William Gilleses, burgesses of Linlithgow

(This gets confusing - bear with my reasoning on this and the next page on the testament of John Gileis, please…)

Linlithgow baptism records begin with 1613. The later ones tend to be more informative than the earlier ones. Marriage records start in 1652, though the earlier entries are accounts for ‘booking’ fees paid, so include little information, and may give the name of only one party. (Thus, we know that a Jonet Gilles was married in 1658, because a fee of 12 shillings was paid, but there is no further information and it’s likely her husband was from outwith Linlithgow as other of the burgh records of the time give only the man’s name.) However marriage entries from the 1690s onwards are good. Death or burial records start in 1652, as mortcloth accounts, so once again are not necessarily very informative..

At and before the time of the birth in 1681 of John Gilles, son of currier burgess William, there were other people named William Gilles in Linlithgow, as shown by baptism and marriage records.   

The evidence - some very ‘snippit-like’  but some more detailed - suggests that there were (up to the birth of John Gilles in 1681) at least four generations of William Gilles in his line; and others by that name in the parish also. I’ll start with the likely parents of William the currier burgess, and go on to give some of the snippets, attempt to summarise, suggest some conclusions, then link to my page with more details.

William Gilles, currier burgess of Linlithgow, and his parents

John’s father is clearly identified as William, currier burgess, whom I am calling Wm4 - the fourth ‘William Giles’ in this line for whom there appears to be evidence. A currier was a leatherworker, receiving tanned leather and ‘finishing’ it so that it could then be used by cordiners (shoemakers) or saddlers, and so part of the craft system of Linlithgow’s key industry. William as a burgess could take on apprentices and hire journeymen, vote for the council or take part in the council himself.

What we know about William (Wm4) is that he was married to Margaret Jarden by 1668, their first recorded child William being baptised on 18th October, that he was described then as ‘younger’ in that record - shown below - and the baptism was witnessed by George Jarden, ‘pyper’,  and William Gilles. 

1668brtWmGilles snippet

Baptism of William Gilles, son of William Gilles, younger, amd Margaret Jarden, 1668. From National Records of Scotland, Births 668/ 0020 0230 Linlithgow. (Transcripion and more on this family in the page about Gilles Burgesses: John Gilles.)

There is no marriage record for William Gilles and Margaret Jarden. Several later baptisms also had for witness a William Gilles, up until that of Margaret in 1674. There is a death of a William Gilles, with a payment of £5 for use of the best velvet mortcloth dated 13 December 1679, and this may be for the witness William Gilles,  whom I am calling Wm3, the father of Wm4.

In the Land Tax valuation record for Linlithgow from 1667 (from Scotlandsplaces.gov.uk, indexed as E106/33/1/1) an entry appears for a William Gilles, younger, Five Pounds. The next entry is George Pollock, also five pounds; earlier on the same page is Nicoll Gardner is at Fifty Two pounds. These people were baptism witnesses for Janet daughter of William Gilles. The William Gilles ‘younger' due to pay the tax could be either Wm4 or his father, Wm3. They are in the ‘Toun’, that is, in the burgh, not on farms or estates in the ‘landward’ parts of the parish. 1667 would be around or shortly before the time of the marriage of Willam Gilles and Margaret Jarden. (See the page on John Gilles for a list of these children.) There is no marriage record for this William and Margaret Jarden; either a ‘booking’ record from Linlithgow was damaged or even not properly entered, or William was at that time in another parish. We can’t know.

We do however know that William Gilles, currier burgess, lived until after the marriage of his son John to Agnes Thomson in 1707, as he stood cautioner (guarantor) for both parties to the marriage. He would then be in his 70s. His death record has not been identified as there are several William Gilleses with mortcloth entries after this date but ages and very often places are not given.

The family of William Gilles and Rinny Muir:

What does however seem most likely is that William the currier burgess was the son of William Gilles, burgess, and Rinny Muir. Three children of this couple have baptism records:

  • William, baptised 22/11/1635, witnesses ‘Thomas thomson, Robert Levistoun and John Gilles’
  • Janet, baptised 07/01/1638,  witnesses 'Thomas Thomsoun mairten glen William Gillis'.
  • Alexander, baptised 05/12/1641 witnesses ‘William Gilles and Alex[ande]r Gilles'

There are no indications in these records as to Rinny Muir’s birthplace or parentage. Several Muir families were in Linlithgow parish, others in nearby areas. An Alexander Muir in Linlithgow had a son John baptised in 1613, but he has a testament dative which had no mention of Rinny (by any name such as Katherine and Marion as possible names for which ‘Rinny’ could be derived). And, the mention of an Alexander Gilles as witness for the Alexander b. 1641 implies that the child could be named for this Alexander or for a previous Gilles relative. There is one baptism of a  Marion Mur in Uphall, 11/09/1608 with father Androw Mur. There is a Rynna Muir in Falkirk, baptised 25/11/1602, parents Edward Muir and Jonet Broune, with witnesses W [Wat or William] broune of westq[uarte]r and Alexander Craufurd. This couple were ‘booked’ to marry on 18th July 1602, Jonet in ‘this’ parish (Falkirk) and Edward in Bothkennar.  W Broune of Westquarter is likely to be the father of Jonet; the Levingstouns or Livingstons were the major landholders in Westquarter, and a Robert Levistoun - a variant spelling of Livingston - was a baptism witness to Janet, the daughter of Rinny Muir. This is of course very circumstantial, but there is at least a possibility that Rinny Muir was the ‘Rynna’ baptised in Falkirk in 1602, probably older than her husband, and having children until the early 1640s.

There was also a Margaret Gilles who married Robert Alexander (in Uphall parish, 27/11/1666) with children from 1667 to 1683. She is likely to have been born in late 1630s or early 1640s. Witnesses to the baptism of her first child, Janet, were 'William Gilless elder William Gilless younger and Alex[ande]r Breed’; the second, Eduard (1669), had ‘Eduard Alexander, William Gilless elder & Andrew duncan’. The next two children, Margaret and William (1672 and 74), were baptised in Uphall, then Marion, John and Agnes again in Linlithgow. William Gilles (Wm4) was a witness to the birth of Margaret and Robert's daughter Agnes in 1682, and Robert Alexander was a baptism witness for a child of Wm4.  

There is a relationship here but no recorded birth of a Margaret to William and Rinny Muir about the right time. There is an unnamed (and illegitimate) birth to William with mother Janet Straighen in 1656, but that is too late to be Margaret. Likewise, a child Margrat, father Alexander, in December 1655 with witness William Gilles, but again rather late. It seems most possible that Margaret was another child to William Gilles and Rinny Muir. 

Margaret's birth could perhaps be between Janet (07/01/1638) and Alexander (05/12/1641) - there is space, but no record - but it is most likely she was born in the 1640s. 

There is a ‘gap’ in the Linlithgow baptism records, from 1642 until August 1647 (with a handful of records from 1644), with then another gap from November of that year until November 1649, and patchy records in the immediately following years. (This was a rather difficult time in Scottish history, with religious conflict, the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, and the eventual ‘Commonwealth’ where Linlithgow Palace was taken over by Cromwell’s army.) It seems very likely that Margaret was born in the 1640s, most probably around 1644-6

The snippets from OPR evidence:

A Wilame Gillis was married to Margaret Wilson, the ‘booking’ being in December 1671, though without further information - clearly not the one who was by this time married to Margaret Jarden. A William Gilleis was married to Jonet Allerdice in 1685,  and a William Gilles was married to Jonet Younger in 1693, both these couples having children in Linlithgow.

A William Gilles ‘younger’ had an illegitimate child, name not recorded, with Jonet Straighen in 1656. This could have been the William who later married Margaret Jarden, or another William. A William Gilles was married to Margrat Cudbert or Cudbertson by 1662, having children with her from 1662 to 1671. And, a William Gilles was married to Jonet Jack with children in 1666 and 67.

The children of William Gilles and Margrat Cudbert(son) were:

  • John baptised 14/04/1662 - wit. John Cudbertson, Willam Gillies, John McLunn
  • Jonet 27/11/1664 - John Cudbertson, William Gilles, John Broun
  • Margrat 08/10/1666 - John Cudbert(son), Robert Clark
  • Christian 02/12/1668
  • Mary 01/02/1671

(It is possible that this William Gilles might be the one marrying Margaret Wilson at the end of 1671, as a widower with young children, though there is no firm evidence for this. But another possibility is more likely - to be shown later.) 

There was a Margrat Cudbertsoun baptised in Linlithgow 04/07/1640, parents John Cudbertsoun and Jannet Wilson, and she may have been the Margrat married to William Gilles by 1662. The question arises as to who was this William, and who was the William Gilles witnessing the baptisms, as possibly a father or uncle or cousin or other relative. There are no births of a William in Linlithgow or indeed West Lothian other than the ones we already know of. Therefore this William (marrying Margrat Cudbert) could have been born in a parish with no extant records from the period.

Or, one possibility is that William Gilles, burgess, after the death of his wife Rinny Muir had remarried. This would not necessarily seem the most likely possibility, but cannot be discounted (see below). This William (Wm3) would be around 50 in 1662. It is also possible that William the husband of Margaret Jarden was married after her death in 1685 to Janet Allerdice.

Witnesses for the child Jonet Gilles, daughter of William Gilles and Jonet Jack, were David Gilless, Alexander Calder and John Dick. Again, it’s possible that it was this William who married Margaret Wilson.

There is therefore nothing definite to indicate whether there are two William Gilleses having children around the 1660s to the 1680s, or three, or four, and what the relationship between them was. One (marrying Jonet Jack) seems to be connected with a David Gilles and so is likely to be from a different line. The marriage of William Gilles and Margaret Wilson did ot result in baptisms of children in Linlithgow, so that we don’t know whether he was resident in a different parish. There remains the possibility that both William born around 1610, and his son William born in 1635, married twice. 

The names of children indicate this may have happened. William born about 1610 had only three children with recorded baptisms, William, Janet (of whom nothing more is known) and Alexander: William marrying Margrat Cudbertson has children John, Jonet, Margrat, Christian and Mary. However if as seems most likely Margaret Gilles who married Robert Alexander was a child of Rinny Muir and William Gilles, the name ‘Margrat’ given to the 166 daughter of this marriage may give pause. Margaret Gilles was, however, by this time herself married and so ‘out of the house’, so it is possible.

William born 1635, marrying Margrat Jarden, had children William, George, Jonet, Margaret, Margaret, Bessy, Margaret, William, John, William. The names of the children of William Gilles and Jonet Allerdice (or Ardros, Allerdies, Erdies and various other spellings) are James, William, Jonet, Christian, David, James, and finally twins in 1698, Alexander and Elizabeth. From the birth of Jonet, 1692, we know that this William was a currier (witnesses being James Bryce and Alexander Smith, maltmen). He may or may not be the same William, currier, as the widower of Margaret Jarden.

WIlliam Gilles and Janet Younger had one son, David.

There are other clues to the various William Gilleses. In 1708 John Gilles had his first children, Alexander and Susanna, twins, baptised. The witnesses were William Gilles and William Dick, curriers. However on the same register page there is a birth to Jon Aitken in Silvermines and Margaret Calder, with witnesses being David Gilles and William Gilles, ‘tennents’, that is tenant farmers, in Tartraven; and in 1696 there a a marriage of Alexander Gilles, mason and wright in Tartraven, with the cautioner being David Gilles farmer in Tartravan. Earlier there is a Testament Dative, dated 30/12/1676, for a William Gillies in ‘Silvermurlyes’ [1], the inventar, showing that he is a farmer, made by his brother, David Gilles, and with mentions of debtors and creditors in Linlithgow parish and further afield, but none of the Gilleses who were in the toun.  This is further evidence for two separate Gilles ‘families’, one being craftspeople of the town of Linlithgow, the other farmers and craftspeople at and around Tartraven and Silvermines. A David Gilles, ‘fermer in this paroch’ had died before 1694, when his daughter Katharin was married, her cautioner being a John Gilles, flesher.  David and William Gilles may have been his sons - there is no Gilles in the Land Tax records for Tartraven as they were tenants, and the tax was payable by the landholder, denoted only as ’Tartraven’, in two parts, and also no Gilles in the later Hearth Tax, so that their tenancies may be together with those of other farmers. (The marriage records continue being accounts only until the 1690s, but by 1694 are far more informative.)

In Hearth Tax records from 1691, there is one William Gilles identified in Linlithgow Toune, with two hearths (page E69/24/2/29, Scotlandsplaces).

Looking at these marriages or children’s births, and presenting them as a list with annotations, we have:

  • William Gilles and Rinny Muir, children 1635, 38, 41;   son of Wm Gilles, burgess
  • William Gilles and Janet Straighen, illegitimate child 1656
  • William Gilles and Margrat Cudbert(son), children 1662-71  witnesses incl. a Wm Gilles
  • Wilame Gilles and Margrat Wilson,  marriage dec. 1671,  no apparent children, no information
  • (William Gilles and Jonet Jack,  children 1666, 67   witnesses incl. David Gilles both entries)
  • William Gilles (Wm4) and Margrat Jarden, children 1668-1682, Margrat Jarden died 1685;  currier burgess, witnesses in 1660s incl. Wm Gilles
  • William Gilles and Janet Allerdice, marriage booking 28th June 1685, also recorded at Carriden 28 July, children until 1698;  currier
  • (William Gilles and Janet Younger, marriage 1693, child David,1694)

The entries for William Gilles and Jonet Jack, and William Gilles and Janet Younger, would seem to be a different family line - the farmers from Tartraven. The others - with the possible exception of the child born 1656  - seem to me to be connected to the line of the curriers of Linlithgow burgh. The William marrying Margaret Wilson could be of either line, or could be someone from outside the parish of Linlithgow. i’m concerned here primarily with the currier burgesses, and those who are evidenced as connected with them through witnesses or other evidence, who are:

  • William Gilles and Rinny Muir, children 1635, 38, 41 - son of Wm Gilles, burgess
  • William Gilles and Margrat Cudbert(son), children 1662-71  witnesses incl. a Wm Gilles
  • William Gilles and Margrat Jarden, children 1669-1682,Margrat Jarden died 1685  currier burgess, witnesses incl. Wm Gilles
  • William Gilles and Janet Allerdice,  marriage dec. 1685, children until 1698;  currier

What i think we have here are two William GIlleses in the burgh of Linlithgow, burgesses of the toun, marrying in this time frame, father and son, each marrying twice. Women’s lives could be very short due in particular to deaths in or after childbirth, alas. (And, there is a separate and likely unrelated family of Gilleses in Tartraven, including a William.) 

In the ’toun’, William Gilles, marrying Rinny Muir about 1634, had with her a son William and three other children; but after the death of Rinny Muir, he was again married, to  Margrat Cuthbertson, with the first son William, now adult, becoming a witness for the births of children to this second family. (And this son William, currier burgess, himself marrying Margaret Jarden, may possibly have been married again, to Janet Allerdice, after Margaret's death, though this is more speculative.)

(There is however one ‘fact’ that may blow my reasoning out of the water. There is a baptism in 1650 of a Jean Wand, daughter of John Wand and a Rinny Muir. If this is the same Rinny Muir, it would imply that (1) she might be younger than the Rynna baptised in 1602, as that Rynna would be aged 48 - not impossible but not so likely - and (2) that William Gilles has died before 1650. But there is no other mention that I can find of a family of John Wand and Rinny Muir, and it may be that this is a different, and considerably younger, woman. And there is the evidence of the mentions of William Gilles elder and younger in baptisms, and of the continuance of the ‘elder’ until at least 1674, and then a mortcloth entry that would seem to fit for him in 1679.)

But I didn’t just jump to this conclusion. There are more details and evidence from earlier records, including testaments of john Gilleis, Jeane Gilleis, and Patrik Backnay… which require another page. The testament of John Gilleis implies earlier generations of Williams, which is why I’ve said above ‘four generations’. So far, we’ve seen only two - with an earlier one implied by the baptisms of children of William Gilles and Rinny Muir… So, therefore, please go to Earlier Gilleis burgesses of Linlithgow - William and John.



  1. This place name is obscure, and could also refer to Silvermuir in Carstairs parish, even though the testament is from Edinburgh Commissary Court. No parish is identified. However, the first mentioned debtor to William Gillies is Androw Crawfurd in Linlithgow who has been owing ‘four kyne’ since 1632. Another is John Hendersone in ‘means of Tartreven’, and there is a debtor from ‘Ohytriye’ which is likely to be Ochiltree, a John Robertsone in Blakstoune (Blackstone, in Falkirk parish) and John Broune in widsyde (Woodside). Some however are further afield - such as Glenbervie! Further, William Gilles was owing to the La[ ] of Houpetoune for rent 142 llib~ 4 s~, which would seem to site ‘Silvermurlye’ within the area of Hopeton and Linlithgow. (Some words or letters disappear into the spine of register, so that not everything can be transcribed.)
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