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Letters from Scotland to James Reid, 1833 - 1868


It was about 1828*, when a young Scotsman set out to discover for himself what all his friends were talking about ~ life in America. James Reid, a blacksmith by trade, lived with his parents and siblings in the small village of Powmill, Perthshire. He was known for his fun loving, adventurous spirit and yet his family was astonished with his departure. They were further confounded when word was received that his ship was lost, fearing he was drowned. It took a while but eventually they received a letter saying he had landed, was living in Albany, New York and had joined a church, which gladdened his fatherís heart.

This series of 19 letters from Jamesí family and friends are a remarkable treasure trove of genealogical information about the Reid family within the context of ordinary life in Scotland during the period from1833 to1868. We gain wonderful insight into the way the family lived and how they felt, especially about each other. There are hints of love, scolding, frustration and jealousy, fear for the future, a sense of duty, religious feelings, all coming through their brief words to their beloved son/brother/friend James. They also tell the story of Scotland, of hard times when employment was scarce, weather was poor, prices dear from the effects of war, andÖ.times of good harvests, of hope of a better future with a new queen on the British throne (Victoria) and religious revivals. They shared prices of provisions, clothing, wages and longed to learn about the same in America, some making plans to go out and others struggling to decide whether to emigrate or not.

James was not the letter writer his family wished for, and so we only have one side of these communications But through these 19 letters we learn that he settled in Albany, New York as a machinist, became active in his church, got married (Mary Ann Rodgers) and had several children including a son (James Rodgers Reid). He lived with his inlaws (James Rodgers) for a number of years and was a gracious host to those who visited from his native land. It seems clear he loved his family in return, and cherished these letters from home, so full of news of loved ones and old friends. He kept them in a small pouch, folded in their original envelopes some still with sealing wax attached, which after his death was handed down through the generations. In the 1880ís his sonís widow (Harriet Udell Reid) remarried and later moved to Syracuse, New York with her two sons (Franklin Edson Reid and Chester Udell Reid). Chesterís sons were, Donald Udell Reid and Roger Sterling Reid, my father. Iím deeply indebted to my Uncle Don, both for writing the first Reid family tree in 1930, undoubtedly using these letters as resources, and for exposing me to the richness of family history through sharing regularly from the Hubbell Family History and Genealogy, his motherís heritage. I can only hope that transcribing these letters and having them more readily available to others might light the same spark in future generations.

These letters were transcribed mostly by Glynis Aritake, a newly found cousin living in London, and her close friend and relative through another family line, Lorna Paterson, who lives near the part of Scotland where the Reids lived. We were brought together through ancestry.com searching sources for our common ancestor John Reid, Jamesí father. Glynis is a descendant of Agnes Reid Curror, Jamesí older sister. My deep appreciation for their skill and insight cannot be measured. Their expert research, especially with scotlandspeople.gov.uk, helped immensely in proving family connections and that we had identified the correct people in the primary vital records. Lornaís Scottish touch was especially helpful with old phrases that are no longer in use. Thank you both from the bottom of my heart.

ó Roger Sterling Reid, Jr.
October, 2014

* exact date unknown

Click here to download a report on the descendants of John Reid.

The Letters

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Letter from William Currer (Curror), brother-in-law, dated 8 Jul 1833. Click here for transcription.
Letter from John Reid, brother, dated 5 Apr 1834, Saline. Click here for transcription.
Letter from John Reid, father, dated 24 Apr 1834, "Coupsteps". Click here for transcription.
Letter from Archibald Dempster, friend, dated 12 Jul 1834, Staten Island, N.Y. Click here for transcription.
Letter from John Reid, father, dated 21 Feb 1835, "Coupsteps". Click here for transcription.
Letter from William Reid, brother, dated 21 Feb 1835. Click here for transcription.
Letter from John Cousin, friend, dated 17 Feb 1836, Saline. Click here for transcription.
Letter from John Reid, father, dated 8 Oct 1838, "Coupsteps". Click here for transcription.
Letter from John and William Reid, dated 12 Apr 1840, "Coupsteps". Click here for transcription.
Letter from John Reid, brother, dated 3 Jun 1842, Dunfermline. Click here for transcription.
Letter from John Cousin, friend, dated 2 Nov 1852, Saline. Click here for transcription.
Letter from John Cousin, friend, dated 24 Jan 1853, Saline. Click here for transcription.
Letter from John Cousin, friend, dated 2 May 1853, Saline. Click here for transcription.
Letter from William Reid, brother, date 24 May 1853, Pool of Muckhart. Click here for transcription.
Letter from William Reid, brother, dated 6 Jun 1853, Drumburn. Click here for transcription.
Letter from William Reid, brother, dated 10 Dec 1853, Tillicoultry. Click here for transcription.
Letter from William Reid, brother, dated 14 Sep 1854, Tillicoultry. Click here for transcription.;
Letter from William Reid, brother, dated 15 Jan 1855, Tillicoultry. Click here for transcription.
Letter from William Reid, brother, dated 1 Aug 1856, Tillicoultry. Click here for transcription.
Letter from William Reid to James R. Reid, uncle, dated 22 Jul 1868, Tillicoultry. Click here for transcription.
William Reid envelopes.

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