of the Church of England which recommended banns be called or a marriage license obtained and the couple be married by an anglican minister at a church where one of them was a member. While this was the normal practice in the 1600’s, a number of secret, or irregular marriages, marriages not conforming to Church law (without the use of banns and/or being preformed in a church that was not local to either of the couple, but still viewed as legitimate), were taking place. The Marriage Duty act of 1695 attempted to put an end to that by fining clergymen who performed marriages away from home parishes or without banns. Unfortunately as this act was mainly written to raise revenue for the war with France and had a loophole where ministers in the area around the Fleet prison (known as Liberties of the Fleet), a prison for debtors, could not be prosecuted against. As a result a number of clandestine or Fleet marriages continued. By the early 18th century it is estimated that 1/3 of all English marriages were irregular marriages, by 1750 about 50% of the marriages in London were Fleet Marriages. There were many reasons including, cost, speed, no parental consent, secrecy, bigamy, debt, or even backdating a marriage certificate. In 1753 England passed the Clandestine Marriages Act which in addition to banns books, required a separate form with signatures of the bride, groom, minister and two witnesses. Also, if under 21, parental consent was required. Note the act did not apply to Quaker or Jewish marriages

While the Clandestine Marriages Act, ended Fleet marriages it had no application to overseas marriages, or marriages celebrated in Scotland.

Enter Gretna Green Scotland

Although in Scotland ‘regular’ marriages also consisted of reading banns for three weeks at the church of both the bride and groom and being married by a priest at the parish of either the bride or groom. Scottish law allowed couples over 16 to marry without parental consent. Scotland also allowed for ‘irregular’ marriages. Although looked down upon by the church, they were accepted rather than let the couple be living in sin. These marriages could be either ‘marriage by declaration‘ or ‘handfasting’ where a man and woman could declare their marriage in front of two witnesses (allowed in Scotland until 1940). Once word got to England, a steady stream of couples headed for the Scottish border.

By stagecoach, Gretna Green was the first town they came to and the village blacksmith who serviced the coaches was the first building encountered. Enterprising blacksmiths quickly became ‘anvil priest’s’. This continued into the 1800’s and the advent of rail service in 1848. In 1856 Lord Brougham (who himself was married at Gretna Green) introduced the “Cooling Down Act” which required one of the couple to live in the parish they were to be wed for three weeks prior to the wedding. Although this did achieve the desired effect, Gretna Green farmers would look away when they found strangers using their barns as living quarters.

Look for the Gretna Green

So when searching for marriage records, if a record is not found in the usual places, it may be worthwhile to research those nearby towns where the marriage rules might not be as strict as where your ancestor lived. Finding the nearby Gretna Green’s may help you.

Greta Greens in the US, and here

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Online resources for Scottish Genealogy

Births, Marriages & Deaths

Logierait Burials 1764 to 1815 from Pitlochry & Moulin Heritage Center

Perth borough Burial Registers 1794 to 1855


FreeCen 1841-1891 online (100% Ayrshire & Renfrewshire)


Scottish Postal Directories – 1773 to 1911


The Scotsman $$$ – 1817 to 1950

Elephind – Search over 4000 newspapers from US, Australia, New Zealand

‘The Surnames of Scotland’ by George F. Black – now available online for FREE

Still on the subject of useful research guides, a very interesting resource for people tracing their Scottish ancestors is ‘The Surnames of Scotland: Their Origin, Meaning, and History’, by George F. Black. At over 800 pages, this book is a fascinating read for anyone who wishes to discover more about Scottish surnames – especially people who live outside Scotland. 

Black’s book is now available for FREE on the web at the Hathi Trust Digital Library. To read the book, just go to this website page .

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Logierait in the 18th Century

Highland Life

At the start of the 18th century the Celtic feudal system the same as it was in the past centuries. Tacks, or areas of land held on a lease, were leased to ‘gentlemen’, often related to the clan chiefs who owned large swathes of the Highlands.   These tacksmen then sub-let parcels of ground to tenants who paid their rent to them more often in kind than cash and were obliged to offer their dues and services in battle and other occasions of the chief’s bidding.

The farming townships of the Highlands were generally organized around small irregular clusters of huts, known as clachans or bailtean. For most of the year the Highlanders lived in these clusters of huts, with barns and stables.  In the 1720’s Edmond Burt described these towns:

“A Highland town , as before mentioned, is composed of a few huts for dwellings, with barns and stables, and both of the latter are of a more diminutive size than the former, all irregularly placed, some one way and some another, and, at a distance, look like so many heaps of dirt, which are built in glens and straths, which are the corn countries, near rivers and rivulets, and also on the sides of lakes.”

The baile (town) was at the center of Highland life and economy except when the highlanders, in particular the women and children moved the cattle and sheep to the summer grazing grounds in the hills. Every year the land was rotated, and the land that was not fit for growing was used for grazing. Every tenant and subtenant, was allowed a fixed number of cattle, sheep and goats according to the souming (Number and type of stock an individual can graze on a common pasture for a fee) and their social and economic position.

In the late 17th century and into the mid 18th century over ½ the inhabitants lived north of the river Tay. By the mid 18th Century Highland life was permanently changed as a result of three things:

  1. Acts of Union in 1707 -creation of Great Britain by joining of the Kingdom of England and Kingdom of Scotland
  2. Collapse of the Jacobite Revolt
  3. Industrial revolution

These changes helped destroy the Pre-existing Highland way of life and as a result trigger a mass migration of people from the Highlands to start.

Acts of Union in 1707

Before the Union of 1707 the Scottish economy was ruined due to the

  • Famines of the1690s, short lived due to climatic changes but severe just the same
  • Failure of the Company of Darien, an unsuccessful attempt by the Kingdom of Scotland to become a world trading nation by establishing a colony called “New Caledonia” on the Isthmus of Panama in the late 1690s, which failed and was abandoned in April of 1700. The Darien company was backed by nearly half the money circulating in Scotland, its failure left the country completely ruined.
  • French wars and a rise of European nationalism which cut back the demand for Scottish exports

These weakness helped set the stage for change in 1707. Also during this time the Lowlands, estates were already changing. They were less looked at as sources of military power and authority but more as assets of revenue and profit. By 1700 trades in cattle, sheep, linen, coal and salt to England was over 40 percent of Scotland’s exports.  Also access to colonial trade in the colonies was starting to open up. Scotland was faced with the possibility that if Union negotiations failed an English tariff wall could be erected in addition to those they already faced in other parts of Europe. Scotland needed to trade with England and her colonies.

The Union created the biggest free trade zone in Europe and gave the Scottish merchants the liberty to trade in American commodities with the protection of the Royal Navy.  The Scottish governing classes developed a commitment to economic growth as a national goal. The lowlands were much more evolved and involved in the process of driving forward agrarian movement than the highlanders. There the new prosperity did not trickle down marketing was left to the clan gentry and the old way of life continued.

Unfortunately new market pressures were also being exerted on the highlands. As a result raising rents showed that the lands were adjusting to the new competitive market for agriculture.  Also the rise of cattle and sheep ranches in Perthshire as well as other Highland areas further competed for the small tenant farmer. Finally improvements in farming, crop rotation and eventually steam powered machinery caused many farms to be consolidated into single tenant farms

Jacobite Revolt

The Jacobite revolt has it’s roots in the deposing of King James VII of Scotland and II of Britain.  Early Jacobites wanted the restoration of Catholicism. Highland chieftains viewed Jacobitism as a means of resisting hostile government intrusion into their territories. The significance of their support for the Stuarts was that the Highlands was the only part of Britain which still maintained private armies, in the form of clan levies. In 1715 King James VII of Scotland and II’s son James Francis Edward Stuart  raised the clans to fight the government but ultimately government forces put down the revolt.  As a result the Clan Act and the (ineffectual) Disarming act were put in place to subdue the Highlanders and government troops were stationed in the Highlands.  In addition efforts were underway to kill off the use of Gaelic.

In 1743 the government troops in the Highlands were removed to fight the French.  In 1745 Prince Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) , son of James Francis Edward Stuart led a rising to restore his father to his thrones.

It is reported that Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Jacobite army held 600 prisoners captured after their rout of Government forces at the Battle of Prestonpans were held at Logierait Prison in 1745. Together with the clans backing he fort deep into England until he suffered a crushing defeat in Culloden in April of 1746.

After the end of the Jacobite revolt Rebel chiefs lost their land and the Highlands were placed under military occupation.  Hereditary jurisdictions and military tenures were abolished; a more stringent Disarming Act was made in the aftermath of the uprising, the wearing of tartan, the bearing of arms and the playing of bagpipes were all banned. Most significantly, the government prohibited the private armies of the chiefs, thereby effectively destroying the clan system.

“Much more than Jacobitism died at Culloden.  Thereafter the disintegration of the old Highland society, already advanced in some quarters, was accelerated.  The Patriarchal authority of the chiefs and great territorial magnates was gradually turned into landlordism.  The demilitarization of Highland life broke the ties of mutual interest and idealized kinship which had bound chiefs and clansman and paved the way for a new social relationship in which the landlords came to regard their people solely as tenants and cottars” William Ferguson;  Scotland; 1990; p154

Industrial revolution

While this was happening an Industrial revolution was starting in the Lowland towns.  Towns such as Glasgow saw tremendous growth from small merchant towns to industrial cities and to become the powerhouse of the Scottish economy

There was the introduction for the first time on a large scale of mass- manufacture, applying new technology largely imported from England,  leading to the growth of the ‘Factory System’ in textiles. Scotland already had a well- established textile trade, particularly wool and linen cloth production – but the new element was mechanization using water power and steam power as prime movers.

In the statistical account of Scotland from 1790, it was noted that the population of Logierait was universally Jacobites.  Of the 2000 people in the country and 200 in Logierait in 1791 there were:

Under 10 years of age…………………………………………………450

Over 96………………………………………………………………………     1


Their Children and Servents………………………………………1000

Artisans and apprentices……………………………………………    60

Fisherman ………………………………………………………………….    10

Male servants……………………………………………………………….  50

Female servants ………………………………………………………….. 280

Day Laborers……………………………………………………………….. 100

Students at university…………………………………………………..     2

Shop keepers ………………………………………………………………..   12

Gentlemen resident……………………………………………………….     6

Clergyman of the Established Church…………………………….      1

Clergyman of the Episcopal Church…………………………………     1

People belonging to the Established church…………………   1800

To the Episcopal church……………………………………………..      390

Roman Catholics…………………………………………………………..      10

In 1790 there was about 3000 acres of arable land in Logierait.  Oats (40%) and Potatoes (35%) covered 75% of the land.  See the chart for the other crops that were planted.  Whiskey and yarn was listed as export items to the Lowlands, with yarn being a staple.

In the Statistical account of Scotland in 1834 the changes were evident. Although the population increased a bit since 1790 to 3138 in 1831 (2774 in 1841) with 683 inhabited houses. The rents did not increase on land. Total rent increased from 3000 to 8000 between the 2 reports – some of the increase could be accounted for the increase in tillable land 3000 to 5000  Acres, but also enough cattle and sheep are grazing to be noted as a source of income. It was noted that wheat, oats, barley, potatoes, rye and clover is grown. In 1790 Linen yarn was listed as a source of income (3000L) this had reduced to nothing by 1834. In 1834 there were six distilleries in operation which consumed over 32,000 bushels of malt as compared to about 6ooo bushels of barley in 1790

According to FamilySearch and the GRO in the 1700’s there were the following Conachar/Conacher/Concher/Connachar/Connacher families married in Logierait.

Conachar Logierait Marriages 1700 to 1800



Conachar  Donald Mcraw  Elizabeth 30 NOV 1702
Conachar  John Borrie  Elspet 23 APR 1704
Conachar  David Menzies  Rachel 08 OCT 1704
Conachar  David Campbell  Bettrice 27 JUL 1708
Conachar  Thomas Mcglashan  Elspet 30 JUL 1708
Conachar  Thomas Toshiach  Jannet 25 NOV 1711
Conachar  William Mcintersnich  Anne 08 FEB 1712
Conchar  Thomas Duff  Agnes OCT 1730
Conachar  Donald Dick  Christian 23 FEB 1734
Conchar  Patrick Cameron  Grissel 25 JUL 1734
Conchar  Mungo Mclagan  Margaret 23 MAY 1736
Conacher Donald Reid Jannet 02 FEB 1740
Conchar  Donald Douglas  Bettie 23 AUG 1740
Conchar  Donald Robertson  Margaret 08 NOV 1740
Conchar  John Campbell  Margaret 09 JAN 1742
Conchar  John Mcra  Elizabeth 07 JUL 1744
Conchar  David Duff  Isobel 16 JUL 1745
Conchar  Alexander Wallace  Dorothy 11 JUL 1747
Conchar  Alexander Mclagan  Christian 09 APR 1748
Conchar  Charles Nicolson  Barbara 08 MAY 1748
Conacher  Chas. Mcintosh  Margt. 14 NOV 1761
Conachar  John Monro  Cathrine 30 JUL 1763
Conachar  Thomas Mcfarlane  Margaret 01 NOV 1772
Conachar  Thomas Mcdonald  Grizel 03 MAY 1774
Connachar  John Morrison  Isabel 11 MAR 1776
Connachar  Charles Mcgillewie  Isobel 11 JAN 1781
Connachar  Donald Douglas  Isabel 09 MAY 1786
Connachar  Charles Robertson  Anne 23 AUG 1790
Connachar  Charles Forbes  Helen 09 DEC 1790
Connachar  Charles Mc Farlane  Margaret 13 FEB 1791
Connacher  Mungo Borrie  Margaret 14 JAN 1797
Connacher  Thomas Mcleod  Katharine 23 FEB 1799
Conacher David Stewart Helen 13 JUL 1799

In addition according to Family Search thethe following families were listed in the Logierait Parish registers when christening their children but there is no record of marriage in the Logierait Parish records

First child listed between 1700 and 1750 (from IGI)


CONACHAR  Donald MCCRAW  Elizabeth
CONCHAR  Charles MALLOCH  Christian
CONCHAR  John FRAZER  Margaret
CONCHAR  Patrick MCINROY  Grissel
CONCHAR  Patrick MCNAB  Catharin
CONCHAR  Charles ROBERTSON  Christian
CONCHAR  Patrick BORRIE  Catharin
CONCHAR  Charles ROBERTSON  Christian
CONCHAR  Patrick BORRY  Marjory

First child listed between 1747 and 1796 (from IGI)


CONACHAR  Alexander MCCLOUD  Margt.
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Charles Conacher

Charles was born around 1766 in the Parish of Logierait a town in Perthshire. The name Logierait comes from the Gaelic words ‘laggan’ (a hollow) and ‘rath’ (fortress). From ancient times its situation beside the great highway from Perth to the north helped to increase its importance. In 1791 its population (in town) was recorded as 200 people, today there are about 60. There were an additional 2000 people listed living in the areas surrounding town. The town starts about 1/2 mile below the junction of the rivers Tay and Tummel.

The Tay is one of the three classic salmon rivers of Scotland ( ) and boasts the UK record salmon catch of 64 lb. ( ) Caught by Miss Georgina Ballantyne at Caputh Bridge in 1922. Trout can also caught from the Tay.  Fishing must have been great back in Charles’ time.  His occupation was listed as a fishing tackle manufacturer and merchant,  the 1841 Census lists his occupation as a “Hook Dresser”.  Back then all flies would have been tied in hand without the aid of a

Hand made salmon flies circa 1800

fly vice. Evidence of artificial fly fishing stems from writings of the Greeks and Romans around 100 AD.  The Greek Aelian describes in detail how flies were made from red wool around a hook and two feathers from below a cock’s wattle fixed in front. From what I have read it looks like the ideal place for this vocation.  Its not clear if he sold fishing tackle under a business name or worked out of his house.  I also do not know if he sold reels and rods in addition to being a fish hook dresser but it was common back then for some makers to supply the reels and rods Blank so the retail outlet could stamp their own name.

On the north-west border of Logerait is the parish of Moulin.  The name Moulin is most likely Celtic and seems to have some reference to the small lake that was close to the church.  The lake was drained about 1720, but remained a marsh for fully 100 years afterwards. Moulin or (Moy-linne) means “the place of the pool”.

Moulin Kirk

Margaret S. Mc Farlane, daughter of John Mc Farlane of Moulin and Charles Conacher married at both Moulin and Logierait in February 1791.  The Moulin Kirk was erected in 1613 andrebuilt in 1830/31 and again in 1875 after a disastrous fire which gutted the building. The first Statistical account, written late in the 18th century tells us that original Moulin Church was enlarged in 1704 and again in 1787  because of the growth of the congregation.  The present Church of Moulin has been closed for public worship since 1989, the current owners have turned it into a museum. ( ). The medieval church at Logierait was replaced in the early 1800’s. There is presumably no reason to doubt that the churchyard was the site of the medieval parish church, and certainly there are a number of memorials that pre-date by several decades the existing church, which was built to the designs of John Stewart in 1804-6. Nothing is known to have survived of the medieval parish church, however.

Charles and Margaret settled in Logierait and had at least 2  children there (Alexander 16 Jan 1792 & John 23 Oct 1793).  It is interesting to note that on the birth and Baptism records the family name is now listed as Connacher (with 2 n’s) (although in the future Charles is is still listed as Conacher on some census records, but the children appear to have adopted Connacher).

Sometime between 1793 and 1803 the family moved to Perth.  During that time it is also suspected that there was another John born in 1796 (who enlisted in the Grenadier Regiment of Foot Guards) and Peter (my GG grandfather)  who was born ~1800.  We know this from family lore and references found on the children’s records.  I can not find any birth or baptism record of John (1796) or Peter (~1800).  By 1803 Charles and Margaret have settled in Perth and had 2 more children (Janet 06 Mar 1803 and Margaret 07 May 1808).

In 1841 Charles and Margaret Conacher were listed in the census as living at 129 High Street in Perth. At that time Margaret was listed as living there.  Also present that evening was her future spouse William Forsyth.

I do not know when Charles died, but the family does not turn up in the 1851 census leading me to believe he passed away sometime before then.  Margaret also does not appear in Perth in the 1851 census, she may also have passed away or gone to live with her children.

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Connacher name varients (One N or Two)?

I believe that between literacy, handwriting and transcription issues it’s quite possible that in many cases the name takes on an appearance different from intended. If a Church record was written by a minister who might be unfamiliar with the name he might write it phonetically.  Looking at some parish records I have seen the name written differently at the brides parish as compared to the grooms parish for the same family.

Independent to that, the name has its roots in Ireland. According to Black’s “The Surnames of Scotland”, the Scottish surname of Conacher/Connacher/Conachar was the name of an old Atoll family, located about 1600 on the lands of Stewart of Atholl.  They were probably descendants of the family of Duncan O’Conocher of Lorn, who were the 16th and 17th centuries physicians to the Campbells of Argyll.

In the July 1912 issue (p. 130) of Celtic Monthly it notes, “The MacConachers or Conachers of Lorn were of Irish origin, and were proprietors of the lands of Ardorian, near Oban. They were for centuries hereditary physicians to the MacDougalls of Lorn. The name appears to have been originally O’Conacher, but at an early date the Irish O’ was discarded for the Scottish Mac. In the sixteenth century Dr. John MacConacher was sent from Argyllshire to Rome, to attend the family of the third son of the Earl of Argyle. In 1560 John MacConacher pays to my Lord forty merks “for ye grassum for office of churgeon.” Some of the Gaelic MSS. of the MacConachers are in the Advocates’ Library, Edinburgh.” The magazine can be read in its entirity at

So now you might think is it Duncan O’ Conacher or Duncan O’ Conachor?  It is not as simple as that.  Looking at another article in the Celtic Monthly also from July 1912 (p. 122) entitled “The Medical Book of Dunolly” by H. Cameron Gillies M.D. We find the text is from “1611-14 by a family of Connachers,  physicians of that part of the country”. The text is written in Gaelic, which further explains some of the above differences.  Here is a sample:

An Aird-Chonghail damh a bhfhochair Dhonnchaidh Mic Eoin Mic
Domnaill Mic Donntchaidh i ogbair (Conchobair) aois an tigerna intan sin 1612 an 3 la 20 Augustus. Misi Aonghus Mac Ferchair Mic Aonguis g [deleted] gidh nar re admhail do sgriobha in leabar e. Ni bee sin—In Ardconnel
I am in the presence of Duncan the son of John the son of Donald the son of Duncan O’Connacher.  The Age of the Lord in that time 1612 the 3 days
20 (23d). of August. I am Angus son of Farquhar son of Angus though it is a shame to admit that he (I) wrote this hook.

Note the author chose O’Connacher, which is neither of the translations listed earlier.  So we can also add language translation as  another dimension to explain the differences in the name spellings.  Going back to Black’s under  it notes OConochar (and variants) are names ‘descendant of Conchobar’, an ancient Irish personal name. This name is strikingly similar to the Conchobair.

Apparently the earliest Conacher noted on Scottish soil was one Conacher or Ochonachan, said to be an Irishman of the royal house of Ulster, was granted the “Castle Urquhart” and the surrounding lands in Invernesshire by the King of Scotland in 1160.  He had a son called Ochonochan who had three sons.  The second settled there and was called Urquhart of whom descended the Lairds of Cromarty and Urquhart.  The first and third sons founded the families Forbes and MacKay. These three sons are reputed to have founded the clans founded the clans of Bell, Robertson and Urquhart.

I know that today there are branches of the family that are of the one n variety and others that have 2 n’s.  It’s important to know which name spelling you are chasing but it’s equally important to be aware of some of the reasons that the records may show variants in the names. (Although my family name has 2 n’s prior to 1800 my ancestors in Perthshire (Logierait) had only one n.  According to Willie Connacher’s research, the Perthshire Conachers are descended from five brothers who came from Ireland about 1535 when they appear in the Logierait old Parish records in Perth Library.  All old spellings that he has seen have only one “N”.  The Irish brothers were Mungo, Charles, John, Thomas and Peter. ( )

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Perthshire Con(n)achers

I am researching my Connacher/Conacher family tree. I have traced back to Charles Connacher or actually Charles Conacher who married Margaret S. Mc Farlane (daughter of John) in Logierait, Scotland on 13 Feb 1791 and in Moulin, Scotland on 16 Feb. 1791. My branch of the Conacher name originated on the Athol Estates in Perthshire around 1535, the family have apparently arrived from Lorn, Scotland or possibly Ireland around that time.

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