Tag Archives: Scotland

Read at my father’s funeral

Yesterday’s in memoriam reminded me of the Robert Burns song that was read at my father’s funeral. My father very much believed in the philosophy of this song, and understood “man” to mean “humankind” – both men and women. I’ve put a glossary of some of the Scots words at the end as I suspect most of you will need it!

Is there for honest Poverty
That hings his head, an’ a’ that;
The coward slave – we pass him by,
We dare be poor for a’ that!
For a’ that, an’ a’ that.
Our toils obscure an’ a’ that,
The rank is but the guinea’s stamp,
The Man’s the gowd for a’ that.

What though on hamely fare we dine,
Wear hoddin grey, an’ a that;
Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine;
A Man’s a Man for a’ that:
For a’ that, and a’ that,
Their tinsel show, an’ a’ that;
The honest man, tho’ e’er sae poor,
Is king o’ men for a’ that.

Ye see yon birkie, ca’d a lord,
Wha struts, an’ stares, an’ a’ that;
Tho’ hundreds worship at his word,
He’s but a coof for a’ that:
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
His ribband, star, an’ a’ that:
The man o’ independent mind
He looks an’ laughs at a’ that.

A prince can mak a belted knight,
A marquis, duke, an’ a’ that;
But an honest man’s abon his might,
Gude faith, he maunna fa’ that!
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
Their dignities an’ a’ that;
The pith o’ sense, an’ pride o’ worth,
Are higher rank than a’ that.

Then let us pray that come it may,
(As come it will for a’ that,)
That Sense and Worth, o’er a’ the earth,
Shall bear the gree, an’ a’ that.
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
It’s coming yet for a’ that,
That Man to Man, the world o’er,
Shall brothers be for a’ that.

Glossary of Scots words:
Gowd – gold
Hoddin – course woollen cloth
Birkie – lively fellow
Coof – dull-witted, foolish fellow
Maunna – mustn’t
Gree – to settle, reconcile, be in harmony

Top Scottish first names and surnames 1900 and 2000

Interesting piece at ScotlandsPeople about popular names in Scotland. Link is http://www.gro-scotland.gov.uk/statistics/theme/vital-events/births/popular-names/archive/forenames-1900-2000.html but here are some salient snippets.

The top 10 in 2000 (from 1 to 10) were:
Boys: Jack, Lewis, Ryan, Cameron, James, Andrew, Matthew, Liam, Callum, Jamie
Girls: Chloe, Amy, Lauren, Emma, Rebecca, Megan, Caitlin, Rachel, Erin, Hannah

The top 10 names in 1900 (from 1 to 10) were:
Boys: John, James, William, Robert, Alexander, George, Thomas, David, Andrew, Charles
Girls: Mary, Margaret, Elizabeth, Annie, Jane, Agnes, Isabella, Catherine, Janet, Helen

In 1900, the top five names were given to 50% of boys and 38% of girls. 13.2% of boys were called John and 11.7% of girls were called Mary.

If you have Scottish ancestors I bet you have all the top 10 names from 1900 on your tree. I do, although not many George, David, Andrew and Charles for boys.

Interestingly, James and Andrew are the only names to stay the course, although Jack is a form of John and of course Jamie is a form of James.

Another interesting article at ScotlandsPeople is about Scottish surnames and is at http://www.gro-scotland.gov.uk/statistics/theme/vital-events/births/popular-names/archive/surnames-in-scotland-over-the-last-140-years.html

The top three surnames in Scotland are Smith, Brown and Wilson, and 1 in 8 surnames begin with Mc or Mac.

Surnames developed slowly and had regional differences. Therefore “similar, or in some cases identical, surnames have been derived from entirely different sources and different areas of Scotland. Thus the modern ‘consistency’ in naming conventions has been based on a possibly ‘inconsistent’ starting point. In other words, to rely on surnames as a guide to family history becomes less reliable the further back in time the researcher goes.” I have long suspected that my Strachan ancestors have nothing to do with the Strachans of Kincardineshire and although the names now share the same spelling, the original derivation is quite probably very different.

Nobles and landowners were the first to acquire surnames and were frequently named after the land they owned. The name was then taken up by others who came from that place. As there were many places sharing the same name, this resulted in the same surname developing in different locations but with no relationship to each other. If people moved, they may well have changed their surname.

The article gives details of frequency of Scottish surnames, plus links to tables which show frequency of surnames in particular regions in 1901. In 1901, Fraser was the 10th most frequent surname in Aberdeenshire: the only other areas it appears in are 1st in Nairn, 2nd in Elgin and Inverness and 10th in Ross & Cromarty. This sort of proves my feeling that my Frasers originated from further north than Cruden. Strachan doesn’t appear on any of the lists, so it’s not that widely a used surname.

Blog stats

I’ve discovered that when you have a blog you can get a bit obsessed with checking your stats. I’m pleased to have acquired plenty of followers so quickly – thank you all – and am also getting lots of visitors via search engines. Looking at the summaries of where people who’ve visited are from, Canada is in the lead, followed by the United States and then the United Kingdom. Next is Australia followed by New Zealand. Given the patterns of Scottish migration, this is hardly surprising. I’m beginning to wonder whether there are more people of Scottish descent living in Canada and the United States than there are in Scotland!

Book recommendation: Illegitimacy, Sex and Society by Andrew Blaikie

Andrew Blaikie book

This is an academic book based on the author’s PhD thesis, and is also now out of print but I managed to find a secondhand copy. Worth looking for in a library if you have ancestors who were farm servants, ag labs and crofters in Banffshire or Aberdeenshire. The illegitimacy rate in that part of Scotland was much higher than in other parts of Scotland, and this book is an exploration of the reasons why that might have been, based on a very through analysis of parish registers and census data. In 1855 the overall illegitimacy rate for Scotland was 7.8% but in the northeast it was 13.0%. My Fraser family, from Cruden parish, did their best to contribute to that figure, which is why I was drawn to this book.

Book Recommendation: The Mineworkers by Robert Duncan

The Mineworkers

An essential read for anyone with Scottish coal mining ancestors. Robert Duncan is an academic specialising in labour history. His book goes from the early development of the coal mining industry in Scotland and ends with the miners’ strike of the 1980s. Very well written and researched, with a good focus on the lives of the actual miners and their families. Lots of illustrations and photos too.

Online sources if you have Scottish ancestors

Thought I’d mention a few web sites I’ve found excellent for padding out the detail of my Scottish ancestors’ lives.

http://digital.nls.uk/gallery.cfm
National Library of Scotland’s digital gallery – access point to historical maps of Scotland, Post Office directories, gazetteers of towns and parishes, plus lots of other fascinating stuff.

http://stat-acc-scot.edina.ac.uk/sas/sas.asp?action=public&passback=
Statistical Accounts of Scotland – a very good read to get a feel for where your Scottish ancestors lived. The Old Statistical Reports were published in 1791-1799 and the New Statistical Reports in 1834-1845.

http://www.scottishmining.co.uk
Brilliant site if you have Scottish coal mining ancestors. Lists of mines, copies of housing and other reports, and an index of coal mining deaths and accidents

http://www.scotlandsplaces.gov.uk
Access to Scottish historical tax rolls from 1645 to 1831.

Ancestors migrating yet again

Gosh, my ancestors get everywhere – or at least the Scottish ones do. I’m now used to losing track of someone in the census in Scotland, only for them to turn up in Canada, USA, New Zealand or Australia.

In the mid to late 1800s Ayrshire coal miners were clearly being lured to work in newly opening USA mines, and many on my family tree were happy to answer the call. Some came back to Scotland, so it can’t always have been what they’d hoped for, but most stayed so I must have heaps of long lost cousins scattered all over the United States.

Today I’ve been padding out what I know about my Haggarty or Haggerty ancestors. My great great grandmother was Margaret Haggarty, who died at the age of 38 from what was probably typhoid. Not getting far with her parents, Joseph Haggerty and Jean Orr, I started researching her siblings. She had a brother Hugh who married Janet Muir and lived in Dundonald and then Kilwinning, but who died in about 1848. He’s in the 1841 census but only his widow and children are in the 1851 census and again in 1861. Then Ancestry gave a suggestion for his widow in the 1880 USA census so I had a look – and there she was, with two of her sons, in California.

They were living in Judsonville, Contra Costa County. According to Wikipedia, Judsonville is now a ghost town but used to be a town serving nearby coal mines. There’s information about it on the web, as it’s now become a coal mining preserve – http://www.ebparks.org/parks/black_diamond

According to the web site, “From the 1860s through the turn of the last century, five coal mining towns thrived in the Black Diamond area: Nortonville, Somersville, Stewartville, West Hartley and Judsonville. As the location of California’s largest coal mining operation, nearly four million tons of coal (“black diamonds”) were removed from the earth. The residents of the mining towns were from all over the world, and their life was characterized by hard work and long hours. Occasional celebrations and a variety of organizations and social activities served to alleviate the drudgery of daily existence. The coal mines had a significant impact on California’s economy. By the time operations ceased due to rising production costs and the exploitation of new energy sources, much of California’s economy had been transformed from a rural to an industrial base.”

So far I’ve no idea when they migrated or where they were after the 1880 census but I’m about to try and find out. It’s amazing where family history takes you, and what it teaches you about the world and its history.

New: article about Scottish Parish Registers

I’ve added an article about Scottish Old Parish Registers (OPRs). It’s really helpful to fully understand the documents you use for research, and from reading genealogy forums I’m awqre that OPRs cause most of the frustrations. Our brickwalls most often happen because we just can’t find the baptism or marriage we need in the surviving OPRs, or we find an entry we think might be right but there just isn’t enough evidence to be certain.

In the article I’ve discussed the problems encountered by lack of detail in OPR entries, lack of an entry in the OPR even though a baptism or marriage probably did take place, lack of a baptism or marriage having happened in the first place, and difficulties reading and transcribing OPRs.

Hope you find it interesting and useful.

The Scottish naming pattern

Mention of the Scottish naming pattern in a reply to a comment made me think it would be a good blog post. So here it is.

In Scotland, it was traditional to name children after particular relatives, in a set pattern:
First son named for father’s father
First daughter named for mother’s mother
Second son named for mother’s father
Second daughter named for father’s mother
Third son named for father
Third daughter named for mother

Thereafter, children were named after aunts, uncles and other assorted relatives. Sometimes they’d be named for someone who wasn’t a relative but was important to the family, such as an employer, a doctor, the minister of the kirk, etc.

If the person you were named after had the same surname as you, you didn’t get a middle name. If they had a different surname, you got their surname as your middle name.

This can be helpful in working out where a family belongs on the tree, but it wasn’t slavishly followed by everyone. It started going out of fashion towards the end of the 19th century, and if my family tree is anything to go by was well and truly out of fashion after WW1.

There are always anomalies, though. Now and again my Fraser ancestors named girls after male relatives, hence Williamina and Alexandrina. Sometimes they completely bucked the pattern and gave their children an unexpected name: I’ve yet to discover why Henrietta Susan Hutchison born in 1868, daughter of an Aberdeenshire crofter and tailor, was given a name that was so unusual for the time and place. And the two Sangster sisters who married and had children in the early 1800s must have been fans of their local doctor – hence Nathaniel Laurence Morgan and Nathaniel McWilliam being born within five years of each other.

You can have fun with this working out what you could have been called, or could have called your own children. I would have been Clara Green Strachan, so I’m not too unhappy my parents didn’t bother with it.