Am I related — are you related?

All through the first forty years of my life I heard members of the older generations of my family say, “We are related to Thomas Muir of Huntershill.” But when cross-examined, no one was quite sure how. There is a very good reason for that: we're not! I am 95% certain. The story appears to have been passed down by my great aunt Grace, and she may very well have 'invented' it herself - muddling up her own hazy memory of family history with the interest shown by an amateur genealogist she met in Canada in the early part of the twentieth century. However, I have traced our Muir line back to a George Muir who was the right age to be a possible cousin of Thomas Muir. Unfortunately his probable place of birth and parents would seem to exclude the possibility of any connection.

It will have been noticed that I write “possible cousin.” Herein lies the problem with all alleged connections to Thomas Muir of Huntershill. Thomas Muir never married. He didn't have time in his short life. It is almost certain he had no issue. (And there appears to be nothing to suggest he even had a lover at any time.) He had one sister who married a former Royal Naval officer called David Blair. There are undoubtedly Blair descendants (and Lockharts, and possibly others) who have Janet Muir in their history as a great-times-something grandmother. But to find Muir descendants, we are left with the siblings of TM's father James as possible sources. I have found it a complete nightmare trying to identify TM's uncles and aunts, and I am beginning to think it is impossible. James is believed to have had several brothers, but I don't know who they were for certain.
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The Political Martyrs' Monument, Calton Old Burial Ground, Edin. Photographed from the top of Calton Hill. Click on the image to see a larger panorama.
Over the years I have come in contact with a number of people all believing that Thomas Muir might be among their ancestors. Even the late Christina Bewley, stated in her introduction to what is probably the best book about TM (see below), that her “grandfather was a descendant of one of Muir's uncles …” Well, I have done my best to trace her Muir line back, and that Muir family certainly came from Glasgow. However, a sketchy pedigree I was supplied with by surviving relatives and the results of my own research don't quite match up. Left to my own devices I traced her Muir family back a generation before TM's father James. I am afraid that, though a connection is just possible, it looks highly unlikely. I have done this exercise with other claimants as well. I can actually prove very little, but I'm very sceptical. It should be remembered that the Glasgow—Edinburgh—Fife slice across the midlands of Scotland is the heart of Muir country. That is where we come from, and there are thousands of them in the Old Parish Records for the first half of the Eighteenth Century. Usually all with the same narrow selection of first names!
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The Political Martyrs' Monument, Calton Old Burial Ground, Edinburgh. Click on the image to see inscription details.
I have come to the conclusion that a lot of Victorian Muirs began to claim association with him in the middle of the Nineteenth Century when his memory provoked a small revival and he was 'in fashion' for a while. (This has happened from time to time ever since, most recently on the bicentenary of his death in 1999.) And family mythology being what it is, these half-hinted at associations developed into hard 'fact' by the late Twentieth Century. I would love to be proved wrong. I would love to be shown real proof that I was indeed descended from one of TM's uncles. For that matter I would love to be shown real proof, not simply anecdotal, that ANYONE alive today is descended from one of TM's uncles or aunts. Because if someone can prove who the uncles and aunts were, then my quest is ended too! So, if you are out there, and you think you are 'it', please get in touch! There are a number of people who would love to have this matter explained!
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The base of the Political Martyrs' Monument, Calton Old Burial Ground, Edinburgh. Click on the image to see inscription details.
Selected books and pamphlets:
Bewley, Christina   Muir of Huntershill,
OUP 1981, ISBN 0—19—211768—8
Clune, Frank   The Scottish Martyrs,
Angus & Robertson 1969, SBN 207—95254—X
Donnelly, M   Thomas Muir of Huntershill
Bishopbriggs Town Council 1975

Useful websites:
Wikipedia's entry
Teaching history online
Scottish History FAQ page
US site; Dawn of Democracy

Just for the record, here is a list of other famous Muirs I am NOT related to —but would be happy if I was!
  • John Muir the conservationist
  • Sir William Muir & his brother John, orientalists
  • Sir Thomas Muir the mathematician
  • Edwin Muir the poet
  • Frank Muir the wit and raconteur