Tag Archives: Doing research

Off to Scotland

I’m just about to set off for Scotland and will be back next weekend. Really looking forward to it, and fortunately the weather forecast is for clear and even sunny days, with no rain. So hopefully lots of photo opportunities to post here when I get back. I’m also taking a notebook so I can keep a journal of what I see and discover.

Today will be a leisurely drive from Yorkshire to Edinburgh via Northumberland National Park and Scottish Border country.

Book review: The Scots: a genetic journey by Alistair Moffat and James F Wilson

Although it might not help your family history research all that much, this is a fascinating survey of where Scottish people have come from, using DNA, archaeology and recorded history. It’s also very well written, so though full of “science” it’s not too hard to read. It starts with the end of the ice age, more or less, as there weren’t humans that anyone knows about in Scotland before then, and works forward in time, right up to the incomers of more recent times.

Particularly impressive is how genetics is interwoven with an interesting telling of Scotland’s history and an analysis of it languages. But in brief, if you’re Scottish, or descended from Scots, you’ve probably got a largish dose of Irish in you.

Off to Scotland very soon

On Sunday I drive up to Scotland, stopping first at Edinburgh to spend a day at the National Archives looking at Kirk Session Minutes. As Edinburgh is not too long a drive away, and hopefully the weather will be okay, I’m doing the scenic route through Northumberland National Park and then through Border Country.

On Tuesday I’ll be off to Aberdeen, and again I’m taking the scenic route via Braemar and Balmoral. Cross fingers it’s not raining or foggy.

In Aberdeenshire I’ll be visiting ancestral homelands, the local studies centre in Aberdeen, and a few places of interest such as the Farming Museum at Pitmedden. Be interesting to see what’s happened to the Fraser family croft since I last saw it: it was uninhabitable then and no doubt still is.

I am SO looking forward to being up there again!

The usefulness of family reconstruction

One of the reasons my family tree is so enormous is I’ve researched the siblings of my direct ancestors, and their descendants. Researching 2nd, 3rd. etc. cousins can help solve identification problems, as well as unearthing interesting stuff.

Just how useful it can be is being brought home to me at the moment, as I’m researching my Logan line in Aberdeenshire. My gg grandmother Mary Logan was born in 1838, the daughter of John Logan and Isobel Booth, so I’m heavily reliant on the Old Parish Registers to go further back. But given her birth date she’d have had relatives in the census and who hopefully managed to wait until after 1855 to depart life and so have a death certificate. Looking them up has helped me piece the Logan family together: if I’d focussed only on Mary’s parents, grandparents and great grandparents I wouldn’t have been able to reliably prove a connection and would have missed out on interesting detail.

Also of enormous help was looking up baptism records in the OPR via ScotlandsPeople and not just relying on FamilySearch. Mary’s baptism told me that her father John Logan was from Auchtilair in the parish of Old Deer. Looking up Auchtilair on an old map showed it to be south of the village of Stuartfield and next to Creichie. John Logan died before official registration but he and his family are in the 1841 census at Auchticlair, and accessing this on ScotlandsPeople showed a Jane Logan living next door. The census also showed that John had children born well before he married Isobel Booth: researching William Logan, one of the older children, produced a death certificate from 1858 with his parents named as John Logan farmer deceased and Ann Logan ms Simpson deceased. There was an Old Deer marriage for John Logan and Ann Simpson in 1829. So John Logan was married twice, Mary’s mother being his second wife.

I then went looking for the birth of a John Logan who was old enough to have married in 1829, and found a baptism in 1796 in Old Deer for John Logan, son of James Logan and Catherine Smith, plus a marriage for James and Catherine in 1789. I then looked for their other children and researched them: the second child Jean (or Jane) Logan turned out to be the one living next door to John at Auchtilair in 1841. From 1851 onwards she lived in Stuartfield, the nearest village, and died there in 1878. Her death certificate gives her parents as James Logan crofter and Catherine Logan ms Smith. Jean/Jane also had living with her a niece Jane Logan, who was the daughter of John Logan and his first wife Ann Simpson. So that all nicely proved that my ggg grandfather John Logan had two wives and was the son of James Logan and Catherine Smith.

There’s more to research for my Logan of Aberdeenshire line, of course, but including siblings into the research has really helped.

1895 Valuation Rolls for Scotland

These have just been released by ScotlandsPeople, so I couldn’t resist. The Valuation Rolls give some lovely detail, and let you find out where your ancestors were between the census.

Great grandfather Joseph Strachan, coal miner, was the tenant of a house in Crookedholm, one of several owned by Elizabeth Dunlop or Lyon, wife of James Lyon of Dykehead Cottage, Hurlford. Joseph’s neighbours were coal miners with a smattering of widows, plus a plasterer, a labourer, an engineman and a grocer’s shop. Joseph was paying £2 12s yearly rent.

I looked for my other great grandfather John McCrae but couldn’t find him: perhaps he wasn’t the main tenant of where he was living in Kilmarnock. I’ll have a more through search when I have time.

Up in Aberdeenshire, great great grandfather Alexander Fraser was paying £5 yearly rent for the croft and house at Hardslacks (aka Mosside Croft). This was part of the Estate of Yonderton owned by John Bruce of Yonderton, Town and County Bank Limited, Oldmeldrum, but the main farm and house was tenanted by Thomas Fiddes Mackie. John Bruce was using the shootings, however, which will have been part of the moss. Mosside Croft was, of course, given its name, next to the moss where the locals dug for peat, their main source of fuel. Interestingly, a near neighbour was John Fraser at Burnthill, also part of the Estate of Yonderton, so I’ll have to have a look and see who John Fraser was.

Genealogy: something good to spend your money on

I don’t mind spending money on genealogy. It’s an interest I choose to do and I don’t expect others or the government (which means tax payers) to subsidise my hobby. But you do need some money to do it properly. I shudder to think how much I spend with ScotlandsPeople – I don’t keep a running total as it would scare me! Plus there are lots of great books, which I’m addicted to anyway and so can rarely resist, and subscriptions to a couple of genealogy data-based sites. Plus travel costs if you get out and about.

Today I’ve just ordered some books online, so am looking forward to their arrival. I’ve run out of credits on ScotlandsPeople and need to buy more. I’ve just joined the Family History Society of Buchan. Last week I booked hotels for my trip to Aberdeenshire in a month’s time – when the cost of petrol, meals and other bits and bobs is added in it won’t be the cheapest holiday ever, but for me it’s definitely preferable to a week on a crowded beach somewhere else.

Anyway, I’ve retired now and worked hard for a lot of years to build up my nest egg. It’s time to spend it my way!

Error riddled trees on Ancestry yet again

I had a look to see if anyone else had researched John Logan and Isobel Booth from Old Deer. And yes, there are lots on Ancestry, all with a birth date for John Logan of 1796, which is correct, but with most of them having him born in Ireland. He wasn’t: in fact I doubt if he ever went out of Aberdeenshire. How they manage to get such an error is beyond me, as he was alive in 1841 and it says he was born in Aberdeenshire. Plus there’s a 1796 baptism for him at Old Deer on FamilySearch. Very, very sloppy research by an awful lot of Ancestry users. Once again, it looks like one person has made a mistake, and then heaps of people have come along and copied that tree without bothering to check whether it’s right.

There’s been quite a bit lately in genealogical circles about the “One World Family Tree” idea. Apparently FamilySearch now have something where everyone enters their tree onto one big tree, so that eventually everyone in the world (or at least the genealogists amongst us who can be bothered) are connected. But there’s a big problem with that idea: how on earth can they keep it accurate? If the people who put error riddled trees up on Ancestry are anything to go by, the vast majority of family trees out there are wrong, and some of them are very, very wrong. I’m not tempted to join a “One World Tree”. Has anyone had a look at one?

So many with the same name

Did a bit more on the “Robert Strachan Story” today, but kept getting in a bit of a tangle due to the same names occurring over and over again. The Scottish naming pattern can be very useful, but it also causes problems. Robert and Margaret had 9 children, and Robert had another 6 with his second wife, with 11 of his offspring having large families of their own. That means 11 boys named Robert after their grandfather, and at least 6 girls called Margaret.

It’s made me wonder how many of the most popular Strachan names are on my tree, so I’ve done a search and count (which thankfully my tree software has made easy). And the prizes go to:

John Strachan – 28
Jean, Jeanie or Jane Strachan – 24 (these 3 names were interchangeable)
Robert Strachan – 23
Agnes Strachan – 21
Margaret Strachan – 20 (also my middle name, so I no longer think it’s boring!)
Mary Strachan – 20
Janet Strachan – 18
Elizabeth Strachan – 17
Susan or Susannah Strachan – 17
Peter Strachan – 14
Henry Strachan – 13
Thomas Strachan – 13
William Strachan – 13
James Strachan – 11
Joseph Strachan – 10

No doubt the numbers will grow as I find more people who belong on my tree.

I must do this for my three other grandparents’ trees as there are clear regional and family differences.

The joys and frustrations of research

Today has been a genealogy day, thanks to rain outside and not having any prior commitments. I’ve been writing the “John Strachan and Margaret Haggerty and Susan Cran” story and am nearly there, but it has involved checking up on an awful lot of people. As John Strachan had 15 children, most of whom also had large families, there’s a lot to put together. Doing the research today certainly has had its up and down.

Oh, the joy of discovering two ancestors were married at the same time in the same place and are on the same page you download from ScotlandsPeople! Except the registrar gave them both the same parents when that wasn’t the case, but you do learn that not everthing on a certificate is always accurate. Then how annoying when you find a 1911 census entry, only available from ScotlandsPeople, spread over 2 pages and so have to pay for 2 downloads. I love ScotlandsPeople but it’s very easy to get carried away and spend far too much money buying credits, which is why I try to get as much as I can from Ancestry.

And isn’t it joyous when you track someone from childhood, through marriage, through all the census and to a death entry without a hiccup. And how frustrating when someone just disappears and searching for them under every variation you can think of producing absolutely nothing.

I’m wary of using trees on Ancestry as so many are poorly researched, but looking at someone else’s research can be a very good starting point, as long as you check their research and don’t just accept it. It then becomes frustrating when you look for a particular ancestor and find no-one else has got them on a tree. Poor, unloved ancestors!

The overwhelming thing about my Strachan ancestors, however, is how pretty much every male prior to the 1900s – and there are an awful lot of them – became a coal miner. What would Ayrshire’s coal industry have done without them?

Genealogy: a bad weather interest?

I’m aware I’ve done very little with my genealogy notes for well over a week, and there’s a good reason. It’s spring at last and the weather has been dry and fine, so my time has been taken up with gardening, horse riding, helping out at the rescue centre and just getting outside and enjoying the feel of fresh air. Which has made me wonder who else does a lot more online research, note sorting and reading when it’s wet and cold outside. The only reason I’m inside this afternoon is it’s started raining!

These days, there’s so much that can be done from the comfort of your own home, close to a kettle for those frequently needed cups of tea. (Stopping for a cuppa is a great way to gather thoughts and idea, I find.) It’s a brilliant way to spend a cold and wet winter day.

However, I’m hoping for fine weather towards the end of next week as I’m off down to Barnsley to meet up with a second cousin and fellow genealogist to be shown around my Green family haunts, which happily means doing a bit of a pub crawl as they were innkeepers. It’ll be good to get out and about again instead of sitting in front of a computer screen.

It’s also spurred me on to start planning in earnest for my summer trip to Scotland. I’ve not been up there for ages, and the last time I went was in the middle of winter, so I can’t wait too see my ancestors’ places in (hopefully) fine weather.