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Chart 10125
James Brounlee born c1760
and Margaret Thomson born 1766

James Brounlee (birth unknown). James was a blacksmith[1] and was married in Cambusnethan Parish[2] to Margaret Thomson on 13 May 1790[3]. She was born on 7 October 1766. James Brownlee, Margaret Thomson and their son Robert Brownlee travelled to Kingston Ontario Canada in 1826[4]. James Brownlee died in 1840 in Dalhousie Township, Lanark County Ontario. Margaret, known as Peggy, returned to Scotland[5], sometime after James’ death. She died in Glassford Parish 17 September 1855.

They had issue:

1. Marion Brownlee, born 6 April 1791 baptised 17 April 1791[6]

2. David Brownlee, born 4 October 1792 baptised 28 October 1792[7] (Came to Canada. Barbara Hopper descends from him)

3. Robert Brownlee, born 26 November 1794, baptised 14 December 1794[8] and died young

4. Janet (Jennie) Brownlee, born 18 November 1796 baptised 27 November 1796[9].

5. Margaret Brownlee, born 22 March 1799 baptised 17 April 1799[10].

6. Catharine Brownlee, born 26 July 1801 baptised 30 August 1801[11].

7. James Brownlee, born 21 March 1804 baptised 13 May 1804[12].

8. Robert Brownlee, born 12 June 1806 baptised 13 July 1806[13], came to Canada with James Brownlee and Margaret Thomson in 1826[15]. He married Mary Dunlop[16] and died 1900[17].

9. John Brownlee, born (?) August 1812 and came to Canada


While it is positively known that James Brounlee was born in Scotland, possibly around 1769, no written record of his actual birth date has been found, thus his parents are unknown.


Many James Brounlees are contained in the International Genealogical Index (IGI), a vast collection of birth, christening and marriage records gathered and published by the Mormon Church.  However, this huge database cannot assist us because we don't know his parents’ names and we don’t have a date of birth nor do we know how old he was when he died in 1840.


When research into the Brownlee family began, the only information about James Brounlee came from a report written by his grandson Robert Brownlee, son of David Brownlie and Christina Dunlop, who like many of his neighbours in Lambton County, supplied information about his ancestors for a book entitled “Commemorative Biographical Record of the County of Lambton, Ontario.” published in Toronto in 1906 by J.H. Beers & Co., the book was pre-sold to hundreds of contributors who wrote their own family histories for inclusion in what was essentially a ‘vanity’ publication.  For $15.00 each contributor received one gold-leafed copy of the 1000-page book in which his family was permanently memorialised. Countless present-day genealogists with ties to Lambton County are now quite thankful their ancestors succumbed to the lure of the Beers Company salesmen. Robert's extensive, and error-filled, report about his grandparents, father and father's siblings appeared on pages 740-742, and included the following paragraph (complete with its errors):


“The father of David Brownlee died in Scotland (Error 1), leaving his wife with a family of five children (Error 2), namely: John and Robert both left families, who reside in Canada and the United States; David, the father of Robert (of Enniskillen Township) and Janet married and died in Scotland (Error 3) Marion married and died in the United States (Error 4).”  Robert also said that the family came from “Woshie, Scotland.” (Error 5)


The Corrections:

1.  John Brounlee, the father of David, died in Dalhousie Township, Lanark County, Ontario, circa 1840.

2.  He did not “leave” five children. Of his nine Scots-born offspring, only four (David, Janet, Robert and John) came to Canada, arriving as full-grown adults.

3.  Janet married John Donaldson in Canada and they eventually moved to Rochester, New York.

4.  Marion never left Scotland. She married Robert Lindsay they had a family and died in Scotland.

5.  The Brownlies came from the village of Wishaw.


With only Robert's error-filled paragraph above to go on, a concerted attempt was made to find parents and siblings for David Brownlie by searching Scottish parish records. The old parish registers filmed by the Mormons (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints or LDS), include all the available registers of Cambusnethan Parish, Lanarkshire, Scotland, including the village of Wishaw (which Robert Brownlee had called “Woshie”).

The computer-assisted searches took place at the LDS Family History Centre, Prince of Wales Drive Ottawa. The end result was a family group consisting of James Brounlee (as it was spelled then) and Margaret Thomson of Cambusnethan parish, and their children, David Brownlie, as well as three of the siblings mentioned in Robert's report: Robert, Janet and Marion. But no John!


Was it our Brownlie family?  Read on.


Robert's version of events is somewhat close to the truth, but does not agree with the official ship's list available on microfilm at Canada's National Archives.  These ship lists were collected and indexed in Gerry Neville's book “The Lanark Society Settlers: Ship’s Lists of The Glasgow Emigration Society 1821” (Ottawa: BIFHSGO, 1995.)  On page 27 three Brownlie men are shown leaving Glasgow in 1821 as members of the Hamilton Emigration Society, destined for Lanark County, Canada, and sailing on the Commerce; they were William, David and John.  Each man paid for a single passage and travelled alone - no parents, no grandparents, and no wives.


The next nugget of information was found in Donald Whyte’s book, “A Dictionary of Scottish Emigrants to Canada Before Confederation” (Ontario Genealogical Society, Toronto 1986, p.31and p.415).

Whyte wrote: (translation)

Brownlee, James died circa 1840 and was from Cambusnethan, Lanarkshire. He travelled to Kingston Ontario in 1826. His trade was that of a Blacksmith. He was married to Margaret or Peggy Thomson (see below). He had children with him, a son Robert (see below).

Information from Dictionary Correspondence – Letters to the author regarding emigrants to Canada, contained in 9 lever-arch files dated 13 February 1978.

Brownlee, Robert 1806-1900 from Cambusnethan Parish in Lanarkshire. He is the son of James Brownlee (see above) and Margaret or Peggy Thomson (see below). He travelled to Kingston Ontario in 1826. He is married to Mary Dunlop. (see below).

Information from Dictionary Correspondence – Letters to the author regarding emigrants to Canada, contained in 9 lever-arch files dated 13 February 1978.

Thomson, Margaret, called Peggy probably from Cambusnethan Lanarkshire. She travelled to Kingston Ontario in 1826 with her husband, James Brownlee (see above) but returned to Scotland after his death.

Information supplied from letters to Donald Whyte, personal correspondence of the author. Not indexed.


J.R.E. Miller's book, “Scottish Settlers to Bathurst area” (Kingston, Ontario: Kingston Branch, Ontario Genealogical Society, 1987, p.3) provides much the same information.  James Brownlee and his wife Margaret Thomson, both born in Cambusnethan, came to Canada in 1826 two offspring and a grandchild: an un-named child, their married son Robert and his wife Mary Dunlop, and their grand-daughter Margaret Patterson.  They all settled in Kingston.  After two years there, James and Margaret, son Robert, the other un-named child and grand-daughter Margaret moved north into Lanark County, settling near the other Brownlies in Dalhousie Township on Lot 8, Concession 10.


IMPORTANT NOTE:  We now know Mary Dunlop did not come to Canada with the

Brounlies. Dunlop birth data and the official ship lists have proved Mary came to Canada in 1821 with her parents as a child of 9 years. She met Robert after his 1828 arrival in Dalhousie Township, and their marriage took place there, possibly around 1834.


Beginning in 1996, several attempts were made to find Brownlee information through the Internet. The Brownlee website hosted by Rootsweb.com was visited on several occasions and eventually provided an interesting profile of a Brownlie family that had settled near Davenport, Iowa in the 1830s, having come from Cambusnethan, Lanarkshire, Scotland via Lanark County in Canada.

Their Brownlee family bible had been transcribed and published on the site, along with cemetery records from the town of Long Grove where these Brownlees had settled.  The repetition of names and the Cambusnethan birthplace had to be more than just coincidence.


The website also referred to Brownlie information in an 1882 book titled “A History of Scott County Iowa”, so copies of several pages in the book were ordered from the Davenport Public Library.  What arrived in that envelope provided the major breakthrough in connecting the two families.   In it, James Brownlee, son of Alexander Brounlie of Cambusnethan, related the Story of how he eventually came to settle near Davenport, Iowa:


“We left Scotland March 31, 1826, and landed in Canada about the middle of May the same year, and continued there chopping farms out of the woods until 1838, when we got very much dissatisfied with British rule in that province.”  (Source: “History of Scott County Iowa” Interstate Publishing Company, 1882, p.544.)


The bio, which confirms the reports in Whyte’s and Miller’s books, went on to explain that he had emigrated to Canada with his parents, Alexander Brounlie and Christina Bryce, and his siblings.


Family history received in November 2000 from Brownlie descendants still living in the Davenport (Iowa) area verified that James Brounlie and Alexander Brounlie and their respective families had indeed travelled to Canada together in 1826.  Alexander and his family bypassed Kingston and went straight on to Dalhousie where his sons William and John already had a log home constructed and a farm partly cleared.  James Brounlie, a blacksmith, and his wife Margaret (Thomson) lingered in Kingston for two years before joining their son David in Dalhousie Township in 1828.


The Brownlie family bible, originally owned by William Brownlie, was printed in London, England in 1698 by the firm of ‘Charles Bill and the Executrix of Thomas Newcom, Deceased.’  Now just over 300 years old, it is today in the care of Mrs. Florence Helen Bridger (nee MAW) who received it from her cousin Katherine Brownlie of San Carlos, California.  Clyde Bridger, Florence's husband, transcribed the Brownlie birth, marriage and death dates from the bible and sent them all to Betty Rudolph.  On 25 March 1998, Betty sent them to the Brownlee List hosted by the US genealogy website, Rootsweb.com.


The back of the New Testament title page states:


“William Brounlie son to William Brounlie at the old Kirk of Cambusnethan was Baptised on the 22nd November 1713 and died March 1800.”


William and his un-named wife had two verified sons:


1.  James born 5 Aug 1762, Dalziel parish.  On 27 November 1791, he was married to his cousin Janet (aka “Peggy”) Wilson born 26 June 1767, Hamilton Parish, Lanarkshire, daughter of James Wilson and Janet Stirling.


2.  Alexander’s birth and marriage are written in after his father William’s birth on the back of the New Testament Title Page in the Brownlee bible:

“Alexander Brounlie his son born on the 11th July 1767.”  Inside the last page of the New Testament are the names and birth dates of Alexander's wife and children:


“Alex Brownlie married to Christie Bryce on the 26th Dec 1794 who was born December 1774.  There are family:


William, born 27th Nov 1795

John, born 30 May 1798

Archibald, born 6 Jun 1801

Isabel, born 1 April 1803

Alexander, born 7 Feb 1805

James, born 26 Nov 1807

Robert, born 15 Dec 1809

Andrew, born 20 Dec 1816

Janet, born 7 Nov 1819”


R. Scott Sherman of Red Bluff, California (E-mail: rssroots@pacbell.net) has gone further back and added yet another generation in the form of James Brounlie, born in 1645.  That Brownlee tree now begins in 1645 with:


1.  James born 1645, father of

    2.  William born (?), father of

      3.  William 1713-1800, father of

         4.  James born 5 Aug 1762 and Alexander born 11 July 1767.


IMPORTANT:  At the present time, there is no proof that connects brothers James and Alexander (at 4. above) with James Brounlie of Dalhousie Township, Ontario, father of David Brownlie.  Circumstantial evidence, however, does connect Alexander (born 11 July 1767) and James (born circa 1769): there nearby lots in Dalhousie Township, and the fact that their descendants travelled on the same ship to Canada.


Thus the theoretical Brownlie family tree may look like this:


                     Iowa                                       Ontario



1.  James Brounlie (born 1645) - same man - James Brounlie (born 1645)



2.  William Brounlie - same man - William Brounlie



3.  William Brounlie - siblings - ______ Brounlie




4.   James Alexander - 1st cousins - James Brounlie married M. Thomson

      (1762?) (1767?)                         Born c1769 - 1840

      Married Christie Bryce


5.  William John - 2nd cousins - David Brownlie

   (1795 - 1846)                           (1792 - 1877)


Jim Brownlee of Ottawa provided more new information in August 2000. He had an old family history written in the 1930s by Henry Budd, son of Mary Brownlie (who was herself a grand-daughter of James and Margaret Brounlie).

It stated that James Brounlee and Margaret Thomson were definitely the parents of David Brownlie of Dalhousie Township.  It also corroborated Miller’s book, stating James Brounlee, who had been a blacksmith in Scotland, came to Canada in 1826 and settled eventually on Lot 8, Con 10, Dalhousie Township with his wife Margaret Thomson, 2 unnamed children, and a grand-daughter named Margaret Patterson.  James died in 1840 and was buried at “Balsams” (a Dalhousie Township farm belonging to Andrew Paul).  The following year (1841), his widow Margaret (Thomson) Brownlee, referred as “Old Peggy” in the Budd narrative, drove in an oxcart to Oliver's Ferry (now Rideau Ferry) on Big Rideau Lake, and from there, sailed back to Quebec and homewards to Scotland.  There is no evidence she ever returned to Canada.

She died in Glassford parish, Lanarkshire on September 17, 1855 (Lanark County Register of Deaths, Entry No. 42).


Jim Brownlee is today the proud owner of an old charcoal portrait of an unidentified Brownlie drawn in the 1850s.  In addition, Jim's brother has two old books published in Scotland, one in 1797 and one in 1800.  They seem to have been the property of David Brownlie and William Brownlie, respectively, and are now believed to have served as textbooks when each young lad started school at the age of five years.  Inside one of the books is a pencil drawing of a woman's head, costumed in mid-nineteenth century style.


But there still was no birth info or parents’ Names for James Brounlie.  To find his birth date in the International Genealogical Index (created by and available to view at any LDS Church Family History Centre), some educated assumptions had to be made to narrow the field:


1.  If he were 20 years old when he married in 1790, he would have been born in 1770.

2.  If he were 40 when he married, then he would have been born in 1750.


Using the date range of 1750-1770, the Scottish Church Records CD (created by the Mormon Church) was searched, and the following 17 possibilities were found:


1. James Brownlee was born 15 February 1751, Avondale, son of Andrew Brownlee (Film 1041474).

2.  James Brownlee was born 01 September 1751, Avondale, son of Andrew Brownlee (Film 1041474)

3.  James Brounlie, born 24 October 1752, Avondale Parish, son of Andrew Brounlie (Film No. 1041474).

4.  James Brownlie was christened 29 October 1752, Dalziel, son of John Brownlie and Ann Kirkwood (Film 1066588).

5.  James Brownlie, christened 17 May 1755, Glasgow parish, son of William Brownlie and Mary Paterson (LDS Batch No. C119452).

6.  James Brownlie was christened 23 October 1757, Dalziel, son of George Brownlie and Jean Sumervel (Film No. 1066588).  The mother’s name might also be spelled Somerville.

7.  James Brownlie was christened 12 March 1758, Dalziel, son of James Brownlie and Janet Jamfrey (Film 1066588).  [The mother’s maiden name is likely Jeffrey.]

8.  James Brownlee was christened 15 February 1759, Carluke, son of James Brownlee and Betty Robison.

9.  James Brounlie was born 02 November 1760, Avondale, son of John Brownlie (Film 1041474).

10.  James Brownlie was christened 27 Oct 1765, Dalziel parish, son of William Brownlie and Margaret Dingwill (LDS Film 1066588).

11.  James Brounlie was born 9 March 1766, Avondale, son of John Brounlie (Film 1041474).

12.  James Brounlie, born 22 June 1766, Hamilton, son of John Brounlie and Jean Neilson (Film No. 0442437).

13.  James Brownlee was born 14 July 1768, Glasgow Parish, son of Robert Brownlee and Margaret Mitchel (Film 102912) (why only 6 digits?).

14.  James Brownlie was christened 3 July 1770, Cambusnethan, son of James Brownlie and Janet Steel (Film No. 1042968).

15.  James Brownlee was born 19 July 1770, Avondale, son of James Brownlee and Margaret Craig  (Film No. 8502201).


Two christenings after 1770 were added because (1) a person born in 1770 could have been christened in 1771 or even later, and (2) the parishes mentioned are Cambusnethan and Dalziel:


16.  James Brownlie was christened 21 July 1771, Cambusnethan, son of William Brownlie and Margaret Dingwell (Film 1042968).

17.  James Brownlie was christened 21 July 1771, Dalziel, son of William Brownlie and Margaret Dingle (Film 1066588).  (Nos. 15 and 16 may be two distinct children, or one child christened in two parishes on the same day, once in the father's home parish, and once in mother's.  Note also the parents in No. 10.)


Scottish men often waited until age 30 to marry, so Nos. 6, 7, 8 and 9 are the likeliest possibilities.  Of those 4, the 2 in Dalziel (Nos. 6 and 7) are the best choices.  Since James did not use the name Jean for any of his daughters, No. 7 emerges as the favourite:  Christened 12 March 1758 in Dalziel Parish, son of James Brownlie and Janet Jamfrey (Film 1066588).

(This one would also fit Scottish naming patterns where the first daughter (Marion) is named for the mother's mother (Marion Smith), and the second daughter (Janet) for the father's mother.)


Unfortunately even with all this research, we still don't know who his parents were OR when he was born.


Marriage:  The Latter Day Saints CD entitled “Scottish Church Records” says James married Margaret Thomson on 13 May 1790.  However the LDS Ancestral File v.416F says they married 15 Dec 1789.  Other Brownlee researchers have indicated they think the first date is the correct one, and it is the one now entered in the database.


Barb Hopper

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada



Information supplied by Barbara Hopper bahopper@magma.ca



[1] “A Dictionary of Scottish Emigrants to Canada Before Confederation” by Donald Whyte FHG, FSG. Published by Ontario Genealogical Society in Toronto in 1986. Page 31.

[2] Cambusnethan Parochial Register 1634-1854

[3] Cambusnethan Parochial Register 1634-1854 (see Brownlee marriages 1538-1854 reference 628/ 0010 0453)

[4] “A Dictionary of Scottish Emigrants to Canada Before Confederation” by Donald Whyte FHG, FSG. Published by Ontario Genealogical Society in Toronto in 1986. Page 31.

[5] “A Dictionary of Scottish Emigrants to Canada Before Confederation” by Donald Whyte FHG, FSG. Published by Ontario Genealogical Society in Toronto in 1986. Page 415.

[6] Cambusnethan Parochial Register 1634-1854

[7] Cambusnethan Parochial Register 1634-1854

[8] Cambusnethan Parochial Register 1634-1854

[9] Cambusnethan Parochial Register 1634-1854

[10] Cambusnethan Parochial Register 1634-1854

[11] Cambusnethan Parochial Register 1634-1854

[12] Cambusnethan Parochial Register 1634-1854

[13] Cambusnethan Parochial Register 1634-1854

[14] Cambusnethan Parochial Register 1634-1854

[15] “A Dictionary of Scottish Emigrants to Canada Before Confederation” by Donald Whyte FHG, FSG. Published by Ontario Genealogical Society in Toronto in 1986. Page 31.

[16] “A Dictionary of Scottish Emigrants to Canada Before Confederation” by Donald Whyte FHG, FSG. Published by Ontario Genealogical Society in Toronto in 1986. Page 31.

[17] “A Dictionary of Scottish Emigrants to Canada Before Confederation” by Donald Whyte FHG, FSG. Published by Ontario Genealogical Society in Toronto in 1986. Page 31.


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