Complete Unst Tree – How’s it going?

The numbers of people/records attached to my Unst Tree as of May 2014

The numbers of people/records attached to my Unst Tree as of May 2014

A few people have asked me how my project to produce a complete Unst Family Tree is going. It is well over a year now since I created this blog and wrote the initial post about my idea to produce it, perhaps the time is overdue for a little update.

A year ago I was amazed to report in that initial post that I had a tree with 5000 people on it. That number has just kept increasing and is now over 8000.

My general process

I try to make sure when I locate a new person in the records, I follow them, and their family backwards and forwards in time, locating their parents and siblings and following all those people backwards and forwards in time too. This means that whenever I find another record mentioning them, I’ve already done most of the legwork for it.

How have I been finding people to add to the tree?

Applying Marriage Records going forwards in time, and Census Returns going back in time will soon meet in the middle

Marriage Records (going forward from 1855), meet with Census Returns (going back from 1911)

I’ve been approaching it from a couple of different angles, if only not to completely bore myself with doing the exact same thing for months at a time! Having started with an ad hoc model that just followed certain branches back through the census (mainly my own family’s branches to start with) I am now being more methodical and working through each entry on each page of the census to make sure I have found everyone. So far I have completed the 1911 and 1901 census returns in this way and I’m about half way through the 1891 census returns. So this approach is working back through time.

I’m also working on statutory records, first of all the marriage records, my reasoning being that these records help to pull together people that otherwise you didn’t realise were the same person. For example, you have a wife and her husband in the census, but you don’t know her maiden name, and in another place in the tree you have a child and her parents from an earlier census return and then she just disappears off the face of the planet. Turns out they are the same person when you find the marriage record. I’m processing these records forward in time from 1855 (when statutory records started to be recorded) and I’m up to nearly 1880.

Soon (I hope) these two approaches will combine and the processing will get faster because I will have already filled in as much as I can about the person in the next marriage record through already finding them in a census return. At the moment, about half of the records are like that and half throw up new people that I must follow through the records.

What happens next

Once I know I have found all the people who the statutory records (and Old Parish Records which go back even further) and census returns have recorded to have lived in Unst for some part of their lives, then I’m on to the next stage. This is to start applying other documents to the tree, such as almanacs, the Napier Commission interviews, Crofter Commission reports, newspaper stories, and any other documents that mention ordinary people on Unst.

These sorts of documents don’t give as much evidence about the specifics of a person, you might get a name and an age, or a name and a place. However, with a complete view of all the people on the island at the time of the document, I have a better chance of identifying exactly the right person without wondering whether it is actually another person of that name being referred to.

Sometimes I do wonder whether I have a rather bigger project than I originally envisaged. However, I am still enjoying the process of going through these records and finding the people, so while it is still fun, I will keep on trucking.

4 thoughts on “Complete Unst Tree – How’s it going?

  1. I think you’re going about it the right way. I start with birth and marriage certificates for the people I have definite information on. Then from there I use the US Federal and New York State Census records. Once the individuals are properly placed and a farily good file of facts is in place the research can go even deeper. It’s very exciting to research ancestors in the local news publications and know that what you find is really about your relative.

    • I have to be strict with myself because I’m so keen to get onto that next stage, but it can only work with a good base of facts, so first things first!

  2. Hi, my name is Paul Hughson, and my grandfather was apparently from Unst! His name was James Hughson…. would be great if you could get in touch! Paul.

    • Hi Paul, Great to hear from you. I suspect we are cousins! Can you tell me a few details? I have several James Hughson in my tree. One, who was born in 1802, is my 3rd great-grandfather.

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