Blog carolling

Prompted by this blog post, I thought I would have a go at Blog Carolling.

Blog Caroling

My favourite Christmas Carol is “O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree”, but what I didn’t know was how many versions of the words there were!

The version I grew up singing went as follows:-

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas tree,
How lovely are thy branches!
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas tree,
How lovely are thy branches!
beauty green will always grow
Through summer sun and winter snow
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas tree,
How lovely are thy branches!

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas tree,
How fragrant are your branches!
When decked with candles once a year
You fill our hearts with Yuletide cheer.

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas tree,
You are the tree most loved!
How often you give us delight
In brightly shining Christmas light!

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas tree,
Your beauty green will teach me
That hope and love will ever be
The way to joy and peace for me.

But, as evident by the difficulty I had in finding a video of someone singing the version I knew, and then finally confirmed by this page, there are lots and lots of different versions of it.

To finish, here’s a cat video celebrating my favourite Christmas Carol.

Merry Christmas!


Ancestors who lived in 1900s

Prompted by this post by Janet Few, which challenged you to realise how many of your ancestors were actually alive in the 1900s, I decided to count.

Ancesters 1900s

My ancesters who lived in the 1900s

I have 29 ancestors who were alive in the 1900s, including two Great Great Great Grand-parents.

I also have photographs of all my Great Grand-parents, and three of my Great Great Grand-parents.

However, I do agree with the sentiment of Janet’s post; I think I spend much more of my research time in the 1800s than the 1900s!

How about you?

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

Petister *
Feal *
Pheal *
Map of Feall

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


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

Mures Coe
Murris Coe
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

and No. or NAME of
NAME and Surname of each
to Head of
as to
(last Birthday)
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.