Most family history is based on stories passed down from generation to generation. The Shiels Family is no different. The early stories were recorded in the mid 1940’s when Jack Shiels of Cranbrook, Ontario wrote a journal of the family history back to the 1600’s. The original of this journal was given to his cousin, Mr Bill Ford from Detroit, Michigan.
Jack’s version leads us from the early 1600’s with Micheal & Jessie (Scott) Shiels through Dan & Bessie (Brown) Shiels, Thomas Jeff & Jane (Saxton) Shiels to Thomas & Barbara Jean (Cranston) Shiels. This is where our detailed history begins.
Through modern research tools, we have been able to trace a slightly different sequence. We have used Jack’s version where possible and have corrected names and dates to coordinate this with our research.
Micheal & Bessie (Brown) Shiels
History records show that Micheal Shiels was born in Kildaire, Ireland in 1671. Family tradition states that Micheal Shiels went from Kildare, Ireland to Scotland. He came for the harvest and he liked the country, the whiskey and the Scottish Lassies so well that he decided to stay. He came to an area near Biggar, Scotland which would later be known as East Mains. This is the earliest picture we have of East Mains.
Michael’s first job was working for a man named Dan Scott and he received 10 pounds a year. Before the year was up, Michael had fallen in love with Dan’s niece Bessie Brown and they were married on November 24, 1716.
Forthcoming marriages were supposed to be proclaimed on three successive Sundays, however, in practice, all three proclamations could be made on the same day on payment of a fee. Michael Shiels paid 14 shillings on this date.
Michael and Bessie had one son Dan (1719), named after Bessie’s uncle, and seven daughters; Bridget (1717), Annie (1721), Margaret (1723), Nora (1725), Betty (1727), Sarah (1729) and Susan (1731). Nora was a teacher and a very successful governess. Annie married a farmer named Jim Dunn but they had no children. The remaining girls worked on the farm and never married.
Dan & Jessie (Scott) Shiels
The only son to carry on the family name was Dan. Dan served a seven-year apprenticeship as a stone mason. He was a gay sport until he was thirty and met Jessie Scott. Jessie was a fine woman and a great lover of music.
Records show that they were married on Jul 8, 1749 in South Leith, Midlothian, Scotland. Records also show that Jessie was born in 1730. With these records verified, Jessie would have been 19 years old. Family tradition stated that Jessie was older, however if Dan was 30 years old, he would have been born in 1719. Although we do not have a verified birthdate for Dan, 1719 would be reasonable based on the verified birth dates of the other children.
Dan got a good job as Agent for the Duke of Buccleuch with a good salary for the 18th century. Dan and Jessie had two children, a son, James born in 1750 and a daughter Elizabeth born March 13, 1751.
Elizabeth was baptized on March 20, 1751. She married John Kay and they had one daughter Isabella Kay, born December 22, 1781 in Corstorphine, Midlothian, Scotland. Isabella married Alexander Ramsey in 1811 and they had one daughter Elizabeth in 1817. Elizabeth married John Hardie in 1841 and they raised a large family of 7 children.
Dan was also a good mechanic and lived to be nearly ninety years old. Jessie died in 1766 when James was only sixteen.
James & Janet (Younger) Shiels
The only son to carry on the family name was James. He was born in 1750 in South Leith, Midlothian, Scotland. James married Janet Younger at Peebles on Dec 2, 1768. Janet was born Aug 5, 1750 in South Leith, Midlothian, Scotland.
James & Janet had two sons, Robert born Jan 29, 1769 in Skirling and Thomas, born May 12, 1771 in Kilbucho.
Thomas married Jane Saxton, however we have no further details on this branch at this time.
Robert & Annie (Dickson) Shiels
Robert was born Jan 29, 1769 in Skirling. He was the oldest child of James Shiels and Janet Younger. He married Annie Dickson on July 9, 1790 and they raised five children.
Robert is listed as Generation G1 for this website.
In 1949, Robert’s great-grandson Jack Shiels prepared a hand written version of the Shiels history. Through modern research tools, we have been able to find some errors in the original writing, however it should be stated that this original version was passed down from generation to generation and written by Jack when he was 80 years old. He suffered a severe stroke before he finished and lost most of the use of his right arm. The original copy was passed on to Jack’s cousin, Mrs Ellen Ford and she passed it on to her son, William Ford.