Avatar for Wir Unst Family

I’ve had in my mind a design for a logo or avatar for My Family Tree work for a while. I expected I would use it on my website when that gets created at some future point, but in doing a Blogging course recently, we were challenged to make a Blavatar for our blog (which is essentially the same thing). So, I decided to see if I could translate the idea that’s been in my head for a good couple of years into something digital.

My idea was sparked by the main avatar icon used by the Unst Show Facebook page facebook, with a map of Unst and the writing over the top with the colours flipped. I decided when I saw that, that my icon would be a map of Unst with something tree related as the alternate image, instead of text.

Something tree related was of course because this is a family tree, but there aren’t a huge number of trees on Unst since the exposed landscape means they don’t grow well, unless you build a wall to shelter them. One famous Unst resident [1], Dr Laurence Edmondston, a renowned ornithologist, decided to prove that trees could grow in Unst, and planted a walled wood of mainly Sycamores at the side of his house, Halligarth, in the 1830s. These trees are now quite tall, at least by Shetland standards!

Sycamores probably are the best trees for growing in Unst, my grandmother had one in her garden too which I climbed in as a youngster, so any tree related symbol ought to have something to do with a sycamore.

So I’ve come up with two designs, one with a tree and one with a leaf over the map of Unst in both cases. I’d really like your feedback on my designs, so I’m making a poll for you to vote on. I’m not fixed on the colour schemes yet, so if you like a design but not the colours, vote on the design and leave me a comment about the colours.

Sycamore Tree based design

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Sycamore Leaf based design

Blavatar Leaf 256x256 Smaller Sizes
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Blavatar Leaf 96x96Blavatar Leaf 32x32Blavatar Leaf 16x16

[1] National Trust Document “Halligarth: The Home of a Naturalist”


Old Wives’ Tales

My ultimate aim for all my research on the Unst Family Tree is to get it online on a webpage for all to see and peruse. I hope to be able to allow visitors to the website to upload photos and stories about their relatives to enhance the story told about each member of the tree beyond just statutory records and such.

However this idea does have possible downsides. What do you do if two different people have contradictory stories about a person? Do you only show one? How do you know which one is correct? (Answer – probably never). My solution to this issue will be to have these stories published, “as told by …”. That way all stories can be shown and the reader is aware of the source. None are considered absolute fact (as they are stories with little or no documentary evidence) and yet none are banned due to being incorrect (which cannot be proven either).

To illustrate this, I’ve made up the following example. By made up I mean that all the people in this illustration, the story tellers and the family tree person are all fictitious.

Woman SymbolJessie Anderson
b. 4 Jun 1898 in Unst, Shetland
Married Peter Sandison on 27 May 1918
Had five children

Stories about Jessie…

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Story, as told by Ursula H.

I remember my aunty Robina telling us a story of how peerie Jessie was born with red hair and green eyes, but as she grew older, her eyes changed colour to brown and so did her hair.

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Story, as told by Margaret S.

My great-grandmother Jessie was born with blonde hair and blue eyes, but by the time she reached the age of 2, her hair was brown and so were her eyes.

Clearly, these two stories are contradictory, but to omit them both because a single fact cannot be gleaned from their contradictory accounts would be to remove some interesting information about little Jessie. There is certainly an interesting story behind here somewhere, it’s just that the exact details of what may be a family legend, have been lost in the mists of time. With the “as told by …” concept we can keep both.

I wish I could claim to have thought up this idea myself, but I read about the “as told by …” concept somewhere on the web a year or two ago. If you were the author of the idea, please get in touch so I can give you the appropriate credit in this post.

This post is written as a result of the Daily Prompt Agree to Disagree

If you enjoyed this post you may also be interested to read On Bursting Bubbles and a Lesson Learned Too Late on the About Those Ancestors blog which I also enjoy reading.

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.

Who am I? Why am I here?

While this may be a deep and meaningful philosophical question, I’m really only asking “Why am I here blogging?” I started this blog about two years ago and I post occasional musings when I think of something interesting, or at least that I think might be interesting, to write about.

To some extent, my blog was to document my progress on my Complete Unst Family Tree, but if that’s all I wanted, it would be a private journal, not a public blog. So, Why am I here?

Behind it all is a hope that I’m not the only one that would find this interesting. I know that family history is a huge business now with hundreds of thousands of people digging into their own history. I enjoy reading the blogs of other amateur genealogists and so I hope the same is true when others read mine. I know that there are common problems faced by those who try to follow their ancestors, and so writing about problems I find; strategies I use when searching for people; tools I come across; or just general hints may help others. To this end, when I write a post, I share it with Ancestry.co.uk facebook for other amateur genealogists to read. There may be other places I should share links too – all suggestions gratefully received.

I also am writing specifically about the family history of part of Shetland – Unst specifically, and there are people originally from Unst all over the world, who like to read a little bit about their distant home. Whether it is recognisable place-names with maps to peruse; photos of places they may recognise; or occupations that their ancestors may have had, I hope to spark memories of the Auld Rock to far-flung ex-Shetlanders. I very occaisionally share links to my posts in the Stories n Photos fae Unst Group facebook if I think it is of interest to non-genealogy people.

New Years ResolutionsSo I guess my target audience is other amateur genealogists and people with a Shetland connection. In the cases where a reader is both, then even better, but I hope some of my posts appeal to one or the other without the need for an overlap – otherwise it’s a much smaller set of people! For those readers who are interested in both, I share my posts with the Shetland Genealogy and Family History Group facebook.

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Morag, and I come from the island of Unst in the very North of Shetland – hence the blog name “Unst Morag”. I don’t live in Shetland anymore as I got a job further south, but I’ve always been interested in family history since I was a teenager. After years of not thinking about it, I got started again a couple of years ago, prodded to some extent by the plethora of TV adverts for Ancestry and a well-timed trip home to visit my parents in Unst where I fell upon the old paper family tree.

I’m starting 2015 with an aim to write posts a little bit more frequently. Looking at my stats (which WordPress helpfully provides) I can see that on average I post something once every month. When I look back on this post in a years time, I think I will be happy if I’ve managed to post, on average, twice a month, i.e. doubling my writing rate. I don’t want to write something if I have nothing interesting to write about, but I’m sure I have more things to write about than I currently do. I’m hoping to get a little more inspired this year.