Friday, January 25, 2013

Robert Burns, R.I.P.

I come from a family very interested in things Scottish. I own two kilts (which no longer fit). I was President of the Council of Scottish Clans and Associations, Inc. for four years, was Clan Scott Genealogist for fifteen years, and used to have the postnomials of FSA Scot. after my name. I generally only drink single-malt scotch, if given the choice. In March 2013 I will be in Houston speaking to the Houston Genealogical Forum half the time on Scottish research (any guesses what the other half will be?). Then in January of next year I am teaching Scottish research at Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy with the Coordinator Carolyn Barkley, MLS, FSA Scot. When I meet people who first met me years ago, there is the constant, well almost constant, reminder of "Where are the kilts?" Or something to that effect.

You might remember that today is Robert Burns birthday, January 25th. People will be meeting, coming together, and if they are very lucky eating haggis, a substance banned in the U.S. for 21 years. Fortunately, the ban was lifted in 2010. American imitations gave haggis a bad name during the BSE (aka Mad Cow Disease) scare.

Robert Burns is probably the person most responsible for haggis being known outside of Scotland. His poem Address to a Haggis will be spoken out loud many times around the world this week. Here is the first verse.

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o' the puddin'-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak yer place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o' a grace
As lang's my airm.

Now you might think that Burns, was based on his reputation, a peasant. That is what Burns biographer, Dr. Currie, said. "In reality a peasant." The Rev. Charles Rogers, L.L.D. did not think so, so he took a look at the lineage of this Scottish poet. Rogers, based his work on the "Notes on his Name and Family," a thin duodecimo (remind me to look that up) published privately by Dr. James Burnes in 1851. That and entries in the parochial and other registers. Rogers published his work as Genealogical Memoirs of the Family of Burns and of the Scottish House of Burnes in 1877 for the Royal Historical Society. 

It turns out that the Burns family (then Burnes) was actually not bad off. They intermarried with the Keiths of Craig, a branch of the House of Keith-Marischal. Then there was the grandfather. But you will have to read the book. Such Keiths would make me a cousin. Mother will not be pleased. I'll remind her that it is on her husband's side of the family, but she still won't like it.

If you are interested, Heritage Books published a reprint of the 1877 work in 2009. It can be found here.

P.S. The reason my mother does not like Burns is because she is a Sir Walter Scott fan and considers the Burns to be overrated. Roger's wrote a book on Sir Walter Scott also, and it eventually would end up in an issue of the Scott Genealogical Quarterly, but we will save that for his birthday on 15 August.

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