Spelling of Place Names

I was prompted to write this post after I saw these two tweets.

I have recently got myself a copy of TNG to work with privately (some time in the future I intend to get all my research online using it) and one of the features I am very taken with is the ability to view all your place names used in the various facts attached to each person in your tree. I was aware that there were different spellings of many of the place names in Unst throughout the records, but until I started to use TNG I couldn’t see the extent of differences.

It’s allowing me to easily normalise the spellings I use throughout my tree so that it is clear when the same place is being named. I knew a time would come when this normalisation task would need to be done, and I had originally imagined that I would choose the spelling of place names based on those used on maps. However, now that I’ve come to actually do the task, I have made a different decision.

I have found with a number of the place names that I have started looking at, that the most commonly used spelling is not the same as the one on the maps, and I have decided that it is more appropriate to use the most commonly used spelling as written by a local – all census enumerators were local men – rather than the spelling on a map created by outsiders to the area.

In normalising the place names I don’t intend to throw away all the other spellings, they will be kept as alternate spellings against each place name.

Here are a few examples of the place names that I’ve seen multiple spellings for through the various records for Unst, with an asterisk marking the chosen spelling.

Map of Petester

Map showing the houses of Petester. Click on the map to go to the zoom-able version on NLS the website

Spellings
Petester
Petister *
Pettister
Spellings
Feall
Feal *
Phael
Phail
Phaill
Pheal *
Pheall
Phiall
Fjeal
Map of Feall

Map showing the houses of Feall. Click on the map to go to the zoom-able version on NLS the website

Muriscoe

Map showing Murrasko. Click on the map to go to the zoom-able version on NLS the website

Spellings
Mooraskoe
Muirescoe
Muirskoe
Mures Coe
Muriascoe
Murris Coe
Murrisgio
No strong favourite. Different in every document!

Furniture and memories

Looking around my home recently, shifting furniture around, I started to think about where various pieces of furniture had come from.

Polished wooden table

My old polished wooden table, that now stands in my living room

I really like my old table that came from my Grandfather’s home in Clibberswick, Unst.

I remember as a child, the croft house where my mother grew up and our visits there as children.

My mother and family

My mother (far right) and her family standing outside Uphouse , Clibberswick

We used to walk across on a Saturday to see them, quite a long walk for us as small children..

The house was a two up two down crofter’s home, with coom ceilings (sloping ceilings because of the lack of height) upstairs. The stair was very steep, almost like a ladder, since the house was not that wide.

American Stove

Example picture of an American Stove

They had a low black “American” stove with small ovens at each side.

This was a big improvement on the open fire for cooking (see picture below).

Croft House Museum, Shetland

The Shetland Croft House Musuem shows an open fire for cooking on

A big improvement also by then was to “have the water in”.

They had a tap in a window recess. This was a huge improvement on having to fetch every drop of water used by the household from the well.

Robbie Anderson fetching water

My grandfather Robbie fetching water from the well

I remember the “ben” room, the best room, as opposed to the kitchen/living room where the life of the house went on.

In that room there was the table I now have in my home.

Where did they acquire that from?

Perhaps it came from some sale locally from one of the “big” houses.

It dominated the ben room of the small croft house, but obviously they loved it and polished it and entertained important visitors there.

I used to like, as a child, going underneath the table to polish the table leg. The fancy carved sections fascinated me.

fancy table leg

The fancy carved legs under my table

It came to my parent’s home and finally to mine.

I love it and treasure the memories that come with it of childhood and my mother’s folk.

Always check the real records

Transcribed records, provided by the various online genealogy websites are all very well, but part of your research should include checking the actual record image as well. For English records you may well be lucky enough to do this at the same time, and on the same website as the transcribed version, but for Scottish records you have to get them separately from Scotland’s People.

I had a recent person I was looking into that illustrated, again, to me, that it’s always important to look at the real records.

This lady was recorded as living in a house called Garden, in both the 1901 and 1911 census, and the transcription of the 1901 census said she was born in “North Unst”. That was in itself slightly unusual because most people recorded in Unst census returns have their place of birth recorded simply as “Unst”, without it being broken down any further. This is in contrast to the neighbouring island of Yell where birth places are broken down into “North Yell”, “Mid Yell” and “South Yell” because the island itself is not a single parish, and thus not a single registration area, unlike Unst which is.

When I found this lady’s birth record, it showed she was born in Garden, Unst. Not a surprise since this is where her parents, and later she, also lived.

Now there are two houses called Garden in Unst, one in Colvadale, and one in Snarravoe, neither of which I would consider to be in North Unst! See map for the two locations.

So, I brought up the actual 1901 census record, and it doesn’t say North Unst at all! It just says Unst. It would seem that the transcriber’s eye has been pulled offline to the record below her which records someone born in “North Yell”.

1901 Census

ROAD, STREET, &c.,
and No. or NAME of
HOUSE.
NAME and Surname of each
Person.
RELATION
to Head of
Family
CONDITION
as to
Marriage
AGE
(last Birthday)
WHERE BORN
Males Females
Garden Thomas Irvine Head Mar 34 Shetland, Whalsay
Janet Irvine Wife Mar 41 Do North Yell
Williamina Irvine Daur 10 Shetland, Unst
Thomasina Do Daur 5 Do Do
Andrina Williamsom Sister in law S 53 Do North Yell
Cathrine Do Do S 45 Do Do

So, remember it’s always worth checking!

Second Genealogy Group Presentation

Captain John Gray

Captain John Gray of the SS Great Britain

Last week at my local monthly genealogy group, I gave another presentation (the first one was a few months ago). This time my presentation was about John Gray, Captain of the SS Great Britain.

I’ve written a little about Captain John Gray before, and that post formed the basis of my presentation.

I added some of the quotes from the Bristol Museum webpage from various travellers who went on the SS Great Britain to Australia under the captain’s command. These quotes paint a picture of the man that you don’t normally have as a genealogist.

“Mr Gray is a very fine fellow with the most athletic proportions, a voice that can be heard above the storm and the most untiring energy”.

“the only fault I have to find with him is that he has such a strong hand with which he squeezes peoples fingers like a pair of pincers if that can be called a vice”

I also found that the first all-England cricket team to tour Australia travelled on the SS Great Britain in 1861 under John Gray’s command. Wikipedia even has a picture of them before they set off.

English Cricket Team 1861

English cricket team of 1861 just prior to departure for Australia.

It was a fun presentation to do, and the group seemed to really enjoy the various quotes.

Naming in remembrance

It is common to see children named after their grandparents in Scotland, and no doubt elsewhere in the world. I’ve seen many examples of it, but I came across one today that made me go, “Awww, how sweet.”

Jane Williamson was born to John Williamson and Susannah Spence, but Susannah died not long after she was born, and her dad remarried an Ursula Fraser, so Jane was brought up by her.

Jane marries Hosea Spence, and their first child is a daughter who they name Susanna Ursula Spence, which has to be named after her mother and her step-mother who brought her up.

Susanna Ursula Spence Tree

The Family Tree for Susanna Ursula Spence

Their second child, a son, was named after Hosea’s father, Thomas; their third after Jane’s father, John; and their fourth named James William was likely a nod to Hosea’s mother Williamina, as well as being named after his eldest brother.

Family History Month at my local Library

Family History MonthAugust is Family History month at my local library. After giving a presentation to my local genealogy group, a couple of the ladies there volunteered me to repeat the presentation during the Family History month event at the library. Today was the day that I gave the presentation.

I extended it a little from the first run, making it into three distinct sections.

Tauranga Library Speakers SeriesIt was a pleasantly informal event, with the projector and screen set up in the middle of the library in an area that is usually a small conversation area with some comfortable chairs (see photo below). There were a few questions at the end, and everyone seemed genuinely interested. One lady brought me a present of a Shetland dialect story book, “Da Peesterleeties an da Curse o da Njuggle” by Valerie Watt which was a lovely gesture.

Tauranga Library Presentation Area

A photo from another event showing where I was presenting in among the books
Photo courtesy of ARTbop

Almost…

Looking through the Statutory Death Records for Unst today, I came across this record. Normally the age of the deceased is recorded just with a number of years, except in the case of infant deaths which haven’t made it to one full year yet.

I get the impression in this case that her grand-nephew wanted to make sure it was known how close to 100 years she achieved.

No. Name and Surname.

Rank or Profession, and whether
Single, Married, or Widowed.
When and Where Died. Sex. Age. Signature & Qualification of Informant,
and Residence, if out of the House in
which the Death occurred.
11 Elizabeth
Sandison

Widow of Charles
Sandison

Fisherman

1899
February
Twenty sixth
4h 30m P.M.

Muness,
Unst

F 99
years
11 mo
25 days
Thomas Gifford
Sandison

Grand-nephew
Muness

While she and her family and friends may have celebrated had she reached 100, the telegrams from the monarch to congratulate a centenarian didn’t begin until 1917.

Elizabeth was born before the days of statutory birth records, so the only record of her early life is a baptism record for 10 Aug 1802. With this detailed age on her death record however, we can calculate her exact birth date to be 1 Mar 1799.