I’ve been researching family history for some time now, and recently I began to wonder about writing up what I’ve found so far. I have notes and fragments of research scattered all over the place, odd chapters I’ve written in a notebook, old photographs, my mother’s travel diaries and the basic facts recorded in a family history database. Oh, yes, and my Ancestry DNA results, a recent addition which shows that despite having been born in England I am more Scottish than the average Scot, something that my family tree also demonstrates.
There is nothing particularly famous or special about my family. I haven’t (yet) been able to link it to William the Conqueror, Charlemagne or Attila the Hun. Occasionally family members have featured in minor newspaper stories, but mostly they seem to have led quiet, unremarkable lives, worked in jobs that were typical for the time, and kept out of prison and the workhouse, although they do seem to have had slightly more than their share of lunatics.
I’ve had to go back to 1800 to find an ancestor who wasn’t born in Scotland, and some of the families involved evidently stayed in the same area for hundreds of years. However their births and deaths cover more or less the whole of Scotland, from Helmsdale in Sutherland to Port William in Kirkcudbrightshire, and from Kilmartin in Argyll to Elie in Fife. This makes it easier in many ways to trace basic family records, since most of them are to be found on the Scotland’s People website.
However in some cases I’ve found it more productive either to look at records in a different form or to visit the places where people lived. For instance, looking at census records online you generally only see what you search for, whereas if you look at them on microfilm you see who lived next-door, and how many families with similar names lived nearby. If you go to a place such as Kilmartin, you see the carved rocks and many stone monuments and wonder if your stone-mason great-grandfather was descended from the people who made them. And of course there is nothing quite like having coffee and a scone in your great-great-grandmother’s kitchen, which has been turned into a tea-room!
When I add detail to this page I will include links to family history sites I’ve found useful. So if you are interested in Scottish family history please re-visit the page.
River Helmsdale, Sutherland