William Urquhart

We have been in communication with Ruth and Paris Major, Martha’s Vineyard, MA who have shared with us their researches into their ancestors who lived in Culbokie in the area known as Knockmisan.

Their ancestor John Urquhart was born there, and emigrated in the mid to late 1780s. His father William Urquhart’s farm & kiln are shown on the Plan. See map in Gallery at foot of the page.

As the descendant of Urquhart, MacKenzie and McCrae ancestors from the Culbokie/Findon area of Ferintosh, we have been fascinated by your articles.

Here is our lineage:

Generation 1. Thomas Urquhart and Margaret Mackenzie (5th great grandparents)

Generation 2.  son William Urquhart and Catherine McCrae

Generation 3.  son John Urquhart  b. 1764 (emigrated)

Generation 4.  son John Urquhart b. 1805, NY

(We descend from daughter Meriah, b1812, NY)

Generation 5. son William Urquhart, b. 1838, CT

Paris and I have spent the better part of the last five years piecing our story back to Ferintosh. I am writing an historical novel about William Urquhart's great grandson, Captain William Urquhart of Essex, CT. The story focuses on Captain Urquhart's first command in 1861-2, and it is based on actual events. 

Ruth has brought us up to date with regard to the non-fiction book by sending a picture [in Gallery at foot of page] of the launch of the Orphan November 8th 1845, Essex, CT and the following: "This painting was drawn with technical assistance by Western Australian, Master Shipwright, Paul Kilpin and based on an historical account of Captain John Urquhart’s son William who participated in the event. The day’s launch is the subject of a chapter in the book Connecticut River Shipbuilders, to be released in 2020 and Co-authored by Wick Griswold and Ruth Major. Ever wonder what happened to all those Highlanders who left Scotland for economic and religious reasons? 

Captain John Urquhart was the son of immigrant John Urquhart from Findon on the Black Isle, just down the hill from Findon Mill. John, his brother Walter and sister Meriah are all prominently featured in the book as are their children."

The book "Connecticut River Shipbuilding" is now published and further information can be found here

William and Catherine (McCrae) Urquhart whose property is seen on the old 1769 Map of the Estate and Barony of Findon and the home, out buildings, garden, kiln and large kiln field are all shown on that map. I am researching what the kiln field was used for and I suspect it was for processing bere (grain).

During our trip in April 2017 we went to Dunvornie Farm first which was a surreal experience as I could really feel my 5th great grandmother, Margaret MacKenzie's presence. Dunvornie is where William Urquhart's parents, Thomas Urquhart and Margaret MacKenzie were married on May 5, 1717. Their son William, as mentioned, moved up the road to Findon (an area known as Cnocmisan) on the edge of Culbokie where his children John and Catherine grew up.

When we finally got home to the Vineyard, Paris received a CD she ordered from the National Archives of Scotland with a copy of some sections of the 1769 map of Findon.  We were thrilled to see our ancestors and neighbours (mentioned in a birth registry) actually living in the same neighbourhood, according to the map. By comparing with later maps (1870) we found William's house was still standing and maintained, though no mention of the kiln or field. Paris went onto Google Earth and explored the area around William's home. It was there that she noticed that Burnside Cottage was right across the street from William's Homestead, of which there is now no trace, except on old tattered maps and in our ancient memories.

We had wondered where our immigrant ancestor John Urquhart had come from and what and whom he left behind in Ross Shire. We are still wondering why he left such a beautiful place mid to late 1780's. We suspect that after graduating Kings and Marischal Colleges, in 1782, he and his father William had opposing religious views. In any case, we pick up his trail in 1782 in New Jersey where John was invited to be Headmaster and instructor of New Ark Academy. By 1796 John was ordained an Episcopal Priest in New York. The long, winding road down to us continues...

Geographical definitions

Gone Without a Trace: Except on old maps

The study of names for one location in Findon/Culbokie from before 1764 to about 1906 when the name has vanished from OS maps. William and Catherine Urquhart lived in homestead as tenants in this place and worked a garden, Kiln and Kiln field in this place, as seen on the Findon Estate Map of 1769. Their children were born and raised there.

1.) CNOCMISAN- The oldest way to spell the word we believe, is the one which caught my daughter's critical eye when she was first perusing your wonderful website. (I believe it may be part of your Colleague's address which Paris referred to in her email.)

2.) KNOCKVISICHAN- The place where Catherine McRae Urquhart and William Urquhart's children were born. 1764, 1768. (Spelling of place name the same on both records written 4 years apart.)

3.) KNOCKMISAN- spelling of the Place William Urquhart’s children were born and his homestead, kiln and kiln field were documented in an aerial view as seen on the 1769 Map of the Estate and Barony of Findon.

 *On this 1769 Estate map, just above the place name, KNOCKMISAN, a bit to the right, you find the place name BALAWOCHAR or BALWOCHAR,   Note: BAL(A)WOCHAR may be another attempt to render Bail’ Uachdarach by someone who cannot write Gaelic.

4.) BALUACHRACH - Wm John Watson’s, 1865,  Place Names of Ross and Cromarty,  p. 188, PNRC  as Baile’ Uachdarach – ‘upper town.(Correction from Ken MacKinnon)

          BALUACHRACH - “This name is given in Watson’s, Place Names of Ross and Cromarty, known only by the older generation. Not shown on the 1906 edition of OS maps.” rossandcromartyheritage.org (Info.Under Ferintosh-Place Names,) Watson

5.) BALNACHRACH - “Now known as Findon Mills. It was suggested that there was a clay pit quite near.” rossandcromartyheritage.org (Info.Under Ferintosh-Place Names,) Watson

6) BALUACHNACH - The name given for the place where William Urquhart’s thatched one story Homestead still stood, as did thatched outbuildings, but the Kiln/Kilnfield is not mentioned. The proprietor of the property was Capt. James D. Mackenzie, Mountgerald by Dingwall. Ordinance Survey of 1870.

7.) BALNACKRACH - The name given to the area surrounding the former homestead of William Urquhart. Proprietor, James D. Mackenzie, Map: Ross-shire & Cromartyshire, Sheet LXXVII, 1871-5, Publication date: 1880.

*Our thanks to Ken MacKinnon, for his valuable help with these place names.

Ken MacKinnon gave a presentation to the History Group which can be found here supported by photographs in its associated Gallery.

If any of you can help with the names of this neighbourhood where our ancestors lived, both with regard to the meaning the place name or its evolution, please forward to us. THANK YOU!

This is so exciting!! I love how in depth your articles go, and the visuals really help to add ‘life’ to the history of the place. I was lost in your articles for three days!.


The site of Knockmisan can be seen on the left-hand side halfway down. It is the triangular patch of uncultivated ground.
The site of Knockmisan can be seen on the left-hand side halfway down. It is the triangular patch of uncultivated ground.
Launch of the Orphan November 8th 1845, Essex, CT
Launch of the Orphan November 8th 1845, Essex, CT
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