Of all the ancestral places I’ve visited, I probably feel most drawn to the area formerly known as Campsie, which is now officially in East Dunbartonshire but which used to be in Stirlingshire. This is partly because my ancestors on this side of the family were quite unknown to me until I started family history research about fifteen years ago, so they had the charm of novelty, so to speak, but also partly because I feel more in tune with the people on this branch than with some of the others. Now at last I know where I got the irresistible urge to get involved in the local community, something that suddenly came upon me, apparently from nowhere, in my forties and which persisted until I finally made an excuse, towards the end of last year, to wriggle out of something that had been wearing me down for a while. When I saw a notice in the ‘Kirkintilloch Herald’ for 1909 about my grandfather moving to Inverness, it actually included the information that he was secretary to the school board and to the bowling club. This also fits with a mention in my father’s obituary that he was at one time, as a young man, the secretary of the local dramatic society, something we had never suspected him of being interested in.
Upstairs window at Kincaid House Hotel
The place depicted above could possibly have been an actual ancestral haunt, if I even believed in ghosts, although it is much more likely my ancestors were a lot more humble than the people who lived here.
Some people think it’s only worth tracing ancestors if they were involved in really important or heroic activities, but in my experience there is something interesting about most families, if only you can find out what it is. This can be done to some extent by looking at the official records, which might show, for instance, that a mid 19th century ancestor was recorded as being in an HM customs boat off King’s Lynn on one of the census nights, or that all the children in a seagoing family were born at places round the British coast but in most cases not mentioned in the parish records, which suggests that they may have been born at sea. But you can usually gather a bit more background information by visiting the places where they lived and worked and died, and in some cases by consulting records and books in the local library, which is what I did on my holidays this past week. That’s more fruitful, however, if you can collect the basic facts and dates first.
The worst part of a holiday, of course, is returning to real life afterwards, but at least I have managed to distance myself slightly from the utter chaos that is the British political situation. I think sceptical fatalism is probably the way forward on this front! But on a positive note, I had time while away to work out where to go with my Camp NaNoWriMo, having written myself into a bit of a dead end in the first few days of the month. It’s now bowling along nicely (I hope), maybe not on a narrative motorway but at least on a B road that leads through some nice scenery.
At Clachan of Campsie