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The Blackwoods - 1384-1951 from Dennis Bell



Our Blackwoods were probably of Norman extraction, arriving in Scotland in the 11th century, invited north by the Scottish king and queen, Malcolm Canmore and his wife, a Saxon royal refugee who went on to become St. Margaret. The surname can be found in the pages of Scottish history back in the 14th century and earlier. There are lands of this name in Lanarkshire and in Dumfriesshire, and there was an old Ayrshire family named Blackwood. In 1384, Lord Dufferin, Robert Blakwode, a native of Scotland, was ordered discharged from prison in London after it was found that he had been unjustly arrested. Andrew Blackwud , bailie of Perth in 1532, reappears in 1541 as Andrew Blaket. The tenement of Cuthbert Blackwod in Glasgow is mentioned in 1549, and Dioniss Blackat acted in a medieval play in Perth in 1581. Other name variations and the years they appeared in Scottish documents: Blaccat 1489, Blacot 1511, Blackat 1489, Blaikwood 1687, Blaikwode 1632, Blaikwood 1666, Blakowd 1545, Blakowid 1546, Blakoud 1549, Blakvod 1545. The family came to prominence in Fife with Adam Blackwood, a staunch Catholic born in Dunfermline parish in 1539. A lawyer and writer of international acclaim, Adam was a member of the privy council that served Mary Queen of Scots, and the Blackwoods kept that given name alive for generations in Scotland and abroad. Adam dedicated much of his own life to becoming "a rampant defender" of Queen Mary even after she was executed by Elizabeth of England in 1587. Adam fled into exile in France, probably with his brother, a Scottish physician named Henry Blackwood who became dean of medicine at the University of Paris. Adam became a professor of law at the College Poitiers in France. An historian as well as a law professor, Adam was a senator in the Parliament of Poitiers, and the author of several important literary works. One of them, entitled "Apologia pro Regibus" published in 1588, went through two editions. Adam Blackwood died in Paris in 1613 at the age of 74, after residing in France for the greater part of his life. His collected works were republished more than two decades after his death in French and Latin editions. Adam and Henry launched a French branch of the Blackwood family which endured until the last male in the line died in the early 1800s. The last of the French Blackwoods in direct line from Adam Blackwood was a Mlle. Scholastique de Blackwood, who died an old maid in 1837. The Dunfermline Blackwoods also produced an Irish branch of the family that came to great prominence in British and international affairs. John Blackwood, born in Dunfermline in 1591, is said to have inherited "considerable landed property" in Ireland, mainly in the Bangor area of County Down. Records of him are on file at the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) in Belfast, contents unknown. No titles are attributed to him. There are indications in Burke's Peerage and Baronetage that John originated with "a younger branch of this Fife family," as opposed to the French Blackwoods and perhaps those in Ayr and Lanark as well. He may have been the son of John Blackwood (born Oct. 31, 1574 in Dunfermline), who was in turn the son of Archibald Blackwood and Besse Stalker. The younger John married Janet Clerke and may have been married earlier to Isabel Witit (no children known). He died in 1633 in Ireland. John's wing of the Blackwood family took part in the Ulster Plantation in the early 1600s and generated a long line of marquesses and barons. The Irish Blackwoods produced three towering giants: Frederick Blackwood, Marquess of Dufferin and Ava, Canada's third Governor General, and Viceroy of India, probably the greatest British diplomat of the Victorian era; Captain the Hon. Henry Blackwood, who led Lord Nelson's in-shore Light Squadron of frigates against the French fleet at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, and played a major role in organizing Nelson's funeral; and a direct descendant of Henry's, Algernon Henry Blackwood, a gothic horror writer of international acclaim who became one of Britain's earliest television superstars during the late 1940s. Many of the Blackwoods remained in Dunfermline (**), eventually spreading out to Clackmannan and Kinross, founding yet another branch of the family, our ancestors dating up to Cecilia Blackwood of Carnbo, in Kinross in the early 1800s. The precise origins of these Blackwoods remain unclear. The Dunfermline Annals record that two men, named Thomas Blackwood and John Curie, were appointed Lord Commissioner's constables in the burgh on Aug. 17, 1611. The records describe them as "Constables nominat and appoytit within ye saim be vertue of our Soverin Lord's commissioners, and acceptit the said office of Constabularie wt in ye saim, during the space of six moneths nixt to cum.." Blackwood and Curie were then dispatched to Cupar parish, "there to give their aiths" as officers. (**) History of the Pitreavie Castle: Early records reveal that in the 14th century, the Pitreavie (or Pittrevie) estate was owned by Lady Christina Bruce, sister of King Robert the Bruce; by the beginning of the 17th century, the lands were owned by the Kello or Kellock family from whom Sir Henry Wardlaw bought them In 1608 for "10,000 merks Scottish". Two years earlier, Henry had begun to extend his land holdings by adding the Pitbauchlie estate to the family lands at Balmulie at the cost of 7,600 merks. In l611 he acquired 25% of the lands of Maistertoun (now Masterton) "in return for a sum of money". Throughout the 17th century, the family continued to add land to the estate until, by 1698, It comprised the lands of Prymrose (now Primrose), St Margaret's Stone, Easter and Wester Pittreavie, Pitbauchlie and Maistertoun. It was at Masterton in 1675 that Sir Henry Wardlaw "founded and built a hospital [almshouse] ... In favour of four widows ... women of honest fame, relics of honest men, who live on the lands of Pitreavie, or other land belonging to him and his successors. ... Each is to have a chamber or house, and six bolls of meal yearly or six bolls of oats and three bolls of bear (a form of barley, known to the Phoenicians and still grown in parts of Scotland), at the option of the patrons." The Masterton lands were burdened with the upkeep of the hospital. Masterton, now reduced to the home farm and one or two other houses, was a thriving little hamlet up to the middle of the present century, home to some 70 - 80 people, estate workers and their families. There was a shop and even a church, the gift of Miss Maddox Blackwood of Pitreavie Castle. Another branch in the family came to prominence in Edinburgh, Midlothian in the early 1800s with a printer and bookseller named William Blackwood (1776-1834), whose grandfather Robert Blackwood was once Lord Provost of Edinburgh. William was a bookseller who became publisher and founder of Blackwood's Magazine, a rock-ribbed Conservative publication which endured into the 1980s until finally succumbing to the pressures of more modern media. Blackwood launched the literary and political magazine in 1817 and it brought some of the greatest writers in history before the public for the first time. In addition to the magazine, Blackwood and his descendants also published many hundreds of books through the House of Blackwood. In more recent times, one of the Blackwood women played a major role in the settlement of Utah by the Mormons. Helen or Ellen Blackwood (born July 28, 1814 in Clackmannan) married a religious zealot named John Russell in the summer of 1834. Russell was an important man in the Church of Scotland in Clackmannan parish, Clackmannanshire at the time. His name appears frequently in church records as a witness to births in the Blackwood family, births and christenings in many other families as well. John and Helen Russell converted to the neophyte Mormon faith in 1847 and 1848 respectively-- a relative rarity on Scottish soil, although the Church of Scotland was being torn apart at the time by schisms and Scots were shopping around. The Russells had at least 11 children in Clackmannan in the 23 years that followed their wedding, including a son they named Joseph Smith Russell in honor of the Latter Day Saints founder. Four years after the birth of their youngest son David Blackwood Russell in 1857, John and Helen Russell emigrated to the USA in 1862 with seven of their surviving children, seeking a new life in Utah where the Mormon faith dominated. At least one, perhaps two of the older children stayed behind in Scotland. The rest went on, married other Mormons, had large families, and sent their sons and daughters into what was then wilderness to spread the word. Some went into Idaho in the 1870s. One family group, led by their grandson Adam Russell, even left the country, crossing into Canada a few years after John died around 1885 with a wave of Mormon settlers who established temples, towns, ranches and farms in southern Alberta, around Cardston and Taber. John and Ellen Blackwood Russell unleashed a torrent of Scottish Mormons into the North American pioneering mainstream. The Mormon Church has about 10,000 entries for Scottish Blackwoods in its International Genealogical Index, and more than 2,000 in the USA. Smaller contingents emigrated to Canada, Australia and New Zealand. There is also a substantial number of English Blackwoods, centered in Kent and Yorkshire, and a large number of Irish Blackwoods as well. They all probably came from the same basic Norman roots as the Scottish Blackwoods.

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