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Happy New Year – and some genealogy resolutions

Happy New Year image

Happy New Year for 2017. I hope it will be a healthy and fulfilling year for you with many new family history discoveries. I certainly have a few targets for 2017. They include:

  • Developing my knowledge of genealogical sources in other European countries. I’ve done some work on Italy this year and have found it fascinating. A good chance to use my language skills too. French and Welsh are my main languages and I have very basic German and Italian (reading and some writing).
  • More work on sources for merchant seamen – there are lots of them in my one-place study area. Among other things, these records sometimes provide a date of birth where no baptism record survives.
  • Going back further on one of my own maternal lines. This line owned a very small estate so land records should help and there may be a “pedigree” online, a very unusual occurrence for me as most of my ancestors were farmers, crofters and fishermen.
  • Tidying up some of my own very early research. The facts are correct but the recording is not up to my current standards!! Likely to be a slog but the review of the one line I’ve tidied so far has been very worthwhile.

Do you have any family history resolutions for the new year?

More about New Year in Scotland

“I mind hid fine” – hearing granny’s stories again, some oral history

How often do you say, “How I wish I had listened more carefully to granny’s stories”? For “granny” substitute parents, grandad, great uncle, great aunt, and many others of the older generations. I certainly have a list of questions for several deceased relatives.

There are two stories where I don’t have to rely on my memory because BBC Radio Orkney, back in the 1980s, recorded my granny. She talked about a lifeboat rescue when she was six as well as the time she spotted a submarine early in WW1. My parents recorded those two short items off Radio Orkney, onto a cassette. Quite hi-tech in those days. No date on the cassette of course, but at least we have it.  You can listen to the recordings on this page.

But it’s not just the stories, it’s hearing granny’s voice again too. As the recording was for the radio, she spoke “proper English”, some of the time.  There is clear Orkney intonation, often dialect with some typical expressions. The shipwreck took place on “a right coorsh night” (a very stormy night) in 1898. Over eighty years later, she could still say “I mind hid fine”.

I’m very grateful to Radio Orkney for recording granny and preserving that bit of my past. But it’s not only my past, for her memories and the way she spoke illuminate the history of her community too. That’s why I’ve made the recording available through my one-place study on North Walls and Brims. Local archives, including the Orkney Library and Archive, do and have done oral history work too. Scotland’s Rural Past has links to a few projects while Tobar an Dulchais/Kist o Riches has over 30,000 recordings. Check and see if there is anything that will fill out your granny’s stories.

A new fourth cousin…

A very overdue update on my last post where I talked about a big discovery thanks to Ancestry’s ‘shaky leaves’ hints.  Well I checked out the records cited, the research seemed correct and I made contact with the owner of the tree on Ancestry. He is my fourth cousin, a descendant of Jean, sister of my great great grandmother, Barbara Sinclair. Jean immigrated to Australia with her father, Thomas Sinclair, step-mother and half siblings in the 1850s. She and Barbara wrote to each other and swapped photographs over many years it seems. The photographs and letters have not survived house clearances in Orkney sadly. But my newly-discovered fourth cousin in Australia has shared some wonderful photographs as well as a lot of information. (What’s a fourth cousin? Check foot of page)


This is my favourite photo. ItPhoto of x2 great grandparents and 2 youngest daughters shows my great great grandmother, Barbara Millar Sinclair (1826-1914), my great great grandfather, Nicol Slater (1820-1875) and their two youngest daughters, Catherine, Mrs Andrew Robertson, (1865-1945) and Barbara, Mrs Thomas Clouston, (1869-1961).  It is the first photo of Nicol I have ever seen, so I am thrilled. I have a photo of Barbara, his wife, as an old woman, but what stuns me about this one is that my uncle is so like her. We have always thought that “he takes after his father’s side”. There is no copy in Orkney as far as I know yet the photo sent to Barbara’s sister Jean thousands of miles away in Australia back in the 1870s has been preserved. And it seems there may be another in the USA, probably sent to Nicol Slater’s cousin William Slater who also  immigrated.

So, yes, Ancestry shaky leaf hints can be very worthwhile so long as you and your contact have both done your research well. I’ve been sending photos and other information to Australia too for these things should never be one-way. I am reluctant to share much with people who give little or nothing in return. Generally, I’ve found third, and now, fourth, cousins to be great contacts.

Fourth cousin: we share great great great grandparents – Thomas Sinclair is our mutual x3 great grandfather. First cousins share grandparents, second cousins share great grandparents, third cousins share great great grandparents)

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