Saturday, July 23, 2011

Surname Saturday: Burns Family

A second surname to come out of James Peter McPherson's diary: BURNS.  Now this name is actually a family name: the maiden name for J.P.'s wife, Mary, my great-great grandmother.


Mary's father was William Gibson Burns, bn. in 1801 in Lancashire, England.  She also had an uncle, Jabez Burns, who was a well-known minister; in his youth he was associated with Methodist, Wesleyan, then General and Free Will Baptist. Their father was an apocathery and their mother a devout Wesleyan. In fact she named the younger son, Jabez, after another well-known Wesleyan minister.  The parents apparently died when the boys were fairly young, but old enough to have developed strong religious and social beliefs.  The family is said to have been of "small means but independent thinking."


William G. Burns was active in the Chartrist movement, of one man, one vote, which wasn't particularly popular with the early 19th century established governments.  Jabez, focused on religion and the Temperance movement.  Both of these men influenced, not only Mary, but her husband James Peter McPherson.


Mary's younger brother, Jabez, also emigrated to America shortly after Mary and J.P.   Jabez, the brother, came to America, married a Scots woman by the name of Agnes Brown, and became a rags to riches story.  He plied the streets of New York City as peddler, then a cartman, and finally he designed and developed a unique coffee-roaster which made him very wealthy.


Family lore, which reportedly comes directly from Mary Burns, states that she was a cousin of the poet Robert Burns.  The age difference does not support a cousin relationship, but there may indeed be a family relationship.  Research for another day.


I have searched off and on for nearly a decade to find living Burns relatives.  A couple of times, I was sure that I had located a "cousin" only to be met with no response to queries.  So this is a call to my missing BURNS family.  In ET's words, "phone home."

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