The Marjoribanks Journal

Number 1 -- June, 1992

In This Issue:

  • An Introduction
  • The Name and Family: Origins and Early Years
  • The Family in Sixteenth-Century Edinburgh

  • An Introduction

    Marjoribanks, as a surname, is at least 500 years old and, as a place name, probably considerably older, perhaps going back to those ancient Scottish times when the language spoken in the western borders of Scotland was neither English nor Scots but Welsh. It is, as the family's first historian, Rev. Thomas Marjoribanks of that Ilk remarks, "a name strange to ear and eye alike; difficult to pronounce and still more difficult to spell." (The present writer has been addressed as Miss Marjorie Banks, Major Banks, Mr. Maijoubiah and Mr. Muskrat.) Many of us have given up the struggle and adopted a more phonetic spelling such as Marchbanks. This spelling is found at least as early as 1682 and may possibly represent the original pronunciation, although the pronunciation MAR-jor-ee- banks, with the emphasis on the first syllable, is still found in some parts of Scotland.

    Several branches can be traced with some certainty from medieval times. The senior branch is that of Marjoribanks of that Ilk (Ilk means "the same," in this case the place or family estate), represented today by Andrew Marjoribanks of that Ilk, the chief or head of the family. A junior branch, also entitled to bear arms, is Marjoribanks of Lees, whose head today is John Marjoribanks, a resident of Guernsey. Both these branches can trace their descent in unbroken male line to the 16th century. A branch appearing in Eccles, Berwickshire in 1640 descends, with one doubtful link, to Commander James Marjoribanks, who still resides in the area, and probably to several other families in Berwickshire. Several Marjoribankses emigrated to the New World, notably George, a Jacobite exiled after the rebellion of 17 15, who has many American descendants. Other Marchbanks and Marshbanks families arrived in Canada and the U.S. in the 18th and 19th centuries. There is, too, a significant concentration of Marjoribankses in Australia and New Zealand. One family moved to England at a very early date. Its current representative is George Marchbank of Heanor, Derbyshire. Finally, the original estate in Dumfriesshire has continued to yield families. usually spelled Marchbanks, who have spread widely.

    We are a small family compared with some of the better known Scottish clans. We derive not from mile upon mile of Highland heather but from a small gentleman's estate in the border country. Nevertheless, Marjoribankses have played significant parts in the history of their communities and even nations. The growth and spread of the family is also of interest as a sidelight on general social history.

    In order to satisfy the interest of those who would like a study in somewhat more detail than can be supplied in  The Marjoribanks Letter,  this first number of our historical and genealogical journal is presented. It commences with a study of the origins and early history of the family, while later numbers will cover the history of various branches in many lands, as well as allied subjects such as Marjoribanks heraldry and the like.

    Finally, may I appeal to all members of The Marjoribanks Family who may read this to inform me of any historical or genealogical material they may have which might be incorporated into future articles. There are many intriguing but frustrating gaps and any scraps of information may prove valuable.

    Roger Marjoribanks

    The Name and Family 
    Origins and Early Years


    The accepted tradition for the name Marjoribanks, which is supported by several established authorities (e.g. Black's "Surnames of Scotland," Debrett and a "certain very old volume in the possession of the Marquis of Bute" quoted by Charles Marjoribanks in 183 1), is that the lands in Dumfriesshire from which the family undoubtedly derives its name were part of the dowry of Marjorie Bruce, daughter of King Robert I, on her marriage to Walter Stewart in 1315 and named after her in consequence.

    In recent times, however, some doubt has been raised about this explanation, for several reasons. Professor A.A.M. Duncan of the University of Glasgow, says flatly that his perusal of ancient records indicates that "the marriage portion of Walter Stewart certainly did not include lands in Dumfriesshire."

    The farmstead in the parish of Kirkpatrick-Juxta, just south of Moffat, which is recognized as the ancestral lands, was known as Marjoribanks (sometimes Merioribankis or other variations) from the Middle Ages and up until the beginning of the 18th century. It is now called Marchbank Farm.

    If the lands traditionally associated with the family were not in fact part of Lady Marjorie's dowry, how did they come to be called Marjoribanks? There are a number of interesting speculations.

    One explanation, which Professor Derick S. Thomson of the University of Glasgow finds "very plausible," is that some tenants of the Bruce family, who were considerable land-holders in Annandale in the 13th and 14th centuries, simply changed the name of their lands to Marjoribanks to honour Lady Marjorie and perhaps to shine in her reflected fame.

    This theory is supported by the fact that most place names were already established before the time of Lady Marjorie's marriage in 1315. Furthermore, an estate as small as the "five-merkland" farm, (i.e. a parcel of land that would rent for five merks or £3/6/8 in Scots money) is unlikely to have been distinguished with such a name.

    It is also possible, of course, that the name was simply invented by a medieval clerk who didn't hear correctly what he was told to write, or made a mistake in copying the name from another document. If the family name was originally Marchbanks, Professor Thomson suggests that the first element may have been the Welsh word "march," meaning a horse, since Welsh was widely spoken throughout southern Scotland in the early Christian centuries.

    In any case, the idea that the Marjoribanks lands were part of Lady Marjorie's dowry cannot be reliably traced for more than a couple of centuries. The story may have been devised by Joseph Marjoribanks who obtained his own grant of arms from the Lord Lyon in 1673 and established a junior branch of the family. Certainly the association with Lady Marjorie would have some appeal to Joseph, whose forbears for several generations had been bourgeois traders and burgesses of Edinburgh. A century or so later, a scion of the family who was steward to the Marquis of Bute before attaining greater distinction, presented the marquis with a volume detailing his family history including the traditional account of the origin of the name. Unfortunately, this volume seem to be no longer extant.

    However the five-merk lands in Dumfriesshire may have come be called Marjoribanks, there is no doubt that it is from these lands that the modern family takes its name. A charter of 1529, which roughly delineates the boundaries of the ancestral lands, clearly places its centre at about the modern farm of Marchbank.

    There is a hamlet called Marjoriebanks just north of Lochmaben, some 10 miles to the south of the lands described in the charter. It was called Bogle Hole in 1828 and there is clear evidence that the place-name Marjoriebanks was unknown in Lochmaben before the middle of the 19th century. The community may possibly have been named in honour of Rev. Thomas Marjoribanks of that Ilk who was minister of Lochmaben parish church from 1834 to 1850, and whose name is consistently spelled in church records with an additional 'e'.

    The question as to whether all Marjoribankses were originally Johnstones remains unsolved. The original Marjoribanks lands in Annandale were sold in the 1630s to Samuel Johnstone of Scheyns who, in 1634, sold them to his Chief, James, Lord Johnstone. Subsequent occupants of the lands, according to tradition, may have adopted the name Marjoribanks or Marchbanks, thus starting new family lines, although the family name Marjoribanks certainly existed long before this sale and some bearers of it may never have had Johnstone ancestors but were given the name from having lived or worked at Marjoribanks.

    The evidence of heraldry confirms a strong connection between the two families. All Marjoribanks blazonings since 1565, of whatever branch, bear one or more cushions as does Johnstone of Annandale. Sir George Mackenzie stated in his "Science of Heraldry" (1680) that this was "to show that they were Johnstouns originally."

    The first Marjoribanks known to history is "Philippus Marjoribanks de eodem" (Philip Marjoribanks of that Ilk), whose signature appears as witness to a deed of 1485 and another witness to the same deed is Will. Johnstone de Marjoribanks. It seems well within the bounds of possibility that William was a younger brother or cousin of Philip, and that Philip Johnstone had decided to call himself Marjoribanks to point out his proud status as a landholder and distinguish himself the swarm of more run-of-the-mill Johnstones in the area. This procedure was by no means uncommon; surnames were only just beginning to become fixed.

    Philip was still alive in 1503 and there is an intriguing reference in 1506 in which Lord Maxwell reports the name of "Philip of Johnston" as an "unlaw" -- not allowed within the boundaries of Annandale (though this penalty had been partly paid off by another Johnston.) Philip was not a common name in Scotland and it is very possible that this is the same Philip.

    The early 16th century was the period of the great feud between the Maxwells and the Johnstons. The neighbourhood of Annandale became known as "The Debatable Land," and as much as two generations later an English observer remarked on the devastation of the area. Maxwells tended to have the upper hand and no doubt many Johnston connections found it prudent or profitable to pursue their careers elsewhere. Thus, by 1520, we find John, James and Simon Marjoribanks comfortably ensconced as merchant burgesses in Edinburgh.[*]This is not surprising, for there were regular trading connections between Dumfriesshire and the capital. It is more unexpected, however, to find, a scant generation later, a group of Marjoribankses established as yeomen farmers in Yorkshire. Very possibly they were cattle drovers who decided that it was prudent to settle down at the southern end of their trail.

    At the time when the family emerges into history in 1485, its estate was a subfeu (a form of tenancy similar to a knight's fee in England, carrying some of the privileges of lordship) of John, first Lord Carlile, whose seat was at Torthorwald, not far away. 

    The Carlile had achieved gentle status only as recently as 1436, in the person of Sir William, Lord John's father; possibly their wide estates in Dumfriesshire date only from that time.

    A century later the Carliles failed in the senior male line and their lands passed, more or less entire, through a number of different hands until acquired under royal charter by the Earl of Annandale and Hartfell, a Johnstone, in 1662. As a result, the present earl is regarded as the overlord of the Marjoribanks family and has graciously given permission for members of the family to wear the Johnstone tartan.

    Robert Marjoribanks, probably Philip's son, held the lordship of Marjoribanks in 1541. He seems to have been unlucky in his family life for both his son and grandson predeceased him and in 1556 Lord Carlile, as overlord, confirmed the transfer of "the five merkland of old extent" to Thomas Marjoribanks of Ratho, perhaps Robert's younger brother. Thomas was an exceedingly distinguished man, whose career will be more fully covered in another article. The lands continued among his descendants for a further three generations when they were sold to Samuel Johnstone of Scheyns, and it is at that point that we may bring our story of Marjoribanks origins to a close.

    It must not be thought that that the name died out in the ancestral homeland. Between 1695 and 1755, 109 Marjoribankses were born in Kirkpatrick-Juxta parish alone. At the beginning of that period there were at least nine separate Marjoribanks families. Unfortunately the parish registers were not kept in sufficient detail to allow even the crudest genealogical analysis.

    These Marjoribankses, however, were not necessarily directly related to the earlier families, who were minor landed gentry. A document of 1765 describes James as a carrier and Elizabeth as the widow of a staymaker. At least two were tenant farmers and another was a soldier during the Seven Years War. The kirk session records show several of the women as being in receipt of parish relief either on a regular basis or on single occasions, as when Agnes was paid £1/15/3 in 1745 when her house burned.

    One interesting point is that, around the middle of the 17th century, both the place and the family name are almost invariably spelled Marjoribanks (or something similar) in the parish records but, a hundred years later, it is more often Marchbanks. In between, both spellings are used - sometimes within the same document. After 1760, however, the phonetic spelling becomes the rule in Kirkpatrick-Juxta, although the traditional spelling continues to prevail elsewhere.

    * * *

    *There is no proof at all that these gentlemen were directly related to Philip or his immediate descendants but there is enough evidence in various documents to show that they were all at least close associates.

    In the above account there are many "probablys" and "possiblys." This is, therefore, a work of provisional rather than confirmed history, but it is in full accord with the rather scanty facts that have so far come to light, and I hope that members of the family will find it helpful and illuminating as far as it goes. In addition to the sources named in the text I should like to thank especially John Marjoribanks of Harare,   who has supplied me with the vast majority of the unattributed facts and references of which I have made use and has helped enormously to clarify my ideas during our correspondence. Any errors that remain, however, are entirely my own.


    The Family
    in Sixteenth-Century Edinburgh


    More than fifty Marjoribankses are known to have lived in Edinburgh during the 16th century. For many of them there is no more than the briefest mention in the records. Even for those for whom some information exists, the amateur genealogist has to tread very warily and must, at times, use the concept of historical probability to indicate the most likely range of explanations.

    My thanks are due to Mrs. Rosemary Bigwood, a professional genealogist of Edinburgh, who has supplemented my own modest researches by extracting a mass of references from the available records. John Marjoribanks of Harare has established with certainty his line of descent from the first Thomas Marjoribanks of Ratho, building on the work of his grandfather, Rev. Thomas Marjoribanks of that Ilk, in "The Marjoribanks Family (1946). The essential secondary source is "Edinburgh and the Reformation" by J. Lynch.

    I am going to deal with four Marjoribanks families -- those of Thomas Marjoribanks of Ratho and of John, James, and Simon Marjoribanks -- who seem to have been the first generation of Marjoribankses to appear in the city. These four men were all born well before 1500 and are thus of the same generation as Robert Marjoribanks of that Ilk, the son of Philip, the earliest identifiable Marjoribanks, whose name appears on a deed of 1486. It is perfectly possible that they were all brothers. Certainly their families were closely connected for they are forever witnessing each other's wills and contracts or doing business with each other.

    I will also deal briefly with Joseph Marjoribanks and his sons who were active in Edinburgh well into the 17th century and who are the ancestors of the family line known as Marjoribanks of Lees.

    All five of these gentlemen, as well as several of their descendants, became burgesses or guildsmen of the city, members of the charmed inner circle of substantial citizens and privileged traders and craft masters in whose hands lay the election of members of the City Council. Membership in this group was either inherited or acquired through marriage - - neither procedure being notably democratic. It is a considerable tribute to the acumen of the first generation of Marjoribanks settlers in Edinburgh that they forced themselves into the city's mercantile aristocracy and, in several cases, played an important and interesting part in the history of their time.

    I. The Family of Thomas Marjoribanks of Ratho

    Thomas of Ratho _________________|__________________ | | | John (d. 1550) Robert (d.s.p. 1548) Thomas (d.1607) James 3 daughters | | Thomas of Ratho (1550-1620) James (fl. 1600 + -) | Marjoribanks of Balbardie and of that Ilk

    ( The following abbrev/ations are used throughout in genealogical diagrams:b.= born; d. = died; d.c. = died about (date); d.s.p. = died without issue; fl. = flounshed.)

    Perhaps the most notable of the early Marjoribankses in Edinburgh was Thomas of Ratho. He first appears in the records in 1524 as an advocate (barrister.) Such scanty evidence as exists suggests that he may have been born between 1485 and 1490. He is described in 1547 as "now of grat age, corpolent and seikle in his person," and therefore excused from military service. From a sasine (a property transfer document) of 1527 we know that he was by then married to Jonet Purves and it was by right of his wife that he was admitted a Guild Brother of Edinburgh in 1538. He was already a distinguished lawyer and now began to make a considerable career in politics. As a first step, he became Provost (Lord Mayor) of Edinburgh in 1540 and, no doubt to support this dignity and to mark the favour he found in royal circles, he was given a charter of the lands of Ratho, [1] a royal estate a few miles west of Edinburgh.

    He represented the city in Parliament several times and reached the head of his profession as Lord Clerk Register in 1549. He was president of the Council from 1556 until his death in 1557, during the government of Mary of Guise, mother of Mary, Queen of Scots, who served as regent during her daughter's minority.

    Shortly before his death a charter was issued by Lord Carlile transferring "the five merkland of old estate of Marjoribanks" --the ancestral lands near Lochmaben -- from Robert Marjoribanks of that Ilk to Thomas and his heirs, apparently as a fairly routine recognition of inheritance. Certainly Robert had no surviving descendants in the direct male line and it is perfectly possible that Thomas was his nearest relative. Thomas' relationship to Robert, however, is not directly stated and remains no more than a hypothesis.

    Thomas died very shortly before the flood of the Protestant Reformation overwhelmed Scotland, displacing the Roman Catholic religion practiced and supported by Scottish kings. It can be suspected that, as a faithful servant of the Queen Mother and the regency, he would have been found among the defenders of the old Catholic order. Certainly there is a good deal of scattered evidence that sympathy with the Roman Church remained fairly widespread among Marjoribankses.

    Most of them adapted to the new Protestant faith comfortably enough but none are to be found among the fanatically anti-monarchist faction who followed John Knox and aimed at a theocracy based on Calvinist principles espoused by radical congregations in Geneva. Some Marjoribankses became Presbyterian while retaining their loyalty to Queen Mary, while others were suspected of continuing their allegiance to the Papal system. (Loyalty to Catholicism was to surface again among Marjoribankses in the 18th century, in their devotion to the Stuarts.)

    Thomas of Ratho had four sons and three daughters. His eldest son, John, was a member of the Guild. He lived only long enough to father a son, also known as Thomas of Ratho, who is the lineal ancestor of the senior branch of the Marjoribanks family and will take his proper place at the head of a later article on that branch.

    John's younger brother, Robert, was a churchman under the old Roman Catholic order and, as such, was forbidden to marry. On his death in 1548, he passed his church appointments to a third brother, Thomas. Thomas, now a member of the Protestant clergy, was free to marry and had at least one son, James, who went into the hat- making trade. Thomas died in or about 1607 as prebendary of Corstorphine. It is known that this line continued for at least one more generation but very little can be stated with certainty.

    A fourth brother, James, is known to have been alive in 1573, the year of his sister Margaret's death. It is likely that he is the James Marjoribanks who is mentioned in the Tax Roll of 1583 as a merchant with a tax liability of twenty shillings.

    (If this identification could be made with certainty, it would virtually settle the problem of Joseph Marjoribanks' ancestry. See Section 5 below. )

    II. The Family of John Marjoribanks

    John ____________________|_________________ | | William (d.s.D. by 1549) John (d. by 1581)

    The first Marjoribanks family to be mentioned in the records of Edinburgh was that of John who was admitted a Guild brother in 1508 and certainly was dead by 1542. He may be the "John Meriorebanks" who pursued a successful case for slander before the Dumfries Town Council in 1525, but no other details of his life are known.

    John had two sons, William and John, who appear to have combined in 1546 to buy rights in Burrelschaw, a property in Dumfriesshire, from the grandson of Robert Marjoribanks of that Ilk.

    Of William virtually nothing else is known but his brother John is historically one of the most interesting of all the 16th century Marjoribankses. He was admitted as burgess and Guild brother by right of his late father in 1561 and from then until 1578 he was several times a city councillor and was bailie (chief magistrate) in 1561-62 and 1576-77. He lived through the stirring times that came in the aftermath of the Reformation, the short personal reign of Mary, Queen of Scots, her eventual deposition and the consequent civil disturbances in Edinburgh. Through it all John, like most wealthy men, transferred easily to the Protestant faith. He became a hardline opponent of Mary when she tried to interfere with the city council's independence by foisting her own nominee as its president, the post Thomas of Ratho had held a few years earlier. He was not, however, a Calvinist fanatic. In 1562 he was prepared to testify on behalf of William Roberton, Master of the Grammar School, whom the extremists wished to dismiss because of his Catholic sympathies. Nevertheless, there was no doubt of his Protestantism. He appears along with Simon Marjoribanks on the list of the "faithful brethren" drawn up by the kirk session in the same year. He and others of like mind, however, were prepared to co- operate with the Crown and to resist any attempt by the enthusiasts to impose a religious dictatorship as Calvin had done in Geneva. The Queen was sensible enough to enlist the aid of this body of moderate opinion and one concrete result was the building of a new hospital for the poor.

    John persisted in his loyalty to the Queen even in the face of the murder of her husband Darnley and her over-hasty marriage to the Earl of Bothwell, the man widely suspected of the murder. His allegiance to the Queen held fast throughout the political crisis that followed her deposition and later the murder of her half-brother, James, Earl of Moray, the regent who assumed power in the name of her baby son. Although John's side was defeated and he was for a while threatened, he kept the respect of his colleagues, regaining his place on the Council and serving another year as bailie. Although he is known to have married, no will has been found and he appears to have left no issue.

    III. The Family of James Marjoribanks

    James (d. before 1563) ______________________________|_______________________ | | | Michael (fl. 1563-84) James (alive 1584) Margaret (d.1584) ___|____________________________ | | Thomas (alive 1564) George (alive 1591)

    James is first mentioned in the records in 1511 and was enrolled a burgess and Guild brother in 1517 but little more is known of him. He had two sons, Michael and James, and a daughter Margaret.

    Michael inherited his father's status in 1564 and was appointed clerk to the kirk session in the following year which suggests that he may have been a lawyer. During the religious and political troubles of the 1570s he was clerk to both the rival factions, presumably because he could be trusted to be impartial, though he was a "Queen's man" by conviction. After the Queen's defeat he had to make public repentance for his association with the losers but he was clearly a valued public servant and was immediately reappointed. Michael had two sons, Thomas and George. Thomas was certainly a lawyer and George produced an intriguing little work of history covering the period l519 to l591.

    Michael's brother James can not be identified with certainty. Bearing in mind the activities of his relatives, we would naturally assume that he was engaged in one of the learned professions and this view is supported by the fact that he appears to have drawn up his sister Margaret's will in 1584. If that is indeed the same James Marjoribanks, he had a highly adventurous career for a clerk. He is described in 1565 as a notary and ax-chaplain; it was not long since the Reformation and there were still many Catholic sympathisers. He was fairly prosperous, being assessed at ten pounds for tax purposes in 1563, but he fell foul of the kirk in 1568 and was excommunicated for his Catholic tendencies. Like his brother Michael, however, he eventually made peace with with the winning side in 1574.

    We do not know when he died but there is a fascinating reference in 1578 (when he was certainly still alive) to a James Marjoribanks, "chaplain of the chapel of the Blessed Virgin Mary under Edinburgh Castle."

    On the face of it, this might mean no more than that he was a practicing Catholic and that the Catholic religion was being observed more or less overtly. But there is another possibility. The Chapel of the Blessed Virgin Mary is the name of one of Scotland's first Masonic Lodges, whose existence is definitely attested about twenty years later than this date. It is possible, therefore, that James was one of the very first Freemasons. His known political sympathies make this more likely.

    Whether this James is in fact the brother of Michael Marjoribanks, the clerk of the kirk session and son of James Marjoribanks, the burgess and Guild brother, can not be certainly established. He could possibly have been the son of the first Thomas of Ratho.

    A Leonard Marjoribanks who died in 1611, five years after his only son, may also have been related to the family of James Marjoribanks in light of the fact that he left money to the children and grandchildren of James' daughter Margaret. However, he also left money to James Marjoribanks, the hatmaker, son of Thomas the Prebendary and grandson of Thomas of Ratho. The bequest to James was made with the condition, "if it can be proved that he is the heir" -- without stipulating to what or to whom he might be the heir. These bequests seem to support the idea that all of these families are closely related but otherwise make confusion worse confounded!

    IV. The Family of Simon Marjoribanks

    Simon (fl. 1515-1563) ____________________________|_______________ | | James (d. 1569) Simon | Simon (d. 1582) ______|______________________ | | William (d.c. 1603) Christian + 2 other daughters

    Simon Marjoribanks was made a Guild brother in 1515 by right of his wife. If the wording of a later record is correct, he was still alive in 1563, but this seems very doubtful. In any case, he had two sons: James, who became a burgess by right of his father in 1563, and Simon, of whom absolutely nothing is known.

    James died in 1569, leaving a son named Simon who is rather more interesting. He was a merchant, trading mainly to France and Flanders, and was admitted burgess by right of his late father in 1572. Even before that time, however, he was already playing a prominent part in the affairs of the city. He too was listed by the kirk session in 1562 as one of "the faithful brethren." He was evidently affluent, since he was assessed for tax at twenty pounds in 1565, a very respectable figure.

    As a "King's man," loyal to the Regency Government of the infant James Vl rather than the condemned and fugitive Mary, he was a member of the establishment and of the winning side in the troubles of 1571. For that reason, it is not surprising to find him acting almost continuously as either Councillor or Bailie between 1568 and 1575. He was not, however, particularly active or fanatical in his allegiance. His main concern was to obtain permission from Queen Elizabeth to trade from English ports. The French, who supported Mary, had placed an embargo against ships belonging to her opponents.

    Simon had one son, William, a daughter named Christian, and two other daughters[2]. Very little is known of these children. William married a woman named Janet Purdy and there is no proof that they had any children. There are grounds for believing, however, that he is the ancestor of a branch of the family which settled some fifty years later in Eccles, just north of the Border, in Berwickshire. The run of given names is similar. William's sister married into a banking family and it is certain that the Eccles Marjoribankses acquired their property by lending money to families who were rich in land but short of cash. (All this, of course, is pure speculation but the Eccles branch originated somewhere -- it did not spring from dragon's teeth sown in the ground -- and the most likely hypothesis at the moment seems to be that they came from Edinburgh.)

    Christian married George Heriot, a goldsmith and banker from London who was both wealthy and charitable. He founded Heriot's Hospital in Edinburgh, the forerunner of the famous George Heriot's School. He is also commemorated in Heriot-Watt University in Glasgow.

    V. The Family of Joseph Marjoribanks

    James (?) ___________________________|________________ | | | James (d.s.p. 1603) Joseph (d.1635) John | Marjoribanks of Leuchie (later Lees) 

    Joseph Marjoribanks, an Edinburgh merchant, was admitted burgess in 1602 and is the proved ancestor of the family line which matriculated arms as Marjoribanks of Leuchie in the 17th century and, in the 18th century, as Marjoribanks of Lees. (He is thus the writer's own direct male ancestor in the tenth generation, while the senior remaining line is that of John Marjoribanks of Guernsey and his sons and grandsons, the twelfth established generation in unbroken male descent.) It is therefore a matter of some interest to attempt to establish whether Joseph Marjoribanks was related to the families we have already examined and in particular to the Ratho family, ancestors of Marjoribanks of that Ilk. This is a question that much concerned his descendant, Lord Tweedmouth, in the 19th century and became a topic of some controversy among genealogists. While I would not dare to tangle with such experts, I can indicate what seems to me the most likely solution.

    Joseph was married before 1595 to Marion Symsone, amassed a considerable fortune as an importer of wine and red herring, and died in 1635 after playing a considerable part in public life and serving three times as bailie. His father and an elder brother were both called James[3] and he had a younger brother, John, who survived him. So far, we are dealing with established fact but we now begin to suffer from gaps in the record. There is no readily available genealogical information about James, Joseph's father. For instance, there is no record of a James Marjoribanks having been admitted burgess at an appropriate date nor has James' will survived.

    When this problem was discussed among professional genealogists in the 19th century, it was rightly held that no more could be proved with certainty. It seems likely, however, that Joseph's father was one of the pillars of the mercantile establishment, rather than a lawyer, and that he was unlikely to have been a supporter of the Roman Catholic cause.

    On those grounds, and considering all of the possible Jameses with whom he could be identified, the likelihood is that he was the son of the first Thomas Marjoribanks of Ratho, and brother to the ancestor of Marjoribanks of that Ilk. It must be stressed, however, that this is a historian's hypothesis and a long way from a genealogist's proof. The family of Marjoribanks of Lees will be dealt with at more length in another article.


    Those mentioned above are by no means the only Marjoribankses in 16th century Edinburgh. Nor are they the only Marjoribankses identified in Scottish records of the 16th century. For instance, John Marjoribanks, attorney, is mentioned in Glasgow in 1550 and a Thomas Marjoribanks held lands in Glasgow in 1554. Perhaps the most interesting "floater" is a certain William Marjoribanks, merchant, on whose behalf the Scottish government asks permission of the English government to allow him to trade by sea for the year 1551. Who was he? William was a common name in the family and there are a number of possibilities.

    What is certain, among the obscurities of substantial but incomplete evidence, is that Marjoribanks was a name of considerable importance throughout the 16th century in the mercantile, legal and political circles of the Scottish capital - - a considerable achievement for a family whose name is first recorded only in 1485!



    1. These lands, and not the Marjoribanks lands near Lochmaben in Dumfriesshire, were at one time part of the dowry of Lady Marjorie Bruce. 

    2. It is not entirely clear whether William and his sisters were the children of Simon, James' brother, or of Simon, his son. The dates seem to suggest that they are the children of the son. 

    3.These Jameses must surely be the father and son mentioned in the Tax Roll of 1583 mentioned above.