Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond

Most experts agree this song is about the 1746 Battle of Culloden but there’s disagreement about who is singing and what they are doing. You can read about some of those at Wikipedia.

The Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond, sung by Ella Roberts

The way I learned it—from Grandma Swanstrom, I think—the singer is a woman who has lost her lover in the war. “Ye’ll take the high road, and I’ll take the low road, and I’ll be in Scotland afore ye.” Her love will be hanged (the gallows is the “high road”). She’ll return the ordinary way (the “low road”). And she’ll get there first because he’ll be dead and in heaven.

I didn’t even know there were other interpretations. Two that I’ve read about the past few days:

One, that it’s sung by the soldier to his lover. She’ll take the high road back, which is the normal way, and he being dead will take the fairy road (“low road”). He’ll get there first because his arrival will be instantaneous.

And two, that’s it’s sung by one of two soldiers. One will be released and the other will be executed. That theory also splits into two, whether the one who takes the high road is the one who is executed or the one who survives.

Fun to think about but I’m sticking with the way I learned it.

An Iron Collar Around His Neck

Battle of Culloden, 16 April 1746. It was the end the Jacobite Rebellion, the end of the Stuart dynasty, and in many ways the beginning of the modern era.

After the battle, 3,470 people were prisoners of the English. Of these, 936 were transported to the colonies, 222 were banished, 120 were executed, 88 died in prison, 58 escaped from prison, 76 received a conditional pardon, and 1,287 were released or exchanged. The fate of the remaining 684 is unknown. 

The Ghosts of Culloden, sung by Isla Grant.

Our ancestor William Shaw was among those captured and transported to the colonies. We don’t know anything about him before the battle but it seems likely he fought with Lord Ogilvy’s Regiment, as did some other Shaws.

Those who were transported spent nearly two years in miserable conditions in English jails while the government negotiated with merchants. Finally, in the spring of 1747 the prisoners were taken from the jail in Liverpool, handcuffed in pairs, and locked in the holds of ships bound for America. The voyage took two months. The ships entered Chesapeake Bay on July 18th, and the merchants auctioned the prisoners as indentured servants.

The first reference to William Shaw is on 19 October 1748, when the Augusta County Order Book shows the local court ordered “Iron collar about neck of William Shaw, servant of Daniel Morley to be taken off” (Chalkey 1:37). There is a reference 1747-8 in the Augusta County Fee Book: page 77, William Shaw, servant of Cornelius Murley (Chalkey 2:396). The fee he paid was probably for filing the suit that led to removing his collar.

The iron collar around his neck and the timing of the order to remove it have led historians to believe William was one of the Culloden prisoners.

The Rest of the Story

William Shaw came to America as a prisoner and an indentured servant. He eventually gained his freedom, although it doesn’t appear he was ever prosperous. Nearly 20 years later he appears on Capt. Smith’s 1766 list of tithables in Augusta County, with no estate and one tithable (Chalkey 2:419). This is the same list, so the same geographical area as “Dan’l Murley”.

The interesting twist to his story is that he lived long enough to side against the English again:

“Wm. Shaw of Capt. Stephens’ Compy.” appears on James McCorkle’s list of those who took the Oath of Allegiance to the American cause in Montgomery County, Virginia on 5 December 1777.

More Information

Norwegian Resistance

I would like to understand XU better but I don’t hold out much hope. I don’t have enough background in the history of Norway or the Norwegian resistance during World War II, so it all goes past me.

This subject comes under the heading Relatives Worth Reading About.

What I understand is that “XU (X for “unknown” and U for “undercover agent”) was a clandestine intelligence organisation working on behalf of Allied powers in occupied Norway during World War II. Though its work proved invaluable for operations against German operations in Norway, most of its operations, organization, etc., were kept secret until 1988.” (Wikipedia: XU, visited Mar,. 19, 2019)

In 1940 Germany launched a military assault that ended with its occupation of Norway. XU was part of the Norwegian Resistance. Wikipedia tells me in broad terms that XU was a group of Norwegians — some 1500 by the end of the war — who collected information about German troop movements in Norway and transmitted that information to Great Britain. The group’s existence was kept secret even after the War.

The original core group were military men. According to Wikipedia, “[I]ts further development relied heavily upon recruiting students from the University of Oslo. As it grew, the group also included professionals around Norway, within railroads, police and so on, and collected maps and photos of German fortifications and forces.

If I understand the timeline correctly, one of those students was Swanstrom cousin Otto Øgrim (1913-2006). His Wikipedia biography (2019) says, “During the Second World War, Øgrim together with Arvid Storsveen was central in establishing the secret intelligence organization XU, from its start in the summer of 1940. After Storsveen had to flee to Sweden in 1942 and was shot and killed by the Gestapo in 1943, Øgrim continued as a central XU operative in southern Norway under Øistein Strømnæs and Anne-Sofie Østvedt. He was not exposed before the end of the Occupation of Norway by Nazi Germany in May 1945.

We have other interesting relatives in this part of the family tree. Otto Øgrim’s sister Ruth married Brynjulf Bull, mayor of Oslo. She and I exchanged genealogical information in the 1970s and 80s. Otto’s children are political activists Tron Øgrim and Leikny Øgrim. Leikny married Lars Borgersud, an historian who specializes in World War II. (His efforts to get information released seems to be worth its own article but I don’t know enough to write it.) Their children are Elling and Aslak Borgersrud, members of the Norwegian hip hop band Gatas Parlament.

More Information

If you’re like me, you might start off not knowing much about World War II in Scandinavia. Here are some YouTube videos I used to “catch up”.

Now I’m off to listen to Johnny Horton, Sink the Bismarck. I’m much better at that part of the war. If that’s something you’d like to know more about, I recommend watching Sink The Bismarck, a 1996 documentary from The History Channel.

Book Burnin’ Mormons

John Larsen at Sunstone has this new Facebook group. The idea is to bring Mormons and ex-Mormons together in a way that will promote healing and reconciliation. Cool idea, or so I thought. I turned to be much uglier in reality. I think the basic problem there is that people who have suffered religious abuse aren’t necessarily rational about it, and they don’t mind lashing out at anyone who disagrees with them. I won’t be going back there.

The piece that set me off was a discussion about killing kittens book burning. Some guy said he doesn’t think it’s a good idea. People react badly when you kill their kitten burn their book. Someone responded that she’s killed 100 kittens burned 100 books and she doesn’t care what anyone thinks. Then someone else said it’s very cathartic. We shouldn’t criticize. And the moderator said he doesn’t kill kittens burn books himself but he doesn’t see anything wrong with it.

That’s when I left. It turned out not to be the safe environment it was touted as being. As least not for librarians and booksellers. My opinion, as you might guess, is that if you’re suffering from religious abuse you were abused by people not by books. Burning someone else’s holy books is not going to heal you. It’s just another way of perpetuating the cycle of violence you learned from your abuser(s).

As a gay man living in Salt Lake City in the 1970s and 80s, our conventional wisdom was to never, ever date Mormon boys. They would always be so screwed up by their religion that no meaningful relationship would ever be possible.

Back then I laughed with the rest of them (because it’s sooo true) but I made the decision early on — 20, 21, 22, something like that — that I wasn’t going to get involved in someone else’s religious war. I’m 7th generation Mormon. I’ve always been an aficionado of Mormon history. Most of my relatives outside my immediate family are Mormon. I wasn’t raised in the Church but I converted. And after I left, I vowed that I’m not going to become anti-Mormon like all the other people I knew who failed at it.

That is, until I joined Larsen’s group. Now I’m in odd sort of world where all those old issues seem real again (though probably only for a day or two), and the bad guys are the same ones who were the bad guys back then — the howling mob of ex-Mormons.

I don’t think this is what healing and reconciliation is supposed to look like.

Edited August 30, 2019 to add resources.

More Information

Grandma’s Religion

Grandma had this thing she’d say when someone asked about her religion. She was a very proper lady, which in her day meant it wasn’t polite to talk about politics or religion. This was her own particular way of saying “none of your business”.

She would say, “My father was a Mormon. My mother was a Baptist. I went to an Episcopal girls’ school, then married a Lutheran in a Methodist church. What religion do you think I should be?

I smile when I think about this, because it brings Grandma into my mind exactly as she was, right down to the gotcha in that question at the end. Unless your own manners were as polished, you might miss the irony there. (If you’re going to cross the line by asking such a question, maybe you want to go further and start telling me your opinion about my religion.)

I know what her children think. They think she was a Methodist. Her obituary says she was a Methodist.

But she wasn’t, I don’t think. I spent many hours with her, listening to her stories and asking questions. I’d swear she thought of herself as an Episcopalian. Kind of. Sort of. At least, that’s what she would be if she ever joined a church. Which is not something she would do, because that would just be silly.

Grandma thought of religion as a social label. It’s a group you join because you want to socialize with those people. Nothing to do with anything you believe because then it would be science not religion. She spent her time on things like Psychology Today. She wasn’t baptized. Didn’t think it was important. Her mother used to give them Bible lessons on Sundays. Of course. You need to know those things in order to be culturally literate. As an adult she and Grandpa contributed to the local churches but didn’t belong to any of them. They sent the kids to Bible school in the summers but not to Sunday school. The kids, they thought, would grow up and choose their own religion.

This is the story as I heard it but I wonder just a little in places. Was she really not baptized? One of these days I’m going to check. Her parents were founding members of St. John’s Episcopal in Big Piney. Say about 1914, when Grandma was about 13. And this was just before Grandma went off to an Episcopal girls’ school in Denver. It’s a bit hard to believe Grandma and her brothers didn’t get snookered into being baptized.

(The story is larger than this, but I’ll have tell it in detail another time. This is also about the time the different ex-Mormon ranching families in the area were choosing up sides in the newer churches. Great grandpa Luce’s ex-wife Dorothy (Tarter) Luce became a Catholic. Thereafter she’s often mentioned in connection with Catholicism and Salt Lake City, while Great grandpa is mentioned in connection with the Episcopalians and Denver. Someone should tell that story.)

I have other quibbles, as well. Grandma’s story says her father was a Mormon and her mother was a Baptist. That’s not inaccurate but it’s a simplification.

Grandma’s father was a disaffected former Mormon (or PostMo, as we say now). We have several stories about his reasons but the bottom line is that the church demanded sacrifices from his parents then failed to protect them when the going got rough. (Bad, bad Mormons. We will never forgive.)

And Grandma’s mother does seem to have been a Baptist as a child in Illinois, but Grandma’s Grandma Wilson was already a Methodist by the time Grandma was born. Or maybe just a tiny bit later.

Is this where we got the idea Grandma was a Methodist? I don’t think so. I think it comes from Grandma attending the Methodist church occasionally when she was working at the hospital in Rock Springs. But that was because it was convenient to nurses’ quarters. And she did get married in a Methodist church but that was just the way it fell out when they were looking for someone to marry them that day.

And finally, my last quibble is about Grandpa being a Lutheran. Grandpa was an atheist. Everyone seems to have a story about how much he believed in reading and thinking analytically, and how that did not involve invisible friends in the sky.

But going behind that story, was Grandpa raised Lutheran? No, I don’t think so. His family was Swedish, and Swedes back then were nominally Lutheran, but Grandpa’s parents were actually Mission Covenant. Pacifists. Very liberal, but also very fundamentalist. The Mission Covenant church was tied then and now to the Salvation Army. And in fact, Grandpa’s mother was the foster daughter and sister of people who were prominent in the Salvation Army in Europe. Grandpa was baptized at the Stotler Mission Church in Burlingame (Kansas).

So that’s it. I wanted to preserve Grandma’s saying about her religion because I think her descendants might enjoy hearing it. And I also wanted to push beneath the surface as well, because there is always more to the story, and I want future generations to know that as well.

More Information

  • Marie A. Olson, “Swedish Settlement at Stotler” in Kansas History: A Journal of the Central Plains, Vol. 4, No. 2 (May 1935), pp. 155-63. Marie Olson was Grandpa Swanstrom’s 2nd cousin. Her father E. E. Olson was Grandpa’s godfather, and her father’s half-brother Peter Persson was the minister who baptized Grandpa.

Revised April 30, 2019.


There are hundreds of lineage societies in America. I used to be familiar with many of them because back in my day we had the Hereditary Society Blue Book. Now it’s outdated now and apparently out of print. I’d bet if it ever comes back it will be just a web page somewhere.

I was pretty sure I’d never join a lineage society myself. My strong suit is being irreverent. I’ve always thought lineage societies are somewhat odd. What’s the point, really? Am I somehow more a descendant of my ancestors if I have a piece of paper? Am I less a descendant if I don’t have someone else’s certification? Or is the point that I’m supposed to be smug that I’m a descendant and you’re not? So, ha.

In the end I did join, though. And I joined Sons of American Revolution (SAR), which is about as conventional as you can get. Along with Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) and Mayflower Descendants it’s one of Big Three that people use to define themselves as American Blue Bloods.

This could become one of those long, shaggy dog stories if I’m not careful. The short version is that my mom wanted to join DAR. She was already a member of Daughters of Utah Pioneers. I thought it might be easiest to follow the same line, particularly since I’d get a boost from Mormon records. And, if I joined SAR myself that might give me a head start on Mom’s DAR application. So I joined a lineage society, despite having thought probably I never would.

But here’s the thing. In those fleeting moments when I did think I would join a lineage society, my thought was that it would be Boonesborough. How could anything be cooler or more American than that? And, if we’re talking exclusivity here, there were far fewer pioneers with Daniel Boone at Boonesborough than there were soldiers in the Revolutionary War.

So now that my mom’s DAR application has been accepted, and that application ended up being through our Boonesborough line rather than through our Mormon line anyway, I’m thinking Boonesborough is the next logical step on what has accidentally become my lineage society journey.

More Information

Daughters of the American Revolution

My mother and sister Laura have had their applications approved to join Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). They’ll be sworn in on April 6th. This has been in process for quite a while now. We have a couple dozen ancestors they could have used, but they’ve held out for James Kenney, a horse breeder in Kentucky.

Lots of reasons. First, he’s in our direct female line, which gives him a special place in all our hearts.

Second, his breeding operation at Stonerside Farm stayed in the family for many generations. It’s now part of the holdings of the ruler of Dubai. (Yes, really.) The last horse breeder in our direct line (although not at Stonerside) was my mom’s grandfather, Wilford Luce.

And third, he and his family were pioneer settlers with Daniel Boone at Boonesborough (Kentucky), which means the DAR applications clear the way for all of us to join the Boonesborough Society. (Probably, I’m the only one who will.)

One of my grandmother’s cousins was a member of DAR on this line, but it needed some work to bring it up to modern standards.

My cousin Mark and I joined Sons of the American Revolution last year but we did it on a different line—Capt. Andrew Grant. This line also has special meaning for us. It’s essentially our Mormon line. Andrew Grant’s daughter Ruth (Grant) Luce was an early Mormon convert. She was a pioneer of Nauvoo (Illinois), then came across the plains in 1848 when she was 73 to become a pioneer also of Salt Lake City City (Utah) and Ogden (Utah).

Brother Brigham, Brother Young

Brother Brigham, Brother Young by Corb Lund

One of my newest discoveries, shared so more people will hear this gem. Check out YouTube for the lyrics, and for more by Corb Lund.