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  • Writer's pictureDonna Hechler Porter

To Daughter or Not to Daughter . . . Part II, Ruth - Maybe

So, in my last posting I detailed exactly why, as available evidence suggests (and evidence is everything in genealogy), Dugal McQueen did not have a daughter named Sarah who subsequently married Edward Logsdon. Supposed daughter Ruth McQueen, however, is a bit more problematic (unlike daughter Anne who has a clear paper trail to Dugal).

Dugal McQueen, in his will written in 1745 and found now in the Hall of Records in Annapolis, Maryland, Will Book 25, pages 10 and 11, mentions his wife Grace, sons William, Thomas, and Francis, and son-in-law John Brown. On the face of it, this appears to mean that Dugal had a daughter that was thus married to Brown. However, this fact is not as simple as it seems.

First, let me say that there is no documentation anywhere that this woman, if she existed, was named Ruth. Hermon Fagley, an early researcher of the Brown and McQueens, told me himself in the early 90s that he gave her the name Ruth simply because that name was passed down through several generations of the family and on almost all of the early lines emanating from the supposed Brown/McQueen line. He, himself, was quick to say he had no proof of such.

As for her existence - the waters only muddy further.

Early researchers took the words son-in-law at face value and assumed Dugal had a daughter. However, the case is not as cut as dried as all that. Terms change. Meanings change, and in the 17th and 18th centuries the term son-in-law generally meant the son of a man's wife. (Or, conversely, the son of a woman's husband.) Is this a definitive meaning? Not necessarily, for most of the sources I consulted admitted the term could be used to denote that above as well as the man who was a daughter's husband. It should be noted, though, that the meaning for the prior use actually makes more sense - that the child becomes a son by law or in the law because of a marriage to the boy's mother. (The term daughter-in-law would work the same way, and this could all be reversed for a woman. It's just that, typically, women at this time were not in court records as often as men.)

The two interpretations, of course, open up two possible scenarios for this supposed daughter who has been named Ruth. It also opens up several possibilities in regards to Grace.

If the term was meant as its most likely connotation - that John Brown was Dugal's stepson, then this means that Grace was Grace Brown when she married Dugal. It also means she was likely the widow of one of the extended Brown men that lived in the area around Dugal.

Was she the mother of William, Frances, and Thomas? It is not known. She could have very well married Dugal and brought her son, John, into the marriage, and then given birth to William, Thomas, and Francis. Or, Dugal could have married another woman who gave birth to his three sons, she could have died, and then he married Grace who became the boys' stepmother. John Brown would have, in this case, become their step-brother.

Furthermore, in this scenario, no such daughter named Ruth McQueen Brown or any other name would have existed, and the lines that have claimed kindship to Dugal through a John Brown / Ruth McQueen line would become defunct and in error.

If, however, Dugal meant the term in its modern day connotation, then he clearly had a daughter who married John Brown. This scenario would, of course, leave Grace's last name open to conjecture. As for her being the mother of William, Thomas, and Francis as well as the daughter, the matter would still be up for debate in the absence of any paper trail.

Toward which term do I think Dugal was using?

I lean toward the earlier interpretation. I am not at all sure Dugal had another daughter beyond Anne, his first child he left behind in Scotland.

First, this meaning change was obviously coming about at this time. Words will do that. For a time, as the change in the meaning is being affect, the term will refer to both the old and the new connotation. Dugal, furthermore, was a product of an earlier time, and Scotland was not known for being progressive. He came here more than likely with a language barrier to begin with, and the terms he would have used would have more than likely been traditional. If human nature is any indication, he would not have been too keen on new terms and phrases.

Second, he came from a long line of women who were persons in their own right in Scotland and beyond - to England, France, and Spain. These women inherited property, some were well-educated, and they were not left out of their fathers' wills. His own wife in Scotland, Elizabeth Mackintosh, who was the daughter of the Chief of Clans Chattan and Mackintosh, was left provisions in probate for her by her father that were administered to her by her brother (who succeeded to the chiefdom after his father died). While the property became Dugal's upon their marriage, it was hers before that time. Not only that, but his own daughter Anne inherited his lands in Scotland. Granted, they later went to her husband, Robert Mackintosh, as was the law, but she inherited them outright from her father.

Third, contrary to popular belief, women, at least in the colonies. were not often left out of fathers' wills. Generally, they were left something - even if it was a mourning ring or a piece of furniture or a cow.

Now, of course, these are conjectures on my part, and I have no proof one way or the other as the the meaning Dugal had in mind when he wrote the will. We need a paper trail of sorts to clearly fall one way or the other on this one. And that, sadly, may never come about.

So, where does that leave me as an author working toward an update of my book on Dugal, especially when no source / person will give me a definitive answer in regards to the use of the term son-in-law?

I am going to include both possibilities in my book - that John Brown might have been a stepson OR, even though the possibility is slim, he might have married a daughter of Dugal's. Until I have definitive proof one way or the other of the use of the term by Dugal (and I might never have that), I cannot err in either direction. It's frustrating to say the least, but it is where we are at right now. I don't dare undo a whole line in this instance without proof.

As for Anne McQueen? There is no question of her existence . . . the genealogy Gods smiled upon us and made sure we had a . . . gasp . . . paper trail for her.

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