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The Camerons at Chapelton 1.

In the aftermath of the failed rebellion of 1745 the Highlands were de-populated by a combination of landlords clearing tenant farmers off the land to make way for sheep and of retribution by the Georgian State. The population of much of the Highlands was reduced by about 50 %

Once James Cameron & Anne Watson got settled into Chapelton they must have seen it as their duty to rectify this situation. They had at least 12 children who survived to adult life, there may in fact be two more however their records are inconsistent so I have left them out for now. There were definitely 10 sons and 2 daughters. This vast brood could not all be supported by one small farm, and with there being 10 sons they could not even fall back of getting them married off and another man;'s responsibility. The inevitable consequence is that most of them left. It is this batch of 10 sons that form the core of the diaspora that I have spent the last 8 years tracking. Most of them did not go far though at least two emigrated to The United States.


It has always struck me as a poignant thought of what it must have been like to wave goodbye to son after son as they set off to seek their fortune in  America, Australia or Africa. This being the mid 19th Century the chance of ever seeing them again would have been minimal and they all would have known that.

James and Anne's fecundity clearly got off to a good start, they were married in the May of 1832 and John, their eldest son was born after an improbably brief pregnancy in August of 1832.  So either he was born six months premature or Victorian morality was not all it was cracked up to be. I will leave you to make your own judgement here.

In the 19th century to have twelve children live to adulthood, there must have been several other children that did not survive, these can be hard to spot in old records. The census was taken every 10 years from 1841 but this records only those alive on the single day of the census, several children could have been born and died in the intervening 10 years and not be recorded at all. They could be found from the parish records but this would be a mammoth task with neither a name or a date to search by. In all likelihood, James & Anne had getting on for 20 children all told.

Anne Watson


In 1854 when James was 48 and Anne 46 Donald was born, he was their last surviving child. Perhaps they finally worked out what it was causing all of these pregnancies, or more likely Anne was rescued by the menopause. As she lived for a further 30 years it would seem safe to assume that her body somehow withstood all of this childbearing and was still  in reasonably good shape. God only knows how !!

One other reason why the children stopped coming I will mention only to discount it. The notion that they were helped by some early contraceptive practice, that was by then starting to become a reality. Not in the North of Scotland in 1854 it wasn't. No in Boat-of-Garten in 1854 a French letter was most definitely a letter from France !

I am going to spend some time on James & Anne's twelve children and where they ended up as they began the multiple branches of the family that I have spent so long tracking down. Six of the 12 original children have living descendants in various countries that I have managed to trace and get into contact with.

Marguerite Cameron & Joe Duffin at Chapelton. The year before they married.

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