The Covenanters of Scotland 1638-1690 by David Dobson: Book Review

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book for the purposes of review and I have received other books from Genealogical Publishing Company, also for review. However, my opinions are my own and not influenced by outside sources.

Do you have Scottish ancestors who appear in the American colonies in the mid 1600s? If so, they may have emigrated for one of several reasons. They might have left Scotland for better economic prospects or they might have been transported against their will for minor offenses.

It is also possible that your Scottish ancestor left because of religious and/or political turmoil, which was rife in England and Scotland in the 1600s.

Who were the Covenanters? The Scottish Covenanters were Presbyterians who bound themselves to maintain their religious doctrine as the one and only form of religion in Scotland. They were active in both Religious and political scuffles in the 1600s. I actually wrote a post about them in 2021 and listed several resources to learn more about this lesser known group.

One author that I included on the 2021 list is the subject of today’s book review – David Dobson, who is a prolific compiler of early U.K. records. Dobson is a meticulous gatherer of people and facts which would be difficult, if not almost impossible, for most genealogists to uncover on their own in the original records.

The Covenanters of Scotland 1638-1690 is his newest publication.

The book opens with a four-page introduction explaining who the Covenanters were and why they caused so much turmoil. That is followed by a two-page reference list, citing the source for each person’s details, with a very short glossary and several pages of historical black and white images.

The remainder of the book (263 pages) consists of an alphabetized list of identified Covenanters with short sketches detailing their offenses, activities and /or life outcome.


Bruce, Alexander, a servant of mason John Hamilton, a rioter in Edinburgh, imprisoned in Edinburgh Tolbooth, was transported via Leith about the Phoenix of Leith bound for Virginia in April 1666.

If you happen to be a descendant of Alexander Bruce, you’ve just won of genealogy lottery!

Alexander Miller and James Miller, both of Colliston and possibly related given the circumstances, were charged for attending conventicles and both were outlawed on 29 August 1672.

Finally, Patrick or Peter Russell, then in Edinburgh Tolbooth, was transferred to Dunnotar Castle, Kincardineshire, on 29 July 1685, was banished to the Plantations on 18 August 1685, then transported via Leith about the Henry and Francis bound for East New Jersey on 5 September 1685, landed there on 7 December 1685.

While most of the names in the list are men, there are some women, who were charged with anything from harboring a Covenanter to actually rioting in the street!

The entries make for interesting reading even if there are no known Covenanters in the family tree.

David Dobson’s newest book is a must for library collections and for those interested in Covenanter history.

The Covenanters of Scotland 1638-1690 by David Dobson, published by the Clearfield Company, Baltimore, Maryland, 2023, can be purchased online at the Genealogical Publishing Company for $43.00.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.