Another unusual middle name

I’ve written before about where interesting middle names come from.

Another gentleman I’ve written about before, William Parsonson Anderson, has a – very helpfully – unusual middle name. I was chatting to a cousin today about naming conventions and the like, and he came up, and I had entirely forgotten that I did actually know where his name came from, so to stop me forgetting again, I thought I would make a small post about that too. One more for the unusual names set!

It’s quite simple, and just like an earlier example, as it appears that he was named after the minister who baptised him. It also illustrates a good reason to view the original records rather than just the transcriptions provided by various genealogy websites.

Here’s the transcription from Ancestry:-

Name: William Parsonson Anderson
Gender: Male
Age: 0
Birth Date: 11 Nov 1847
Baptism Date: 21 Nov 1847
Baptism Place: Unst,Shetland,Scotland
Father: William Anderson
Mother: Charlotte Russel

And here’s my own transcription from seeing the original record.

1847 Register of Births
No 37
21 Dec
1854
William Anderson & Charlotte Russel in Trohall had a lawful Son born 11 Novr. Bapt 21 Nov in Methodist Chapel by Revd William Parsonson named William Parsonson.

The other thing to note here, is that, although this record is on a page with heading 1847, the date this record says it was registered is 21 Dec 1854. Does this mean that the baptism was registered exactly 7 years and 1 month after it happened? Or is this more likely to be a scribe error. This is from a volume that was a “Copy or Duplicate” of the original register. It is possible that in making the copy, they tried to re-order some out of order entries and in the process messed up the dates?

The original volume has a gap from near the end of 1849 (last entry is October) and then the next page starts in 1854. There is no sign of this baptism entry in the original volume, either in the pages for 1847, or in the pages from 1854 onwards. From census records I know William to have been born before 1851, so the 1854 date is clearly rubbish. He is aged 1 in the 1851 census, suggesting a birth year of late 1849 (given I believe the day and month, just not the year from the above record). And in fact, his age is consistent in every single census entry up to, and including, 1911. This would put him squarely on the missing page in the original register. So I’m inclined to think he was born on 11 November 1849. However, it is rather hard to prove!

Once upon a time

Once upon a time

Once upon a time, on a faraway island,

There lived two little girls.

They were safe on their little island,

And could explore and roam the hills and shore.

There were very few cars in those days, so they walked everywhere.

One day, they walked with their mother

As they often did, across the island to visit their grandad.

While their mother talked with her family,

They would roam about the croft, explore and play.

Sometimes, they were allowed

To climb the stairway to the upper rooms.

There, in their grandaunts room,

Under the sloping coomb ceilings,

Were the kists (wooden chests).

Lifting the lid of a kist, they found her hats,

Chapel hats, black or navy blue, and try them on.

Finally, when the visit was over, they would set out to walk the long 4 mile walk home.

Past the fields with sheep, stopping next to talk to the Shetland ponies,

Looking out for seals on the rocks along the shore.

Then, they came to the long steep slope of wearisome hill,

Daunting to their tired little legs.

But then, the sound of something approaching.

Was it a knight in shining armour?

Was it a hero with a carriage and horses?

No., it was a wee Glaswegian fellow,

From the local air force station, in a land rover.

“Wid ye like a lift hen?” he asked their mother.

They were convulsed with laughter at the idea of their mother being addressed as “hen”.

But oh, they were mightily glad of the hero, in unlikely guise,

In his land rover, giving them a lift home.

What kind of cousin?

What kind of cousin?

Question on Facebook which prompted this post

I’m a member of various genealogy Facebook groups and one of the questions that seems to crop up often is about cousins and once/twice removed etc.

A couple of days ago I saw this question posted on Facebook and it occurred to me that her picture was just the same way I draw things out when I am trying to work out how I am related to someone.

What tends to happen is I’ll be sent a snippet of someone’s lineage back to an Unst person that I can find in my tree, or the statement, “so-and-so was my great-grandfather”. Once I can find that person in my tree I follow back through their parentage until I come to the common ancestor between us (more on that later).

Now on my whiteboard or a piece of paper I draw out the two lines down from the common ancestor, trying to keep the generations neatly lined up.

Finally, I add in the relationship markers. The first generation down from the common ancestor were siblings, the next generation were first cousins and so on.

In many of the recent examples when I have done this, the new contact is an nth-cousin to one of my parents and so is an nth-cousin once-removed to me.

Once Removed Cousins

If you’ve been doing genealogy for a little while, you’re bound to have come across this term, but do you know what it means?

Once-removed means that you are not in the same generation at the person you are related to. In the chart above, my new contact was a fourth cousin to my parent. So they are not in the same generation as me, they are in my parents generation. Their relationship to me is then the same as for my parent but “once removed”. If I was two generations away, it would be “twice-removed” and so on.

Their children and me would be in the same generation, and we would be fifth cousins.

Finding the common ancestor

In order to start drawing out this little chart, first I need to find the common ancestor. If you are an Ancestry.com user, then this is very easy. I’m sure other family tree making software does something similar. As I said earlier, usually I am given the name of an ancestor that is how they have their Unst connection. I find that person in my family tree and then walk back through the parents until I get to a person who is a direct line back from me. So I am looking for the relationship to say “nth great-grandfather”, rather than “nth great-granduncle” or “wife of …”.


Do you have Unst ancestry? Do you think we might be related? Let’s test out that theory. Please feel free to get in touch in a comment below, or via my contact page for a private discussion.

Tracking Joan Anderson

Tracking Joan Anderson

I’ve done quite a lot of research of families in Unst, but I have not yet spent time researching the branches that left Unst and went out into the new world to places like New Zealand. I had the opportunity to look into one of these today. It was prompted by a New Zealand cousin getting in touch via a Facebook group.

From my Unst research, I only knew about two of Gilbert and Anne’s children

I knew of her great-grandfather Gilbert Anderson because he was born in Unst. He and his wife and two daughters were marked in my tree as having gone to NZ but I hadn’t looked into it further. From my Unst research, I just knew the family looked as the tree shown on the right.

Her grandfather William was born in 1878 in New Zealand. Looking in the Bayanne site, there was also another sibling, Joan, that was in Bayanne as having been born in New Zealand also in 1878. I have been learning more about doing New Zealand research since I live in New Zealand now, and volunteer at the library to help out people doing their genealogy. So I decided to try out my new found NZ research skills and see if I could find both William and Joan in NZ Historical BDMs. I found William Anderson, born 30 Oct 1878 to Gilbert and Ann, but no sign of Joan.

One of the other resources that I had learned about but not really made use of yet, was travel records. I had filed away in my head that I would at some stage try and find all the travel records for Unst families who left and went elsewhere. So I tried that out today with this family. FamilySearch has lots of travel records, so that’s where I looked, and I found Gilbert and his family. They came over with Assisted Emigration on the ship Howrah leaving from Gravesend on 29th July 1876. Here they are:-

Gilbert Anderson and his family on the passenger list of the Howrah. Here we see Joan as an infant.

As you can see, Joan is listed as an 8-month old infant in this passenger list. So clearly she was not born in New Zealand, but was born before they set off. However, I was 100% certain that she was not born in Unst. So where was she born? Next step was to use the free index in Scotland’s People, to see how many possibilities there were. This gleans a short list of four possibilities.

The Scotland’s People results for Joan

I considered that the Leith result in this list was the most likely record since I know lots of Unst families went to Leith, and it seemed a common staging post on the way to boarding a boat to the new world, so I decided to purchase the record, and indeed that is her. She was born 23 Jul 1875 (so in fact she has just turned 1 year old when she leaves on the Howrah), to parents Gilbert Anderson, Firewood Merchant, and Ann Anderson M.S. Johnson, with a marriage on 1867, Nov 1st Unst, Shetland (correct date, wrong year, they were actually married in 1866 on 1st Nov). Still, it is definitely the correct family, they just don’t appear to be very good with dates!!

So, now I have a slightly updated view of this family and their children.

Gilbert Anderson and his family in New Zealand

P.S. I have submitted suggestions to the Bayanne site to correct Joan’s Birthdate and Birthplace, and to correct William’s birth month.

P.P.S. Gilbert Anderson was a brother to William Parsonson Anderson that I wrote about here.

Family History Month 2021

Family History Month 2021

Family History Month 2021August is Family History Month (in New Zealand anyway) and my contributions expanded this year from previous years. Last week was particularly filled with Family History events.

On Tuesday we had our usual 2nd-Tuesday-of-the-month Drop-in session from 10-12noon in the Tauranga Library, but before hand we had a session with the librarians before the library even opened, as they had lots of questions that they wanted us, the volunteers, to help them with so know how to help people who come into the library.

Then on Thursday I was over the hill at the Rotorua Library giving a presentation on Scottish Genealogical Research.

Researching your Scottish Ancestors

We are very pleased to have Morag Hughson speaking about researching your Scottish ancestors.
Which records should I use? Where do I find them? What is in them and should I pay for them?
Morag has considerable experience on this topic and is keen to share her journey and advice to others who have Scottish ancestry. This talk will be held in the Community Pride Space on the Ground Floor of the Library on Thursday 12 August at 12:15pm.

This presentation was a comparison of the main sources for Scottish records and what you can see of the records in each. Ancestry, Find My Fast, and Family Search which are all free to use if you make use of your local library, and Scotland’s People which is a pay-per-record site. Some transcriptions in the free-to-use sites are enough to mean there is little point most of the time in buying the image from Scotland’s People. But for other records, there is so much more to the original record that you can see when you buy the image. The presentation showed the differences and where it was worth spending your money versus where there was little to gain.

The Rotorua Library Facebook page posted some photos of the event, including the one below.

A PDF of the slides and notes can be viewed and downloaded from here.

Morag at Rotorua Library

Morag speaking at the Rotorua Library in Family History Month

Then on Saturday, I was back in one of my local libraries, Papamoa, giving another talk about Scottish Genealogical Research. This time focusing on how to use the Scotland’s People website, with a flavour of the earlier talk since I include advice for when to buy and when not to buy.

Family History Talks at Pāpāmoa Library

Join us for a morning of family history discovery with our two guest speakers: Elinor Rawlings and Morag Hughson.

Elinor will share her own story while giving a broad introduction to the “where to go and what to do” of family history research. This session will introduce new people to the world of family history and genealogy research, offering a quick look at the difference between the two concepts and a peek at the range of places that are free to research and are a great place to start.

Morag Hughson will discuss useful ways to discover more about your Scottish ancestry. The Scotland’s People website is the only place you can see the images of Scottish records such as Old Parish Records and Statutory Records (which provide you with dates for births, baptisms, marriages and death) and Scottish Census returns where you can learn about the familial relationships of people who lived in the same households and start to put together a picture of your ancestral families. Scotland’s People is a pay-per-records website and you can find yourself spending a lot of money. In this presentation we will look at the Scotland’s People website search facilities and discuss when it is prudent not to spend money on the website and look elsewhere for transcriptions.

Tea/coffee and biscuits available. Free. Registration required.

Pāpāmoa Library, Saturday, 14 August from 10am-12noon

A PDF of the slides and notes can be viewed and downloaded from here.

Morag at Papamoa Library

Morag speaking at the Papamoa Library in Family History Month

All in all, while busy, it was a great week. Especially now looking back as today we have just gone into full Lockdown as Delta-variant COVID-19 has made it into the community in NZ.

Three Generations of Weddings

Three Generations of Weddings

A wedding in the 1900s

My grandparents were married in 1908, and there are no photos from their wedding, but here are their photos.

Robert lived with his parents in Uphouse, the family croft house. My mother talked about what she had heard about her parents wedding. She remembered that they cleared all the furniture out of the house (a small two room Shetland croft house) into the barn. They left the sturdy kitchen dresser for the fiddler to sit on!

The wedding took place in the nearby chapel and the guests would then walk down to the reception in the house. Looking at the bill from the local shop, it seems that they paid a lot for the wedding. Given that the house was so small, I wonder if folk from the community stayed briefly for a dram of whiskey and then left. There were certainly big amounts of whisky used at the event!

The wedding bill

Family and close friends would maybe then stay on and be fed and dance to the fiddle tunes.

A wedding in the 1940s

Mary and John Gray

My mother’s wedding took place in the same chapel, from the same house, Uphouse in Clibberswick, in the Haroldswick area of Unst. They were able to use a barn owned by relatives, and have tables set for folk to be fed. Since she was trained as a cook by this time, I am sure she had a hand in the catering for the wedding reception.

A wedding in the 1970s

Alastair and Rhoda Hughson

My wedding reception was held, as was the custom 50 years ago in Unst, at the local community hall. The venue was booked, trestle tables and benches for seating were set up. The bride went round and asked various ladies to be hostesses. These ladies came to the hall the evening before the wedding bringing enough crockery and cutlery for a table of 10 or 12 people. They set the table with white tablecloths, their fine crockery, and plates and cake stands. They were given flour and asked to make bannocks. The bride’s family supplied the meat, salad etc, and home bakes. My mother, a neighbour and I did home bakes for the 100 guests.

After the wedding in the local church, the guests gathered and were fed, then the tables were cleared away and the dancing began with a band of musicians playing on fiddle and accordion. As always, it started with the bridal march.

So, that was three generations of weddings in our family. Customs change and evolve with each generation doing things slightly differently, and so it will continue!

Gold Miner in New Zealand

Gold Miner in New Zealand

One cousin in my tree, William Parsonson Anderson, I had no idea where he was during the 1871 census. A timeline for him simply had a gap. Then today, when I brought up one of the records I had already attached to him in Ancestry, there was a suggested record for the same name in New Zealand.

His name is somewhat unusual. Parsonson is not a common Unst name. He appears to have been named after the minister who baptised him who was called William Parsonson. This combination of names therefore make you feel it is likely to be the same person when you find another record with the same name.

Before today, I knew when he was born, and had found him in the 1851, 1861 and 1881 census. I also know that he got married in 1878 in Unst, and his occupation on the marriage record is stated as Goldminer. Although married in 1878, unusually, their first child was not born until 1883.

So my questions about him were:-

  • Where was he in 1871?
  • Why did this couple not have children for 5 years after being married?

I found a man with the same name living in Sowburn, Otago in New Zealand, recorded as a miner, in an 1880 Electoral roll, and also in the same region in 1871. If this is the same man as my Unst-born cousin, it would answer both the above questions with “he was in New Zealand”. It would also suggest that he went to New Zealand sometime between 1861 and 1871; came back before 1878 and got married; went out again after that; and came back again before 1881 – possibly before, or because, his father died in late 1880.

Sowburn, Otago is now called Patearoa. It is a small settlement in the heart of the Maniototo Plain that is a rural farming community that has links going back to a gold rush in the 1860’s. The location he lived in New Zealand and the occupations listed on various records, suggest he went to New Zealand for the gold rush.

Also, he is one of the few people in my Unst tree from this era that had a will. When he died in 1918, he left his wife £573. 12s. 5d. suggesting he was successful in his foray in gold mining.

Unst Population Changes

Unst Population Changes

I was recently asked how the population of the island of Unst has changed over time, and since I couldn’t find a place online which pulled together all the numbers, I thought I would write it myself.

Unst Population Graph

These numbers come from a variety of sources. Open the twisty below to see the data and the sources.

Unst Population numbers and Sources
Year Population
Total
Source
1755 1368 Webster’s Census (see page 113 of the PDF)
1780 1853 Statistical Accounts of Scotland, OSA, Vol V, 1793
1790 or 91 1988 Statistical Accounts of Scotland, OSA, Vol V, 1793 and NSA, Vol XV, 1845
1801 2259 1884-1885 – Ordnance gazetteer of Scotland > Volume 6
1831 2909 Statistical Accounts of Scotland, NSA, Vol XV, 1845, and 1884-1885 – Ordnance gazetteer of Scotland > Volume 6
1841 2828 Totals from 9 x Census Enumeration booklet summary pages
1851 2976 Totals from 9 x Census Enumeration booklet summary pages
1861 3060 Totals from individual census pages, as no summary pages, and 1884-1885 – Ordnance gazetteer of Scotland > Volume 6
1871 2780 Totals from individual census pages, as no summary pages, and 1884-1885 – Ordnance gazetteer of Scotland > Volume 6
1881 2181 Totals from 5 x Census Enumeration booklet summary pages, and 1884-1885 – Ordnance gazetteer of Scotland > Volume 6
1891 2014 (+ 225 people in Herring Fishing Stations) Totals from 5 x Census Enumeration booklet summary pages
1901 1867 Totals from 5 x Census Enumeration booklet summary pages
1911 1828 Totals from 5 x Census Enumeration booklet summary pages
1921 1568 Reduction from 1911 detailed in Preliminary Report of the thirteenth Census of Scotland 1921 [*]
1931 1341 A Vision of Britain through time [*]
1951 1112 A Vision of Britain through time [*]
1961 1148 or 1151 Gazetteer for Scotland and A Vision of Britain through time [*]
1971 1124 Gazetteer for Scotland
1981 1140 Gazetteer for Scotland
1991 1055 Scotland’s Census 1991 – National Records of Scotland via Scotland’s Census website
2001 720 Statistical Bulletin on 2011 Census
2011 632 Statistical Bulletin on 2011 Census


[*] This work is based on data provided through www.VisionofBritain.org.uk and uses historical material which is copyright of the Great Britain Historical GIS Project and the University of Portsmouth


The lower numbers in the early years in the graph are attributed, in the Statistical Accounts of 1845, to two bouts of small pox.

In 1729, and again in 1740, the small-pox appears in Zetland in such a virulent form, and made such havock, almost depopulating some districts, that they are yet spoken of under the name of the mortal pox. Accordingly, we find, that, subsequent to that time, the population was very low; for, in the year 1755, it consisted only of 1368 souls. From that period, the increase has been steady and rapid.

Vaccination, which has been resorted to ever since the year 1800, may be assigned as one cause of this great increase. Another cause may be found in the very favourable seasons this country has enjoyed during the last thirty years. There has been no failure of crops; the fishing has been successful; and trade has greatly improved.

and in the earlier Statistical Accounts of 1793, a similar comment is made against the population numbers.

If the numbers have increased, however, within these last 30 or 40 years, it is owing chiefly to the introduction of inoculation for the small pox. For more than 100 years past, this epidemical distemper used to visit the island nearly every 20 years, and to carry off, with the rage of a pestilence, great numbers of all ages. In 1770, inoculation became general here among all ranks. In 1783, a general inoculation was repeated through the parish with the most flattering success.

In the years 1740, 1766, and 1783, excessive scarcity was felt here. But even in those periods of famine, none are known to have absolutely died for want.

The steep decline seen after the 1861 census peak is as a result of large numbers leaving. This was due to a number of factors, but evictions of tenants from crofts to create larger sheep farms was one factor; also the pull of the new world, such as New Zealand, (a very large Shetland population went to New Zealand), Australia, Canada and the United States. This article, “Finding a place”, will be of interest to anyone curious about emigration patterns. My own great-great-grandmother was evicted from their croft at Clugan as I wrote about before.

The population of Unst received a boost from 1957 through to 2006 when the RAF Saxa Ford radar station was installed and manned. At the height of the Cold War, more than 300 personnel were based at Saxa Vord, with hundreds of knock-on jobs for islanders.

The next census will be taken in 2022. I wonder what the population count will be then. Will the Unst Space Station make a similar change to the population that the RAF base did in earlier decades?