Saturday, January 22, 2011

Adam Smith: Research Notes, No. 1

I was searching the extant records in the Scottish National Archives for historical information on the Canongate church, where Adam Smith is buried in Edinburgh – a few yards from his home from 1778-90 in Panmure House – which, while relatively fruitless due to the many years of the records that have not survived - I came across a brief note of his burial and nothing else:

“July 1790/22 Adam Smith, Esq. in his own B: pl: Aged 68 years. Decay.
Mr Jas. Hamilton undertaker.


[SNA: CH2/122/62/56]

I was looking for information about his mother, Margaret Douglas Smith, who died in 1784, and for whom we have no information about the whereabouts of her grave. That year is one of the many years not preserved in the archives. I shall try next to see if there are any records of St Brides Church in Kirkcaldy, on the grounds that her family were prominent farmers around Kirkcaldy, Fife, and she may have preferred a burial nearer her home county, because there were more relatives there who were available for tending to her grave. But given Adam Smith’s ties to his mother, I would not think Smith would want her grave too far from his home.

The same research considerations apply to the unknown whereabouts of Janet Douglas’s grave, who was housekeeper for many years for Smith and his mother at her different homes in Kirkcaldy, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

One thing worth mentioning about these records is that they provide an insight into the life of the community which the Parish church provided in the 18th century. First, among the burial records the overwhelming preponderance of baby and infant deaths cannot help but be noted. Second, in the records the number of times which the Church minutes refer to the moral discipline imposed by the worthy elders – several of them who were Baillies from the local Town council.

‘Fornication’ was a fairly regular offence reported to the elders, as were the number of ‘Bastards’ noted in the Parish (“no less than 15” in one entry). Marriage didn’t protect those whose date of marriage was shorter than a nine-month pregnancy. If it was, they were required to accept the censure of the Church ‘hoping to be restored “ and having confessed their faults” in “the sight of God”, they were restored to their “Church privileges” (unspecified).

I shall return to report on these and similar topics at later dates. The Church also features in my research for “Smith on Religion”, a chapter in the forthcoming volume, edited by Chris Berry, Maria Paganeli, and Craig Smith for Oxford University Press, in September 2011.

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3 Comments:

Blogger Rory Cunningham said...

I am a descendant of David Douglas, Lord Reston. If any of the Douglas women were buried with their family, it would most likely be at Leslie with the rest of the Strathendry folk.

7:03 pm  
Blogger Gavin Kennedy said...

Rory
Thank you very much for your information. I am much obliged. When I am more mobile again, I shall enquire about the implications of your information and shall pass it on to other scholars whom I know may be interested.
Gavin

7:17 pm  
Blogger Gavin Kennedy said...

Rory
Thank you very much for your information. I am much obliged. When I am more mobile again, I shall enquire about the implications of your information and shall pass it on to other scholars whom I know may be interested.
Gavin

7:18 pm  

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