Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Douglas, Robert (1694-1770)
DOUGLAS, Sir ROBERT (1694–1770), of Glenbervie, genealogist, was born in 1694, son of the fourth baronet, whose elder brother, the third baronet, having sold the original seat of the family, Glenbervie in Kincardineshire, changed the name of his lands in Fifeshire from Ardit to Glenbervie (Fraser, ii. 546–7). Sir Robert Douglas succeeded to the baronetcy on the death of his elder brother, the fifth baronet, in 1764, having previously during the same year issued, in 1 vol. fol., ‘The Peerage of Scotland, containing an Historical and Genealogical Account of the Nobility of that Kingdom from their origin to the present generation; collected from the public records and ancient chartularies of this nation, the charters and other writings, and the works of our best historians. Illustrated with copper-plates. By Robert Douglas, Esq.,’ with a dedication to the Earl of Morton and a list of subscribers prefixed. In his preface Douglas speaks of the volume as the fruit of ‘the most assiduous application for many years,’ and says that he had sent for corrections and additions a manuscript copy of each account of a peerage to the contemporary holder of it. There are careful references in the margin to the manuscript and other authorities. No Scottish peerage of any pretension had appeared since George Crawfurd's in 1716, and if Douglas was occasionally less cautious in his statements than Crawfurd, his work was much the ampler of the two.
In the preface to the peerage Douglas spoke of issuing a second part containing a baronage of Scotland, using the word baronage in the limited sense of the Scottish gentry or lesser barons, for a work of which kind Sir George Mackenzie [q. v.] seems to have left some materials in manuscript. In September 1767 he announced in the newspapers that the baronage was in the press and that he intended to issue an abridgment of his peerage corrected and continued to date (Maidment, 2nd ser. p. 32, &c.). The abridgment never made its appearance, and before the publication of any part of the baronage Douglas died at Edinburgh 20 April 1770 (Scots Mag. xxxii. 230). In 1798 appeared vol. i. of his ‘Baronage of Scotland, containing an Historical and Genealogical Account of the Gentry of that Kingdom,’ &c., some of the concluding pages of which are by the editors, whose promise in their preface to issue a second volume was not fulfilled. The volume includes the baronets of Scotland, and, like the peerage, displays original research and a copious citation of authorities. In 1813 was issued the latest and standard edition of Douglas's chief work, ‘The Peerage of Scotland, Second Edition, Revised and Corrected by John Philip Wood, Esq., with Engravings of the Arms of the Peers.’ This is a valuable work, and prefixed to it is a long list of Scottish noblemen and gentlemen who furnished the editor with documentary and other information. Wood incorporated in it a number of corrections of the first edition made by Lord Hailes, of whose unpublished critical comments on statements in that edition specimens are given by Maidment (1st ser. p. 160, &c.). Riddell (see especially p. 948, n. i.) refers with his usual asperity to errors committed both by Douglas and by Wood. In 1795, Douglas's ‘Genealogies of the Family of Lind and the Montgomeries of Smithton’ was privately printed at Windsor. His eldest surviving son, Sir Alexander, ‘physician to the troops in Scotland,’ is separately noticed.[Douglas's Peerage and Baronage; Sir W. Fraser's Douglas Book, 1885; Maidment's Analecta Scotica, 1834–7; J. Riddell's Enquiry into the Law and Practice of Scottish Peerages, &c., 1842; Cat. Brit. Mus. Libr.]