one line of descent index home

Based on the local tradition of naming children after their grandparents and alternating between paternal and maternal, Francis was likely the son of Donald and Christian. This is confirmed by there being a Francis born to Donald (no mother named) and baptized in Olrig parish. Their home was at Swarclett, a small farm on the far south side of Olrig parish.

top: the 1873 Ordnance Survey map of Swarclett; bottom, google maps aerial view showing traces of the farm, including what was probably the house on the south side near the well (red arrow) and a barn with enclosure to the north. This was such a small farmstead, the Coghills may have been crofters rather than boarding as farm laborers.

Based on the same reasoning, Christian's parents were likely William and Christian or William and Janet. There was a "Cirstan" Swanson baptized at Olrig on 7 March 1733, daughter of William, no mother named. They lived in "Northside Olrig." The witnesses were James Sinclair of the Kirkfield and George Manson of Olrig. If this was the Julian calendar year, which was being used at the time, it would be 1734 on the current Gregorial calendar and she would have been 15 when she married. This was unusually young, even for the time and place, but no other person with this name with a father named William is in parish records for this area. Others have assumed she was the daughter of John Swanson, baptized in Olrig in 1726. While she had a son John, there were five sons before him with other names. A birth year of 1726, however, is appealing given that her last child of record was baptized in 1772. This would make her about 45, which was a relatively common age for women to have their last child, barring mitigating circumstances. A birth in 1733 would have made her about 39 in 1772. Without more information, nothing more can be gleaned. It's possible Francis or Christian (or both) died in the mid 1770s. There are no death or burial records for this parish from this time. Although there are marriage records availabe for Olrig in the time period when this William was likely married, there weren't any married to a woman named Christian or Janet. There was a William married to Janet Henderson in Thurso on 3 July 1729. Their residences aren't recorded, but Thurso was an adjacent parish to Olrig.
     The marriage record of Francis and Christian says they were both residents of Murkle and married at Olrig, the parish that included Murkle. When their first was baptized in 1750, they were in "Stangergill." Stanergill is an obsolete name for a townland now occupied by Castletown and is adjacent to Murkle on the east. The rest of the children's baptisms say they were in Murkle and East Murkle. Nineteenth century Ordnance Survey maps show that East Murkle was a farm north of what is now the A836 road. Murkle essentially included this farm and encompassed the area north and south of A836 for about two miles. This suggests they lived at East Murkle farm up to the last of their children's baptisms at least. Francis's occupation isn't recorded, leaving us to wonder if he was the primary tenant there or was a laborer for that tenant.

The main part of Murkle from the 1873 map. There were large farmsteads here, particularly at East and West Murkle, so the Coghills may have found enough work here as farm laborers to stay for at least 22 years. Otherwise, they may have crofted at one of the many smaller, scattered houses. Some families did both, crofting and supplimenting as hired-out laborers.

St. Trothan's Church in Olrig, where the Coghills were baptized. It was abandoned long ago, but the cemetery continued to be used much longer.

1873 Ordnance Survey maps of Coghill just east of Scrabster. Alexander Coghill, his son David and grandson David owned the property in the early to late 1600s. They may have started the Coghill family in Caithness, since I haven't seen any earlier references to them there. David, Jr., sold it in the 1690s. Given the lack of prospects in Caithness, their descendants would quickly have become crofters and agricultural laborers along with most of the others living there excepting the few who were able to maintain a trade in the small towns of Thurso, Castletown and Wick. The vast majority of land in Caithness was owned by various members of the Sinclair family.

children of Francis Coghill and Christian Swanson:

i. Donald, b. 6 September 1750 (res. "Stangergill,"" Andrew Swanson & Donald Coghill, witnesses)
ii. William, b. 30 September 1752 (Murkle, William Bain & William Swanson)
iii. Alexander, b. 21 July 1754 (Murkle, Andrew Keith & George Omand)
iv. Christian, bap. 4 December 1756 (East Murkle, William Bain & John Swanson)
v. Janet, b. 16 May 1759 (East Murkle, John & Donald Swanson)
vi. Andrew, b. 18 July 1761 (Murkle, Donald & David Swanson)
vii. Barbara, b. 3 April 1762
viii. Margaret, b. 7 September 1763 (East Murkle, Donald Swanson, Margaret Miller, Christian Swanson)
ix. Anna, b. 30 March 1766 (East Murkle, William Bain, Helen Cooper, Jean Reid)
x. Francis, b. 11 June 1769 (East Murkle, Janet Swanson & Helen Cooper)
xi. John, b. 11 June 1769 (same)
xii. David, b. 12 June 1772 (East Murkle, Hugh Swanson & John Sinclair)

vital records sources: His baptism ("Coggill") and marriage records ("Cogill") are in the Olrig parish register. Donald Couper of Hoy and Matthew Clerk of Belster witnessed the baptism and Andrew Swanson and Alexander Cogill were witnesses to the marriage.

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all text and photographs © 1998-2023 by Doug Sinclair unless where otherwise noted