I’ve spent the past couple of weeks diligently researching my Scots-Irish ancestor, Archibald Gilbert Roane. Put another way, I’ve been trying to sift fact from well intentioned fiction. With a myriad of uncited information about him online, that’s been a monumental task.
Archibald may or may not have been born in Argyllshire, Scotland around the year 1680. He may have been born in northern Ireland to Scottish parents. He may or may not have fought in the Battle of the Boyne. While he did live in northern Ireland, I’m not 100% certain where. All of the information online cite a place called Grenshaw or Greenshaw in County Antrim. As far as I can tell, no such place has existed. Grenshaw and Greenshaw might be a misspelling or Anglicization of Gransha, which is in County Down, in northern Ireland.
His surname may have been Roan, Roane or Rowan. I’ve found Archibalds with all of these surnames born around 1680 in northern Ireland with Scottish origins. Each is from a distinctly different family. Pinpointing the correct gentleman as being my Archibald Roane has been a challenge that I’m still working on solving.
Which quite nicely brings me to the whole ‘Sir Archibald’ question. Online family lore states that Archibald was granted the honorific of Sir (which isn’t a title – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_titles_of_nobility) for some deed or service carried out for William III during the Battle of the Boyne. This is something that would definitely have left a paper trail. No such paper trail exists. I’ve searched the length and breadth of the UK’s National Archives (http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/ )…and there is nothing. There are Roans and Rowans mentioned, but no Archibald Gilbert Roan(e)/Rowan.
I’ve searched the honor roles for the Battle of the Boyne, including land grants made. Again, there are Roan(e) and Rowans to be found. There are none by the name of Archibald Gilbert Roane.
I dashed off an email to the Royal College of Arms (http://www.college-of-arms.gov.uk). The Royal College of Arms is responsible for the granting of new coats of arms. It also maintains registers of arms, pedigrees, genealogies, Royal Licences, etc. If anyone would know whether Archibald was a Sir or not, it would be the College.
I received a very nice, and equally informative, reply from one of the College’s Officers of Arms:
On Thu, Feb 12, 2015 at 8:48 AM, York Herald <[redacted for privacy]@college-of-arms.gov.uk> wrote:
12 February 2015
Dear Mr Sheffey,
Thank you for your e-mail of 10 February regarding Archibald Gilbert Roane.
The standard reference work for knights is Knights of England by William Shaw (London 1906), which lists Scottish and Irish knights as well as English. It is probably not complete but is as exhaustive as possible and the best guide available. It contains no reference to anyone with the surname Roane or Rowan being knighted. This does not necessarily mean that it did not happen, but we should certainly assume so until shown otherwise.
An examination of the Scottish and Irish heraldic records revealed no reference to the surname Roane or Rowan. The records of grants of Arms by the Kings of Arms at the College of Arms for this period, which covered England and Wales, and the overseas colonies and empire, revealed no indication that a grant of Arms was made to this person.
These preliminary results suggest that the individual in whom you are interested never established a right to Arms by grant or descent. It is quite possible that he assumed the Arms of another family of the same name, as quite often happened.
I hope that this is helpful.
[name withheld for privacy]
College of Arms
Queen Victoria Street
London EC4V 4BT
It’s not looking good for Archibald on the heraldic front; so much so that I’ve demoted him on my Ancestry.com Family tree. Sir Archibald Gilbert Roane is now Archibald Gilbert Roane.
That’s not to say that his story is fully told. Is he related to the prominent, wealthy, land-owning Rowan family of County Antrim? By that, I mean is he related to the Reverend Andrew Roane or the Irish Libertarian, Archibald Hamilton-Rowan? If he wasn’t born to money he certainly acquired it. If he wasn’t born to it, how did he acquire his wealth? I do know this: where there’s money, there are records. So somewhere out there is more information about this mysterious ancestor.
At least two of his sons, William Roane (1701-1757) and James Roane (1707-1757) certainly arrived in Virginia with wealth which they used to buy large tracts of land and slaves. While he lived a more modest life than his older brothers, the Rev John Roane (1717-1775) lived a comfortable life in Derry, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania. John too did not want for money. The origins of the family money remain a mystery.
With or without family heraldry, Archibald Gilbert Roane remains an interesting character. My writer’s instinct tells me that the truth of his story will be far more interesting than the fiction.