The numbers swelled as English gaols were emptied of ‘idle vagrants’ and pardons were issued on condition of transportation. On Friday, Anthony Wornum, whose family history is also inextricably linked with the Nicholsons, contacted me regarding:
... a catalyst [to revisit the family history, received] a couple of days ago from the branch of the family that settled in the USA. There are many Wornums in the USA descended from a freed slave called Ben Wornum who took his owner's surname (as so many did) when freed. However, this message was from Jane Wornom Swallow, a member of the Wornom family looking for their link to the elusive "John Wornum" who allegedly arrived in Virginia USA in the 1600s having been transported to the colonies for some offence or other.
The theory being put about by the (white) Wornom family on the eastern side of the USA is that their common ancestor "John Wornum" was transported overseas from Newgate prison (allegedly to Barbados but was put out in Virginia) but I am (as I am sure you are too) very wary of speculation and wishful thinking being allowed to interfere with documented facts.
Warnum, John. R [reprieved for transportation] for Barbados April TB [transportation bond] Oct 1669 M [Middlesex]
Whereas Nicholas Lucas, Henry Feste, Henry Marshall, Francis Pryor, John Blendall, Jeremiah Hearne, and Samuel Treherne, Persons Convicted at the last Assises held at Hertford, in the County of Hertford, and Sentenced to be Transported to some of His Majestys Plantations in the West Indies; Who accordingly were putt on board the Shipp called the Anne of London, whereof one Thomas May is master, who undertook and engaged himself for their Transportation, Yet sett them on-shoare in or about the Downes, leaving them at liberty to goe whither they pleased; Which insolent demeanour being taken into Consideration; and it appearing to be a Matter of Contrivance and Combination between the said master and the persons before-mentioned; It was this day Ordered (his majesty present in Councell) That the high Shereif of the County of Hertford (now being) do cause the said [persons] to be apprehended and Secured, untill meanes of transporting them can be made, by some Shipping bound unto those parts.
[The Officers of the Customs are also ordered to arrest May and his vessel on his return, and to bring him before the Council.]
In 1667, William Penn, the son of a wealthy English nobleman, converted to Quakerism and found himself at odds with Charles II’s religious policies. As Charles owed Penn’s father a large sum of money, he found it expedient to grant a tract of land (Pennsylvania) as a refuge for Quakers, thereby relieving his debt and (hopefully) getting rid of many Quakers in England. Pennsylvania resulted in 1681 with a charter which prohibited profanity, welcomed all people, whether Quaker, Puritan, Indian, or otherwise, and specifically forbade wrongs against Indians. As a result of its social and religious tolerance, Pennsylvania grew in population and wealth quickly. As a further result, its very tolerant Quaker majority was outnumbered -and outvoted- within a generation.
These are just a few of the causes that may have forged our ancestors’ paths to America and beyond. In his article Fergus looks at bequests made by a Man of the Cloth, how he came by his money, how its legacy endured until the 1960’s in Aberdeen, and where such records can be found.
Kirk Session records often contain records of these legacies – often described as mortifications – as they were often tied to specific locales, and the Kirk Session was the obvious group to administer them. Aberdeenshire and the North-East in general are particularly well represented in such legacies, at least in terms of records surviving in the Kirk Session collections. There are a number covering large parts of the region, and many more covering individual parishes. Some legacies were intended to benefit the poor of the parish in the form of poor relief, but in keeping with the traditional Scots respect for education, many were intended to fund education in one form or another.
The minutes of one such trust fund can be found among the Kirk Session records of Birse, in Aberdeenshire.  These minutes largely consist of details of payments made every six months to “the most indigent of the poor of the parish”, and are a handy source of information about some of the poorest people in this part of the north-east in the early 19th century. They even include a few payments to cover the cost of funerals of paupers, a useful source for genealogists given that the Old Parish Registers for Birse do not include any death or burial records.
As is often the case for records of legacies and mortifications, the minutes include a transcript of the original deed or will establishing the fund. In this case, although the minutes begin in 1800, the fund was actually established in the will of Doctor Gilbert Ramsay, written in 1728. Dr Ramsay was an Episcopalian minister, originally from Birse. In 1686, he had arrived in the Caribbean as minister of St Paul’s, in Antigua. 
By 1689, Dr Ramsay had moved to Barbados, where he became Rector of Christ Church. He remained at Christ Church for nearly forty years, before returning to the UK, “sojourning” in Bath, where he wrote his will. Presumably he was in Bath to partake of the waters, as in his will he writes that he is
sick and weak in body, but (thanks to God) of sound and perfect disposition, mind and memory
to a Pious, Learned, and well qualified Professor of Hebrew, Arabic and Oriental Languages, in the Marischall College of the said city of New Aberdeen, for the advancement of true learning, to the glory of God and the good of his Church.
four hopeful, deserving young scholars, Masters of Arts, students of Divinity, which four students of Divinity conscionably elected I order shall be placed in said Marischal College of New Aberdeen to pursue diligently their Theological Studies there, for the Service of the Church … for the term of three years and no longer.
Ramsay did not forget his home parish. The “yearly rent, interest or income of five hundred pounds sterling” was to fund a salary to a
pious, provident and experienced Schoolmaster well qualified to instruct the youth in the Parish of Birse … the place of my nativity … in the Principles of Religion, to read and write English, and to understand both Greek and Latin
The remaining £500 of the legacy was to be given “to the order of the Reverend Ministers and Elders of the said Parish of Birse … to be forever by them conscionably and impartially distributed yearly among the poor of the said parish of Birse” on the first Monday of January and July each year.
Patronage of the foundation was granted to Gilbert’s cousin, Sir Alexander Ramsay, Baronet and Laird of Balmain in Kincardineshire. Various other smaller legacies are given to “the poor Episcopal Clergy of Scotland”, to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, the Scots Corporation in London, Balliol College, Oxford, and to various family and friends. Another £500 is left to Christ Church, Barbados to educate the poor youth of the parish.
Reading all of this, you cannot help but wonder how an Episcopalian minister born in 17th century Aberdeenshire could have accumulated what was, for the time, a substantial sum of money. One clue is given in another provision of his will
and my will is that all my slaves except my negroe man Robert here now attending me, be immediately sold after my death by my executor after named to such persons as will use them well tho’ at a cheaper rate than to others and to my said negroe man I give him his freedom from the day of my decease, and I will that he shall be taken care of and sent to Barbadoes at my charge, as soon as may be after my death and that the executors of this my will do pay him five pounds of that country money on his arrival at Barbadoes and likewise order, and appoint that all the money arising by such sale of my negroes shall be applied with the rest of my estate to pay off my legacies.
For over 230 years, the people of Aberdeenshire benefited from an endowment established on the basis of profits from slavery. A number of prominent scholars are today attempting to unravel the ramifications of the proceeds of slavery on Scottish society. You have to wonder how many - if any - of the beneficiaries of this foundation were aware of where the money came from to fund their education.
- Records of Birse Kirk Session, Ramsay mortification minutes and accounts, NRS Ref CH2/595/13
- Barber, Sarah. ‘Let Him Be an Englishman’: Irish and Scottish Clergy in the Caribbean Church of England, 1610-1720. Published in Macinnes, Allan J and Hamilton, Douglas J (eds). Jacobitism, Enlightenment and Empire, 1680-1820, Abingdon, 2014.
- Educational endowment schemes (1882) files, Aberdeenshire: Birse Ramsay Mortification (Scheme No 216). NRS Ref ED13/216
- Educational endowment schemes (1882) files, Aberdeenshire: Birse Ramsay Mortification (Scheme No 216). NRS Ref ED13/739
- Court of Session: warrants of the Register of Acts and Decreets, 5th Series, Sir Alexander B Ramsay and others (Trustees under Deed of mortification of Dr Gilbert Ramsay): Settlement of Scheme. NRS Ref CS46/1962/1307