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The Bigger Family Branches

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The legend of Claverhouse sings "Some of the Biggar's, at least three brothers are believed to have been the brothers of Herbert Biggar of Barbuie,  fled to Ireland in 1640,  arriving in port on their royal ship with full banners waving." Claverhouse was responsible for policing southwest Scotland during and after the religious unrest and rebellion of the 1670s/80s.  he wasn't born until 1648.   Claverhouse was no doubt responsible for our ancient ancestors fleeing Scotland but not until after 1670.  The Covenanters that Fled Scotland around 1640, were members of a 17th-century Scottish religious and political movement, who supported a Presbyterian Church of Scotland, and the primacy of its leaders in religious affairs. The name is derived from Covenant, a biblical term for a bond or agreement with God.

The origins of the movement lay in disputes with James VI & I, and his son Charles I over church structure and doctrine. In 1638, thousands of Scots signed the National Covenant, pledging to resist changes imposed by Charles on the kirk; following victory in the 1639 and 1640 Bishops' Wars, the Covenanters took control of ScotlandMay 1639: The Wars of the Covenant begin with the First Bishops' War. Fighting is focused in the northeast of Scotland.


Records have these brothers settling in Belfast and Antrim counties, Ireland, after fleeing from Nithsdale, Scotland.  We know of four brothers Michael, John, James, and William, as well as a Hugh Biggar brother or cousin? Some leaving Ireland with a land charter for America between 1640 - 1660. Those Biggar's that remained in Ireland, became prosperous landowners. Their families have flourished and become proudly Irish.

"An entry close to the old Market House in High Street was long - known as “Bigger's Entry,” and had formerly been the entrance to the family residence, which was built at some distance from the street; subsequently premises were added in front, which remained in the occupation of the family till 1830. At Biggerstown the whole district was in their possession at one period, and they still own a considerable portion."



 Valley of the River Nith, Dumfries & Galloway

In the will of John Biggar of Belfast signed in 1680, he mentions a debt owed to "Thomas Biggar of Erwin in ye Kingdome of Scotland". Erwin was a name for someone who lived in the parish of Irving in the county of Dumfriesshire or from Irvine in Strathclyde. or one who came from Irvine (green river), in Ayrshire. This confirms the connection between The Biggars of Nithsdale and those of Belfast. The document doesn't say what the relationship was between brothers John and William, to that of Thomas Biggar of Scotland but forms a strong connection and research point.

On the first of July 1654,  Michael and John were admitted and sworne free Commoners and in 1662 Michael Biggar became part owner of the Ship Unicorne of Belfast. 

David Biggar (c. 1643) fourth son of Herbert II, of Barbuie, fled to Ireland, but returned to Scotland, he died on Nov 28, 1699, and is buried at Irongray, Kirkcudbright Scotland (no issue). Davids's brothers James and William fled to the border regions (Selkirk) in Scotland. This line of the Biggar family is very well documented except for Hosea a son of Herbert II. He is mentioned in the will of his father but nothing after, he is not mentioned in his sister Joans Will.  This leads me to believe Hosea died young or he fled Scotland changing his name.  At this time I'm leaning towards the latter, the name Hosea seems to have been used frequently with one line of the family in Ireland. I haven't found any other connection to the name Hosea! 

Biggar's of Edinburgh

Thomas (b.1662)  son of Major John Biggar of Woolmet (near Edinburgh) fled to Ireland. He was a schoolmaster in Auchadown, Co., Cork, as of yet I have found no other information for Thomas.

When Major John Biggar died, his "name" title and lands were willed to William Wallace. "To William Wallace in his minority, Major John Biggar bequeathed his estate of Woolmet near Dalkeith, on the condition of his assuming the name and arms of Biggar."  (William Wallace Biggar) now of Woolmet.  On Major Biggar's death, which took place in 1682, a family of his name in Ireland disputed the validity of his will. It was legally affirmed, although Sir Hugh Wallace, as administrator for his son, proceeded to take possession of the lands, there ensued a riotous opposition. By order of the Privy Council, several of the rioters were imprisoned and others were subjected to scourging. 

Court Document related to the rioting!

One source states Major Biggar had no male heirs, we know this to be incorrect! "Major John Biggar disowned all his male heirs, sent them to Ireland, and married his daughter to a William Wallace, a nephew of Sir Thomas Wallace of Craigie, a Lord of Session and Justice.  Wallace upon marriage to the heiress of Woolmet assumed her name and lands.  Exactly why this was done remains a mystery. "   This is also slightly incorrect as some of his male heirs remained in the Edinburgh area.  This also confirms another branch of the Biggar line Fled to Ireland.


A week ago friends and I went on a little roadtrip to the West of Ireland_edited.jpg
Image by Flash Dantz


1620- 30

Michael Biggar

   m. Agnes Stewart 

James Biggar

   m. Rebecca Parker 

John Biggar


William Biggar

Hugh Biggar

Will 1674
Will 1680

On the first of July 1654, these persons wrote were admitted & sworne free Commoners as aforesaid

  • Michaell Biggart m' free of the Staple merchant

  • John Biggart m' free of the Staple merchant

  • 23 Sep 1664  Hugh Biggar Tannery” was admitted and sworne a free Comoner

  • 1* Aprilis 1669 William Bigger was Admitted and sworne a free Comoner & merc” of the Staple.

  • 4th Octr 1677  James Biggar Cutler was admitted yº a freeman.





THE Biggar's are a family long connected with Belfast and County Antrim, Ireland, having left Nithsdale, in Scotland, about the year 1640. It is believed they came from the parish of Kirkpatrick Irongray. The “ Biggers of that ilk ” had long been landowners i11Nithsdale, and the head of the family was designated “ Laird,” and is believed to have been Herbert Bigger of Barbuie. Three brothers arrived in Ireland, and settled in the village of Belfast, and also at Biggerstown, adjoining the Parish of Carnmoney. They are believed to have been a branch of, or connected with, the Stewarts of Galloway, whose crest (a pelican in her piety) they still wear, their shield also having a close resemblance, whilst the Biggar's wore the tartan and the colour of the Stewarts.



In the year 1642 Ensigne Bigger was an officer in the army of Sir James Montgomery. In the years 1657 and 1666 Michael Bigger and James Bigger issued trade tokens in Belfast, which are still extant, and in 1673 were “ Commissioners ” to the first Presbyterian Congregation. In 1666 three Biggers appear on the Hearth Tax List. The entry close to the old Market House in the High Street of Belfast was known as Bigger’s Entry, and had formerly been the entrance to the old family residence, which was built a little off the street. Subsequently premises were built out to the street, and were in the occupation of the Biggers from 1650 ‘till the end of the nineteenth century. At Biggerstovm, Carnmoney. Co. Antrim, the whole district was in their possession in the last century, and they are still owners of a considerable portion.


In 1662 Michael Bigger was part owner of the good ship Unicorn, of which Belfast was then very proud, and about the same time James Bigger was proprietor of 3 acres adjoining “ Goose Lane,” outside the North gate of the town, and also of a meadow in the Cromac marshes, which he specifically bequeaths by Will in 1721, and also leaves “ to the poor of the Parish Church of Belfast the sum of twenty shillings ster., to be paid to such of them as the Rev. Mr Fletcher shall think most fltt.” The Will of Michael Bigger was written in Edinburgh, to which place he must have gone for that purpose, as he had long resided in Belfast and died there. The language employed is the “ broadest, Scotch,” and to most Irish people now would be unintelligible.


There are many other Wills and documents in the possession of the family at Ardrigh, Belfast, in which the most curious phrases occur. In the Will of Eliz. Bigger, 1694, the testatrix refers to High Street as follows-—“To my loving son James All That ye house in fore Street now in possession of William Crawford, Esq., Soveraign nth back house and shades now possessed by him, Reserving the Parlour as it is now of ye sd house for a shop.” _ _ In 1698 Rev. William Bigger was thrown into prison for preachmg in Galway, and the Lords Justices were petltloned to prohibit the establishment of dissent, which they did.


The Will of “ Michael Bigger, Yeoman,” 1718, starts with a long pious Introduction. and states Imprimis “ I leave all my body Cloths ,linen and wooling, except a ticken vest and briches to,"’ &-C. “ Also  ’three mills crowns pecess and my chattels to be roped I or sold by Publick Cant at a covenant time after may decease at the discretion of my Exactr and over seear.” The following curious spelling occurs Eshew (issue), moyitty (moiety), sorviours (survivors), Housall (household), Revoack (1-evoke)’ legesseyes (legacies), and the curious Christian name “ Peacock ” is mentioned_ James Bigger was one of the earliest enrolled volunteers and was a delegate at Dungannon in 1782. ’


William Bigger and his son Matthew worked a woolen factory at Biggerstown, and were subsidized by Parliament during the Irish Independence. Matthew Bigger was a Colonel on the Irish side at the Battle of Antrim, in 1798, and his friends were also well represented there. David Bigger started the Carnmoney Cottcn Printing Min about 1800, which is now Campbell’s Mossley Mills. He was also one of the original Governors of the Belfast Academical Institution, and one of the original committee of the Linen Hall Library and the Belfast Charitable Society, and at the beginning of the century he held a foremost litera-ry and social position in Belfast. His name will be found subscribed to all the Resolutions calling upon the Emancipation of the Catholics by the Irish Parliament about 1790. He was the seventh son of William Bigger of Biggerstown, and the late Joseph Bigger of Ardrigh was his seventh son, and he has also left a seventh son, Francis Joseph Bigger, the compiler of these notes. The late Joseph Bigger of Trainfield, Belfast, was a wealthy merchant, a landowner in County Antrim, and Chairman of the Ulster Bank. His son, Joseph Gillies Bigger, was M.P. for Cavan, a man of great popularity and force. The late William F. Bigger, J .P., D.L., left Belfast and settled in Derry many years ago, where some of his family still live. Another branch of the family settled at Dundalk, where some of them still reside. The late Professor James L. Bigger, M.A., was of the Derry branch. The late Joseph Bigger of Ardrigh left a large family, which includes Colonel S. F. Bigger; F. C. Bigger of the Treasury, S.A.; Dr E. Coey Bigger, of the Local Government Board; and F. J. Bigger, M.R.I.A. There are also others of the name in Dublin and elsewhere in the north of Irela

Matthew Bigger b. abt 1687 Co., Antrim, Ireland m. (1) Unknown & (2) Martha Moore. Ohio, USA

James Bigger b. abt. 1690 Co.,  Antrim, Ireland m. Martha Fleming 


James Biggar b. abt 1640 Co., Antrim, Ireland m.  Rebecca Parker


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