Search for a Galbraith Chief

by Stuart Robinson

The 17th Chief of the Galbraiths, Robert, was particularly lawless and imprudent. He lost Culcreuch Castle and other clan holdings due to debt and is believed to have left for Ireland before 1631 and to have died there prior to 1642. He and his wife, Margaret Seton, had a large family. His oldest son, James, apparently inherited the Chiefship but was the first landless chief, since his Millig estate (present-day Helensburg) was also lost due to Robert's debts. This James had a son James who is listed as the 19th and last known Chief. Nothing further has been found about either 18th or 19th Chief, although the common assumption seems to be that both remained in Scotland.

The 17th Chief had several other children. However, because of lack of knowledge about their descendants and descendants of the 18th and 19th Chiefs, the consensus of Galbraiths of recent times has been that the Chiefship of the Galbraiths should logically have passed to the Galbraiths of Balgair. Balgair, near Culcreuch, along with the nearby Hill of Balgair, had been a holding of Thomas, 12th Chief, in the late 15th century as a result of marriage to a Cunningham lady, but the property reverted to the Cunninghams after Thomas' execution following the defeat of the Earl of Lennox' insurrection at "Talla Moss".

While Balgair and Hill of Balgair were the property of the Cunninghams, most of the land was worked by Galbraiths as tacksmen (long leaseholders). Most of these Galbraiths were apparently descendants of Galbraith Chiefs and number among current descendants prominent individuals, including Thomas Galbraith, Lord Strathclyde.

In the early 20th century, W. M. Graham-Easton of London, New Brunswick Representative to the Queen, was the self-professed leading expert on Galbraith genealogy. We have yet to discover the location of his “archives”, but some of his writings are known, including his “Memoir of the Dalhillock Branch of the Old Family of the Galbraiths of Balgair”, in which he makes observations concerning the Chief of the Galbraiths.

Graham-Easton is also the source of much of the information in a chart titled "Genealogical Table of the Senior or Old Family of Galbraith of Balgair with the Ryefield Cadet branch, showing twenty one generations, 1274-1907", "drawn by W. H. J. Galbraith from data supplied by W. M. Graham Easton", dated 15 November 1907. The chart begins with Robert the Bruce and connects with the line of Galbraith Chiefs at Thomas, 12th Chief, through his marriage to the aforementioned Agnes Cunningham, a Bruce descendant. (The chart repeats an early misconception that Thomas was the father rather than the brother of James, the 13th Chief.)

In recent times, there has been renewed interest in locating a qualified candidate as Chief of the Galbraiths. Clan Galbraith Society has established a project to conduct the search and has named Stu Robinson to lead it. CGA President Jerry Galbreath will stay personally involved. CGA Vice President Dave Colwell is responsible for publicity regarding the search with articles already having appeared widely. Former CGA President Glenn Smith, who has done extensive research on the subject, reported upon in the Red Tower, will support the current effort.

For more extensive background and current status, please see the summaries below of articles in recent Red Towers.

Any individual with knowledge of and/or interest in the search for the Chief of the Galbraith's is urged to contact the Clan genealogist at :-

Among other things, we solicit any genealogies of Galbraith's of Scotland or Ireland that may lead back to a clan chief and recommendations concerning professional genealogists qualified to contribute to the search.

The articles:

The June, 2002, issue of the Red Tower covered the background of the search, including what is known of the last three Chiefs and research that had been done by past President Glenn Smith in attempting to find descendants. The role of the Lyon Court in approving Clan Chiefs was discussed. Several relevant documents were introduced.

In the September issue, some of those documents were reviewed, particularly three that traced descendancies from Clan Chiefs, that is, Graham-Easton's Memoir of the Dalhillock Branch of the Old Family of Balgair, the Genealogical Table of the Senior or Old Family of Balgair, and a chart of ten generations of descendants of Patrick Galbraith, 5th son of the 17th Chief. Discrepencies were pointed out between these documents. None of them had as goal the finding of candidates for Chief, but the former two indicated tentative conclusions concerning the branches where leading candidates would be found. Both were devoted to tracing descendencies from the Galbraiths of Balgair.

In the December issue, we continued to review relevent documents, Burke's Peerage and Baronetage, and Col. T. L. Galloway's Galbraiths of the Lennox, quoted from an article on the increased interest in clan chiefs and also quoted from the Lyon Court's guidelines on holding a Derbhfine. Burke's has only one Galbraith article. In that, it provides the names of all known Galbraith Chiefs and traces the ancestry of the current Lord Strathclyde, Thomas Galbraith.

In the March, 2003, issue, we reviewed Clan Galbraith and Culcreuch Castle and Strathendrick, the last of the initial documents to be reviewed. This issue also proposed the order of precedence in the search for candidates, beginning with the search for descendants of the last known chief.

In the June, 2003, issue we discussed information available from the records of the Mormon Church. Initial research into that information has enabled us to debunk the common opinion that an important line of descendants (those of John Galbraith, the "7th substitute") became extinct in the 1830s. It has also given a faint life to the purported descendancy from a son of Robert Galbraith, 17th Chief. We also discuss a web site with Probate information for Scotland as well as research being performed on the Galbraiths of Ireland (Robert Galbraith, the 17th Chief, and several of his family are said to have left Scotland for Ireland). Further details were also reported about other descendants of the Galbraiths of Balgair (including the Ryefield and Blackhouse branches). Unfortunately, they are remote branches in terms of primacy in the Clan Chief search.

Research Trip to Scotland

In the Spring of 2004, the author traveled to Scotland for 3 weeks, with a side trip to England, which included visiting most major research sites and several local libraries of relevance to the Galbraiths, as well as meeting with several individuals connected with the Galbraiths and attending annual meetings of genealogical societies. The following are the first two parts of the three-part trip report. The third part may follow later. The narratives are fairly long, so it will probably be convenient for most to save a copy of the Adobe Reader files, print them, and read them at leisure.

Part 1 ~ Part 2 ~ Part 3