McJerrow Family of Ayrshire, Scotland and Nova Scotia

Last update of page: 22 February 2006.

The McJerrow family enters into Douglas J. Graham's Family Reunion through Jean McJerrow who married in Scotland to Andrew Muir. Jean was the grandmother of Mary E. Muir, spouse of Frank Graham.

George McJerrow, b. 1700


David McJerrow of Scotland, b. 1750 --- m. --- Agnes Gordon (6 children; link through her to Douglas)


Andrew Muir --- m. --- Jean McJerrow of Scotland, b. 1800 (16 children)

The McJerrows hail from the county of Ayr in southwest Scotland.

In 1927, Charles M. Milroy (an American descendent of the McJerrows) made a trip to Scotland where he discovered some long lost relatives. One relative that he visited was David McJerrow, then a M.P. and a solicitor with McJerrow and Stevenson, Solicitors of Lockerbie, Scotland (later to become famous as the crash site of Pan-American Flight 103 brought down by terrorists). In December 1927 this David wrote Charles Milroy a letter detailing some of the early McJerrow history. I have the original handwritten letter and typed versions. It was probably sent to Ethel Muir by William Milroy (Charlie's cousin); I reproduce part of it here on the early history of the family (other extracts appear later):

In 1556, according to an old history of the County of Ayr, the McJerrows owned the larger part of the parish of Barr in that county. They were apparently considerable land owners and a family of some position. Such they continued till 1680. On a beautiful morning in the month of June, that year, the then proprietor took it into his head to ride to the county town where, at the market cross of Ayr, he intimated to the citizens that he renounced his allegiance to King Charles Second, who, he stated, was a traitor to his country and had earned the contempt of all honest men. I have sometimes wondered if our national poet, Robert Burns, had this incident in his mind when he wrote the well-known lines:

Auld Ayr, Whom ne'er a toon surpasses
For honest men and bonnie lasses

Whether that be so or not, our worthy but rash ancestor was promptly reported to the town authorities, who equally promptly reported him to the Privy Council. He was summarily ordered to appear in Edinburgh and explain his conduct. Why he was not beheaded I do not know, but unluckily for his descendents, his estates were confiscated. Apparently after the sale of the estate, the family had some little means left for they purchased two farms Arnsheen and Alton Albany which they held down to 1700. At that time there was a large family and on the Laird's death it was thought advisable to sell the two farms and divide the proceeds among the family. The best known member of the family seems to have been Dr. McJerrow, who had a large practice in Ayr and was well known in that county. In his will he appointed James Boswell of Auchen Loch, a well known country gentleman and biographer of Dr. Samuel Johnson, his executor.

George McJerrow, b. 1700

As noted in the McJerrow letter above, a well-known member of the family was "Dr. McJerrow, who had a large practice in Ayr and was well known in that county." This Dr. McJerrow was Dr. George McJerrow, b. 1700.

David McJerrow, b. 1750

The only child of Dr. George McJerrow we know of was David. The McJerrow letter says this of David:

“My great grandfather David, with his share of the family means, took the sheep farm of Glenhead, at the upper end of Glentrool in the borders of Wigtownshire and Ayrshire, a high, bleek and cold farm. He had previously married a Miss Gordon, a daughter of one of the best-known houses in Scotland, a "penniless lass with a long pedigree".

He went to Glenhead in 1788, in the parish of Minnigaff. Glenhead was a very remote sheep farm in Glentrool, close to the Ayrshire border and therefore the parish of Barr. I have a handwritten copy, dated 1902, of the original 1803 deed lease of "the lands and farm called Bonpiel [?] and Glenhead" from John, Earl of Galloway to David McJerrow. The McJerrow letter also includes the following:

For a description of the wild country where Glenhead is situated, I am sending you under separate cover a book by S. R. Crockett "The Raiders", which will interest you. Glenhead lies on the shoulder of Merrick, the highest hill on the Ayrshire border.

David died at Minnigaff on June 3 1829 aged 78 (3) or in 1825 (1, probably less reliably). Note that in his wife's death notice (5) his name is given only as "J. McJerrow".

The Miss Gordon was Agnes Gordon who he married either in the Parish of Colmonell, Ayrshire (1) or on 21 December 1787 in "Barr by Girvan, Ayr. (OPR)" (2). Agnes may have had "a long pedigree" but it is not well known to us. She was christened 19 October 1762 (2). Her death was noted in the Wigtownshire Free Press (5) on 8 March 1850: "M'JERROW/GORDON, Agnes - D2/3/1850 - At Wigtown, on the 2d instant, Agnes Gordon, relict of J. M'Jerrow, late of Glenhead, Minnigaff, aged 86." This would put her birth in about 1764 if her age was correctly recorded.

We do know (2) that her father was William Gordon, b. about 1730 in Minnigaff (IGI records). Her mother was Mary Douglas and she had at least one sister, Jean Gordon (who apparently married a McMillan). We speculate that Mary may have lived with David and Agnes in about 1813 (see story of the Sampler below). Agnes died at Wigtown. She was presumably was living (3) at that time with her son David (see below).

Glenhead and Minigaff are both in the Parish of Minigaff (see brief description) in the county of Kirkcudbrightshire (see map of parishes of Kircudbrightshire). Wigtown is just a few km away in the adjacent county of Wigtownshire.

Jean McJerrow, b. 1800, and Siblings

David McJerrow and Agnes Gordon had six children:

1) William, b. 17 November 1788. His gravestone at Minnigaff (3) says he died on 23 December 1824 but the McJerrow letter says he died at Glenhead in 1822 (1).

2) Mary, b. 12 October 1790, married James Milroy of Ochiltree, Penninghame. They emigrated to the state of New York where she died in 1868. Before they sailed for the New World, to celebrate the momentous event, her mother Agnes gave her six (?) serviettes which had been made from the flax of the family farm and by which Mary could remember Scotland, Glenhead, and her Mother. These were later inherited by her sister Jean and have been passed down through five subsequent generations. Three of the precious mementos are now owned by my sister Karen Graham in Portage La Prairie, Manitoba.

Two children are known:
1. Unknown son who had a son, Charles M. Milroy, who we know to be a cousin of Dr. William Forsyth Milroy below. Charles was the traveller to Scotland mentioned above and the recipient of the letter from David McJerrow. In 1927 he was a Judge of the Court of Common Pleas in Toledo, Ohio. He was married and had a family, including a son Richard.
2. James Milroy of York, NY who m. Sarah Anne Cullings Forsyth, also of York (4). They had at least one son, William Forsyth Milroy, who in 1927 was a doctor at the College of Medicine at the University of Nebraska. From a letterhead on some of his correspondence with Ethel Muir, he was also apparently the Medical Director of The Bankers Reserve Life Company of Omaha.
Ethel Graham also corresponded in the 1960s with Gene and Milroy Stewart of California. It is not clear how exactly they were related to the Milroys above but in 1927 they had visited with the Bayers, Brunts, and Muirs of Nova Scotia.

3) Janet, b. 12 February 1793. She died on 15 February 1817, aged 24 and is buried at Minnigaff. The use of James rather than Janet (as in my original book) was due to a transcription error made on a typed version of the original letter of David McJerrow.

4) David, b. 22 November 1796 and died in 1873, according to the McJerrow letter. He died at Wigtown on 8 January 1871, aged 74 (3). According to the McJerrow letter:

Their son David apparently thought there was not much prospect in carrying on the farm of Glenhead. He descended to Wigtown [in May 1820] where he took a commercial life as a dealer in agricultural produce, grain, etc. He was a man of considerable individuality and personality. He was a magistrate in Wigtown and when it was proposed to bring the railroad there he was appointed by the town to state their case in Westminster.

According to (3), David "had a thriving business as a baker in Wigtown". He was married to Sarah Muir (related to our Muirs?). She died in July 1865 at Wigtown aged 69. The McJerrow letter continues about their children:

He left a substantial estate for those days among his three sons and daughters. The eldest, my father, David, became a solicitor, the second, William, continued his father's business, while the third John, a rolling stone, joined the Northern Army in the Civil War in the States and fought through various campaigns. He never married. With his share of the estate and a liberal pension given by the United States Government, he lived quite comfortably and well within his means till he died some forty years ago. I only saw him once on a brief visit to this country over fifty years ago, - a tall, athletic "rugged-looking man" who reminded me of pictures of your great president Abraham Lincoln.

We further know (3) that John died in Brooklyn, NY on 5 July 1898. A sister Helen died 10 July 1883 at Wigtown aged 57. David the solicitor died 30 May 1877 at Annan, aged 50. The second son, William, took over his father's bakery. On 2 February 1860 he married Magdalena McMaster, b. 16 July 1828 to Andrew McMaster and Janet Yuill. He died 31 October 1899 of apoplexy and Magdalena in 1902. The author of the letter cited here as source (3), Bill Copland, is related to Magdalena McMaster.

5) Jean, b. 9 May 1800. Her name is later sometimes written as Jane but she is Jean on her sampler (see below) and on her marriage certificate. She married Error! Hyperlink reference not valid. of Kirkmabreck, emigrated with him to Nova Scotia and eventually had 16 children. I have in my possession an original document which was a recommendation for Jean McJerrow written by her Scottish minister:

Minnigoff [sic] 11 May 1821
I do hereby certify that Jane McGerrow [sic] a native of this parish and spouse of Andrew Muir has resided here from infancy - that she behaved honestly and soberly - is free from all public scandal, and for any thing known here, may be admitted a member of any Church community where Providence may order her lot.
[signed] I. G. Maitland, Min.

She died in Halifax on 16 October 1869 (according to Andrew's family bible; her death there is recorded as "Jane wife of Andrew Muir"). I have a beautiful large portrait of Jean that is a watercolour done over an enlarged Notman photograph, the original of which is also in my possession (used on the cover of the original printed edition of A Family Reunion). Although she definitely could not be described as good-looking, her impressive bearing and stern Victorian visage suggest that she must have been a power to reckon with.

My parents have a "sampler" in their possession that was sewn by a young Jean. My father wrote "The Sampler":

Samplers go back some 400 years. They initially were a repertory of embroidery stitches and lettering styles. They later became a means of teaching embroidery skills and of learning through practice. Adolescent girls had to demonstrate their domesticity by producing a sampler. In the 18th and 19th centuries the making of a sampler was often a classroom exercise. The embroidery reproduced the alphabet (upper and lower case lettering or writing) and numbers (1 to 10). The sampler might also include a quote from the Scriptures, or an hackneyed adage, and finally the name and age of the young stitcher. The sampler might even contain borders of art work - a wee cottage, a few trees and flowers, etc.

The work of children was not considered worth preserving, and surprisingly few samplers have survived. Today they have become treasures. Valued not just as antiques but in recognition of the long denied history of women and their work. They are becoming museum pieces. They are framed and hung among the portraits of our male ancestors. They are hard to find in antique stores and at auctions they demand ever higher prices. Most samplers date from the late 1800s or early 1900s and might be priced at $800 - ten times their value only 20 years ago.

Some samplers have an added value as records of relationships in the family trees. The adolescent student of embroidery would take the creative opportunity to pay respect, by name, to her parents or siblings.

I believe we have three samplers, but the chance of having all three at one place at one time is remote. Today Marg was into a freshly discovered drawer, and found the oldest and finest of our family samplers. One describes several relationships and dates back to 1813 (180 years!). The sampler was done by a 12 year old, going on 13, named Jean McJerrow. This winsome child with deft fingers grew to be the Jean McJerrow whose photograph (taken by Notman & Son of Montreal) is on the cover of Doug Graham's A Family Reunion (Doug's Great-Great-Great-Grandmother).

I have previously written about Jean. Her claim upon our interest is not just that she married Andrew Muir but that she was the daughter of David McJerrow and Agnes Gordon of Glenhead Farm (see an earlier essay) [on the flax serviettes of Agnes Muir].
When we look at the information on the sampler embroidered by Jean, we find several minor errors in A Family Reunion. [citation from the book follows]

All of the foregoing was simply to locate the McJerrows in relation to the rest of the family. We can now look at the sampler. It is done on linen and the embroidery is with cotton and silk (?) thread. The dominant stitch is the cross stitch, but several other stitches are also used. There is no border on this sampler but there are several rows of decorative motifs (crowing hen, potted plants, flowers, trees, gull-like birds and geometric designs). The alphabet is repeated in several stitches; the letter U is never included and Q is rendered thus [like a 9].
The names, in order of appearance, are:

Mary Douglas, young Jean's maternal grandmother, who may have lived with the McJerrows at Glenhead.

David McJerrow and Agnes Gordon - Jean's father and mother.

William, Mary, Janet, David, and John - her siblings. N. B. sister Janet (not James).

Jean McMillan - her aunt Jean (her mother's sister)

At the bottom but quite separate from the other names we find William Clanochan (could be the husband of 20 year old Janet?).
Jean Gordon (is this her aunt again or another Jean Gordon - wife of brother William?), and James Milroy, the husband of Mary.

The condition of the sampler is not very good. It has been stitched onto an acidic cardboard for at least 100 years. Some stitches are missing, all are faded. The linen has become very dark and fragile.

We shall seek assistance in having it restored, or at least cleaned, and then frame it on acid-free paper, behind plexiglass. Before framing we would hope to have it photographed.

Armed with such a photograph, and fresh from our exciting visit with the Wisdoms of New Zealand, I will try to find the Milroys of Toledo and Nebraska, and shall visit Lockerbie and look up the McJerrows. While in Scotland I shall try to find that inhospitable turf from whence Jean McJerrow sprang, Glenhead (at the upper end of Glentrool in the borders ofWigtownshire and Ayrshire). Oh, if I could only tend sheep on that craggy land, on a May day of 1813.

W. M. Graham
August 29 1993

6) John, b. 28 July 1802. He died unmarried at Glenhead in about 1820 (1). (3) notes that he is buried at Minnigaff and died on 27 June 1821, aged 18.


The basic information on the McJerrows comes from the letter sent by David McJerrow of Lockerbie in 1927 to Charlie Milroy (source (1) in footnotes). Some additional information on Jean, her parents, and her siblings (birth and death dates) are also included in this letter, which David says come from a note in his father's handwriting. Information on the siblings and a few other relatives of Jean McJerrow can be read on the sampler she did in 1813 when she was 12 (see story of the sampler above). Other bits of information, especially on Milroys, was collected by Ethel G. Graham.

Some additional information has been obtained from research of Yvette and Bill Muir (ID-141) and from my own research.


(1) Letter from David McJerrow in 1927 to Charlie Milroy (in my files).
(2) Information on Agnes Gordon and her parents was obtained from the research of Yvette Muir (ID-141), presumably from parish records.
(3) Further information on David McJerrow and Agnes Gordon and their children comes from a 1998 letter written to Yvette Muir by Bill Copland of Glasgow.
(4) Correspondence in February 2002 from Katharine Evans Couto (ID-4), a great-granddaughter of Dr. William Forsyth Milroy.
(5) WFP Newspaper notice of Agnes' death on 2 Feb. 1850, aged 86, received from Yvette Muir in February 2006, apparently from According to (3), her gravestone had her death as 2 Feb. 1851, aged 86 but there was likely a transcription error by somebody.