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Scottish Culture/Grahams of Netherby Hall/Border lands of England


Legend has it that my husband is not a NETHERY but a descendent of the exiled Grahams of Netherby Hall. The Irish language could had no provisions for the letter "b" so it was dropped to Nethery. Our records indicate that my husband's first American ancestor was James Nethery who participated in the Jacobite rebellion and was captured in Preston England in 1715 and deported from Liverpool to the colony of Maryland. Our line from him migrated to Virginia and then into North Carolina which is our home state.

My question is this: Have you any information on the validity of this? I do know some Nethery's who have done the DNA testing which verified their Graham relationship. As of yet, my husband has not participated in this research. Also, found out that Roscommon in Ireland is where many Grahams from Netherby Hall were deported in and around 1605.

Thank you,
Nina CV

First of all, I am not a genealogist ... but hopefully, I can give you some help.

I wouldn't be too quick in giving yourself such as small focus as Netherby Hall. Please bear in mind that Netherby is in Cumbria and that many Grahams were related to one another - take a look in the Calendar of Border papers to see the morass anyone is dealing with here! While some Grahams were forcibly transported to ireland (Roscommon being one of the main areas), they did not assimilate with the local population - in fact, despite the threat of death hanging over them should they dared to return home, many did just that. So, I am not convinced by irish having no provision for the letter B.

Another option  is that it was deliberately dropped, as a kind of disguise - some Grahams used "Maharg" to try to disguise their origin. And to give you a modern example, my friend's mother's maiden name was Sergeant - but that has morphed from Sargen / Sargan in the mid-nineteenth century, and different versions were being used within the same family in the early 20th century. Also letters can be 'lost' is documentation, and if you are, say, on the losing side, you would not argue with your name being written wrongly on the prisoner rolls etc. a name may also change, say, during a long, enforced, sea voyage to an unknown and perhaps undesired new country ... and remember, too, subservient members of a clan may take the name of the dominant family - or the servants may do so. It's a way of hanging on to your identity - so many other Grahams may have adopted "Netherby" - you need to check out the way Borderers used to-names and geographic pointers - The Steel Bonnets gives an effective explanation, and a trawl through the Calendar of Border Papers puts it into practice!

Have you got solid, documented  proof about the movements of your husband's ancestor - and proof of descent? I am not talking about family anecdotes. If you have not done so before, you need to check documents such as the  State papers relating to Ireland - you can probably find these on: (where you'll also find the Calendar of Border Papers), and You need to check muster rolls, prisoner rolls (of the 1715 Rising) and so on and so forth - make sure the foundations are absoliute - family notes and recollections can go awry. I just ask, as you use the words "legend" and "our records".

All good luck to you and your family - it will be an interesting process - but maybe hang off on the DNA tests until other (usually less expensive) avenues are exhausted!


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Kaye McAlpine


Lifecycle (birth, marriage, death) customs in Scotland, Early Modern Scottish social customs, modern Scottish social customs, Border March laws and procedures, criminal processes and judicial execution practices, social history in Early Modern Scotland, ephemera printing in Scotland. While I have some knowledge of the clan system and function of the clan society (Highland and Lowland), I am not a an expert in clan genealogy. Having traced back my own family over a couple of centuries, and traced others due to academic research, I do know how the system works, however. This doesn't mean that I'm a genealogist. Please note that I do not speak Gaelic.


Research Fellow (University of Edinburgh). Contributer to various books and journals on ballads, including Scottish Life and Society: A Compendium of Scottish Ethnology, The Ballad and History and The Harris Repertoire. Freelance tutor in outreach courses from Edinburgh University on Scottish Culture and Tradition, including lifecycle customs, broadsheet ballads in Scotland, the traditional ballad and history. Freelance writer, guest presenter on Ch4 History Hunters programme, contributor to BBC Radio Scotland's 'Songlines' series on 'The Dowie Dens of Yarrow'. Currently co-director of a media production company

Books: Forthcoming: The Gallows and The Stake Published: Compendium of Scottish Ethnology, vol. 10, chapter on The Traditional and the Border Ballad; The Harris Repertoire (2000, Scottish Text Society, co-editor), The Ballad in History (chapter on Border ballads). Journals include Folklore, The Review of Scottish Culture,Sottish Studies, and The Scottish Literary Journal

Ph D, M. Phil, BA (hons)

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