Women Ancestors and Sad Stories: Porter, Ewing and Lindsay

While researching ancestors, I find one of the biggest challenges is to find any information on the women who are related to me. I usually can uncover some clues on the men through tax records, land records, wills, etc. However, women had little rights and written records on many of them seem to be scarce. Mostly you have to depend on bits of information from researching the men they were associated with, like fathers, brothers and husbands. I was continuing my research on the Porter and Ewing lines for Capt. Robert S. Porter and his wife Margaret Lindsay with a focus on the women in the family.

Robert Porter was the only son and child of Andrew Porter and Eleanor Ewing who were my 7th Great-grandparents. His parents were Scot-Irish immigrants from the province of Ulster, Ireland in the1700’s. Eleanor Ewing was my first challenge but I found her parents who were Alexander Ewing and Rebeckah _____. (You can read more about them here: The Ewing Clan in History and Legend: Of Eagles Wings.) Eleanor Ewing was born about or before 1721 and we can assume she got married to Andrew Porter between the age of fifteen and eighteen before 1737. Their son, Robert Porter was born around 1737-1738. Her father, Alexander Ewing wrote his will in about the same year of 1738 when Eleanor gave birth to son Robert but Alexander had all his children named in his will EXCEPT Eleanor! It is believed that Eleanor died before her father wrote his will. It is believed that she died in childbirth or shortly thereafter from complications of childbirth. Further evidence of her death is that her husband Andrew remarried shortly afterward to Margaret Leiper. Robert was raised by his step-mother Margaret and with six half-siblings. Now I have a good idea what happened to Eleanor, wife of Andrew Porter and why her records were non-existent after 1738!

When this Robert Porter grew up, he married a Margaret Lindsay. Finding information on Margaret Lindsay led to another challenge! Their marriage record was a start of the paper trail. They were married 27 May 1764 in Pennsylvania.

Marriage Record of Robert Porter and Margaret Lindsay (Pennsylvania Compiled Marriage Records)

The AGBI (American Genealogical-Biographical Index) database listed Margaret Lindsay as being born in 1740 but another record places her birth as 1745. No where was there a listing of her parents. After searching through several Lindsays in that time period and in Pennsylvania, I found a will of James Lindsay who named a daughter “Margaret Porter” in his will and he lived in Middletown, Delaware County, Pennsylvania.

Excerpt from will of James Lindsay naming daughter Margaret Porter (Delaware, Pennsylvania Will Book )
Gravestone of James Lindsay

This James Lindsay was born in South Leith, Midlothian, Scotland to William Lindsay and Agnes Broun according to his baptism records. He was born 03 Dec 1798 and baptized 05 Dec 1798. He immigrated to Pennsylvania in 1725 and settled there as tax records indicate. He married a woman named Elizabeth according to his will and some believe her surname may have been Ewing. James lived to 1792 and died at about 83-84 years old. He was buried in Middletown Presbyterian Church Cemetery, Elwyn, Delaware, PA. No record of his wife’s death has been found although she was still living when his will was probated in May of 1792. I assume she was buried in the same cemetery as her husband.

I believe it is quite possible that this James Lindsay and Elizabeth are parents of Margaret Lindsay who married Robert Porter. The time periods match and her birth in Pennsylvania matches. James naming a daughter as Margaret Porter in his will is also good evidence. The fact that James was a Scot and Presbyterian points to his association with the Scot-Irish community of which the Porters were a part of. The Scots-Irish tended to settled together in communities with friends, neighbors, and families they immigrated with or knew before. It was a close community with many intermarriages. One more piece of the puzzle is that Margaret and Robert named one of their sons James Lindsay Porter, presumably after her father!

Now that I believe I have identified Margaret’s parents, let’s see what happened to her. Her husband Robert Porter was first a Lieutenant and then a Captain in the Revolutionary War and is listed as a DAR ancestor (#A091290). In the DAR records, Robert was born circa 1740 in Pennsylvania and died in 1781 in Montgomery County, Virginia. This correlates with our Robert Porter and he fought in the Battle of Point Pleasant and had settled in Virginia. His ancestors listed include Andrew Porter, his son and our direst ancestor. (More on this Andrew Porter to come!) Note that Robert died in 1781 making him only about 41 or 42 years of age! It is possible that Robert may have been killed or died from injuries sustained in the War as he was so young at death.

Revolutionary War Rolls, 1775-1783: Capt. Robert Porter’s Name on upper right.

So this left Margaret Lindsay Porter a young widow with eight children. The youngest child, James Lindsay Porter, was only one or two years old when his father died and the oldest child was probably about 17 or 18. At least three of the children married and moved to Blount County, Tennessee and Margaret moved there also – maybe with one of her children’s families. There were no records found that Margaret remarried after Robert’s death.

The only other record I found for Margaret indicated that she may have had a sad ending indeed. Margaret was appointed a guardian in 1803 according to Blount County TN court records. The reason for appointing a guardian was that Margaret was in “state of insanity!” Now “insanity” at that time was a label for multiple kinds of conditions including dementia. In the settlement records of her guardianship at her death in 1811, eight years later, reveals her guardian was a William Gillespie who was over 80 years old at the time like Margaret. This begs the question why an 80 plus year old man was her guardian when she had a number of married children living in the same area?

Some questions of the past can and will never be answered! However, I am grateful that I was able to find and tell part of the stories of my women ancestors!


  • Wills; Delaware, Pennsylvania; Will Book, Vol. A-B, 1789-1822; Case: 41; Date: 2 May 1791; James Lindsay
  • Scotland, Select Births and Baptisms, 1564-1950 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operatons Inc., 2014.
  • Filby, P. William, ed. Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s. Farmington Hills, MI.
  • Ancestry.com Pennsylvania, U. S. Compiled Marriage Records, 1700-1821 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2011.
  • Excerpts from Ewing Family Association: https://www.ewingfamilyassociation.org
  • U. S. Revolutionary War Rolls, 1775-1783 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2007.

The Ewing Clan in History and Legend: Of Eagles Wings

#52 Ancestors: Family Legends

My research last week on James Robert Porter and Eleanor Gillespie inspired me to take another look at their son, Andrew Porter of 1720 who was my 7th Great-grandfather. He also was a Scot-Irish immigrant who made his way to America, namely Maryland, with his wife Eleanor Ewing. You can read more about them in this link to my older blog: Irish Ancestors and Immigrants! If you read last weeks blog, you know that I discovered that these ancestors were originally from Scotland and not Irish, and they only resettled in Ireland before immigrating.

This week, I want to reveal more about what I learned about Andrew Porter’s wife and my 7th Great-grandmother, Eleanor Ewing. She was the daughter of Alexander Ewing and Rebeckah ______. Andrew Porter’s parents were James Robert Porter and Margaret Ewing that I wrote about last week and you can find it here: A New Beginning: The Porters – Scots or Irish? That James Porter traveled to America with his uncle Alexander Ewing who was a brother to his mother Margaret Ewing Porter! His father was Josia Porter. Now that can be confusing but I saw a lot of Ewing names popping up in my research and I had to know more!

River Forth in Scotland showing location of Stirling Castle

Where did the Ewing’s come from? In reality the Ewings are of Scottish descent and originally from west of Scotland, near Glasgow and the clan was located on the River Forth. The River Forth was near the famous Stirling Castle in the vicinity of Loch Lomand. The Ewings were Presbyterian and in the mid 1600s, many protestants were being persecuted and a religious war ensued. Ultimately the Ewing clan chieftain was captured and executed and all of the clan were outlawed. The Ewing clan went from the River Forth area to the Isle of Bute, Scotland and later settled at or near Coleraine County, Londonderry, Ulster in northern Ireland. Of course this is a simplified version of the historical events.

Stirling Castle still stands today and is a tourist site. It was built on a high cliff.
Stirling Castle

I found a family legend written to explain where the Ewing name came from – it was handed down through countless Ewing generations! ” In pre-Christian times, a group of Celts settled along the eastern shores of Loch Lomond in Scotland and became shepherds. Their peaceful settlement was plagued by the depredations of a huge eagle that stole their sheep. Finally an infant child was taken by the eagle. The eagle’s nest was in a precarious position under the overhand of a steep cliff, and one of the shepherds was lowered by rope to attempt to kill this bird that had caused them such injury. Unable to hoist the whole of the eagle’s corpse back to the clifftop, the shepherd brought back with him one of eagle’s wings to prove that his mission had been accomplished successfully. The group of Celtic shepherds began to call themselves the Eagle Wing Clan. This Clan name was shortened to E-wing and finally to Ewing. “

Now whether you choose to believe the Eagle story or not, it is up to you. Lets go back to Eleanor Ewing, wife of Andrew Porter of 1720. Eleanor was born about 1721 in Ulster, Ireland and her parent were Alexander Ewing and Rebeckah – mother’s surname is unknown. Eleanor and Andrew married about 1738 in Cecil County, Maryland (then a British Colony). Eleanor has a tragic story. Unfortunately, Eleanor died two years later in 1740 in child birth or a short time after their son Robert Porter was born. This Robert Porter, her one and only child, became my 6th Great Grandfather and fought in the Revolutionary War. Andrew had to bury his young wife of about 20 years old but later remarried a Margaret Leiper and had six more children. More on Robert Porter will come.

1700s Sailing Ship

It is quite possible that Eleanor Ewing came to America around 1727, and based on a statement in “Clan Ewing of Scotland,” a group of Ewing, Porter, Gillespie, Caldwell and other families came to America in that year. Two of the ships that the immigrants used to traverse the ocean were named Eagle Wing (sound familiar?) and Rising Sun. Most of our ancestors did not come at the same time nor did all come in the same ship.

But what were some of the motivations behind the immigration? Surely a big one was to escape religious persecution and settle in Maryland, Pennsylvania and also Philadelphia who were founded on religious freedoms. In Ireland, between the years of 1720 and 1730, the harvests were very poor and crop failures surely contributed to the causes that inspired families to consider making the long voyage to America and start a new life. Landlords were also raising leases on land and calling in loans.

Some family tradition believe that after a tedious voyage, the ships may have landed at New Castle on the Delaware River which was near Cecil County, Maryland where so many Ewings and Porters settled. New Castle was only about fifteen miles from Cecil County border. More ships were built as a result to carry passengers and goods to America because of the large number of immigrants in the 1700’s up to the Revolutionary War in 1776. The Eagle Wing served to more than 35 years between Belfast, Ireland and American ports. It was a fast and modern sailing ship for its time and could make the trip across the ocean in seven to ten weeks if all went well!

Seven to ten weeks on the Ocean in a crowded ship does not seem like a pleasant journey so I have to commend our ancestors for taking that tedious voyage to America!


https://www.geni.com/surnames/ewing Also: http://www.sandcastles.net/ewing.htm

Irish Immigrant Families: Porter, Ewing, Gilliespies; Posted by William Gammon: Ancestry.com

Ewing, Elbert William R; Clan Ewing of Scotland. Ballston, Virginia: Cobden Publishing co, 1922; p. 176.

Ancestry.com. John Ewing, Immigrant from Ireland 1660-1974 [database on-line]. Provo, UT: Ancestry Operations Inc.

McMichael, James R; Alexander Ewing (1697/7-1738) & descendants: Ireland to America in 1727; Bountiful Utah: Family History Publishers; Spring, TX, 1999.

A New Beginning: The Porters – Scots or Irish?

#52 Ancestors Each week of the year Amy Johnson Crow publishes a theme or prompt to provide inspiration for working on our genealogy. We can choose to write, post or do something else related to our research such as organizing family photos. Although I am a bit late in starting writing this year as I was working on other research, I will consider her suggestions each week and write about the ones that inspire me! Her first theme was “Beginnings.”

At the beginning of the new year, it is a good time to think of how our ancestors came to America for so many different reasons. One thing in common is that when they set foot on our shores, they all began a new life – a new beginning. I have been researching the Porter family ancestors who sailed from Ireland. The reason I wanted to take another look at my research was that my DNA profile showed little Irish (about 5 %) and twice as much Scottish (10-13%) ancestry. So I thought it would be good to review the ancestors I believed were Irish.

Ulster County in 1700s, now part of Northern Ireland

Among the thousands of immigrants in the 1700s, there were three clans that immigrated from Ulster County, Ireland and settled in the Maryland area, particularly Cecil County. All three clans were close neighbors and great friends and intermarried often both in Ireland and America. The clans were the Porters, the Ewings and the Gillespies families. By tracing my ancestry, I found that I am related to all three clans in one way or another. Now I had thought that they were all of Irish descent coming from Ireland but in reality many were Scots-Irish!

Scots-Irish is really an Americanism and not used in Europe and Britain where they are sometimes called Ulster Scots. The Scots-Irish refers to people whose ancestors originated in Scotland but who lived in Ireland, sometimes for several generations, before emigrating to America. The Scots started to go to Ireland starting around 1600 as an expanding population in Scotland hungered for more and better land and escape from religious persecution. The northern part of Ireland was fertile and sparsely settled and, besides, it was a short journey of just a few miles across the sea from the lowlands of Scotland. Most Scots settled in the area of Ulster and Donegal counties which includes all the counties of Northern Ireland today. Eventually the British government required all crown officials be of Anglican faith which excluded the Scots-Irish from any sort of power as they were devoutly Presbyterian. Even their clergy couldn’t perform marriages! Then came raising of land rents, drought, sheep diseases and smallpox that took a toll on the population. Of course there is much more history to this situation and too much to detail here.

The emigration to the American Colonies began around 1718 and continued until the American Revolution. Most early immigrants went to Pennsylvania where the Quakers were tolerant of other religions or to Maryland or to Philadelphia. Eventually they followed the Great Wagon Road from Pennsylvania into Georgia with many stopping to settle in the Shenandoah area of Virginia like our ancestors. The first Scots-Irish ancestor of ours to come to America was James Robert Porter. He was born in Coleraine, Londonderry County, Ulster, Ireland in 1699.

James Robert Porter was born in Coleraine, Londonderry, Ulster, Ireland. It probably wasn’t this developed in 1699!

James Porter was the son of Josia Porter and Margaret Ewing, both of County Donegal, Ireland. James married Ellen (also called Eleanor) Gillespie in Ireland – recall that I said the Porter, Ewing and Gillespie families were all intertwined! The Ewings, as a clan, were banned in Scotland as they were Protestants. It is thought that James Porter emigrated to the British Colony of Maryland in 1727 and that he traveled with his uncle Alexander Ewing, his mother’s brother. (Alexander and Margaret Ewing were children of Robert Milford Ewing and Rebecca Ewing. ) Later, James Porter’s wife, Ellen, traveled to Maryland to join him along with their children and her parents. I haven’t found her parents names as yet. All together, James and Ellen had ten known children, Jane, Mary, Elianor (also called Nelly), Betsey, Stephen, George, Andrew, William, James and Samuel.

The location of Cecil County in present day Maryland

The Porter family, once reunited, settled in Cecil, Maryland Colony and there is a deed recorded for James. James bought 235 acres of land for 130 pounds from Thomas Love. On the deed, James Porter reserved the liberty of having a wagon road leading from his dwelling house through the granted land to where the school house now stands. This deed was recorded on 26 Mar of 1753.

I also found a 1740 petition from the inhabitants of Little Britain ( a township nearby in Cecil County) to establish a road that ran by “James Porters store” on the Octarara Hundred (land designation in Colonial times). This indicates that James likely owned and ran a store and was a merchant. He was indicated as a merchant in several documents and listed as the “brother of Rachel Porter Ewing wife of Nathaniel Ewing.” This reveals that his sister and brother-in-law also came to America. In 1784, their daughter Jane Porter, who was married to Patrick Ewing, died and therefore was not mentioned in James’ will. James also had a ferry service and a saw mill which his children inherited.

James Porter died around 1778 as his will was probated in 1778-1780. Because he owned land that was in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and in Cecil County, Maryland, his will was probated in both counties. The will is also evidence of his prosperity in life. His wife, named Elianor in the will, got the land they lived on of course and 100 pounds of Pennsylvania currency plus her choice of one cow, horse or mare out of James’ stock. However, I found an unusual stipulation in the will stating that she was prohibited from “committing any waste or cutting any wood save what may be necessary for Rails and firewood.” Sons William and Andrew gained land, houses and building in “Peach Bottom” and that land contained a saw mill dam, races, and a ferry service. Son William also got a silver watch and other sons Stephen, James, Samuel and George received lands while the daughters Elianor, Mary and Elizabeth got sums of money.

I have not found any documentation on where James or Ellen (Elianor) Porter were buried. Judging from their prosperity though after coming to America, they did have a very good new beginning! By researching this family, I found some answers for my own ancestry too!


  • Maryland, Cecil County, Deed Book VII, page 497. (James Porter of Cecil Co.)
  • Book I; Land Commissions of Cecil Co., MD 1724-1751, pp. 265-270.
  • Fife, Margaret Ewing, Ewing in Early America; Chapter XXIV, pp. 176 & 186.
  • Cecil County, Maryland; Will Book 3, 1777-1780; pages 63-68, 78-79.
  • Lancaster County, Pennsylvania; Will Book E, pages 299-301.
  • Garstka, Katharine, The Scots-Irish in the Southern United States: An Overview; Oct 16, 2009, (online).