William MacGillivray (1796-1852)

William MacGillivray (1796-1852)

Ornithologist and natural historian

William MacGillivray completed his medical training at King's College in Aberdeen. In 1823 he became assistant to the Professor of Natural History at Edinburgh University and keeper of its museum. In 1831 he was appointed conservator of the museum of the Royal College of Surgeons. His talents were recognised when he secured the Regius Chair of Natural History at Aberdeen University in 1841. His 'A History of British Birds' published from 1837 set the standard for British ornithology for many years to come. He died on 8 September 1852 in Aberdeen.

Birth in 1796

William MacGillivray was baptised on 25 January 1796, the son of William McGillvray, student of philosophy in King's College in Aberdeen and Anne Wishart. The entry in the Old Parish Register (OPR) for Old Machar doesn't give a date of birth but includes the names of two witnesses.

Baptism entry for William MacGillivray

Baptism entry for William MacGillivray (17KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, OPR 168-8/2, page 325

1841 and 1851 censuses

In 1841 William MacGillivray, 45, professor of civil and natural history in Marischal College was living with his wife, Marion, their nine children and two servants. The household schedule is over two pages in the enumerator's transcript book for the parish of Old Machar in Aberdeenshire. This detail confirms that William was born in the county (Y) but that Marion wasn't (N) - she was born elsewhere in Scotland. Ages over 15 should be rounded down to the nearest five in the 1841 census but her's is given as 39.

1841 census entry for William MacGillivray

Detail from 1841 census entry for William MacGillivray (32 and 50 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, 1841/168B/5, page 5

In 1851 William MacGillivray, 55, professor of civil and natural history in Marischal College and University Aberdeen, was living with his wife, children, grandchildren and servants at 154 King Street in the district of Aberdeen. The entry in the census for Old Machar shows that one of his sons was called Audubon presumably named after his friend, the ornithologist and author of 'Birds of America', John James Audubon.

Detail from 1851 census schedule of William MacGillivray (39 and 35 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, 1851/168A/19, pages 63-64

Testament of William MacGillivray

National Records of Scotland, SC1/37/31 pp 1027-1035

View transcript (72 KB PDF)

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