Scottish Richfords

There were two Richford families living in Scotland in the mid - nineteenth century. Thomas Richford lived with his wife and children in a village called Netherton, just to the North West of Glasgow while John Richford lived with his wife and family in Edinburgh. Most of the present day Scottish Richfords are descended from Thomas Richford and still live in the greater Glasgow area. (A look at the 2002 Scottish phonebook shows 16 Richford households in the West of Scotland and only two in the East.) The obvious questions are: Where did Thomas and John came from? Were they related? And why are there more Richfords in the West than the East?

Thomas Richford married Janet McPhee (also called Jean) at Paisley Abbey in September 1853. They first settled in the village of Nitshill, in the parish of Paisley, where Thomas worked as a ploughman. By 1860 they had moved to Netherton, in the parish of New or East Kilpatrick in Dumbartonshire. Like many people of the time Thomas worked on the land and was variously described in official documents as a pig feeder, a carter and a contractor. Thomas and Jean had six children: John and Dougald were born in Nitshill, but the later children, Donald, Jane, Mary and Margaret were all born in Dumbartonshire. The diagram shows some of Thomas' descendents. (To protect the privacy of those still living, only his children and grandchildren are shown.)

The house they lived in, in Netherton, was a humble dwelling, described in the 1901 census as having just two rooms with one or more windows. The 1881 census says that both Thomas and his wife Janet were born in Appin, Argyll. Janet is listed in the 1841 census as living with her parents, John McPhee and Mary Livingstone, in Achnacone, Appin. It is said in the family that Mary Livingstone was a cousin of the famous Scottish physician, missionary and explorer, David Livingstone. Mary's parents were John and Mary Livingstone. It is possible that Mary's father was David's uncle John. Another possibility is that her father could be a son of one of David's great uncles, making Mary a second cousin to David Livingstone. While we can definitely show that Mary came from the same West Highland Livingstone Clan as David was descended from, we have no evidence to establish the exact connection.

Matters are not so straightforward when we look for evidence of Thomas in Appin. There are no Richfords listed in the 1841 census for Appin. A survey of monumental inscriptions from churches in Appin reveals no Richford families in Appin at all. Myra Richford Macluskie, one of Thomas' great grandchildren, reports that he was known in the family as a Mysterious Englishman, possibly the son of a well-to-do family who had left home to make his own way in the world. His death in 1888 was reported by his eldest son John, but Thomas' death certificate does not give the names of his parents, so it is clear that John did not know the names of his father's parents.

Where Thomas came from, before his marriage, is far from certain. There is no record at all of him in the 1851 Scottish census. However, there is one possible entry in the English census. This reports an 18-year-old Thomas Richford serving as a private in the army, stationed at Chatham Barracks, Kent. This Thomas was born around 1833 in Balby Callon, County Kilkenny, in Ireland. There is no record of this Thomas in the next English census, held in 1861. This is our most likely possibility, but it leaves a lot of unanswered questions about why he suddenly moved so far north and why he was secretive about where he came from.

John Richford married Catherine Regan in 1863 at St. Patrick's Chapel, Cowgate, Edinburgh, after Banns according to the Catholic Church. Both John and Catherine resided in Blackfriars Wynd, Edinburgh. John was a mason's labourer and Catherine worked as a farm servant. Both John and Catherine originally came from Ireland, but we do not know which county. Many Irish people migrated from Ireland to Scotland in the mid 19th century to look for work. See the Rochford Migration page for further information on Irish migration to Scotland.

John and Catherine had six children: Thomas, John, Mary, James, Catherine and Patrick, although three of the boys died in infancy. On John and Catherine's marriage certificate John's parents are listed as James Richward and Catherine Lannan. The two different spellings John Richford and James Richward are quite distinct on the same certificate. It looks as though John had deliberately changed his name from Richward to Richford. We can only guess the reasons why!

John died in 1875 leaving Catherine to look after her three surviving children. They were still living in Edinburgh in 1881, but curiously are all now recorded as Rochfords. The way their names were recorded probably reflects their accents and pronounciation. If Catherine still retained her Irish accent this could explain the change in spelling as Rochford is much softer than Richford and is the dominant variant of the name in Ireland.

The family did not remain in Edinburgh. In 1884 the eldest son, Thomas, emigrated to Canada where he married Annie Rourke in 1886. Four years later Catherine, together with her youngest daughter Catherine, also emigrated to Canada. Mary married John Rogers from Leith who died during WWI. She later emigrated to Canada and was followed by several of her own daughters.

In 1892 the younger Catherine Rochford, now living in Canada, married John Nielson who originally came from Edinburgh and the following year her mother remarried Edward Connor in Canada. She signed her name as "Catherine Richford, nee Regan" on the marriage certificate.

A curious, and unexplained, point of note is that Thomas began to call himself by the surname Lang once he moved to Canada. We know it is the same person because his children have Rochford or Rotchford as middle names. He was a witness at both his sister Catherine's marriage in 1892 where he signed his name as Thos Lang and at his daughter Ellen's marriage in 1912 where he signed his name as Thomas Rotchford Lang. Where did the name Lang come from? We cannot be sure. However it is rather similar to Lannan, which was Catherine's mother's maiden name.

This Richford family firstly migrated from Ireland to Edinburgh and then, a while after John Richford died, they moved on to Canada although different family members made the transatlantic journey at different times.

There is no evidence to suggest any link between John, living in Edinburgh, and Thomas, living near Glasgow. Indeed their different backgrounds make a connection between the two 19th century Scottish Richford families rather unlikely.

Most of the Richfords listed in the 1891 and 1901 census returns for Scotland can be connected with Thomas Richford's descendents. However there are just two unconnected Richfords. Amy Richford (c1856) worked as a general servant and lived in Dunoon in 1891. She originally came from Ireland. In 1891 there is also a 9-year-old Mary Richford (c1882), born in Hamilton. Her family were part of the group of Rochford families (see the Rochford Migration page) who originally came from Ireland. This is a clear example of the name changing in the other direction from Rochford to Richford. After Mary's father died, her mother remarried and she was the only one left in her family with the Richford name.

This page has been contributed by Douglas MacGregor, a 4th generation descendent of Thomas Richford. Douglas' mother is Myra Richford Macluskie (married to Ian James MacGregor); her mother was Jean McPhee Baird (1896-1988, married to James Macluskie); her mother was Mary Livingstone Richford (1867-1926, married to James Baird); and her father was Thomas Richford (c1833-1888, married to Janet McPhee).

I would be interested in comparing notes with any Scottish Richford descendents or anyone else with information about Scottish Richfords. I would be particularly like to hear from anyone who can corroborate any details of these family histories, or who has any new information to add. Please send an e-mail to Douglas MacGregor with a copy, of course, to Kevin Jennings.