Mary Wilson and John White

Mary Wilson was the eldest of the children of James Wilson and Catherine Boak. There is a record of Mary being born on 19 September 1782 but this is not noted in the baptism registration.1

September 30th, 1782
This Day James Wilson in Corstown and Catharine Boag his Spowse had a child Baptised named Mary. Witnesses John Wardrop and William Hunter Elders.2

The location of Corstown probably refers to what is now called Corston Farm but the baptism registration has been transcribed here exactly as it appears to read. Helen Brown, another Wilson descendant, has found that "The farm, 'Corston' or 'Crosstown' was a tenanted farm on the Dalmahoy Estate, owned at the time of this family by the Earl of Morton." More about the estate and the movements of James and Catherine Wilson and their family are in that section.

The witness William Hunter has been noted as the husband of Helen Boak, and indeed a William Hunter did marry a Helen Boak on 25 November 1774 in Kirknewton and East Calder, Midlothian, Scotland.3 The relationship between Helen and Catharine is unknown, and as the baptism for Mary notes, William Hunter was an elder of the church and they were commonly expected to witness these occasions.

Mary Wilson next appeared in the historical record when she married John White on 24 February 1802 in Canongate, Edinburgh, Scotland:

WHITIE: John Whitie Mason & Mary Wilson Daughter to Ja[me]s Wilson Plowman in Currie Gave up their names for Marriage

Andrew Young Wright
Alex[ande]r Allan Clockmaker4

This has also been reported as 27 July 1802 but no alternative marriage has been found. The mention of Mary's father as James is an unexpected confirmation of the family arrangement, and Mary's family were living in Currie at this time. John White has been recorded elsewhere as being born on 8 September 1772 in Peebles, Scotland but that has not been followed up at this point.5

The first of their reported children, Catherine White, was born on 2 May 1803. Another daughter followed when Christian White was born on 29 June 1805.6 At this time no birth or baptism records have been found on Scotland's People for these two children for any area of Scotland.

Their third child, and daughter, Mary Wilson White, does appear in the Old Parish Records, born on 7 January 1808 and baptised on 31 January 1808 in Kirknewton.7 Their fourth child was their first son, and they named him James Wilson White, born on 2 February 1811 and baptised on 10 March 1811 in the district of Ratho. The event was witnessed by Andrew and Adam Waugh who would also witness later White family baptisms.8

By mid 1812 the family comprised John White, his wife Mary, and their children Catherine (9), Christian (7), Mary (4), and James (1). For some reason there were no children born to the couple for the next 8 years. Given the time, it seems likely Mary had pregnancies but they failed, or perhaps the couple even had children who failed to thrive. The children reappear with the birth of William White on 14 March 1819 and baptised on 28 March 1819 in Ratho. The witnesses were M. Waugh and Adam Waugh.9 It seems as if the Waugh family had an ongoing relationship with the White family.

In the early 1820s the children start to figure more prominently in the family history. Catherine White, Mary and John's eldest daughter, is reported to have married John Morgan on 18 April 1823, although the location is unknown. They had four children, John, Mary, Christian and Margaret, through the 1820s and into the early 30s.10

James Wilson White of the Parish of Colington, Mary and John's eldest son, married Agnes Renfrew of the Parish of Bothwell, on 13 May 1838 in Bothwell, Scotland.11 Agnes had been born in 1815 and was the daughter of David Renfrew and Margaret Blackburn.12

James and his wife Agnes ultimately emigrated to Van Diemen's Land, departing Liverpool aboard the Flora McDonald on 27 October 1854 and arriving in Launceston on 3 February 1855. The total cost of the journey for the family was £126.10 and they were sponsored by James Wilson White's uncle George Wilson using the Bounty Immigration System of the time.13

On 2 June 1862, James Wilson White's wife and children boarded the Tamar to emigrate further to New Zealand. James himself is not listed as a passenger but it was also relatively common for the men to move before the family to establish their new holdings. In New Zealand the family of James Wilson White and Agnes Renfrew prospered. 14

Back in Scotland the fate of his brothers and sisters is less certain. His sister Christian, also known as Kirsty according to Margaret Rackham, remained single. In the 1851 census she is recorded as working as a Nurse at 59 Queen Street, Edinburgh, the house of Professor John Young Simpson. Kristy died in Edinburgh in 1885, aged 79.15

Some details of Mary Wilson White are known, and the fate of William White is still unknown, nor do we know the ultimate fate of their parents John and Mary White.

  • 1. Rackham, Margaret, Family Group Sheets, "Wilson Descendants," Book 2, Page 3.
  • 2. GROS OPR Births 690/0030 0073 Kirknewton and East Calder and Church of the Latter Day Saints, "International Genealogical Index," http://www.familysearch.org, Batch No. C116905
  • 3. GROS OPR Marriages 690/0030 0189 Kirknewton and East Calder
  • 4. GROS OPR Marriages 685/03 0160 0369 Canongate
  • 5. Rackham, Margaret, Family Group Sheets, "Wilson Descendants," Book 2, Page 4.
  • 6. Rackham, Margaret, Family Group Sheets, "Wilson Descendants," Book 2, Page 4.
  • 7. GROS OPR Births 690/00 0030 0145 Kirknewton
  • 8. GROS OPR Births 698/0A 0010 0286 Ratho
  • 9. GROS OPR Births 698/0A 0010 0320 Ratho
  • 10. Rackham, Margaret, Family Group Sheets, "Wilson Descendants," Book 2, Page 4.
  • 11. GROS OPR Marriages 625/00 0040 0034 Bothwell
  • 12. Gina McDonald: Ancestry Pedigree, Viewed 15 Dec 2011
  • 13. AOT Immigration Records CB7/12/1/4
  • 14. Margaret Titchener : Family Trees and Tales - Viewed 16 Aug 2016
  • 15. Rackham, Margaret, Family Group Sheets, "Wilson Descendants," Book 2, Page 4.

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John Horton
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Original Research Revealed

This history of the White family is heavily indebted to the research of Margaret Rackham. Initial information about this family from Margaret, dated 13 June 2001, remained hidden in email correspondance until recently when a descendant of the family, Gina McDonald, contacted the website and our interest was focused back on Mary Wilson.

After some extensive searching the link seems now proven between Mary Wilson, daughter of James and Catherine Wilson, and the White family that ultimately emigrated to New Zealand, among others. Mary's brother George Wilson sponsored James Wilson White, the son of Mary, in his first emigration to Van Diemen's Land, and Mary's brother David Wilson was connected by marriage to other White family descendants.

Reviewing all the files we had on the family we found Margaret Rackham's original email with a family group sheet attached correctly identifying the relationships just described, and other as well, ten years earlier than our more recent efforts. Margaret seems to have an uncanny knack of tracing families through the generations, and further reference to her contribution can be found on the Acknowledgements page.