I read the news today, oh boy…

Every Wednesday I get my local newspaper in the mail. I know, how quaint, but there is something satisfying about tucking a paper under your arm and walking to a diner for lunch. As I’m reading this week’s edition of The News of Orange County, I find one of my poems on page 10!


I wrote The CEO’s Testimony before Congress on April 13th, 2015 as part of the April Poem-A-Day Challenge. The version printed in the newspaper is substantially the same but I still want everyone to run out and buy their own copy of today’s paper.

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Hampden Park

20160714_145939To conclude my trip to Scotland, I visited the national stadium, Hampden Park in Glasgow. They have a lovely museum of Scottish Football in the basement which has lots of fascinating exhibits of the early days of football in Scotland right through to the present day. The museum is the home of the Scottish Cup, the oldest football trophy in the world.

I also took a stadium tour which included the luxurious changing rooms, an indoor training pitch where I successfully kicked a penalty at a blazing 38mph. They also took us out to the pitch through the tunnel that the players use and the tour guide turned on some recorded crowd noise and I will admit to feeling a wee thrill as we emerged into the sunlight this Scottish summer day.


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Research Findings

I believe travel, especially abroad, is a virtue unto itself, so this trip to Scotland would have been well worth it even if I’d been konked on the head and forgotten everything I knew about Mary Milligan and her husband Robert Littrick. Fortunately, I am as yet unconcussed and have made good progress with my research.

Mary Milligan was born February 16, 1773 in Balmae, Kirkcudbright, Scotland. She was the daughter of Anthony Milligane and Elizabeth Raphael. While our 21st century eyes see “Raphael” as the name of an Italian painter or mutant turtle, I’m pretty sure she pronounced it “raffle”.

Anthony and Elizabeth were married May 6, 1768 in Kirkcudbright. According to the Old Parish Records, Anthony was a laborer from Kirkcudbright and Elizabeth was from Crossmichael, a parish just north of there. They had at least two other children besides Mary, Helen born September 27, 1770 and Basil born March 2, 1785.

Mary Milligan next appears in the records when she gives birth to Joseph Sorbie, the illegitimate son of John Sorbie, November 13, 1808. This is my connection to the Sorbie family whom I met over the weekend at their family reunion.

Two years later, she marries Robert Littrick in Dumfries on December 23, 1810 and they have a son William about three years later on January 20, 1814. Then, at some point later, at least Mary, Joseph and William emigrate to the United States and Mary dies in Hancock County, Ohio on September 27, 1850.


Her husband Robert Littrick has been more of a challenge. All I can write with any certainty is that he was married twice. His first marriage occurred around 1794 to a Margaret Kirk. I know this because on August 27, 1802 he appeared before the church and confessed to having been “irregularly” married eight years earlier and was rebuked. That means he and Margaret did not go through the proper procedure of issuing banns so that someone could have objected to the marriage. Margaret was still around in 1802 and unable to write so she signed the “confession” with her mark. Margaret dies at some point before 1810 because Robert Littrick is noted to have been a widower in his marriage record to Mary Milligan.

And that’s all I know about Robert Littrick. His name does not appear in the road tax records, nor the court records, nor the jail records. One of the many kind librarians and archivists who have helped me summarized him thusly, “He must have been poor but honest.” I was really hoping to find a tombstone with his name on it and thus visit my first ancestral grave in Europe but his name appears in no index of memorials and no death records. My best guess is that he was buried in the paupers section of St. Michael’s Kirkyard, a lawn of green, far in a back. Although I did not succeed in finding his grave, spending three days walking around old Dumfries, the same streets he walked, admittedly 200 years earlier, visiting pubs that he may have visited, hearing the nagging cries of the distant descendants of the gulls that composed the background music of his life, all this has made my trip to Scotland a resounding success.


St. Michael’s Kirkyard Paupers Section

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Kilmarnock F.C.

20160712_110256I took the day off from genealogy and instead took the train from Dumfries to Kilmarnock to visit Rugby Park, the home of my beloved Kilmarnock Football Club.

This was my first trip on ScotRail and I was very impressed. The stations conveniently located, the trains were exactly on time, clean and comfortable and the fares quite inexpensive. I wish we had this sort of transportation infrastructure in the States.

Taking the train also meant I could enjoy the lush Scottish countryside as I traveled rather than being focused on the road, white-knuckled driving. I watched quaint stone villages pass by, framed by distant hills and wandering rivers. One reason that Britain is so picturesque is because most of the trees have been cut down so it’s easy to see further. I’d rather keep the trees but the views are a consolation.

20160712_115904My tour guide of Rugby Park was no less a person than Ray Montgomerie, the former captain. We walked out on the pitch, one of the best artificial pitches I’ve trod upon, it felt much like grass and dirt. I got to observe a first team training session, though I was sworn to secrecy on the tactics. We visited the spacious and comfortable home locker room and the claustrophobic and dingy visitors locker room. Ray told me some horror stories of his time in away locker rooms around Scotland.

To tie this in with the rest of my adventures here, I was also shown lots of memorabilia from Killie’s illustrious past. They are the first professional football club and I was shown lots of old photographs and records.


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Robert Burns

20160710_160655Dumfries has made a minor industry from Robert Burns living his final years here. After checking into my hotel yesterday, I took a wee walk around the various Burns sites. Intuitive readers might assume that my first stop was the Globe Inn based on my previous poem and they’d be right. I also hit the Burns Museum which details his time here. On a Sunday afternoon, I was one of the few visitors and the docents were eager to chat. I mentioned that I was heading to the Burns Mausoleum and they told me to visit his residence first and ask if they’d let me into the Mausoleum and sure enough, since I asked, one of the lovely lasses working at Burns House grabbed the keys and escorted me to St. Michael’s Kirkyard.

Burns’ final resting place is guarded by iron fencing and clear plexiglass so I thought it wasn’t like I hadn’t already seen inside on my previous visit until I actually got inside. The hollow sound of the key in the old iron lock and the door creaking open, echoing within the mausoleum sounded like it was straight from a Hollywood foley artist. Then I looked up at the ceiling and found myself staring at a golden angel and stars on an gorgeous cerulean field.

20160711_140925I’ve long been a fan of Burns’ poetry but now that I’m walking these same streets with the knowledge that my fourth great grandmother, Mary Milligan, was in her late teens and early twenties, living very near here while Burns was in his heyday, I’d like think she caught his eye, if only for a moment.


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Haggis at the Globe Inn, Dumfries


Haggis at The Globe Inn – Dumfries

Down an alley
called a “close”
not much wider
than a crack
in a wall
they say this pub
was frequented
by Robert Burns
two hundred years ago
rough hewn walls
painted white
a failed attempt
to brighten a room
built long before
parking was thing
flat screen televisions
and laminated menus
the custom
they’ve gained
over the centuries
has more than made up
for any bar tab
left by the Bard of Ayrshire
taking selfies
there in the corner
with adoring female fans
like my great grandmother
in a mini skirt
and belly button ring

The best part of supper
was discovering
that I enjoy haggis


Haggis, Mashed Neeps & Champit Tatties

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Sorbie Family Reunion


Today was the family reunion that provided the excuse for me to return to Scotland. As we introduced ourselves we also described our connection to the family. I said that my great great great great grandmother was knocked up by a Sorbie. Got a big laugh.

The reunion was organized by Andy Potts and Muriel Sorbie and they gave excellent presentations on Mitchell Sorbie, a soldier who died in the first world war and the efforts to keep his service medals in the family after they appeared on eBay, and the mysterious origins of the Argentinian Sorbies.

We also had a member of the local historical preservation group tell us about what they’re doing to maintain the 17th century cemetery in the nearby town of Stonehouse. He shared some pictures and so once the reunion festivities concluded I took a little walk.

20160709_182633Of course, I got a little lost. I went to the current St. Ninian’s since the really old cemetery isn’t listed on the internet map I consulted. Fortunately, there was a helpful Scotsman nearby who directed me. It was much further than I expected and I ended up putting five miles on my shoes.

But it was worth it! Presiding over the cemetery are the remains of the original church. Just the gable in end survives, like a giant tombstone. The earliest burial there was Alexander Hamilton in 1663. (Obviously that’s not the Alexander Hamilton who appears on the U.S. $10 bill.) Most of the stones that were still legible were from the 19th century some with very interesting engravings.

Overall, it was a great day. I explored a wonderful cemetery and made several new wonderful friends.


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Travel Day

20160708_124933No genealogy today. Instead I drove from Edinburgh to the hotel where the Sorbie reunion will be held tomorrow. It was only about an hour’s drive but I’m still rather timid behind the right-sided wheel so I left myself plenty of time. Before leaving my Edinburgh hotel, I looked on the map and found a nice looking nature preserve, The Pentland Hills, along the way.

It’s both lovely and scary driving through Scotland. The scenery is gorgeous but the roads are narrow so I really couldn’t enjoy it. That’s why the Pentland Hills were perfect for me. I walked around a couple of hours past reservoirs and through an old peat bog where they’re trying to restore the state it was in before humans began harvesting it.


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archivesMy final visit to the archives was to the archives proper which meant I had to get an official readers card with my picture. I wonder if this will count as identification for the voter suppression law in North Carolina. I spent my time reading through digitized church minutes mostly related to women confessing to having babies out of wedlock. I also saw the phrase “antenuptial fornication” more than once which I can’t wait to work into conversation once I get back home.

When my eyes began crossing from all that 19th century handwriting, I took another amble through Edinburgh and as I’m walking, I noticed a library. I’m never one to pass by a library so I headed in to see what sort genealogy resources they had. I talked with a helpful chap who showed me what they had but it was all Edinburgh specific, nothing relevant to my search. He mentioned that there was a genealogical society not far away and described how to get there. I just had to turn left on Victoria Street but not onto Victoria Street itself. There’s a ledge that runs along the side of the buildings which stays level as Victoria Street descends. It was easier to find than I thought it would be.
So, I’m walking along the “upstairs” of Victoria Street when I see a sign for a Quaker Meeting House. I go in and have a nice long talk with some of the helpful Quaker ladies there. Unfortunately the Littricks and Milligans I’m researching weren’t Quaker when they were in Scotland otherwise they’d have been much easier to track down.

I finally made it to the genealogical society and they had some cemetery records for the Dumfries area but I couldn’t find anyone I’m hunting. I did get the address for the Dumfries and Galloway Family History Society so that’ll be my next stop after the Sorbie reunion this weekend.

I also visited another cemetery. More pictures in my Facebook album.

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Edinburgh Closed for Repair

marymill.jpgI’m glad I went back to the ScotlandsPeople Research Centre in the National Archives today because I missed something yesterday. I thought I might have found Mary Milligan’s birth record but I was wrong. According to her tombstone in Hancock County, Ohio, she died at the age of 77 years, 7 months on September 27, 1850. The birth record I thought I found was from 1780, which would be too recent, but this morning I widened my search and found “Mary lawful daughter of Anthony Milligane & Raphael at Balomar[?] Feb. 16 1773” in the Kirkcudbright Old Parish Records. Since I’m American, my foreign geography knowledge is lacking so I had to consult a map and, to my joy, I discovered that Kirkcudbright neighbors Dumfries so I think that’s very probably her birth record and thus I learned my great great great great great grandparents’ names. I was then able to find their marriage record from 1768 and discovered that Mary’s mother was Elizabeth Milligan neĆ© Raphael and I also found Mary’s older sister and younger brother.
20160706_154651To celebrate I thought I’d go find a nice old cemetery to wander on a rainy day. I had read that Old Calton Cemetery was nice and it’s very close to the archives so I walked over only to discover that it was closed until September for repairs. As a backup, I thought I’d visit the old observatory on Calton Hill, which is practically across the street from the cemetery, though elevated by a hundred meters. After a lovely climb/walk to the top with lots of spectacular views, I discovered the observatory was closed for renovation.

Undaunted, I found Greyfriars Kirkyard was open with lots of wonderful stone work on display around the centuries old graves. Greyfriars is also famous for “Greyfriars Bobby” a Skye Terrier who guarded his human’s grave for fourteen years until he too died. The dog’s stone is right at the entrance, not far from a sign that (apparently without irony) indicates dogs are not allowed in the cemetery.



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