ABOUT THIS SITE

Brothers Trevor and Robert Low began researching and affirming their heritage using clues left by their late elder brother Norman and his son Gary: family stories passed down with many verifiable details. There is also used here realistic outcomes on confirmed evidence of referenced and authenticated prime evidence.  

They looked at the information  gleaned from extended family history,  letters and legal documents and  many sources of information to trace their ancestry including Scotland's People and Ancestry (see bibliography). They followed two distinct lines of enquiry.

 

Robert, who died in August 2019, was a retired journalist and newspaper editor. He followed the family roots, tracking documents back through parents and grand-parents, plus clan associations, generation by generation verifying documents as he went.  Robert lived to see the family tree completed and verified with an accepted full entry in The Peerage.com.

 

Trevor, who holds degrees in Fine Art and Ancient History, followed  legal document lines of property, business, estate, contemporaneous  documents and nobility lineage. He expanded the tree through direct parental lineage then close and distant cousins reaching across Europe. 

 

Between them, they managed to reach back to the 600s, finding direct family and blood connections to Egidia Douglas and Robert the Bruce, the Grand Stewards of Scotland, William the Conqueror and the De Hesdin Knights from France and Flanders. With the houses of Wessex and Dunkeld  their descendants cross several times.  The trail stopped in Wessex pre Egbert and in Scotland with King Alpin McEchdach; historians must question whether monarchs and Lords before this time actually existed or bordered on the realms of hearsay and legend to bolster claims to lands, glens and Kingdoms. Certainly  "King" by CONQUEST continued at times across Europe, sometimes on a thin family line, at times by smoke and mirrors, political necessity or total force of arms. 

 

Whilst all of this was very interesting, the biggest mystery turned out to be just a few years past, when the Walls family and the Low family became linked through illegitimate children. This led to the two families choosing either Walls or Campbell as a surname. The suicide of Robert and Trevor's long thought grandfather Robert Pitcairn Low in the cellar of the Cottage Inn in Dunfermline, Fife, raised many questions; the local newspapers and local licensing  community said "accident" but the death certificate states suicide. 

As a young widow, Agnes Campbell Walls  travelled throughout Europe and Africa, courtesy of her three sons, James (illegitimate), Robert and William. William was his father’s son (Robert Pitcairn Low) without doubt, and the spitting image of his grandfather. In contrast, James, Robert (Bob or Bert) and their mother Agnes were peas in a pod. James' childhood and young adult  years were spent as James Campbell Walls (Jimmy Campbell's boy) and it was not until much later that his name changed.

The origin of Campbell in the family history may be as legitimate as is Walls or Low.  The sibling sisters and brothers of Agnes dropped the name Walls and retained the middle name of Campbell. All attempts to resolve the issues between the Lows and the Walls families have so far met with uncertainty, although there is no doubt both are inextricably linked. Today, those who held answers to the many questions have passed or have no recollection of events. After her marriage to Robert Pitcairn Low, Ages  Campbell Walls took the surname Low. Her youngest 2 sons, Robert and William, had matching birth certificates, mother and father listed.  Her first born James, our father, went through school and teenage life  as James Campbell or Jimmy Campbell's boy" then borrowed the name Low to get married with.  His adoption, a social nicety, was not  registered until 1951. 

 

The SURNAME LOW first appeared on his wedding certificate and much later in the public adoption records of 1951 held in Edinburgh. So, when James Campbell Walls was married he falsified his name, he was not legally LOW until  1951, aged 32, when, long after his mother Agnes was widowed, she formally adopted her natural son James with herself as the sole applicant.  Scotlands adoption records pre 1954 were rare with a previously  accepted practice of absorbing "loose" children within families. Our fathers natural father, we were told, "went to war and never came back".

So, all the children from the marriage of James and Alice were christened LOW when they were in fact WALLS. 

WHY? The adoption and name change in 1951 coincided with James first trying to obtain emigration papers for South Africa then Canada. His birth certificate, marriage certificate and passport had to be the same. The theft of a briefcase which contained all the family passports (left for a few minutes in the car just before a High Commission interview)  was a reality check moment that prevented outright refusal and prompted  mother and sons"s "plan B" in 1951. 

Within all family trees there is the risk in research of hitting  the buffers with an unknown father. illegitimacy remained a social hurdle until well after the second World War...unless of course the wayward father was  of wealth and title. (William the conqueror was a bastard son and many a duke  or prominent member of the well-placed  or unusually influential career can be put down to royal wild oats.) So our father James, aka Low aka Walls aka Campbell and our Great Grand Father James Campbell Walls were both illegitimate so the family line shunts through the maternal sidings twice between the Boer War and WW2. A lot of fathers went to war and never came back. 

During the lifetime of Agnes Campbell Walls (born in 1892) the change in our family circumstances  was held in the confidence of Agnes, her siblings and her sons. Our efforts to piece the story together are based on records of births, deaths and marriages, property holdings, DNA, newspaper and published records, backed up by social research and overwhelming circumstantial evidence. 

 

Agnes, our paternal grandmother, lived what always seemed to be on the surface a life of her times, a post war widow on a pension living in a modest council house in Dunfermline Scotland. Agnes travelled a lot, not just in Scotland but over Europe and Africa. It was from the parents of Agnes, James Walls and Catherine Burt, that the story took an interesting turn.  It is unlikely that she knew of all the more distant names and history that we have so far traced here but along with her eldest son (our father) they were aware of links and family business matters  that spanned several generations.

 

At the start there was absolutely no thoughts of a crock of gold or distant past "names" but what did exist was a trail of lease conversions and properties that suggested there was a story to be told. The 1800's saw wide extremes of changing fortunes, circumstances and social change. The period of post industrial revolution and the Napoleonic wars set the idealogical injustice of born privilege against universal rights. Aristocratic estates yielded to new wealth with a last hurrah  just before the first world war when the great empires tore the population of Europe apart. This was the world that Agnes grew up in. She survived and thrived on a handful of weakening documents, family reputation and "friends". Even then a non-script LINKEDIN flourished. 

The line of merchants and gentry petered out from 1800 with many of the family turning to the coal and linen trade for work. Mining, pubs or inns and linen are common in our more recent ancestors. But those who stayed in business did well.