|About Pillans World
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This site is essentially a one name study that was totally unplanned and grew from my
own research while tracing my ancestry.
I had been doing genealogy for several years...I think I started around 1990...and it
became something of an obsession, especially the Pillans line, which was so difficult
to trace that I began collecting every bit of Pillans information I came across in the
hope of finding my connections. When I finally found them I'd gathered so much other
info it seemed a shame to just throw it away...hence, the birth of Pillans World.
Since then the information has been added to by myself and many other Pillans
descendants who were generous enough to share what they knew. Currently, this site is
aimed at gathering still more information and assisting other genealogists in their
search for Pillans ancestors and relatives.
The database is a work in progress and new information, corrections, photographs, etc.,
are always appreciated, so if you wish to contribute or have any comments or feedback
about this site, please contact me using the above link or sign the guest book.
I hope you find this site helpful and good luck in your search!
It seems the Pillans name is of Norman origin - probably Viking, rather than French.
The first record of a Pillans in Great Britain was found in Lancashire where they were
seated at Burnley from very early times and were granted lands by Duke William of
Normandy, their liege Lord, for their distinguished assistance at the Battle of
Hastings in 1066 A.D.
Alternative spellings were traced in the archives, linked to a common root, with
Pillans occurring in many referances, but other spellings include Pilling, Pillings and
Pilland. Some of these spelling variations occurred between father and son. Scribes
recorded the name phonetically and many people were born with one spelling, married
under another and buried with still another, yet all referred to the one person.
Sometimes kinsmen and women spelled their names as they liked, indicating a different
branch of the family, a religious preference, or sometimes to proclaim a national heritage.
Some of the Lancashire Pillings/Pillans moved north to Scotland in the 14 Century,
where it generally stayed as Pillans, and they carried with them the same Coat of Arms
as they had in Lancashire. A William Pillans settled in Strayfrank, in the parish of
Carstairs in Lanarkshire, and from there became six branches of the family. From there
they branched to Leith. Meanwhile, in England, the Pillings/Pillans acquired Morton
Hall in Lancashire.
Other variations of the name that we have encountered include Pillance, Pillan,
Pillands, Phillans and Fillans...and it's possible there are even more.
Working on the hypothesis that all the United Kingdom Pillans families shared a genetic
relationship an attempt was made to find the genealogical links using the documentation
that is now available. In several cases links have been established, but many branches
remain unlinked to the 'big tree', possibly because the records have not survived the
test of time...but maybe we simply haven't discovered them yet, so the search continues.
The American Pillans Line
One unsloved mystery is the ancestry of many of the Pillans families now living in the
United States of America. One line of research seems to indicate that their ancestor was Robert
Pillans of Scotland, born about 1765, who married Anne Clarke in Charleston, South
Carolina, in 1785. No documentation yet found in the USA provides details of Robert's
exact place of birth or his parents' names, however, the most likely candidates seem to
be James Pillans and Isobel Dickson, who had a son, Robert, baptised September 26, 1766
in Dalkieth, Midlothian, Scotland.
To complicate the matter further, Palmer Pillans (b: 1816), who was thought to be a
grandson of the above mentioned Robert Pillans, wrote his memoirs after his wife's
death in 1883, and in this document (which he requested his children not to publish) he
states that his father was John Christopher Pillans and that John's parents were Dr.
James Pillans and his wife, Miss Lynch, who came from Scotland (a place between
Edingburgh and Glasgow).
So who was Dr. James Pillans? Was he perhaps the great-grandfather of Palmer Pillans?
One fact supporting this theory is that the above mentioned Robert Pillan's father was
called James, however, there is no evidence that he was married to a Miss Lynch.
Hopefully records will be found that will help solve this riddle, but we may need DNA
testing to prove a genetic association.
The South African Pillans Line
Similarly, the parentage of James Pillans who married Jane Frost in 1891 at Port
Elizabeth, Cape of Good Hope, have not been confirmed. He is said to have been born in
Glasgow, Scotland, in 1871.
If you have any information that may solve these issues please contact the Webmaster
via the above link.