The Campbell McDonald Feud – The Story of a Scottish Divorce – Part 1

The feud between the Campbell and McDonald clans in Scotland is well known. So I was more than a little interested to find out that my Great Great Grandfather’s first wife was a McDonald.

When I first started doing family history research about forty years ago I was given a lot of information on the Campbell family by my Grandmother. She said her Grandfather’s first wife had either died or there was a divorce. She was not sure and nothing had ever been said.

It took a while to find the marriage for John Campbell and Mary McDonald. These are very common names.

John Campbell married Mary McDonald on 14 May 1857 in the district of Anderston in the burgh of Glasgow. John was 19 and Mary was 24. Next to this entry is a notation in the left hand margin. It is difficult to read and in part reads “Divorce See Royal … (1875)… 23 July 1875.”

There was no Register of Corrected Entries available for this registration so I emailed ScotlandsPeople and they were able to help me. They also provided some contact information for some Scottish government departments who may be able to help me find out more. I was not able to get any information about how to obtain the actual divorce file from anyone.

I then went on a search for information on divorce in Scotland. There was not a lot to be found. The National Archives of Scotland had a research guide on divorce. It was not helpful and there was very little relating to the time period I was researching.

I have a copy of “Tracing your Scottish Ancestry” by Kathleen B. Cory and “In Search of Scottish Ancestry” by Gerald Hamilton-Edwards and neither of these publications helped me with my research.

Finally I sent an email to the National Archives of Scotland. The reply was that they had checked their indexes and did not find anything relating to the case. This was getting to be a very frustrating process.

There was a light at the end of the tunnel though as I was about to go to Salt Lake City. In the Family History Library I found the “General Minute-Book of the Court of Session.” These are available on microfilm. The library does not have a complete set of the General Minute Books.

I was told by the archives that the divorce records could be found anywhere from the time of the marriage until the last child turned 21 years of age. That was a search of 1857 to 1901 but I started in 1875 because of the notation on the marriage record.

The book that covered the dates 15 Oct 1874 to 14 Oct 1875 provided me with the information I needed to order the record. Here it was recorded that John Sheddens Campbell went before Lord Craighill, MD to petition for divorce.

While going through the books to see if there were other notations relating to the divorce I found other references to John Sheddens Campbell suing people for not paying their bills.

Once I got home these documents were scanned and sent to the National Archives of Scotland. They said the divorce file was found and it would cost me 50 GBP to get a copy of it. The package arrived in a little over a week which was really good.

There were 91 pages and they were divided into two then wrapped up in cotton ribbon. There were 20 pages relating to the divorce proceedings and 71 pages of witness statements which made for very interesting reading. It appears my Great Great Grandfather hired a private investigator to watch his wife.

©2011 – Blair Archival Research

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