I’ve always known that one source on its own is not as compelling as a number of sources which all back each other up. However, I’ve just had that very strongly illustrated to me today as I processed a record for one gentleman who lived in Unst in the 1800s.
As part of my complete Unst Family Tree, I’m gradually working my way through all the statutory records. The record today was a death record from 1855 – the year that statutory records began in Scotland (before that you had Old Parish Records which didn’t have as much detail in them).
In 1855, statutory death records listed all the persons issue in order of birth – after 1855 they reworked the records, and no longer included this information. This particular record had nine children listed, but the scrawly handwriting combined with a slightly faded image made them somewhat difficult to read (I’ve written about problems reading old handwriting before).
Before I processed his death record, I only knew of two of his children, James and Charlotte, because they are living with him in 1841 – although given the way 1841 census records were taken, their relationship was only a guess. Rather than making me disheartened that I couldn’t discover all the children, the quality of the record instead just made me more determined to figure out the children’s names.
In building my tree I make use of all sorts of records. I like to back everything up by seeing the actual records (or photos of them) and not just rely on transcriptions others have made, but some of these online transcriptions are extremely useful for searching. One online resource I use https://familysearch.org/hr/search, allows you to search for records based on parentage, so my first step in solving this one was to go there. I can just about read from the scrawly handwriting that the ages of the children in 1855 range from 46 to perhaps 25. I also remember that in Old Parish Birth and Baptism Records, generally only the father was recorded and not the mother, and I will hazard a guess that they were all born in Unst, since their father has lived in Quoyhouse, Unst for 48 years according to his death record. This search resulted in 12 children, but I know I’m only looking for nine of them, so clearly there is more than one Eramus Bruce living in Unst at the time.
From the ages in the scrawl and this search I am able to pick out the children of this Erasmus, and then as a final check, I also find a number of these children’s own death records to double check their parents are Eramus Bruce and his wife Catherine Arthur. There are definitely a number of “So that’s what that scrawl says”, thoughts going through my head, as I pick out the most likely birth dates from the search results of children.
Here’s the final set of all nine children. Could you tell that this is what the scrawl above said? Me neither!