Family Friday: How I Found A Cousin I Didn’t Know About

My mother was half-Scottish, a member of the Robb clan that claims the MacFarlane tartan. The family roots go back to Kilmarnock and Paisley, Scotland, where James Robb and Margaret Morton were born about 1830. My sister has the paisley shawl Margaret wore during her travel alone from Scotland to her intended’s side. Our great-aunt Marion recounted it as “eight weeks in a sailing vessel” followed by arduous travel by land to the Mississippi to meet James in Fountain City, a place she would certainly have imagined differently from the small, dark town on a bluff from which James’ swinging lantern told her she’d made it. 

The Robb side of our family is smaller and quieter than the Amerson side. My mother and her brother, Jim, and his wife, Beth, are gone, leaving my sister and me and our four Robb cousins — Ricka, Becky, and Molly in Minnesota, and Eve in Kansas — to the job of connecting. Facebook helps.

So I was happy to receive an email a couple of weeks ago from Becky saying, in part, this:

Could you tell me if Grandpa Robb was related to Gordon Robb from Winona? I ran into a vendor today who’s name is Sean Robb and he is the grandson of Gordon.

Becky

The name didn’t ring a bell and I thought the answers might lie in the eight binders of correspondence and related family papers I sent to the Winona County Historical Society this past year. However, there was one file still on the bookshelf, and it contained a hint.

Our grandfather’s grandparents, James Robb and Margaret Morton, had 12 children, including William John Robb (1860-1946) who had a son, William Gordon Robb (1923 -). The trail runs out there. I’ve attached two pages from Mom’s binders. 

Jane Kelly

And, guess what, the hint did the job. Here’s part of the email Becky got from Sean.

William Gordon Robb is my grandfather on my dad’s side. Getting super emotional now. God bless you for following up on this. It seems you and I share the same blood!

Sean

As I told Becky, this connection would have made my mother very glad indeed. In fact, I thought I heard her dancing up there. Knowing where she was from, and transmitting that knowledge to me and my sister as we grew up abroad, mattered a great deal to our mother. This was why. Now, if someone wants to clarify how the “once removed” etc. definitions work, Sean, Becky, and I will formalize our newly discovered relationship!

Rear, left to right: Susie, me, Ricka. Front, left to right: Molly, Eve, Becky. We are at our Robb grandparents wearing Grandma Robb’s dress up costumes. Photo: our grandfather, James T. Robb.

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