The Burgar/Burgess families in Shetland

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John Burgher (about 1725 - about 1754)  and Margaret Duncan in Cullister Sandwick

{assumed son of unknown Burgar and Margaret Sinclair}

This information was obtained from the document 'Sandwick and Cunningsburgh Kirk Session 1754 - 1842 (ShRO - CH2/325/1 and Session.doc)'  41

John Burgher was in the Communicants List of 1749, living in Cullister, Sandwick.

See persons in Cullister in 1749.

He is below Margaret Sinclair and Girsle Burgher but above Margaret Duncan. It is tentatively suggested that Margaret Duncan may be his wife. This part of the Burgar family marries Duncans in later generations, for example Girsle .

There is only one Margaret Duncan recorded in the Communicants List 6 of 1749, the one below John Burgher. In 1758 a Margaret Duncan is receiving Poor Relief as shown in the table below.

Actual Year

Acc. Year

Person receiving Poor Relief


Amount Pounds Scots



Margt. Duncan Sandwick   4s                               

Poors Roll




Margt. Duncan at the Grind Sandwich

Poors Roll




Margt. Duncan at the Grind                                                           1s                                                                                                                   

Poors Roll


Margaret Duncan also appears in the Kirk Minutes from 1758 to 1760 where she either receives small payments or is reprimanded for having an illegitimate child.

On the 8th October 1758  - Margaret Duncan, a poor widow, was given a further £0-2s Sterling (about £?????Scots) by the Treasurer.

On 2nd December 1759 - Margaret Duncan of the Grind of Sandwick being found to be with child in fornication, and being summoned called,  compeared & interrogated  who was the father of said child.  She gave in Henry Williamson a servant at Brough in Nesting to be the father thereof…..

On the 23rd December 1759 - The above Henry Williamson compeared & acknowledged that he was the father of the above Margt. Duncans child.  Whereupon they were rebuked exhorted to repentance & appointed to appeare next preaching Sabbath before the congregation. 

On the 13th January 1760 - Said day the above Henry Williamson & Margt. Duncan made their first appearance before the congregation was rebuked & exhorted to repentance &c.

On 3rd February 1760 - Said day the above Henry Williamson & Margt. Duncan made their appearance the second time, was rebuked & exhorted to repentance.

On 24th February 1760  - Said day Henry Williamson with Margt. Duncan appeared the third time were rebuked & dismissed, and payd ten Shill. Sterling as their penalty.

On October 5th 1760 - Said day the Session appointed Janet Sinclair in Sandwick and Margaret Duncan at the Grind two poor widows to receive two Shill. Sterling each in their present straits which they accordingly got out of the poors box.

There is no further reference to Margaret Duncan after 1760. She may have moved away, perhaps with Henry Williamson, or possibly was taken care of by her relatives. There were many Duncans living at the Grind at that time.

Since there was only one Margaret Duncan in the Communicants List then it is possible that the Margaret described above is that one. She was a widow by 1758, but was young enough to be pregnant in 1759.

If she were married to John Burgher in 1749 then she would have been born about 1725. She would then have been about 35 when she was pregnant in 1759/60.

If John Burgher had died around the mid 1750s it might account for why Margaret Duncan was eligible for Poor Relief.

It is estimated that John was born about 1725.

{It is possible that he and Margaret Duncan had children. However, none of the children are recorded in the Sandwick and Cunningsburgh Baptism Registers, which has many entries after 1745. }





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