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Maxey Wildes, revisited

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  • Maxey Wildes, revisited

    Greetings to all here in the forum! I am writing to you, in the hopes that you might be able to let me know just how 'wild' a personal theory about an ancestor might be. I've noticed the Wildes family story having been brought up in here several times; but those threads do not really address what I have bouncing around in my mind, and I'd like to explore these ideas here.

    The short version of the story is, that around the year 1800, a boy who was roughly 12 years old, stowed away on a boat sailing from Scotland to the United States. He gave his name and point of origin as Maximillian Wildes, from Scotland. Where in Scotland is unknown, there seem to be no church records to provide a clue. Once in the United States, Maximillian settled in with a Scottish community in the state of Georgia. In time, he married and started a family, which he moved to a remote part of the state, at the edge of a swamp contested by Seminole Indians, that was offered at a substantially reduced price. In 1838, the family was attacked by a band of Seminole Indians, and massacred. Four sons somehow managed to survive the massacre, and I am descended from one of them.

    Now on to the longer part ....

    Some things do not seem to make sense to me. One of these is that there is no record for him in Scotland; yet in a family reunion commemoration book dated from 1984, there is a coat of arms listed. This coat of arms is for an English family of the same name. I have looked for clan names, septs, and anything else I can find, and Wiley is about the closest I can find: no Wildes. I understand that sometimes a surname would be taken from a location or occupation; yet I have found nothing so far that would provide a possible link. So, to rely on the name alone would point toward England, not Scotland; unless someone in this forum might be able to point out an occupation or location in Scotland that might have inspired this surname?

    The other problem I have with this is where he settled in when he arrived in the United States, and what was going on in Scotland at the time. If I understand correctly, around 1800 is when the second phase of the Highland Clearances took place. This event would easily account for a Scottish boy stowing away on a vessel bound for America, and it would (at least from what I understand) make it seem unlikely that an English / British youth would so quickly find acceptance in an American Scottish community at that time. I have read information regarding the clearances, with some placing the blame at England's feet, and others suggesting that it was more an English-inspired betrayal of the Highland people on behalf of their own chiefs. Here is another area where I would hope asking a native of Scotland might provide some more insight.

    I have looked further into the name of my ancestor, and it seems as though his surname is not the only oddity. His first name, Maximillian, doesn't really strike me as a typical name for a boy from Scotland at that time. What little access I've had to name databases suggests that it was actually almost unheard of (at least in their records) at the time. In the United States, it would seem as though the Scottish community that took him in nicknamed him 'Maxey.' This seems like a plausible nickname for someone named Maximillian: but it would also seem to work for someone named 'Maxwell,' too; and this would have been a more common name for boys from that generation in Scotland, it would seem.

    Maxey's physical appearance also struck me as interesting. I have read elsewhere that he was of medium height and build, with dark hair and eyes, and a brown complexion. I have seen through military records and pictures of other ancestors that these traits have largely survived through the generations: my mother, for example, was often mistaken for being Hispanic while we were near the U.S. - Mexican border. I always thought that odd, as my picture of the 'typical' person of Scottish descent was simply different from the way so many of my ancestors looked. I read once, several years ago, that the Picts were supposed to also bear this combination of physical traits. It was within the last couple of months that I started looking further into this, and encountered information suggesting that these traits, which actually were common to the Picts, survived in a more concentrated fashion in the Scottish Highlands than anywhere else - that these were traits actually quite common to Scottish Highlanders, at least from statements made around the end of the 18th Century.

    I have also encountered a theory that Maxey Wildes was actually someone who ran away from an established family in the northeastern United States. My first reaction to this is that I would find it highly unlikely that someone who had grown up in the United States around that time would ever consider moving his family to moist, swampy territory disputed with Indians, armed with a single flint-lock rifle. This seems to me more like the action of someone who did not grow up with any respect for the threat Indians could represent to those they didn't care for. My second theory was to wonder whether or not a 12 year-old boy, escaping who-knows-what from Scotland at the time, might have felt the need to change his name when he arrived in the United States?

    Now that the long part is over, I'll try to recap the specifics of what I'm looking for a little more succinctly. In the opinion of either people living in Scotland, or historians of any nationality who would be acquainted with the Highland Clearances, is it likely that a young Englishman would have found ready welcome in a community of displaced Scots during the early 1800's? Would the physical description I gave more or less match what would have been understood back then (or even today) to be a 'typical' Highlander's appearance? Are there, for any who might have access to better databases, any Maximillians at all on record in Scotland during the period of the late 1700's? Finally, are there any parts of the Highlands that might have at one point been referred to as 'the wildes,' which someone might have used to fabricate a last name?

    I thank anyone taking the time to read (let alone reply) to any of what I've written. I'm mainly just trying to see whether or not a couple of notions I have might be plausible.

    Best regards,

  • #2
    Good Luck!

    Hello there, I just want to say, what a good story! I hope you find the answers you're looking for. Good luck to you!


    • #3
      Thank you!

      Thank you very much for both the compliment and the good wishes! I noticed in your profile that you are from Georgia ... are you also a Wildes descendant?

      Best regards,


      • #4
        Despite what has been written,the Scots come in many guises! I'm a red head, with very pale skin which burns easily and am 5 ft 5. My dad was 6ft 5' and with bueish black hair, and dark complexion, think Italian or Spanish.Mother 5 ft 7. Hair colours are everything from deepest
        Auburn to strawberry blonde, to mousy brown and black. Heights from very tall to fairly short....

        My family lines are both from the highlands. Dad from Argyll, mum frm sutherland.

        Maximillian seems like a strange name for a Scots laddie!


        • #5
          Originally posted by greenroot View Post
          Thank you very much for both the compliment and the good wishes! I noticed in your profile that you are from Georgia ... are you also a Wildes descendant?

          Best regards,
          Hello again, B. I am not a Wildes descendant. I'm what you would call a cultural *tard (haha!). I don't know my genealogy past 4 generations. Which is why I'm so envious and fascinated with people who have rich and long family histories. My boyfriend's family roots can be traced from 13th century Scotland! And here I am, the evil traveler who is the reason why he is uprooting from his hometown.

          Anyway.. about the name Maximillian - could it be a middle name (maybe his mom's?). Just a thought, I know that my bf wants me to take on both his middle name and last name when we marry - some sort of tradition? Sorry, I really wish I could help.


          • #6
            Unable to help greenroot other than to offer a different theory and confuse you even further. (or it may lead you to something different)

            Wilde is one of the oldest English names on record. Given the history of Scotland and the amount of English invasions throughout the centuries, it's clearly possible someone with the name Wilde will have settled Scotland, either by choice, or through payment of land or property for services rendered.

            And Maximillian is the English variant of the roman name Maximus. Roman Britain lasted less than 500 years, but they left behind so much, not just their buildings, but their culture. It was not uncommon for them to take wives, or give their children roman names. And names, as we know, are handed down through generations.

            But..if you would prefer to discount the possibility of a link to England

            A better theory could be a link with the Jewish community. As a child I can recall visiting the huge Jewish cemetery in Glasgow and asking my grandmother why so many Jewish men were call Max. Jewish people have been present in Scotland since the middle ages (they even have their own tartan now) and many of them around that time had links to trade and shipping. To avoid persecution, many changed their surnames, (or were forced to do so by law). Google Ashkenazic for a better explanation.

            Scotland also had very strong links with Holland, where De Wilde is a common name. The Dutch were the first nation in Europe to value trade more than religion and nurtured a tolerant state which took in religious refugees from across Europe. So it's entirely possible Max or his ancestors came to Scotland via Holland.

            Whoever Max Wilde was, he sounds like a rascal of a laddie, a true adventurer. We Scots have settled all over the world, often taking the hardest routes and facing the most difficult adversities. Or maybe he was just a tad unstable. We all have one of those in our families.....

            Finally, being from the east of Scotland, we refer to anyone living in the north as 'living up in the wilds'.


            • #7
              Polwarth: thank you for your response! The notion about physical appearance came to me after reading the following paragraph from a Web page, titled "The Story of the Scottish Highlanders," by John D. Keyser, paying some attention to the date given in the citation:

              "Mr. Pinkerton, who says that "in person the Lowlanders are TALL and LARGE, with FAIR COMPLEXIONS, and often with FLAXEN,YELLOW, and RED hair, and BLUE eyes: the grand features of the GOTHS in all ancient writers," adds, that "THE HIGHLANDERS ARE GENERALLY DIMINUTIVE, WITH BROWN COMPLEXIONS, AND ALMOST ALWAYS WITH BLACK CURLED HAIR AND DARK EYES."- Annals of the Caledonians, Picts, and Scots, by Joseph Ritson. Vol. II.W. & D. Laing, Edinburgh. 1828. Footnote p. 7. 27"

              I'm not inclined to believe everything I read - authors can be wrong, after all - which is why I wanted to ask people who might be more familiar with this description. Thank you very much for your reaction to the name, Maximillian, as it lent some validity to the reaction I had to it when I was looking it up Online!

              joxieblue: I enjoy learning about my family and its various exploits whenever possible. I like the idea of how what we do now might echo among generations beyond ours - this has always served as a guide of sorts for me, to act responsibly and keep in mind that I will someday also be regarded as someone's ancestor. At the same time, I find it fascinating to work backwards through time, and ponder at traits and actions committed in the past that might show some influence in my own life. As an American, for example, the decision to leave the homeland behind and take a chance elsewhere has had an obvious impact on my own life. I've never heard of a tradition where women take on the middle name, as well as the surname, of their husbands - it sounds interesting, though

              lostinnz: different theories are always welcome - I'm plodding around in the dark with this long-shot idea, so any light shed is valuable! You are absolutely correct, at least in my opinion, in bringing up the possibility of a Wilde / Wildes descendant having simply moved to Scotland at some point, and a surname having been passed down to my ancestor through any number of generations. I had already given this some consideration, having absolutely no opposition to an English link (I actually already have a number of English branches in my tree); but got sidetracked with the possible Highlander description in the citation given above, and wanted to see just how possible this all might be. In the end, without real records to say one way or the other, all I've got are possibilities to occupy myself with.

              Thank you for the tip about the Ashkenazim and the Dutch: those I had not at all considered! Regarding the personality of my ancestor, like I wrote in my original post, it's notable that he went with his family to a foreign swamp (keeping in mind that even the bogs of Scotland are not known for harboring poisonous snakes, spiders, or alligators), bordering on territory contested with Seminole Indians, with just a single flintlock rifle. Why he would feel at all capable of defending himself under these circumstances speaks to his character. Exactly what it says is a matter of opinion; but I like to think, based on what I know of some of his descendants, that he was simply someone who didn't let fear stand in his way between where he was and where he wanted to be. Stowing away aboard a trans-Atlantic voyage was either another example of such boldness, or of desperation, or a mix of both. Unstable is an interesting word: to move forward, we have to abandon our familiar, stationary balance. Each step forward, therefore, lacks the stability of simply staying where we were to begin with. It could be said that America was founded and expanded by such unstable people

              Thank you also for your description of the people living in northern Scotland ... this actually does support some of my theory to an extent!