Not much is known about John and Janet. It was once claimed the possibility of Duncan Oliphant being the son of John and Janet, due to their proximity, but now this is no longer believed. First, because both locations had a large Scottish populations due to the emigration of Covenanters, and secondly merely because amateur historians like to find answers, even if the facts sometimes don’t work.

What is known is that John and Janet were indentured and travelled to America. They first enter the historical record on February 15th, 1663 when they had their banns read at the parish church of Kilconquhar, which is on the Firth of Forth directly north of Berwick-upon-Tweed. Neil Adam, who was someone connected to the church, witnessed the signing of the banns, as well as William Ballingal. It is not known when, or even if, John and Janet were actually married, but they did not pay their fees to the Kilconquhar church. It’s not known if they moved on later, but Janet was recorded in Kingskettle, about 15 miles away to the west.

The next record that can be found is when they had their daughters Euphemia and Margaret baptized on February 16, 1672 in Falkland, another 5 miles to the west. The minister at Falkland was the Episcopalian William Barclay, who had been returned to his parish in 1663 after being deprived under the Protectorate. His sons were ministers in the neighboring parishes, one at Strathmiglo to the west, and the other at Kingskettle to the east. It could be assumed that the pair were married at Kingskettle, as the minister, having two sons leading the surrounding parishes, would have been told by the sons if they were married or not. By the customs of the time, Janet and John would have been expected to have at least four more children between marriage and the twin’s baptism, one of whom is known to be named Janet.

On August 19th, 1685 John and Janet signed their indenture to gain passage to the New World. The couple sailed on the Henry and Francis, and is assumed they set off out of Leith on September 5th, 1685. John Hancock (not the famous one) of Edinburgh held their indenture, as well as the indenture of three men convicted and sentenced to the Colonies. It’s to be noted that none of the people who signed indenture to Hancock indicated any trade. This is unusual, considering the cost that went into transport and living, so it can be assumed that the people themselves – not the duties they could do – were more important to their debtor. Since John and Janet signed their indenture less than a month before sailing, it could be reasoned that it was to follow and support someone important to them. Perth Amboy, the destined city, had only been settled 3 years earlier, so the decision to move to an unknown and barely civilized land was a major decision for two illiterate 40 somethings from the Scottish countryside. As far as we can tell, they had barely traveled 20 miles in their entire lives, but had decided to move 4,793 miles in less than a month’s time.

From then on, there is no more mention of John and Janet. What we can do is make educated guesses on their American experience.

Due to a large contingent of prisoners from Dunnottar Castle who were banished to the Colonies, jail fever quickly traveled through the ship. All but two members of the ship’s crew died, as well as 35 others. It was so bad, in fact, that the ship was almost denied port. It took an outpouring of support from friends and family who had already arrived to distribute and care for the many. Fortunately, none of the Oliphants are named here, so we know they survived the crossing. After their arrival, many indentures were sold off to others. Because the man who held their original indenture died at sea, they must have followed with the rest of his estate to his inheritor Peter Sonmans and Dr. John Barclay. Sonmans owned a huge swath of land stretching from the south end of New York, west to Philadelphia, and east to New Jersey. Barclay was the younger brother of the Governor of East Jersey, who lived in England and left the day to day work of running the colony to his brothers.

Not much is known about John and Janet. It was once claimed the possibility of Duncan Oliphant being the son of John and Janet, due to their proximity, but now this is no longer believed. First, because both locations had a large Scottish populations due to the emigration of Covenanters, and secondly merely because amateur historians like to find answers, even if the facts sometimes don’t work.

The next time we see the family is when their daughter Janet marries Samuel Layton in 1691 in Middleton, NJ. Around the same time Samuel’s older sister marries Gavin Drummond, who also lived in the town of Middleton. It could be that Janet was a servant to Gavin, as he was the more successful landholders in the area. At this point, as well, Janet the elder and John would have been released of their indenture, and given their granted lands, but there is no record of such, so they must have died some time before.

John and Janet's Travels

Janet and her sister Margaret are also seen in a set of wills concerning William Oliphant. At one time William was thought to be John and Janet’s son, but he is a little too young for this to be possible. They did all sail together on the Henry and Francis so it is possible they were some other relation. In William’s will, he lists the women as “daughters and heiresses” though they were only 4 and 7 years younger than William. In a later will by another who inherited land from William, the women are labeled as “sisters of William Oliphant”. The best we can make of it all is that they referred to each other on religious terms, as Quakers were often to refer to their closest friends with more familial labels.

Janet’s husband Samuel moved southeast to Freehold some time before the birth of their daughter Janet in 1704. There he amassed a large farm, reaching over 50 acres. Later Samuel also inherits 3 shillings at his father’s death, and most likely purchased more land. When Samuel died in 1732, Janet returned to Middleton, which would indicate they retained some land there. In all, Janet had lived a decent life in the Colonies.

The last Oliphant to be considered is Margaret, the younger daughter of John and Janet. Her term of bondage would last until after Walter Kerr and William Davison had both settled at Lake Manalapan and William had built his mill at Manalapan Creek. Margaret married William Davison around 1695 and their first child is assumed to be William. Life must have been tough with only three surviving children born in their first ten years of marriage. A deed registered on 15th May 1700 shows that William Davison gave his wife’s share of William Oliphant’s lands at Wemrock to his brother-in-law Samuel Layton in consideration of Layton’s other lands in Monmouth.

The family settled somewhere within the bounds of the Old Scots Presbyterian Church of Freehold, which is at the corner of modern Wyncrest Rd and Gordons Corner Rd in Freehold. While their early days were harsh, they later massed a decent living, as shown in her husband’s will: “…to My Loving Wife Margreat Davidson the use of this plantation I Live upon during her Natural Life & fix Cowes & one horse and all my sheep and my houshold Goods & furniture and that in Liue of her thirds or dowry”

Through all of this, it can be assumed the family stayed together. That John and Janet lived to see America, and that their daughters had a decent living. We may never know their fates, but

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