James Fairbairn

(circa 1795 - 19 June 1846)

BMDB data

     James Fairbairn was born cir. 1795 Morebattle?, ROX, SCT, date derived from h/stone (51 in 1846), which fits with the 1841 census age of 45 given the rounding in that census. NB the bap. on the IGI of 10 Dec 1794 at Morebattle is the baptism of James s/o Archibald and Alison, not this James. It is included in an ancestral file submission which cannot be changed.1,2,3,4,5
     James Fairbairn married Mary Bell Thomson, daughter of George Thomson and Jean Wallace, on 12 Dec 1822 Eckford, ROX, SCT, entry in Eckford reads: Decr 12 James Fairbairn in the parish of Eckford & Mary Bell Thomson in the parish of Ancrum gave up their names for proclamation in order to marriage Given to the poor 1/-". The cash book for Ancrum shows an undated Dec entry (immediately preceding one was a ditto for the 8th, but there's no ditto on this one): J Fairbairn in Eckford & Mary Bell Thompson this Do Do (Parish of - but doesn't look like Ancrum) 7d.6,7
     James Fairbairn died on 19 Jun 1846 prob. at Morebattle, ROX, SCT; aged 51.2 He was buried with Mabel Thomson Morebattle, ROX, SCT, #104: "IMO James Fairbairn who died 19.6.1846 aged 51 years and of Mabel Thomson his wife who died 25.3.1867 aged 71 years."2
     An ancestral file entry by Mrs Nees (Olympia, WA, USA) links the James who married Mabel Thomson as the s/o Archibald and Alison , and chr Morebattle 1794. She also had that Archibald as chr Aug 1758 St Boswells, s/o Robert. She advises that this information was provided to her by a relative and unchecked, much to her regret.4
I believe that the Archibald baptized 1785 St Boswells is the son of Robert and Agnes (Landreth), and is the one married to Mary Grierson instead. My previous belief that there was a better candidate for the 1794 Morebattle James, s/o Archibald and Alison in the 1841 census in Selkirk, with children Archibald and Alison, has now been borne out, as, although I could not find hide nor hair of them after this date in Scotland, this is fairly easily explained when descendants got in touch from America with evidence that they are highly likely to belong to James son of an Archibald and an Alison, with a brother David, also with children that fit this naming pattern.

It does seem highly likely that there is a connection somewhere between all these families, particularly since I now know that James and Mabel's son Robert's baptism was in the Gateshaw Secession Church records, as were 3 of Archibald and Alison's children. Possibly the one married to Mabel is a son of the Archibald who married Mary Grierson?
James' birth c 1795 would fit in a gap of Archibald & Mary's children between Margaret born St Bowsells c 1793 and George born Southdean c 1804, but I would expect James & Mabel's son to be named Archibald, rather than Robert, for this to be a strong contender, Robert being born Jul 1824 after a Dec 1822 marriage doesn't leave much room for an earlier son Archibald.

Any descendants of James & Mabel out there willing to participate in the Fairbairn surname DNA project to help sort this out?
DNA tests on descendants of both Archibalds have indicated a close relationship between them.

Research on this family has suddenly come to life again from contact with an American descendant of James Fairbairn and Joan Forsythe. Known family relationships link this family to a brother David for James. Both David and James have first sons Archibald, and 2nd daughter's Alison/Alice/Elsea, so I've bitten the bullet and decided that the mystery has been solved. Now all we have to do is find descendants of James and Mary Bell (Thomson) and link them in somewhere too!
And as at Feb 2009 I'm a tad closer to finding candidates. The Archibald Henderson Fairbairn who emigrated to Canada has been found in the 1916 Canadian census with an additional son, James, and the branch of Robert, married Grace Spalding, has been found to have a NZ descendant or two.8,4,9

Census/Where lived/Occupations

     In Dec 1822 James was living in the Par. of Eckford, ROX, SCT.7
     James Fairbairn appeared on the census of 1841 Morebattle, ROX, SCT, with Mabel Fairbairn, enumerated as FAIRBAIRN: James, labourer, 45, Mabel 45, Robert 15. All b. county.1

All the other info

     James Fairbairn was considered as a potential duplicate of James Fairbairn, but this has been discounted; one the son of Archibald and Alison, the other married to Mary Bell Thomson, they cannot be in two places at once in 1841, one with children Alison, Archibald etc, the other with wife Mabel and son Robert.10


Mary Bell Thomson (cir. 1791 - Mar 1867)
  • Robert Fairbairn11 (Jul 1824 - Sep 1907)
ChartsJames & Mary Bell/Mabel (THOMSON) FAIRBAIRN
Last Edited6 Mar 2012


  1. 1841 Census, Borders, SCT, LDS Film, Morebattle, ROX, SCT1841/801 ED 1 F 1 Pg 9, hsehold of James & Mabel FAIRBAIRN, rechecked Mar 2008.
  2. Borders FHS, MIs: ROX Morebattle, #104 James FAIRBAIRN & Mabel THOMSON, rechecked Mar 2008.
  3. Online search: assorted surnames, International Genealogical Index (IGI), Bap. 10 Dec 1794 James (AFN: 243D-1CQ) s/o Archibald FAIRBAIRN & Alison CROSSER, Morebattle, ROX, Ancestral File Submission: submitter Mrs NEES, Olympia, WA after 1978.
  4. Mrs Shari Nees (55491), "FAIRBAIRN/THOMSON/BUNYAN ex Shari NEES," e-mail to Lorna Henderson, Bap. 10 Dec 1794 James FAIRBAIRN, Morebattle, ROX, rcvd Jun 2008.
  5. Lorna Henderson, "FAIRBAIRN Conclusions", Jun 2008.
  6. FAIRBAIRN, International Genealogical Index (IGI), Marr. Dec 1822 James FAIRBAIRN & Mary Bell THOMSON, 8th Ancrum (batch M117805), 12th Eckford (batch M117874), ROX, extracted 1998.
  7. Scottish BMDB entries (to 1854), http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk/index.php, Marr. 12 Dec 1822 James FAIRBAIRN (Par. of Eckford) & Mary Bell THOMSON (Par. of Ancrum), Par. of Eckford, ROX Par. 787/A00 0020 0104, copy d/loaded Jun 2008.
  8. Lorna Henderson, "FAIRBAIRN Analysis", Mar 2008, updated Jun 2008, and Feb 2009.
  9. Morebattle, ROX: Gateshaw Associate Session & Free Church Records: Item 4 (Gateshaw 1775-1907) & 8 (Free Church 1847-52), Bap. (at Caverton Mill) 4 Oct 1824 Robert s/o James FAIRBAIRN & Mable (sic) THOMSON, extracted Jul 2008.
  10. Lorna Henderson, "FAIRBAIRN Analysis", bef 2002, updated Jun 2008.
  11. Scottish BMDB entries (to 1854), http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk/index.php, Birth 21 Jul / Bap. 21 Sep 1824 Robert s/o James FAIRBAIRN & Mabel THOMSON, Eckford, Dist 787, copy d/loaded Mar 2008.

E. & O. E. Some/most parish records are rather hard to read and names, places hard to interpret, particularly if you are unfamiliar with an area.