Elvis: From Mormond Hill to Memphis

By: Stuart West
Source: www.elvis.com.au
April 7, 2004

When Allan Morrison, a Greenock author, announced in March that he'd discovered that Elvis Presley's ancestors had originated in Aberdeenshire, he was only confirming what had been widely surmised, on both sides of the Atlantic, for a number of years. The singer's family had always claimed to have Scottish roots, and Peter Haining's 1987 book 'Elvis In Private' contained a fairly detailed family tree, which supported the fact.

A life-long Elvis fan, I began to research the subject about ten years ago. A cursory examination of the Old Parish Registers (OPRs) revealed that in the 18th. century nearly all of Scotland's Presleys, Presslies, etc. lived in the adjoining parishes of New Deer, Tarves, Lonmay and Old Deer. They are located in the Buchan area of NE Aberdeenshire. The problem was, where to start looking.

In 2000, an Elvis impersonator visiting Aberdeen said that 'a genealogist from the North-east was able to confirm that a blacksmith called Andrew Presley left that part of Aberdeenshire to settle in America in 1745'. I was still trying to find this elusive genealogist when Allan Morrison told us the identity of Elvis Presley's G-G-G-G-G-G-Grandparents:-

Old Parish Register. Parish of Lonmay. Marriages in 1713:

Andrew Presley and Elspeth Leg both in this parish signified their lawfull design of mariage; and for abstinence and performance consigned their pledges. Maried Aug. 27th.

Lonmay parish is just south of Fraserburgh. It was formerly called St. Colms, which gave its name to its largest centre of population, the fishing village of St. Combs. The Presleys would have been married at the old parish church, built in 1607 but now a ruin. It lies just outside the estate of Cairness, a former seat of the Gordons with a fine mansion house. The present church, nearby to the south, dates from 1787. The ruined kirk will probably become a shrine for thousands of Elvis devotees. Lonmay proper, about 1 � miles to the SW, on the main Peterhead-Fraserburgh road, consists of around 20 modern bungalows, and will have little romantic appeal for visiting fans.

It should be remembered that Buchan, in addition to having a rich musical heritage in its couthy Bothy Ballad folk songs, is also proud of its association with Norway's greatest composer, Edvard Grieg (1843-1907), whose G-G-Grandfather was Alexander Greig of Fraserburgh.

But let's get back to the Elvis connection. Andrew Presley and Elspeth Leg (now usually spelt Legge) had a son Andrew, a blacksmith, b. ca1720, who emigrated to Anson County, North Carolina in 1745. Next comes Andrew Presley III, b. ca1765 in NC; as was Dunnan Presley Sen., b. 1805. His son, Dunnan Presley Jun. (1827-1900 in Mississippi) had a daughter Rosella Presley (1862-1924 in MS), who had 10 illegitimate children, including Jesse D. McClowell Presley (1896-1973 in MS). His son, Vernon Elvis Presley (b. 1916 MS, d. 1979 in Tennessee) m. Gladys Love Smith (b. 1912 MS, d. 1958 TN). Their son, Elvis Aaron Presley was born at East Tupelo MS on 8th. January 1935 and died in Memphis TN on 16th. August 1977, aged 42.

It has been suggested that the unusual first name of Dunnan is a lazy pronunciation of Duncan. However, it could also be a version of Dunnon, an old spelling of Dunoon; or Dunin, of Dunning. The original Elvis was a 6th. century Celtic saint, also called Elwyn, whose domicile was in Wales or Ireland, or perhaps both.

So what are the origins of the name Presley? There are two, according to The New Dictionary of American Family Names (1973) by Elsdon C. Smith. In England it is a variant of Priestley = 'dweller by the priest's wood or clearing'. In Scotland, Smith said intriguingly that it was 'from the names of places in Aberdeen'. The Place-names of Aberdeenshire, by William M. Alexander (1952: Third Spalding Club, Aberdeen) revealed the obvious. Persley is a tiny hamlet by the River Don, on the northern outskirts of the city. Formerly an isolated scattering of cottages in Old Machar parish, it is now being rapidly urbanised by the ever-encroaching suburb of Danestone. The name is probably derived from the Gaelic Preaslach = 'wooded place'. It was Prestoly in 1391, Prosly in 1511, Presly in the late 1500's, Perselly in 1615 and Peirslie in the 1700's. Alexander adds 'also the surname Presslie'. There is a Presley on the River Findhorn, near Forres in Moray, but this is not considered to be the source of the surname.

The North-east still has families called Preslie, Presslie, Pressley, Pressly and Presly, in addition to the more well-known spelling. Apparently, some of them already knew they were Elvis' 'cousins'.

Written for Elvis.com.au by Stuart West, press officer Aberdeen & N.E. Scotland Family History Society - April 2004

Also read : Elvis Presley's Scottish roots traced!

- Elvis Aaron Presley 1800-1935 :Family History

Research Centre & Shop
158-164 King Street, Aberdeen, AB24 5BD
Tel: 01224 646323 * Fax: 01224 639096
e-mail: press.office@anesfhs.org.uk

To all Australian Elvis fans - If you visit Scotland, to see 'where it all began', you will go to Elvis Country via Aberdeen. Please call in at our Research Centre. We have huge resources, a library and bookshop. We are just 5mins. walk from the city centre, rail and bus stations. You may have Scottish ancestry yourself. Now's your chance to find out for sure!

Andrew Presley & Elspeth Leg - Who were married on 27th. August 1713 in the old parish church at Lonmay, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

We can send you a copy of the original Parish Register entry; a photo of the church ruins and graveyard; a detailed map and further information on the Lonmay area. Cost (inc. postage) 2.50GBP

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