Chasing Down Ancestors in Scotland


Scotland was a deeply spiritual experience.

I think everyone should return to the lands where their great great great great grandparents once walked. It will give you roots, give you pride in your heritage, and help you understand yourself and your family members better. There are still so many places I’d like to visit. We had to narrow it down to just a few places. I chose Ayrshire where the majority of my mom’s mom’s ancestors come from, Duntreath where Jacob and I actually have mutual ancestors, and Lanark where my dad’s mom has some ancestry, as well as Fife which is just outside of Edinburgh.

We stopped by Glencoe—home to one of the most difficult scenes in Scottish history and one involving Campbells– on the way back from our Cairngorm ski trip.

A lot of the road trip was dedicated to LDS pioneers who left their homeland to search for Zion in the United States.

The nitty gritty details:

*I used to look at different family members and their stories. For a while I was a bit addicted to it. You can click and click and see ancestors multiplying before your very eyes.

*We bought a car seat from an ad on Gumtree for 35 pounds. We left it behind in Scotland because we didn’t need it anymore, but it was cheaper to buy one than to rent.

*We rented a car from Thrifty for about 15 pounds a day. I think you could do it for less if you booked far enough in advance. Jacob did all the driving, because A) I’m scared of driving on the wrong side of the road/car with a stick shift and B) You have to pay extra for another driver.

*You have to start and stop in the same destination to avoid one-way fees.

Here’s some stories about each ancestor and where we went to see them.

From my Grandpa Campbell’s side…

Area of Scotland: Glencoe, Paisley

Notable stories: Elisabeth Mure of Rowallan died in Paisley. She was the mistress of Robert, the High Steward of Scotland, who later became king. This genealogical chart was inside Paisley Abbey. I come through the Walter Fitzalan line. High Steward seems to have been a title granted which included land ownership of Renfrewshire.

family chartgreen church

sanctushigh stewards


modern day paisley

Here is Paisley today. Also of note is Paisley was where Orson Pratt founded the first LDS branch in Scotland.

More Notable Stories: The Campbell clan got a bad rap from the Glen Coe Massacre of 1692, where 38 MacDonalds were killed by the guests who had accepted their hospitality—the Campbells. 40 more women and children died of the exposure from trying to escape. It was a political move and has a back story, but it is an infamous historical event and one that continues to haunt the Campbell name. It occurred on the 13th of February—my mom’s birthday.

The Scottish Highlands are hauntingly beautiful.

2014-03-04 16.57.40-22014-03-04 17.06.162014-03-04 17.06.04waterfall glencoeglen coe

From my grandma Hansen:

Area of Scotland: Fife, Airdrie, Shotts, Chapel Hall

Notable stories: Archibald Livingston, son of James and Christina, father to James, died of cholera along with his second wife during a cholera epidemic. This was common in Scotland. It’s caused by fecal contamination of food and water caused by poor sanitation.  It was one of the most deadly diseases of the 19th century, but is no longer a threat to the developed world thanks to water filtering and chlorination.


James Campbell Livingston was a prominent character in Utah history.

One story is that President John Taylor and George Q Cannon were in hiding due to the anti-polygamy laws in an office building. When two deputies came looking for them, James Livingstone greeted them, brought them drinks and showed them traditional Scotch hospitality and the men left without searching the building. He helped to build the Salt Lake City temple. He lost his arm in a railroad-building explosion accident. He was born in Shotts but emigrated to the US at age 20.

Crossing the bridge from Edinburgh to Fife.

bridge to aviemore


Dunfermline Abbey

dunfermline abbeyinside dunfermline

Industrial Chapelhall and Airdrie Janet Russell and Thomas Widdison were the pioneers who crossed the ocean for their new religion. What’s left of their old collier town isn’t anything tourist-worthy, and old houses seem to have been replaced by newer apartment complexes and parking lots.






From Grandpa Campbell, Grandma Campbell, AND Jacob’s Grandma Spencer

Area of Scotland: Duntreath, Sterling

Ancestor name: Edmonstone

On one of the most beautiful estates I have ever visited, I met the man who lived there. I thought it would be a museum or castle to visit. But it was a private property. He was on the phone so couldn’t chat long, but he was some form of distant relative. Edmonstones have lived there since the 1300s. The family tree gets vague and twisted so I’m not sure the exact ancestors, but the Edmonstone name is the common link.  Here is the official website. 

edmonson familyedmonson gardensedmonson jacob


From Grandma Campbell:

Area of Scotland: Fenwick, Ayrshire, Kilmarnock, Ochiltree, Edinburgh, Paisley, Leadhills

Notable stories: Captain John Paton was a Covenanter who was executed at Grassmarket Square in Edinburgh and buried in an unmarked grave at Greyfriers Churchyard, leaving behind a wife and six children. His memorial is located at Fenwick Church.

fenwich parishfenwick churchcovenenter

While I scurried around tombstones, Jacob taught Ryder to ride his scooter. DSC05183

Notable Stories from Kilmarnock, Cumnock, Auchinleck, Wanlockhead, and Sanquhar.

William Lindsay holds a special place in my heart as the ancestor who first sparked my interest to come to Scotland. Reading the story of his coal mining accident shortly after joining the LDS church, and the subsequent migration of his family, inspired me to see what conditions prompted them to leave their home land. William Lindsay is supposedly buried here, but I could not find his gravestone. Many of them are too old and worn to read anyway.


The drive down the coast towards the ferry to Northern Ireland:


In Ayr, Alexander Rankin was born. He emigrated to Ulster, Ireland, and eventually his descendants emigrated to the United States.

We stayed at the quaintest, most charming family-run guesthouse in Ayr. You MUST stay at Langley Bank guest house if you go.



Mary Murray Murdoch (“Wee Granny”) was also from Ayrshire. She married her husband in Auchinleck, who died in a mine trying to save a fellow worker. Eventually she became LDS along with her daughter, also named Mary, whose husband never became LDS despite her best efforts. This caused her great sorrow. Eventually she decided to leave her husband and go to Utah with her mother. Wee Granny was less than five feet tall and at age 74, too frail to last the journey. She was part of the infamous Martin Handcart Company. Her last words were, “Tell John (her son) I died with my face turned toward Zion.” She died in Chimney Rock, Nebraska. Her daughter, Mary, arrived in Utah and remarried.

Church in Cumnock


A lot of Muirs and Murdochs in this cemetery in Auchinleck



William Lindsay was born in this town. The museum is only open seasonally.


Shotts cemetery is on a hill with a beautiful view.



When we came back from our road trip, we still had a couple days before our flight to Prague. I decided to go to the Coal Mining museum outside of Edinburgh because so many of my family members have been miners. The musuem comes with a personal former miner guide and I highly recommend it.

Here’s the housing where the miners lived. Miners had to move frequently because at that time, their bosses could fire them with not a day’s notice and then they’d have to move to find more work. Housing was crowded, cold, and damp. And because their bosses were also their landlords, there was a lot of stress involved in keeping them happy.



Miners used to bring birds down with them. If the birds became unconscious, the miners would know there was a gas leak.


Mining was not prestigious work. It was dirty and dangerous. But, there was cameraderie in it.


The newspaper would print a list of miners who died.


This man was from Auchinleck, where others of my ancestors also lived.


There’s so much more to see of Scotland. I’d be happy to spend months to scour each town and learn more stories and honor my ancestors to whom I owe my existence. We only spent about a week and that included a side trip to Northern Ireland. Maybe I’ll be able to convince some family members to go out there and we’ll visit more together.

Kalli Hiller

Article by Kalli Hiller

Kalli Hiller is a voluntary vagabond who, with her husband Jacob, has traveled full time for the last eight years.

Kalli has written 369 awesome articles for us.

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