Announcement - How Robert's Birthplace Found

By Alan Junkins; published in JFA newsletter no. 7, Winter 1992

371 years ago, on Monday, December 24, 1621, William Jonking and his wife Elspet took their new baby to the parish church in Brechin to have him baptized. The Reverend Alexander Bisset, minister of the Brechin Cathedral, Angus County, Scotland, performed the service. James Watt, Clerk to the Session, recorded the event in the first volume of the Brechin Cathedral Parochial Register, where he had been recording such events since his appointment as Clerk of Session in 1615. He wrote the following:

"december 24 1621
Wm Jonking Spous to elspit Maull had ane man bairne baptesit named robert witness robert kynndie and robert dempster."

Three years later, James Watt added this to the Parochial Register:

"25 febr 1624
William Jonking in carretston Spous to elspet maull had ane maid bairne baptesit called agnes, witness James dempster Walter Corbat."

"carretston" or Careston is about four miles west of Brechin in Angus County, Scotland. It did not have its own parish church until about 1714.1 Before that time, the people of Careston went to the Brechin Cathedral to hear the preaching on Sundays and Tuesdays, brought their newborn to be baptized, and went there to be married. In 1851, Careston had a population of 218.

Careston is where Robert Junkins and his sister, Agnes, were born and as far as we know, spent the first years of their lives. I feel that there is a great deal more that we will find out or can surmise about the life of Robert Junkins in Scotland.

I want to tell you about how I found the birthplace of Robert Junkins, a fact that has eluded researchers for many, many years.

Robert Junkins (1621-1699)

In 1855, the Church of Scotland (Presbyterian) called in all the Old Parochial Registers (parish registers) for safe keeping with the Registrar General for Scotland at Edinburgh. These registers, some beginning as early as 1490, contain over 16,540,00 birth and marriage records from the 903 parishes in the 33 counties of Scotland, from the beginning of the record keeping, until 1855. These records, one of the most important genealogical resources in Scottish research, have been available to the public for many years. But, unless you know the parish where your ancestor was christened or married, it would be a hopeless task to search for any record of them.

Over the past hundred years, many of us interested in Robert Junkins have found this out on our trips to Scotland. With no knowledge of the birthplace, parish, or even the county where Robert Junkins was born, it was like searching for the proverbial needle in a haystack.

During the past twenty-five years, David E. Gardner, a native of England and one who has devoted his entire life to genealogy, and George Jordan, author of several books on records and research in the British Isles and employed by the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, have been indexing these Old Parochial Registers. This is probably the most valuable service ever offered to those who have ancestors in Scotland. They have taken each of the parish registers and systematically recorded every christening and marriage listed with the date of the event, the parents of the christened child or the spouse of the married person. Even a small country parish had at least three to four registers covering the three hundred year time period. After these events had been recorded, they were arranged in alphabetical order by county. This was done by hand as this project was started twenty-five years ago, before the computer was easily available for their use. The millions of entries were typed on IGI (International Genealogical Index) work sheets with about thirty-five entries per sheet. These work sheets were then microfilmed so that they could be made available to the public.

In late fall of last year, it was announced that the project was complete and available on Nanofiche, a new form of Microfiche at the Church of the Latter Day Saints in Salt Lake City and its branch libraries throughout the country. It requires over 7,000 Nonofiche films to hold the records. In early January of this year, I began a comprehensive search of the Nanofiche records at the Broomall branch of the L.D.S. library, about ten miles from our home. The library was open Wednesday and Thursday evenings from 7:00 to 10:00 and on Saturdays from 9:30 to 2:30. I spent all of January and a good part of February working on the project. On February 11th, I wrote to cousins Donald and Roland Junkins to tell them that I was quite sure that I had found Robert's birth record.

Armed with these facts, I started my search.

  1. It is family tradition that Robert was born circa 1621. This is published in Harry Alexander Davis' book The Junkins Family, Descendants of Robert Junkins of York County, Maine and many other places.
  2. Robert was a Presbyterian. Robert fought, and was captured at the Battle of Dunbar. This was a religious war and Robert was defending his right to worship in a Presbyterian church, the Church of Scotland. Several weeks before the Battle of Dunbar, the clergy purged David Leslie's army of any and all soldiers who would not swear to the Covenant and the Church of Scotland.
  3. Robert was illiterate and probably could not spell his name. I think we all assumed this because he signed his will in 1699 with an "X." This one fact is probably not true, as I was to find out later, but it did ensure that I would have to search not only "JUNKINS" but all other possible spellings that could sound like "Junkins" when spoken with a Scottish tongue.

The Nanofiche are organized by county and subdivided into christenings and marriages, with each index arranged by surname. Each of the Nanofiche films has over 1,180 entries listed on it. I started with some of the counties where we had already found record of Junkins' in the late 1600s and early 1700s. I soon discovered that I should not jump around but should start at the beginning and one county at at time, work my way through to the end.

I recorded all entries from 1700 and earlier. I wanted to be sure that I would not want to go back later because I had not recorded enough information. I also felt that by recording the full 100-year period, I might be able to find more connecting members of the family, if I found Robert at all. If there were only a few Junkins on a Nanofiche, I would write the records on a worksheet. If there were many, I would make Xerox copies from the Nanofiche. Fortunately, our library had the facility to Xerox directly from a Nanofiche. Then, I would bring my evening's work home and for an hour each morning, from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m., I entered the data on my computer in a Research Data Filer program, which would allow me to sort and maneuver the data.

During my research, I found and recorded 70 spellings of what could sound like JUNKINS, all the way from Heinking, Jenckin, Jenkine, Jenkins, Jeynkene, Jinkin, Johnekein, and 63 more, right down to Junsken. During the month and a half of searching, I recorded 443 entries. The finding of Robert's record was not what I always thought it would be. I didn't scream out, eureka! I've found him, like one would love to do. As a matter of fact, I was just not sure of what I had found. Looking down this particular Nanofiche, I was scanning the dates for any date earlier than 1700. First, I saw 21 Mar 1658 and scanned across the column to the name Jonkine, Isobell. Next, I saw, 29 Feb. 1624 and the name Jonking, Agnes. Then, I saw 24 Dec 1621 and gave a little gasp. This was the first time I had actually seen the date 1621 during my search. My eyes went to the left and I saw Jonking, Robert. This time, I gave a bigger gasp, and then saw the parents listed, Wm. Jonking/Elspit Maull. Looking back up at the previous entry, I noticed that Agnes Jonking had the same parents. When I got home that evening, I told Betty that I thought I had found Robert but I couldn't be sure until I had searched every county and every parish record.

When I had completed my search, by mid-February, and conducted my computer sorts, I found that there was absolutely no other Robert with any of the seventy spellings of Junkins born in Scotland between 1610 and 1640. Still, being a little timid about my findings, I took my research to George Schock, Genealogist and Chairman of the Research Committee of the Scottish Historic and Research Society. I reviewed my complete procedure with him and he concurred with my results and says that there is no doubt that we have found our Robert Junkins.

On February 24th, I wrote to the Brechin Cathedral seeking additional information on Robert, his sister and his parents. I did not get a response for two months, which was very disappointing, so near the end of April, I called the Cathedral. I was assured by a man that answered the phone, that indeed my letter had been received but their records storage room was under reconstruction and, therefore, the delay in answering. I asked for anything about the town and the Cathedral and was told that it would come soon. Two months later, I still had not received anything. I wrote another letter and sent it be Federal Express, along with a return Federal Express envelope complete with the forms filled out charging it to my company account. Three weeks later, I still had no answer. I called the Cathedral again and was told that Federal Express had picked up the package the day before. What followed the next day was well worth the wait for me. A wealth of information about the town where Robert was born, the church where he worshiped, and hardships he endured during the first 29 years of his life.

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