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Alexander Magruder — how strong is the case for his parentage?

Not particularly strong. This is a classic case of a circumstantial argument for the identity of an early colonist, which (unsurprisingly) connects him to a mother (Margaret Campbell of Keithick) with demonstrable noble ancestry. I have just dug up the two articles by Charles G. Kurz (based on research of Thomas Garland Magruder, Jr.) which build the case for his identity and lay out some details on his alleged mother’s ancestry. For those who are interested and who haven’t seen the original articles, I’ll make them available here for download as pdfs:

Charles G. Kurz [& Thomas Garland Magruder, Jr.], “The Ancestral History of Margaret Campbell of Keithick,” Yearbook of the American Clan Gregor Society 62 (1978), 55-65.

Charles G. Kurz [& Thomas Garland Magruder, Jr.], “The McGruder Lineage in Scotland to Magruder Family in America,” Yearbook … 63 (1979), 53-72.

These articles do make some effort to cite primary sources, but there is no systematic presentation of the strengths and admission of the weaknesses of Magruder’s claimed parentage. Kurz treads very lightly on the idea that these Magruders have nothing to do with the MacGregors, while still indulging in the old game of self-congratulatory worship of noble ancestors. Speaking of which, here’s something a little weird: the mixed-genre poem by Susan Tichy (poet, and Associate Professor of English at George Mason University) called “Heath IV,” a modern reflection on Magruder which of course preserves some of the old canards about his life and spurious relation to clan Gregor.


  1. amberleigh wrote:

    Hello, I am a distant cousin. I am related through a daughter of Joseph Magruder (wife Catherine Fleming) a son of Samuel Magruder (1708-1786) and Margaret Jackson. My line went south into Tennessee.

    Anyways, I have about given up on the Magruders because no one seems to agree on anything! I like the idea that Alexander was a Magruder and a Drummond, not a MacGregor (that just makes more sense historically), but now the dispute on who Alexander Magruder’s parents were really gives me a headache. That was the only line I thought I had 100% back to the old country. (I also have Nevilles, Bacons, Warrens, Liddalls, and Howards so you can imagine the fighting that goes on in those lines to get them back to royalty)

    Honestly, I don’t care if I am royal or not. I just want it correct. (I’d prefer to be merchant class and bourgeois, Chaucer is more interesting than the Black Prince in my opinion) Who do you think is the best authority concerning the Magruders and when will all of this finally be put to rest? Have you read Sue Emerson’s book?

    Thursday, July 24, 2008 at 18:12 | Permalink
  2. Nat Taylor wrote:

    Thanks, Amberleigh. Yes, I know something of the ‘fighting’ that goes on to get various immigrants — especially ones with highfalutin names like ‘Howard’ or ‘Neville’) recognized as having noble ancestry. I also descend from Matthew Howard of Maryland, whose putative Tudor ancestry is expounded in a bad historical novel.

    No, I haven’t read Sue Emerson’s book, which is:Sue Emerson and Don McGrouther, Wha’s Like Us? Magruders in America; MacGrouthers in Scotland before 1855 (Kent, Washington [?], 2007). Hopefully I will get a chance to. From what I see about it on line, she successfully refutes the old idea that the Magruders are McGregors (this was already disproved by Kurz & Magruder, but they soft-pedaled it because of the implications for the ‘American Clan Gregor Society’). What’s less well done by Kurz & Magruder is to build the circumstantial case connecting Alexander Magruder of Maryland to Alexander Magruder of Craignech and Inchiffray, and more explicitly to Margaret Campbell. I look forward to seeing Sue’s book.

    Brice Clagett, who died just within the last few months, had prepared a massive book documenting all his ancestry for 20 generations, including seven or eight generations behind Alexander Magruder. I have seen this in manuscript and it’s well done. Unfortunately no one in the genealogical community knows whether any plans were put in place for posthumous publication of Brice’s painstaking work.

    Wednesday, July 30, 2008 at 17:21 | Permalink

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