My connection to Clan Douglas

Some time back I became interested in my Scottish roots and discovered that my maternal ancestors, the Blackwoods, were historically associated with Clan Douglas. I understand that normally, Scottish clan association is paternal, but given that my paternal ancestry is Welsh, I was curious if I could actually claim clanship through my mother’s line, so I contacted the Court of the Lord Lyon to enquire.

Armed with this affirmation, I continue down the rabbit hole that is genealogy. 
I have to admit though, that the Blackwood line appears to be a little easier to trace than the Blevins line has proven to be. I have a fairly unbroken line from me to the Blackwoods who settled in North Carolina. The first Blackwood that I have found reference to in American was a William Blackwood who came over with a group of Presbyterians, first to Pennsylvania, and then on to North Carolina.  Here is my line to this gentleman:
Me > Donna Kay Puckett (Blackwood) > Wes Chester (1931-1997) > James Wesley(1884-1939) > James Monroe (1853-1924) > Joseph (1833-1863) > Isaac (1775-1855) > James (1732-1810) > William (1706-1774)
This William Blackwood was the son of Charles Blackwood (b.1680) and Agnes Hunter and was born in Glencarin, Dunfries, Scotland, and christened on 11 August 1706. He married Elizabeth “Betsy” Craige after he had moved to Londonderry, Northern Ireland. They are purported to have immigrated to  Philadelphia 1740 aboard a ship named “Mary William”, but I’ve found no ship of such name, though there were ships named Mary, Mary Ann, and William destined from Northern Ireland to Philadelphia about that time.
To be continued…


You’d Think …

A resounding hear, hear to

You’d Think …: I mean, really, it’s our national coat of arms, the arms of the United States of America.  We’ve been using it for more than 200 years.  And it’s not a complex coat of arms, consisting as it does of a striped shield and a plain chief, usually blazoned as Paly of thirteen argent and gules, a chief azure.  With all that, you’d think that we’d be able to get it right.  Unfortunately, you’d be wrong.

This is not to say that there are not a lot of correct renditions of the national arms.  Here’s one from the late 1800’s that is drawn (and hatched, that is, showing the tinctures using the Petra Sancta system of varying lines to show the different colors: vertical lines for red, horizontal lines for blue) properly.

But too often, I run across renditions with one or more blatant errors in them.  For example, this postcard from 1902 has the field correct, but makes the mistake of conflating the arms with the national flag and place stars on the chief.

Or these two, in which the chief is fine (that is to say, plain blue), but which has the colors of the field reversed, making it red and white rather than white and red.

Then there’s this one, that not only reverses the colors of the stripes of the field, but also places stars on the chief.

And finally, there’s this one, from a building in downtown Dallas, which has only 10 or 11 stripes on the field (it’s hard to be sure because of the shape of the shield), places stars (48, one for each state at the time) on the “chief”, and finally, divides the shield per fess, so that it is not a shield with a chief at all.

As I say, it’s our national coat of arms.  You’d think, as simple as it is, that we could get it rendered correctly.  But you’d be wrong.

Meanwhile the false "order" …

While I am on the topic of false honors and such, below is a post from the Order of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem, a Catholic chivalric order with regards to a group in Brazil that they claim to be falsely representing themselves. Translation into English courtesy of Google Translate.

Meanwhile the false “order” …:
Coat of Arms of Count Andre Galli della Loggia
Knight Commander

Like all the faithful readers of this blog already know Cavalry, over time more and more groups (often composed of whimsical, other times a simple silly) attempt to impersonate members of the Order of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem.
These groups circus, which you see they are encouraging the arena, where should never have left, insist on using our black robes, and our eight-pointed crosses, although they completely ignore our symbols mean. I say this because as you know, in Brazil one of those “troupes” of clowns settled there already a good month.
Has this “troupe” in his career as a circus presentations, three false “endowments”, one of them even held in a city council of a small town in the interior of Sao Paulo. In the latter year, however, the “boss” of this group (which as everyone knows is a cook in France and in spare time comes to Brazil to these theatrical performances) tried to do that “thing” had more credibility, and on 03 March this year, he rented a simple church in the City of St. Paul, that his show was a little more convincing.
Appearance of the false ceremony held by circus troupe of actors.
(The image was edited to prevent recognition of the elements)
After performing the act, had the ability to publish to a blog that put at their service the following sentence:
“The Supreme Grand Priory know that your labor in Brazil caused the wrath of” false competition “that have nothing to do with our Order. The concern of the genuine success of our projects should encourage further work of the Grand Priory Hospitaller Brazil, especially since all members of the Grand Priory of Brazil should be aware that they have the support and full protection of the largest and duly recognized organization Lazarita world. “
Frankly, we sincerely hope that the participants of this “troupe” look just a good psychiatric medical service because they do not just use a black cloak and a green Maltese cross, to be a true Lazarist before you must be a true part of the Military Order and Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem, always obedient to her only Prince and Grand Master, for the way they act, the lords will always have the same credibility as the lovable clowns who enliven the circus for the children.
Upon completion of the staging of “investiture” less than half a dozen of mebros Troupe decided to go for a simple lunch
(The image was edited to prevent recognition of the elements)

Join the aristocracy – become a Scottish Laird, Lord or Lady!

I recently ran across website that says for £29.99 ($47.74) one can become a ‘real’ titled laird of Scotland. Given that my maternal family are Blackwoods and came from Scotland, I thought what a great novelty to have hanging in my study (whenever I get a study…). I’m an American, and its not like I can bear a title and be all haighfalutin anyway, so what harm could it do?

[Note: Try as I might, I am not an expert in my family’s history. If I say something below that is incorrect, you would be my friend in pointing it out to me.]

Join the aristocracy – become a Scottish Laird, Lord or Lady!:
Have you ever dreamt of being a member of the aristocracy? Of having an impressive title before your name? Well, here is your chance. For only £29.99 we can provide you with a perfectly legal hereditary title and ownership of land in Scotland.

According to old Scots law and custom a landowner is granted the right to use the title ‘Laird’ and female landowners are styled as ‘Lady’. Some male Lairds choose instead to use the more well-known English translation ‘Lord’. Scottish Lairds are members of the lower aristocracy and historically held feudal rights under the crown. In the table of precedence a Laird ranks above an Esquire and directly below a Baron.

By purchasing a plot of land on the Blackwood Estate in Scotland you will acquire the right to style yourself Laird, Lord or Lady of Blackwood. At the same time you will contribute to the preservation of Loch Wood, one of Scotland’s few remaining native woodlands. What better way to start your new life as a member of the aristocracy than to embrace your own favourite charity?

As Laird, Lord or Lady of Blackwood you will also be granted the exclusive right to wear the Blackwood coat-of-arms and tartan, that may not be used by others than the rightful owners of land on the Blackwood Estate. The coat-of-arms will look very impressive on your stationery and business cards. We also provide various aristocratic accessories imprinted with the Blackwood coat-of-arms in our webshop.

As a member of the elevated classes you may wish to take up other Scottish lordly pursuits, such as wearing the kilt, fishing for salmon or even playing the bagpipe if the fancy takes you! And do not be surprised if your new title brings about some added perks, like plane upgrades and other preferential treatment. It’s been known to happen. The Lairdship Portfolio will also make a perfect gift for someone special.

Buy land on the Blackwood Estate and commence your new life of entitlement today!

Below is a map of the location of the property one could buy a plot in.

A few things seemed out of place to me. First off, it’s my understanding that the Blackwoods were a sept of the lowlands Douglas Clan. There were noble Blackwoods that have been recorded in history, but in Scotland and Northern Ireland, which seems to have been a layover, at least for my ancestors, on their way to America. There are no claims to a Blackwood Clan on this site, but it wanted to make the point clear.

Next is the ‘coat-of-arms’. Per the Court of the Lord Lyon:

There is a widespread misconception that a family or a clan can have a family or clan Coat of Arms. Many heraldic and clan web sites and other media suggest that a person has the right to use the family or clan Arms. This is completely incorrect.

Third on the hit list is the tartan. Per the Scottish Tartans Authority this tartan was:

Designed for the exclusive use of the owner and the souvenir plot owners of Loch Wood on the Blackwood Estate Lanarkshire.

So what one has a right to are the corporate arms and tartan of an entity stood up to sell titles to parcels of land and other branded merchandise that looks heraldic. So what about the ‘title’? Can a trifle like £29.99 be all it takes to be ennobled? Maybe hundreds of years ago before mass inflation debased the pound. I would wager that one would be hard pressed to get a meal at an upscale restaurant for that amount. The Telegraph had an article back in 2004 on this topic, although the land in question was in
Glencairn. From the article:

The Court of the Lord Lyon, which deals with heraldic matters and coats of arms in Scotland, said the Glencairn title – like the many others on offer – was “meaningless”.

A spokesman said: “We have had countless inquiries. The title Laird of Glencairn would only apply to the owner of the entire estate, if it exists, not to those buying square-foot portions of it.”

It was decided five years ago that the sale of such plots would not be recorded in the national register of Scotland, and therefore there is no proper legal record of the miniature land sales.

Critics say the adverts wrongly claim the word laird – Scots for landowner- is interchangeable with lord. But it simply means landowner, whether titled or not.

A website mentioned in the article also has some interesting information if you’d like further reading.

So back to the idea of what harm it could do. For one thing, it diminishes the value of the titles of true Lords and Ladies. It makes a mockery of an institution of British heritage, which you don’t have to be British to admire. I know in the modern world we are all equal and there is no such thing as privilege, and the system of nobility was undermined (for the most part) nearly a century ago, but it is a matter of principle. There are still noble families that have maintained their holdings for hundreds of years. I don’t think they are or were God’s elect, but they for better or worse helped shape the course of the nations of the United Kingdom. And there have been legitimate purchases of titles in the past, but they cost a wee bit more than £29.99, and they didn’t come from a private corporation.

Therefore, despite my draw to the novelty of it, I don’t think I will become Lord Blevins of Blackwood, lest I become the laughingstock of my family and an embarrassment to all who know me.

Update ( 16 January 2017): It appears years after my original post the Laird of Blackwood site is still very much alive. For the low price of £29.99 ($36.13 as of this update) you get the following:

  • 1 square foot of first rate Scottish estate – Of course, this is all bunk.As previously noted, the souvenir plot is not deeded, nor recorded. If one were to tramp around the forest, I doubt very much they would find their 1 square foot “fiefdom”. If one wants a more legitimate square foot plot of land in Scotland, I’d recommend just buying a bottle of Laphroaig Scotch and redeeming the code that comes with it for a souvenir plot at their distillery on the Isle of Islay. The bottle of Scotch will cost a wee bit more than the Laird scam does, but unlike the fake title, you could theoretically pass the bottle down to your descendants, but they might prefer you just share it with them now.
  • The right to style yourself as Laird, Lord or Lady of BlackwoodAgain, baloney. One square foot of land does not a laird make. A fool maybe, but not a laird.
  • Exclusive right to use the Blackwood insigniaBlackwood is not a clan, it is a sept of Clan Douglas, ergo, there is no Blackwood insignia recognized in the clan system. They perpetrators of this scam may have a logo they use and allow others to use, but it is not what people think it is. It is made out to look like a clan crest, but it has not standing with the Court of the Lord Lyon. It’s not historic, its just a drawing.
  • Exclusive right to use the Blackwood (Loch Wood) district tartan – Alas, this is properly registered. If one buys a souvenir plot, per the restrictions detailed in the Scottish Register of Tartans, this particular tartan is limited to use by “owners” of said souvenir plots. Granted, I highly doubt one would want to show up at their local highland games wearing a kilt of this; it might be a bit embarrassing.
    Any Blackwood wishing to wear a tartan with familiar significance should wear one of the Douglas variants, such as this:
  • A legal Title Deed to your property, signed, sealed and printed on vellum parchment, which will make a very elegant wall displayI’m sure it does 🙂
  • A Master Title Deed to change your title on bank accounts, credit cards and other IDThe spin on this is that the “title” isn’t recognized anywhere, and Scots by and large aren’t the ones falling for the scam, its Americans trying to reconnect to lost family heritages that they don’t understand primarily. I’ve expounded on the notion several times.
  • An impressive Certificate of Entitlement, printed on vellum parchmentThis “certificate of entitlement” is worthless: only the Sovereign of the United Kingdom is the fons honorum and able to grant titles in Scotland. Granted, this scam skirts this through some obscurities in ancient feudal law, but again, lairds are the holders of sizable estates, not square foot souvenir  plots.
  • A Plot Locator Map with road directions and the official OS grid reference coordinates to your land, including directions on how to find it hassle-freeI’m not going to knock this one; it probably would be fun to go exploring in the forest.
  • Stunning photos and useful information regarding Loch Wood and the Blackwood EstateThere’s not a lot of useful information on the village of Blackwood nor the Blackwood Estate (or what is left of it) online, so if Native Woods Preservation Ltd has useful information, that might be of value.
  • A letter of greeting from us at Native Woods Preservation LtdMeh.
  • A stylish gift folder imprinted with the original Blackwood coat-of-arms and tartan in full coloursDon’t get me started on coats of arms; more on that topic here.
  • A Blackwood insignia adhesive labelsee my comment on the insignia above.
  • Access to the beautiful grounds of Loch WoodThis needs more research. There was a historical Blackwood Estate, but I can find no record that Native Woods Preservation Ltd owns the land they are selling souvenir plots on. 
  • The knowledge that you are supporting a good causeReally, I understand the feel-good of this notion, but how does one ascertain that it is for a good cause?

I’m not the only person to comment on this particular scam, and maybe scam it too strong a word, but I’ll stick with it. Another site called has an entry on Native Woods Preservation Ltd. This site states:

The domain that sells the Laird of Blackwood title is owned in Torrance, California – part of Los Angeles.  Not very Scottish.  The site claims to be run by a UK Company, Native Woods Preservation Ltd, formed in February 2010 by a Norwegian, Siri Margaret Kvaløy and run from an office in Glasgow.  Not very Scottish either. Siri is a Norwegian property developer who moved to Glasgow from her native Oslo in 2010.

Also, the site goes into detail about the ambiguity of what one is actually purchasing:

Like this site, the Laird of Blackwood site is created with WordPress, using a commercially available eCommerce theme from the themefoundry.  As one of the most recent vendors in our group, we have been impressed with how they have copied the best aspects of the more established vendors and even added a few extras of their own. There is a comprehensive FAQ section, hundreds of personalised accessories, and even a section on how buying from them will help Woodland Preservation, though somehow that lacks conviction. The first disappointment comes with a page describing the land on offer – Loch Wood by the village of Blackwood. Blackwood sits adjacent to the M74 motorway – Scotland’s main arterial route South to England. It is no more in the Highlands than London and being a Laird is all about the Highlands.

Another disappointment is that the postal address appears to be a PO Box and there is no telephone number to call. Why are so may of these Title sellers so secretive? There is no email address either, but we did send our standard set of questions using the contact form. Two days later we had an informative reply from Margaret (Kvaløy), advising us that they did define the plots using OS grid references, documents would be shipped within a week (but no, they would not accept returns) and we were directed to their range of accessories.

Really the worrying things about this web site are not what is there – which are generally impressive, but what is not there. There is no information about who is behind the venture, no office that can be contacted (other than the forwarding address in Glasgow and the contact form). The site does have an About Us page, it just does not have any information about the people behind Native Woods Preservation Ltd. The only information of note is that the Company bought the wood on finance – hardly reassuring news. There is no information about the site’s attitude towards customer privacy or security. Do they sell customers’ details? Is the site secure? Do they comply with the Data Protection Act?  Who knows. They don’t say.

There is an online forum, which was an excellent otherwise only seen on the sites of LochaberHighland Estates (Highland Titles) and the web site also linked to an informative Facebook page, with a dreary 26 users.

Despite my reservations about the “product” offered, the company appears to be legitimate, as can be ascertained from Companies in the UK. If the financial reporting on that site is accurate, Native Woods Preservation Ltd had assets of £122,103 in 2016, but I still can’t tell what they do, or what they preserve.

I think this and other laird scams play off the vanity of Americans. We claim in America to be an egalitarian society: we are all equal. This is a lie. We don’t want to be equal, we (of European descent) want to be aristocrats. Some of us may have legitimately had noble ancestors, but we want to be better than those around us, but we don’t want to acknowledge our own “betters”.

Most of the people who fall for this scam will never purport to be a Laird of Blackwood, and they probably would never understand that there can only be one laird of any estate, but they want a link to a heritage that wasn’t passed down to them. I can relate with that. My family, whatever noble lineage it had centuries ago, was extinguished centuries ago when the cadet branches crossed the Atlantic to the colonies.

So the moral of the story is this: don’t waste your money buying a fake title. It’s meaningless, and even if its done in a joking manner, it funds a falsehood. If you want to reconnect to your Scottish heritage, join the society of the clan that your family was associated with. I’d wager you get a better return on your investment that way.

Assumption of Arms

Over the past several years, I’ve become quite a fan of Heraldry. I remember stories and seeing pictures growing up of the “family crest”. I was even duped by a kiosk at a local mall into paying money for a copy of my family’s crest, which, by the way, didn’t look anything like the one I had seen growing up. It was only much later that I actually started studying heraldry as a hobby that I learned that families don’t have crests, but individuals can be armigerous and can have a distinct coat of arms associated with them, that they can pass down to their descendants (with marks of cadency as necessary), following the rules of heraldry in their particular country.

I’ve also learned that as an American, there is no official body that regulates coats of arms. Unless I pursue the services of a heraldic body that is a part of another nation, I cannot obtain a grant of arms. This leads me to assume arms, as I am free to do as an American. There are many sites with great information on the processes of being granted or assuming arms. I’ll link to them later.

This post will serve as public record of my intention to assume the following arms. They are blazoned as follows:

Argent, a saltire between three wolf’s heads erased and a Phrygian cap gules.

I chose the elements present for very specific reasons. First is the St. Patrick’s cross. This represents Alabama, the state that has been home to my family for longer than it has been a state. All of my Blevins ancestors from John Blevins, who moved there in the 18-teens are all buried within a 75-mile radius of my home. I think its fair in that case to make use of the Alabama flag as a part of my arms.

Next are the three wolf’s heads. My surname is derived from a Welsh word that roughly meant wolf cub, or son of Wolf (Blaidd-yn). The wolf’s heads are a cant of that name, and represent both my two siblings and myself, and my own three children.

Finally is the Phrygian, or Liberty cap. It represents both the freedom I hold so dearly as an American, and my military service. It is a prominent component of the seal of the Department of the Army.

Several things might be noticeably missing to the astute observer well versed in heraldry. First, there is no helmet, mantling, torse, nor crest. Since I am assuming arms and providing no proof of gentility to an heraldic body, I do not feel it is proper for me to do so. Second, I have not employed the use of supporters. My reasoning is the same as for the crest, plus, supporters in English heraldry are (or were, please correct me if I am wrong) tied to peers. As highly as I think of myself, I am not, to the best of my knowledge a first son of a first son of… a peer.

Also, if you’re interested what software I used to create the arms, I started with SVGs from various Wikipedia articles to get the elements I wanted and imported them into Inkscape, and then did the finishing touches in the GIMP.

William Blethyn Pedigree Roll

In the history of the Blevins/Blevin/Blethyn/Bleddyn name, one of the more famous characters in the past thousand years would have to be William Blethyn, Bishop of Llandaff, who lived in the 16th century. There is a fair amount of information on him in out of print books, many of which can be found on Google books. At a later date, I’ll go back and give a better biography of him.

The one piece of historical information that is by far the most valuable, and in my opinion, of great importance to Welsh national heritage, is the William Blethyn Pedigree Roll kept at the Glamorgan Archives. A zoomable copy of the Pedigree Roll can be viewed here. One of the amazing things to me is that this roll purports to trace the lineage of William Blethyn back through the Welsh kings of antiquity and on to Brutus of Troy, the legendary founder of Britain. And even more astounding, the top left corner of the roll take the genealogy from Brutus all the way back to Adam. I’ll leave it to individual opinion how much of the genealogy presented is to be accepted as fact.

Copyright Glamorgan Archives (Reference CL/PED/1)

At some point in the future I’d like to transcribe the text of the roll and redraw the arms listed and research them one by one until I have a clearer picture of what all is here. Given the magnitude of information listed, this could turn into a life-long project. If there is anyone else out there interested in helping, please let me know.

[Update 24 February, 2017: It has been brought to my attention that the link to the pedigree roll on the Glamorgan Archives website is no longer functional, and that the Archives present staff does not appear to be aware of the document. We can only hope that it is still in safe keeping.]