During the autumn of the year 2001, I was approached by Raymond L. Morehead to compile and write a history of the Muirhead Clan. Up to that time, I was performing certain duties for the clan in the position of Heraldry Consultant and as an Elder. Raymond was the President and Chief-elect. I had previously written and published a history of Blair County, Pennsylvania on the occasion of its sesquicentennial and a history of the region in which I reside, Bedford County, Pennsylvania during the American Revolutionary War. I had also created an internet website devoted to the Colonial and American Revolutionary War heritage of Bedford County. A knowledge of those two books and the website, along with a number of telephone conversations (I live in Pennsylvania and Raymond lives in Washington State) are what perhaps prompted Raymond to ask me to write a history of the clan.
Raymond supplied me with photocopies of just about everything available in print that pertained to the Muirheads throughout history. He had spent a couple decades of his life researching and collecting anything and everything that mentioned the family name. I had already been accumulating a file of my own on the family. (I descend from the Muirheads on my father’s side.) But my knowledge of the size and scope of the family was limited; I had collected information only on the descendants of Robert Muirhead, my own emigrant ancestor. The volume of the material Raymond sent to me was overwhelming at first.
I received the packages of photocopies, and began sorting the information into basic groupings according to subject. It soon became apparent to me that the task would be both easy and difficult. It would be easy in view of the fact that Raymond had already performed the time consuming job of finding and collecting the information. But it would be difficult in view of the fact that there was a considerable amount of missing and/or conflicting information (such as the complete lack of information on James Muirhead of Lauchope’s marriage to Margaret Cunninghame in one of the primary sources, and the complete lack of his other wife, Janet Hamilton in another). A careful study of the various wills available would lead me to make the assumption that both sources were correct, and that James simply was married twice. Then there was the dilemma of separating out the various James Muirhead of Lachops who were mentioned in a multitude of public documents. By separating them according to date and the other individuals involved, they started to make sense.
I tried to be as open minded and fair as possible in my attempts to untangle the mess that all the conflicting bits of information presented. Rather than accept as gospel the information previously written and published by any particular member(s) of the family, I compared and correlated information provided by the various sources, and then attempted to make sense of it all. Unfortunately, in so doing, I will probably have made a number of enemies within the family. Everyone wants to believe that their information, or that published by their own direct line ancestor(s) is/was the only correct information or version of events. Just because John M. Morehead was a man of some influence in his realm of existence, and wrote his version of the family history in his book, The Morehead Family Of North Carolina And Virginia, I do not feel obligated to re-iterate every single one of his viewpoints; from where I exist, Mr. Morehead was simply a descendant from the same ancestors from which I descend. And so my attempt to get the family history just a little bit more accurate should not be interpreted as my lack of respect for the tremendous work that he accomplished. And, likewise, I expect others to notice errors in my own research and assumption. If such errors are publicized for the betterment of the family, I will be most grateful.
So to those members of the family upon whose toes I might have stepped, I will apologize in advance. But I will only apologize for the fact that I regret that you might be offended; I will not apologize for attempting to correct the history of the family.
There are a number of people who deserve to be credited with providing assistance in this project: Mrs. Diane Baptie, who performed research in Scotland, and obtained references to the Muirhead family from the 16th and 17th Centuries; David Grosset, who has accumulated a wealth of family information over the years; John M. Morehead, who produced the book, The Morehead Family Of North Carolina And Virginia, and started the family historical process for the Muirheads; Ray Jerome Muirhead, who produced the book, The Henry Muirheid/Muirhead Family Of Virginia & Mississippi; Nola M. Karr, who produced the book, Tree Top Baby, and Raymond L. Morehead, who got the ball rolling to establish the family’s clan status, supplied me with a stack of photocopies of the fruit of his many years of research, and provided the impetus for me to undertake the writing of this book.
I want to briefly explain how the book has been set up. It is divided into six parts.
Part 1 covers the ancient history of the clan. It is in the first part that you will find a discussion about the origin of the name and a narrative history of the family starting with Willielmo de Muirhead and his wife, Jean, in the late-14th Century and ending eight or nine generations later with Muirheads living in the 17th Century. The lives and the descendants of each of the four children of Willielmo de Muirhead (viz. William, Andrew, Vedestus and Janet) are discussed in Part 1.
Part 2 is devoted to narratives about Muirhead family descendants who were involved in events that were part of the national history of Scotland. It includes in-depth studies of the events and reveals how the Muirhead men and women were associated with the event. Part 2 includes the Battle of Flodden Field, in which a transcript of an eyewitness account of the battle (albeit from the English point of view) is included to illuminate the narrative. In Part 2 there are chapters on the Covenanters and also on the increased demand for, and ultimate achievement of Scottish Home Rule. Because many of the main events of the Covenanter period were played out in the region of the Muirhead ancestral homes, the history of that period of Scottish history makes up an important section of this part.
Part 3 includes genealogies of the family lines which descended from the Muirheads of Lauchope who continued to reside in the British Isles. This section includes the family from which James Watt descended.
Part 4 covers the generations of Muirheads who emigrated from their Scottish homeland and who eventually settled in the Americas. This section contains genealogies of the descendants of Charles Morehead, who was involved in the Isle of Kent venture; of John Muirheid, a Covenanter exiled to America; and the Ulster Muirheads, descendants of Thomas Muirhead, who was a participant in the settlement of Ulster in the early 1600s. A list of all the known Muirhead immigrants to the New World is included in this section.
Part 5 includes genealogies of the Muirhead families who emigrated from Scotland, and found new homes in far off places, such as Russia and Australia.
Part 6 includes genealogies of bits and pieces of Muirhead families who cannot be connected to any of the other ‘established’ lines.
Part 7 was reserved for miscellaneous items of interest to the clan. It is there that the various family legends (e.g. the killing of Bartram de Shotts) can by found. Histories of the various estates held at one time or another by the members of the Muirhead family is included in this third part. Part 6 also contains a number of pieces of poetry commemorating the Battle of Flodden Field, in which John Muirhead of Lachop and Bullis, the Laird of Muirhead, laid down his life for his king. A genealogy of the ancestry of Dame Jean Hay, the wife of Willielmo de Muirhead is included here. Biographical sketches about descendants of Willielmo de Muirhead, who made some sort of impact on society, such as Brian Muirhead who worked on the Mars Pathfinder project, are also included here. The Muirhead Tartan, the clan badge and other items of interest pertaining to the clan itself are to be found in Part 6. And lastly, the objects of the Muirhead Clan Society are included so that generations to come will know how the family society came to exist, and to what goals it aspires.
Before closing this preface, I feel it is necessary for me to offer an apology for certain omissions to be found in the genealogies included in this book. Right or wrong, the clan society’s genealogist made promises to the submitters of genealogical information that she would not allow birthdates of individuals who are still living to be distributed or published. Apparently, she promised that the information they would submit to the society would not be shared with anyone – including this official publication of the society. Also, the idea that people use their birth dates as computer passwords was used as a rationale for refusing to allow the inclusion of birth dates in this volume – despite the fact that a number of individuals’ social security numbers are available for view in the ‘public’ version of the database. The genealogist’s position was supported by the clan president.
I want to go on record stating that I completely disagree with their decision. I feel that when a person submits genealogical information to any project, whether it be a genealogical society, a website, or whatever, they should be aware that their submissions might be shared with others, whether in book form or in the form of files in a library that could be accessed by anyone. If they do not want their information to be shared, why would they think about submitting their information in the first place? If I do not want my information to be shared, I certainly would keep it to myself. But then the reason I enjoy producing books such as this one is because I love to share what I have found with others. The act of my sharing information may result in another person noticing an error in it, but that is the most healthy thing for genealogy. When I place my information on display, and another researcher points out a problem, it helps my own database to become more accurate.
I also feel that such basic and innocuous information as a person’s birthdate should be available for future generations’ use so that future researchers do not have to ‘re-invent the wheel’, so to speak. Problems that have plagued Muirhead family historians for many years, such as that of trying to figure out how many Charles Moreheads there were in Virginia in the 1600s, could have been avoided if accurate birthdates and deathdates were known. A person should not be so foolish as to use his or her birth date as a computer password if the assumption is made that computer hackers zero in on such numbers.
The computer program that was used for the Muirhead Clan Society database lists children in alphabetical, rather than birth order when dates are omitted. Therefore, not only is the absence of the date a problem, but the lack of an accurate order of births may be offensive to those individuals in the families affected.
The primary idea of putting together this book was not to have something to make money on, but rather to accumulate all of the available information on all of the lines of the clan into one volume, and to try to make it as accurate as possible. Omitting birth and marriage dates of the living descendants denies future generations of having a concise, accurate and complete history of the clan. I sincerely regret that I was forced to produce such for so remarkable a clan.