1 R. A. Fenwick. PhD. FSA.Scot. St Leonards Manse, 112 Dundee Road, Perth PH2 7BB, Scotland U.K. Tel: (+44) 01738 627975. 14th April 2011. Debbie Wells, 271 Mill Creek Lane, Stuarts Draft, Virginia 24477. Dear Debbie Wells, Proffit/Prophet and associated family history research In our search for information about the origins of a Sylvester Proffitt who is given as born circa 1698 in the united parish of Eassie & Nevay in Forfarshire (now County Angus), where he may have resided up to 1715, we first note that prior to the late nineteenth century, when most of our forebears began to become literate, there was no set orthography, clerks simply spelt the names of people, and of places, how they sounded to them (even to this day there are several ways of spelling names like Athole, Atholl, McLain/Maclean etc.). It is therefore not unusual to find different spellings within one document, and even on the same page. First we should consider research in the period from the late seventeenth century to the 1720s, as any surviving documentation pertaining to Sylvester’s possible relatives could still be informative up to that time, as such were invariably recorded years after their original date. Beginning with the easier to locate records, no variants of the surname were evident in the 1650 to 1730 period among the indexed Commissary (church) Court Testaments (some latter wills). This is not unusual as only a small minority had something to leave at a time when the vast majority of the population were accommodated in exchange for their labour. Even for the better off, if there were no queries about an inheritance a will was unlikely to have been registered. The Commissary Court Testaments are however only one of the Commissary’s sources, there is a wide range of primarily un-indexed records such as the Registers of Deeds etc. kept by the Commissary Courts and the local Sheriff Courts for each county. Staying with the most likely of the readily available sources, the next collection to investigate were the Registers of Teinds (church dues) for Eassie & Nevay parish: TE5/vol. 220 Eassie & Nevay Teinds rental & heritor’s lists 1629-1650. No variants of our surname were seen among the tenants mentioned in this source. 2 E69/11/vol. 1. Angus Hearth Tax 1693. No variants of the surname Proffitt were seen in Eassie & Nevay parish, or in the adjoining parishes of Airlie, Glames, Newtyle, Auchterhouse or Ruthven. These listing does however only tend to include those of tenant rank and above who could afford to pay the Hearth Tax. Eassie & Nevay parish came under the jurisdiction of the Presbytery of Meigle. The parish of Meigle adjoins Eassie & Nevay to the north west, therefore although Meigle parish is in Perthshire, we should be aware records pertaining to that parish, especially as farm workers, which Sylvester is given as being, were likely to move from one location to another, as frequently as the annual hiring fairs. TE5/vol. 386 Meigle Teinds 1691. No variants of our surname were seen among the tenants mentioned in this source. E69/19/vols. 1-3. Perthshire Hearth Tax 1692, 1694. No variants of our surname were evident in the Meigle Hearth Tax years. RH9/3/vol. 81. Meigle rental 1630. This source was found to list the main landowners only, none with our surname. In Scotland information about all social groups is more likely to be found locally, the kirk church Session consisting of 12 elders with the minister presiding, was to all intents the lowest yet most effective local court in the land for (moral) discipline. But where a matter was deemed too serious for the kirk Session to handle, it was referred to the regional Presbytery or Sheriff Court. These Session minutes for moral discipline appear to be obsessed with fornicators. But we must remember that the parish was responsible for welfare payments, and then as now one of the largest burdens on the tax payer was the single parent. Therefore examples were made of any behaviour which could increase this tax burden. More important the Session's accounts may include useful lists of communicants, the fees paid for a marriage or mortcloth (a shroud placed over the coffin at funerals), which are at times the only available evidence of such events. In some instances these give the deceased persons age, location, occupation, and name a spouse. Sadly church or kirk Session minutes do not survive for Eassie & Nevay parish for our period of interest, but minutes do exist for the local Presbytery of Meigle which had jurisdiction over the parish of Eassie & Nevay, Coupar Angus, and five others adjoining, to which matters may have been referred that had been deemed to serious for the parish to handle. CH2/263/vol. 1, Meigle Presbytery minutes 1659-1689. 31 July 1677. Mr Silvester Lambie to exercise (give and or discuss a sermon) Mr John Profitt schoolmaster at Eassie to add. 1. 3 Brilliant, the date suggests that the foregoing Mr John Profitt might be our Silvester’s father. It is possible to obtain an indication of who the preceding generation may have been, by looking at the naming patterns which most Scots kept to then. This being the; eldest son named after his paternal grandfather, second son named after his maternal grandfather, third son named after his father, eldest daughter named after her maternal grandmother, second daughter named after her paternal grandmother, third daughter named after her mother. Most of the children were born at an average of two year intervals, but we should look for gaps, where due to high infant mortality then, a number of children who did not survive for baptism may have been afforded names. Although these naming traditions can only be used as a guide, on numerous occasions they have proven to be very useful. Given that in 1727 Silvester names his eldest known son John, is very significant. That Mr John Profitt schoolmaster in Eassie is afforded the prefix of Mr, indicates that he may well have obtained a Masters Degree at one of Scotland’s universities. Unfortunately only the matriculation rolls for the University of Aberdeen list a dozen or so graduates in the seventeenth century, and any variant of our surname was not amongst them. Nevertheless, it was primarily the sons of the gentry who obtained degrees at that time, therefore if Mr John the schoolmaster is a forebear, then there could be other documentation about his family. Heritors Minutes, are the minutes of the main landowners in a parish whose taxes paid for the upkeep of the poor, the minister, and the appointment of the schoolmaster. Unfortunately however the Heritors Minutes for Eassie & Nevay were found to be not extant until 1884. Sylvester was an unusual surname in Scotland, but in the course of searching these Presbytery minutes we frequently encounter this first name among references to the minister of Eassie & Nevay at the time of our Sylvester’s birth. One wonders therefore whether our man may have been named after him: Fasti Ecclesiae Scoticanae vol. 5. (details Presbyterian church ministers). Eassie & Nevay: Silvester Lammie, son of Silvester Lammie minister of Glamis, admitted here on 22 Sep 1665, deprived by the Privy Council on 5 Dec 1695 for nonjurancy, not taking the oath of allegiance to the Protestant King William (of Orange) & Mary (Stewart). On 17 Apr 1701 Silvester withdrew the congregation from the church and preached in the manse (parsonage or vicarage), he died before 17 Apr 1713. He married Margaret Melvill, their issue was: John D.D. minister at Staines, Middlesex England, Silvester M.D. in Montrose, Helen married Lt. Col. John Lammie of Col. Cunningham’s Regiment. 4 The foregoing indicates that Silvester Lammie was an Episcopalian, and possible supporter of the Catholic Stewart monarchy. This therefore could be one of the reasons for our name sake taking part in the Stewart rebellion in 1715 against the Protestant monarchy. James VII of Scotland (II of England) had imposed Episcopalism on the former Presbyterian Church of Scotland as a possible step towards re-introducing the Stewart monarchy’s preference for the Roman Catholic Church. In 1688 however James VII fled and William & Mary re-established the Protestant cause. As many Episcopalians were semi-Catholics, this could be one of the reasons for there being scant reference to variants of the surname Proffitt among the local Presbytery (Presbyterian) church records for the Eassie & Nevay area at this time. At this juncture no Catholic or specific Episcopal church records are known to exist in our National Archives for our period and current geographical area of interest. CH2/263/vol. 1, Meigle Presbytery minutes 1659-1689 continued: 28 Aug to 25 Sep 1677. Exercised Mr Silvester Lambie, and Mr John Profitt added. Mr John Profitt to exercise & Mr David Paton to add. 1. 13 Aug 1678. Mr George Ogilvy to exercise, next day: Mr Silvester Lammie to add or else Mr John Prophet to add. 1. 27 Sep 1681. Mr James Guthrie is noted as a schoolmaster in Eassie. 1. 5 Feb & 27 Nov 1684. Mr Silvester Lammie minister at Eassie, was chosen as Moderator for these days in the absence of the Moderator. 1. There is then a gap in these Presbytery minutes from April 1689 until June 1703, this being the period in which Mr Silvester Lammie was deprived on the 5th December 1695 from being the minister of Eassie & Nevay parish. The Fasti Ecclesiae Scoticanae shows that a Mr Adam Davidson became the minister at there in 1702. CH2/263/vols 2-5, Meigle Presbytery minutes 1703- June 1718 continued. 13 June 1705. Helen Galloway rebuked for having an illegitimate child baptised by Mr Sylvester Lambie late incumbent in Eassie & Nevay who keeps a meeting house* there. 2. * This would no doubt have been a Meeting House for the displaced Episcopalian congregation in the parish of Eassie & Nevay. Queen Anne’s Act of Tolerance for other religious persuasions here, did not come into being until 1712, but the Pretender of the former Catholic Stewart monarchy, forebear of Bonnie Prince Charlie, still wanted the throne back. 14 Oct 1713. Presented that Jean Ogilvie in the paroch of Eassie, which she has now left, is guilty of fornication with David Prophet in the paroch of Glammis 5. 5 8 Feb 1716. The Presbytery to congratulate the Duke of Argyle for his pursuit north and success against the rebels. 5. This concluded our search of the local Meigle and district Presbytery minutes up to June 1718. The findings of this exercise being that our Sylvester might be the son of a Mr John Proffitt schoolmaster in Eassie & Nevay parish and colleague in 1677-78 of the then minister Sylvester Lammie, an Episcopalian. This might explain why our Sylvester sided against the Protestant Government. Supporting this theory is where our Sylvester names his eldest son John, but as our Sylvester was born circa 1698, he may also have been the grandson of Mr John. As to the David Prophet ‘in’ the possibly relevant parish of Glamis in 1713, when one has gleaned what we can from the aforementioned local records, significant in deciding which of the likely source to explore next, is the place of the forebear in a social hierarchy based upon the possession of land. There is plenty of documentation about those ranked as tenants or above, but very little about the subtenants or cottars from whose ranks the vast majority of our forebears descend. This is often because until the late eighteenth century most of their transactions, including rents to the tenant were paid in kind rather than cash. Therefore to ascertain the difficulty factor for locating evidence of a person, it should be noted that the use of certain small designations then was very important, for example for a person to be styled; of, a place, indicated that they were the proprietor there. in, a place, indicated that they were a tenant or subtenant in that place. at, a place, indicated a temporary stay. Some school teachers were years 'at' a place. Therefore the David ‘in’ Glamis who is in trouble with Jean Ogilvie in 1713, is likely to have been an ordinary inhabitant there, or tenant at best, whereas a person with the designation of ‘Mr’ is highly likely to have originated from the gentry of a wealthy merchant. Given that schoolmasters like ministers, could have acquired their position from anywhere in Scotland, our next step was to see whether the name Proffitt may or may not have been local to Forfarshire (now Angus), in this we consult Black’s work, Black does not claim origins, he merely present evidence of where and when a name was located: Dr George F Black’s The Surnames of Scotland. Profe, Profat, Profeit: William Propheta was a charter witness in Aberdeen in 1281. John Profite was admitted burgess of the same burgh in 1446. Thom Propheit appears ‘mair of the quarter of Brechin and sheriff depute of Forfarshire in 1473. Alexander Prefat in Dundee was charged with aiding the English in 1515. With Brechin being 19 miles east of Eassie & Nevay, and Dundee 10 miles south of the same, both in Forfarshire, it is pleasing to deduct that the immediate generations of our folk may well appear in documentation pertaining to the local Sheriff court for that county, and among the regional Commissary courts of St Andrews, and Brechin. 6 The next most likely source are the un-indexed Registers of Deeds in these local Sheriff and Commissary courts, but first, the Books of Council & Session, from the Court of Session, the highest court in the land, are indexed with gaps from 166 to 1715. At this juncture the often multi-paged items of interest encountered therein are summarised to that which appears to be the essential, although fuller copies and transcriptions can usually be obtained of any item which may become important: RD2-4. Books of Council & Session deeds etc. 1661-1702, 1705-07, 1715. 8 Aug 1670. Obligation. John Glendenning wright burgess of Edinburgh, grants that he has borrowed from Jean Profeit daughter lawful of David Profeit indweller in Brechin 100 merks, - dated at Edinburgh on the 19th April 1669. RD4/vol. 27. 20 July 1682. Tack (Lease). At Brechin on the 11th March 1681, David Profite as the heritable proprietor, gives a tack of three years to John Bearne in Brathnish, of 2 acres of land and yard called the Kirkdoor Keepers on the east side of the highway from Brechin to Tarintie Muir. RD2/vol. 58. 4 Janr 1696. Bond. John Livingston of Memus grants that he has borrowed from David Profite merchant in Dundee, £70 Scots, - dated at Menus 14 April 1693. RD4/vol. 78. 22 May 1697. Bond. Henry Craufurd merchant in Dundee, grants that he has borrowed from David Profeite merchant there £29 Sterling - dated at Dundee on the 3rd March 1697. (3 merks = £2 Scots, £12 Scots = £1 Sterling). RD4/vol. 80. 17 Nov 1699. Bond. Alexander Duncan merchant in Aberdeen grants that he owes to David Profitte merchant burgess of Dundee, £40 Scots for certain merchant goods bought, - dated at Dundee on the 5th July 1699. RD2/vol. 83. Fortunately Brechin and Dundee’s registers of baptisms are extant from 1612 and 1645 respectively. The indexes to these show a David Profeit and Isobel Adamson having children in Dundee in our period, but none named Sylvester of John. In Brechin however a David Proffeitt and Catharin Lindsay have a child named John baptised on the 13th August 1660. If this David turns out to be the heritable proprietor in the Council & Session deed of 20 July 1682 above, this might just be the gentry father of Mr John. Especially as our Sylvester in Virginia names his second son David. At this stage however our assumptions are still hypothetical, primarily because no baptism or marriage records exist for Eassie & Nevay or Glamis for this period. The next step is to look at the local and regional to Forfarshire, Commissary and Sheriff Court collections of deeds, to see whether any wills, settlements, or other informative documents have survived which can either refute, confirm or clarify our studies so far. At this juncture it was time for me to forward to you this initial report. With all being well it is my intention to try and have a further report ready for you within the next 2 to 3 weeks or so. In this respect the following sources should be the next on our list to help us in our quests: 7 CC20 = Commissary of St Andrews: The jurisdiction of the Commissary Courts was not confined to the boundaries of the civil sheriffdoms or counties. Being a hangover from the old church or diocese courts whose activities were merged with those of the local sheriff courts in the 1820's, their jurisdiction could cover a number or parts of counties. The jurisdiction of the Commissary Court of St Andrews for example, included most but not all of the parishes in the counties of Fife, with parts of Perthshire, and Forfarshire. Therefore although we might be primarily concerned with noting items of interest in the county of Forfarshire, in a search of the Commissary Court records we are likely to encounter references to variants of the surnames in question, wherever this court had jurisdiction. Some items of immediate interest in the St Andrew’s collections are: CC20/11/vols. 1-10 Registers of Deeds etc 1623-1718 with gaps. CC20/13/boxes 1-2. Warrants of Deeds etc 1649-1723 with gaps. CC20/2/vols. 1-10. Decrees 1595-1713 with gaps. SC47 = Forfar Sheriff Court: SC47/56/vols. 1-20. SC47/59/boxes 1-7. SC47/22/boxes 1-9. SC47/7/vol. 1. Registers of Deeds etc 1623-79, gap to 1711-1718. Warrants of Deeds etc 1620-1716. Processes 1622, 1700-1714, gap to 1720. Decrees 1711-1715, gap to 1749. Warrants are the original papers from which the deed or Protest Bill for a small debt was noted. These do at times fill the gaps in the Registers of Deeds. Processes are the original papers in the Process of being heard by the court. Decrees are only those Processes that reached a conclusion, and were not settled out of court before the judge had Decreed his judgement. I will be in touch. Yours sincerely, Robert Fenwick.