How can I help?

One of my aims with my work to create a complete Unst Family Tree is to be able to help out anyone stuck with their own Unst related ancestry. By being visible online (through this blog among other things) I have already had contact from, and helped out, a number of people who have traced their relations back to Unst folk.

I can’t claim to be being completely self-less in these endeavours because in each case both parties learn something. I can provide details about their Unst relations, and they can provide me details of where an Unst born person who moved away from the island ended up. I’d love to learn where all the Unst people ended up in the world. I know many went to Canada, U.S.A., Australia and New Zealand, but also in the U.K. many moved to Edinburgh, Leith, and Toxteth Park (undoubtedly related to the sea going industries from those places which would attract men with previous sea-going experience as Fisherman).

Here is a newspaper report published in the Zetland Times on 14th September 1874 about emigrating Unst people.

EMIGRATION.—Emigration from the islands to New Zealand is still being carried on, and almost every month a good many people leave to try their fortunes in this new field of industry. In the present state of matters in Shetland it is best that the labouring classes should leave the islands altogether than that being turned out of their crofts to make room for sheep farms, they should settle on wild moorland waster or on projecting points, and lead a life of—at the very best—semi-starvation, for the benefit of a few selfish lairds, whose short sighted policy will ultimately ruin themselves and the islands. On Thursday last about 100 emigrants left here for New Zealand by the “St Clair,” eighty of whom were from Unst. We understand that more are to follow shortly.

I’ve written a few blog posts as a result of these contacts:-

So if you’ve found a relation in your family tree from Unst, Shetland and would like some help, please get in touch. Eventually I will have all my research on a webpage but in the mean time I’m happy to help out in an ad hoc manner.

9 thoughts on “How can I help?

  1. it is so great that you are working on genealogy to fill in your family tree! i’ve done quite a bit of genealogy work myself, but no Unst line has shown up. you’re doing a great service with this! you probably already are aware, but if not, is a REALLY great resource for finding ancestors and historical records, and its FREE! good luck on your work!

  2. Morag the news that over 100 islanders are emigrating is so sad.
    We visited the outer Hebridese a few years ago and they had similar problems as I recall. They were trying to introduce policies where young families were encouraged to return to the islands
    All the best with your blog.

  3. I hope any contacts from the descendants of people from Unst turns into a wonderful learning experience for you. You’re right. These kinds of contacts always work both ways.

  4. Hi Morag,

    Thanks a lot for your great work on our Unst family!

    My great-great-grandparents and a whole lot of their siblings and cousins moved from Unst to New Zealand (via Leith, now part of Edinburgh) in the 1860s-70s. In case you’re interested, here is the Wikitree page for my great-great-grandfather. I’ve put a bit of info on here about the large group of Unst folk who came to NZ at that time.

    Anyway, I am trying to do a bit of research on this Unst family a few generations back. I am just wondering if you have any thoughts on the genealogical information in the book The County Families of the Shetland Islands by Francis J. Grant (1893)? I have found the info online here and it has a bunch of my apparent ancestors on it. I’m wondering if you consider it reliable info?

    Caleb Day

    • Hi Caleb, Yes, I would could that as a useful resource which can allow you to go a little bit further than the surviving Old Parish Records. There is a copy of it here: which means it is also searchable which is great. Use the search in the top LEFT, not the top right, in order to search the book text.

      I would add that I think it was probably written by asking people and thus some of it is “from memory” and thus not 100% accurate. For example, looking through for some people I had already researched and had dates from the records for, I compare the family of Barclay on page 10. There it shows Mary Barclay as the first born of Rev James Barclay. It says she died 9th Feb 1859, where in fact her death is registered as the 19th Feb. It said she married the Rev James Ingram on 18th Sep 1803, where in fact their marriage is registered as 27th Sep. So I guess it is there and there-abouts.

Morag would love to hear what you think. Leave a comment here.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.