Peasants to Puddles
My Family History - By Nicky Rowberry

The Barries of Kirkconnel

Janet Barrie or Barry was one of my 4xgreat grandmothers. She married John Johnstone and had seven children, the eldest of which was my 3xgreat grandfather Thomas Johnstone. The first firm fact I have about Janet Barrie is her marriage to John Johnstone in 1806 in Crawfordjohn parish. At the time of her marriage Janet was said to be "Of Kirkconnel" and John was from Crawfordjohn. Their first 5 children were born in Greenburn, Crawfordjohn, before they moved to a neighbouring farm called Bottom and finally to Smallburn in Muirkirk. Janet died in 1820 in Muirkirk. She is remembered on a gravestone erected by her eldest son Thomas Johnstone. On the stone it stated that she died in 1820 aged 38, putting her date of birth around 1782.

The details above are pretty much all the definite facts I have for Janet Barrie. But I am about 90% certain she is the daughter of John Barrie and Agnes Affleck who were having children in Kirkconnel in the latter part of the 1700s. Unfortunately there seems to be a gap in the Kirkconnel records at just about the time Janet should have been born. In the mid 1770s there were on average about 12 baptisms a year recorded in Kirkconnel. This drops to 3 in 1778, then zero in 1779 & 1780, 1 odd one in 1781 and zero again in 1782. By 1783 it was back to 12 baptisms again which continued more or less for the next few years. It seems highly unlikely that between 1778 and 1782 there were genuinely only 4 baptisms, so it is probable that some pages have been lost from the register. It is very frustrating as without her baptism we may never be able to prove who her parents were. There are a few other Janet Barries born in Scotland around the right time, but none seem very likely as they were all nowhere near Kirkconnel.

On the other hand John Barrie and Agnes Affleck had children (twins) baptised in Kirkconnel from 1783 - i.e. just after the apparent gap in the records. No marriage has been found yet for John & Agnes as again there seems to be a gap in the records, so we don't know how long before the baptism of the twins in 1783 they had married. It may be several years before in which case they could easily have had children older than the twins.

The theory that John & Agnes are our Janet Barrie's parents is supported by a few bits of circumstantial evidence. The first thing is that John Johnstone and Janet Barrie called their second son John and their first daughter Agnes. This fits with the naming convention in which the first girl is named after the mother's mother and the second boy is named after the mother's father (the first boy being named after the father's father and second girl after the father's mother). Secondly one of John Barrie & Agnes Affleck's daughters - another Agnes, and her husband Robert Hislop lived in Greenburn between at least 1817 and 1820, i.e. just after her "sister" Janet Barrie had vacated the cottage. Was it a family connection that got the Hislops the tenancy? Thirdly John Johnstone and Janet Barrie called one of their sons Samuel - a relatively unusual name amongst all the Thomas, John & William's. John Barrie and Agnes Affleck also had a son Samuel Barrie - again could just be a coincidence or did Janet Barrie name one of her children after a favourite brother? Fourthly this same Samuel Barrie was a Drainer - a fairly specific job title and one that appears time and time again in the Johnstone family, including Janet Barrie's husband John Johnstone. If the two families both had drainers, this could be how John & Janet got to know each other. And of course finally Janet was said to be "Of Kirkconnel" when she got married and John & Agnes seem to have been the only Barrie couple having children at about the right time in Kirkconnel.

So I've managed to convince myself that John Barrie and Agnes Affleck are the parents of Janet Barrie. But if anyone has any other ideas either for or against my theory, I am open to persuasion. On the assumption for the time being though that they are her parents, I have drawn out the tree below. John & Agnes seem to have stayed in Kirkconnel until they died. The gravestone below was erected by their youngest son Samuel Barrie and commemorates not only his parents but several of his own children who died as infants.

John Barrie was described as either a shepherd or a farmer on some of his children's death certificates. Either way it was probably a hard life scratching a living around Kirkconnel. Other than that, I don't know much about him or his wife. I've only managed to trace the fate of a few of John Barrie & Agnes Affleck's other children. It may be that some of the others died as infants as nothing further is known for them. One son, Samuel Barrie, was a drainer and his work seems to have led him to move around a fair bit - first to Dalmellington, then to Auchinleck and finally back to Kirkconnel where he died in 1878. He married Janet Broadfoot in 1820 and they had at least 12 children together. At least three of these children, George, John & Andrew Barrie emigrated to Australia in the 1850s. I've recently been contacted by one descendant from this Australian branch, but there are hopefully lots of others out there, it would be great to hear from some.

One of John Barrie's daughters, Agnes Barrie married Robert Hislop in Crawfordjohn in 1816. They had 3 children together at Greenburn and then Bottom in Crawfordjohn, before Robert's untimely death from "an accident" in 1821 leaving Agnes a widow aged only about 24. I don't know what kind of accident befell him, it would be good to find out. Agnes doesn't seem to have married again and ended up living with her son William until her death in 1869. I think Agnes's brother Thomas Barrie married Agnes Dryfe in 1825 in nearby Sanquhar then moved to Govan in Glasgow where he worked as a mason. He died in 1883 aged 91. The youngest Barrie child, Elizabeth, married Robert Kerr also in Sanquhar before they returned to Kirkconnel and raised a family there.

The family tree below summarises what I know about this Barrie family. It is hopefully reasonably accurate, but if you spot any errors, or any relatives, please feel free to E-mail me

Please click on one of the red links on the tree to move to a different page.

If any of the above is of further interest, please feel free to contact me at:

Nicky Rowberry 2014

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Peasants to Puddles - My Family History. By Nicky Rowberry