Family History Month 2022

Family History Month 2022

August is family history month in New Zealand, and Tauranga Library held an event on Saturday 6th August. We had four presentations with a mixture of in-person and Zoom presenters and a mixture of in-person and Zoom audience too. This combination could be problematic, technology being what it is, but all went well.

Morag Hughson presenting in person

I was first up, in person, speaking to a live and a Zoom audience on the subject, “First Steps into your Genealogy”, a new presentation written for this event. A PDF of the slides and notes can be viewed and downloaded from here.

Next up was Michelle Patient talking about, “Extracting Evidence from Photographs”.

Michelle Patient presenting on Zoom

Interestingly, there were a number of messages repeated in the first two presentations (we didn’t plan this!):

  • Talk to your family
  • Newspapers can contain descriptions of what people wore to events

Michelle’s handout is only available to attendees, but she has made a checklist available for everyone.

Emerson Vandy presenting on Zoom

Third up was Emerson Vandy, talking about the Papers Past, which I had very briefly pointed to as a great free resource for family historians. It was great to have an in-depth view of how to use the site.

It is a vast collection of newspapers and yet still it is only 5-10% of all the papers printed in the time. So while there is a lot of material to search through, you should also be aware that there will be gaps.

We again had some (unplanned) shared messages between my introduction and Emerson’s presentation.

  • Newspapers are great for finding stories about your ancestors, to make your family history come alive
  • Newspapers are Facebook for dead people!

Fiona Brooker presenting on Zoom

After lunch, Fiona Brooker introduced us to the “Memories in Time” project. This is a project to put old artefacts and photos into public family trees on Ancestry so that the families can find them, and perhaps to reunite them with family members. She demonstrated using Papers Past, NZ Historical BDMs and viewing Electoral Rolls, all things that had been introduced earlier in the day.

We finished up the day with a second presentation from Michelle Patient, addressing when folks say, “I’ve looked everywhere!” with a presentation titled, “Where is Everywhere?” Here she encouraged us to understand the records we are researching; know what is recorded in them, understand how they are indexed and so on.

Her handout is only available for participants, but she made a checklist available for everyone.

We had a marvellous day, and the feedback from participants was looking excellent as well.

Another unusual middle name

I’ve written before about where interesting middle names come from.

Another gentleman I’ve written about before, William Parsonson Anderson, has a – very helpfully – unusual middle name. I was chatting to a cousin today about naming conventions and the like, and he came up, and I had entirely forgotten that I did actually know where his name came from, so to stop me forgetting again, I thought I would make a small post about that too. One more for the unusual names set!

It’s quite simple, and just like an earlier example, as it appears that he was named after the minister who baptised him. It also illustrates a good reason to view the original records rather than just the transcriptions provided by various genealogy websites.

Here’s the transcription from Ancestry:-

Name: William Parsonson Anderson
Gender: Male
Age: 0
Birth Date: 11 Nov 1847
Baptism Date: 21 Nov 1847
Baptism Place: Unst,Shetland,Scotland
Father: William Anderson
Mother: Charlotte Russel

And here’s my own transcription from seeing the original record.

1847 Register of Births
No 37
21 Dec
1854
William Anderson & Charlotte Russel in Trohall had a lawful Son born 11 Novr. Bapt 21 Nov in Methodist Chapel by Revd William Parsonson named William Parsonson.

The other thing to note here, is that, although this record is on a page with heading 1847, the date this record says it was registered is 21 Dec 1854. Does this mean that the baptism was registered exactly 7 years and 1 month after it happened? Or is this more likely to be a scribe error. This is from a volume that was a “Copy or Duplicate” of the original register. It is possible that in making the copy, they tried to re-order some out of order entries and in the process messed up the dates?

The original volume has a gap from near the end of 1849 (last entry is October) and then the next page starts in 1854. There is no sign of this baptism entry in the original volume, either in the pages for 1847, or in the pages from 1854 onwards. From census records I know William to have been born before 1851, so the 1854 date is clearly rubbish. He is aged 1 in the 1851 census, suggesting a birth year of late 1849 (given I believe the day and month, just not the year from the above record). And in fact, his age is consistent in every single census entry up to, and including, 1911. This would put him squarely on the missing page in the original register. So I’m inclined to think he was born on 11 November 1849. However, it is rather hard to prove!

What kind of cousin?

What kind of cousin?

Question on Facebook which prompted this post

I’m a member of various genealogy Facebook groups and one of the questions that seems to crop up often is about cousins and once/twice removed etc.

A couple of days ago I saw this question posted on Facebook and it occurred to me that her picture was just the same way I draw things out when I am trying to work out how I am related to someone.

What tends to happen is I’ll be sent a snippet of someone’s lineage back to an Unst person that I can find in my tree, or the statement, “so-and-so was my great-grandfather”. Once I can find that person in my tree I follow back through their parentage until I come to the common ancestor between us (more on that later).

Now on my whiteboard or a piece of paper I draw out the two lines down from the common ancestor, trying to keep the generations neatly lined up.

Finally, I add in the relationship markers. The first generation down from the common ancestor were siblings, the next generation were first cousins and so on.

In many of the recent examples when I have done this, the new contact is an nth-cousin to one of my parents and so is an nth-cousin once-removed to me.

Once Removed Cousins

If you’ve been doing genealogy for a little while, you’re bound to have come across this term, but do you know what it means?

Once-removed means that you are not in the same generation at the person you are related to. In the chart above, my new contact was a fourth cousin to my parent. So they are not in the same generation as me, they are in my parents generation. Their relationship to me is then the same as for my parent but “once removed”. If I was two generations away, it would be “twice-removed” and so on.

Their children and me would be in the same generation, and we would be fifth cousins.

Finding the common ancestor

In order to start drawing out this little chart, first I need to find the common ancestor. If you are an Ancestry.com user, then this is very easy. I’m sure other family tree making software does something similar. As I said earlier, usually I am given the name of an ancestor that is how they have their Unst connection. I find that person in my family tree and then walk back through the parents until I get to a person who is a direct line back from me. So I am looking for the relationship to say “nth great-grandfather”, rather than “nth great-granduncle” or “wife of …”.


Do you have Unst ancestry? Do you think we might be related? Let’s test out that theory. Please feel free to get in touch in a comment below, or via my contact page for a private discussion.

Family History Month 2021

Family History Month 2021

Family History Month 2021August is Family History Month (in New Zealand anyway) and my contributions expanded this year from previous years. Last week was particularly filled with Family History events.

On Tuesday we had our usual 2nd-Tuesday-of-the-month Drop-in session from 10-12noon in the Tauranga Library, but before hand we had a session with the librarians before the library even opened, as they had lots of questions that they wanted us, the volunteers, to help them with so know how to help people who come into the library.

Then on Thursday I was over the hill at the Rotorua Library giving a presentation on Scottish Genealogical Research.

Researching your Scottish Ancestors

We are very pleased to have Morag Hughson speaking about researching your Scottish ancestors.
Which records should I use? Where do I find them? What is in them and should I pay for them?
Morag has considerable experience on this topic and is keen to share her journey and advice to others who have Scottish ancestry. This talk will be held in the Community Pride Space on the Ground Floor of the Library on Thursday 12 August at 12:15pm.

This presentation was a comparison of the main sources for Scottish records and what you can see of the records in each. Ancestry, Find My Fast, and Family Search which are all free to use if you make use of your local library, and Scotland’s People which is a pay-per-record site. Some transcriptions in the free-to-use sites are enough to mean there is little point most of the time in buying the image from Scotland’s People. But for other records, there is so much more to the original record that you can see when you buy the image. The presentation showed the differences and where it was worth spending your money versus where there was little to gain.

The Rotorua Library Facebook page posted some photos of the event, including the one below.

A PDF of the slides and notes can be viewed and downloaded from here.

Morag at Rotorua Library

Morag speaking at the Rotorua Library in Family History Month

Then on Saturday, I was back in one of my local libraries, Papamoa, giving another talk about Scottish Genealogical Research. This time focusing on how to use the Scotland’s People website, with a flavour of the earlier talk since I include advice for when to buy and when not to buy.

Family History Talks at Pāpāmoa Library

Join us for a morning of family history discovery with our two guest speakers: Elinor Rawlings and Morag Hughson.

Elinor will share her own story while giving a broad introduction to the “where to go and what to do” of family history research. This session will introduce new people to the world of family history and genealogy research, offering a quick look at the difference between the two concepts and a peek at the range of places that are free to research and are a great place to start.

Morag Hughson will discuss useful ways to discover more about your Scottish ancestry. The Scotland’s People website is the only place you can see the images of Scottish records such as Old Parish Records and Statutory Records (which provide you with dates for births, baptisms, marriages and death) and Scottish Census returns where you can learn about the familial relationships of people who lived in the same households and start to put together a picture of your ancestral families. Scotland’s People is a pay-per-records website and you can find yourself spending a lot of money. In this presentation we will look at the Scotland’s People website search facilities and discuss when it is prudent not to spend money on the website and look elsewhere for transcriptions.

Tea/coffee and biscuits available. Free. Registration required.

Pāpāmoa Library, Saturday, 14 August from 10am-12noon

A PDF of the slides and notes can be viewed and downloaded from here.

Morag at Papamoa Library

Morag speaking at the Papamoa Library in Family History Month

All in all, while busy, it was a great week. Especially now looking back as today we have just gone into full Lockdown as Delta-variant COVID-19 has made it into the community in NZ.

Gold Miner in New Zealand

Gold Miner in New Zealand

One cousin in my tree, William Parsonson Anderson, I had no idea where he was during the 1871 census. A timeline for him simply had a gap. Then today, when I brought up one of the records I had already attached to him in Ancestry, there was a suggested record for the same name in New Zealand.

His name is somewhat unusual. Parsonson is not a common Unst name. He appears to have been named after the minister who baptised him who was called William Parsonson. This combination of names therefore make you feel it is likely to be the same person when you find another record with the same name.

Before today, I knew when he was born, and had found him in the 1851, 1861 and 1881 census. I also know that he got married in 1878 in Unst, and his occupation on the marriage record is stated as Goldminer. Although married in 1878, unusually, their first child was not born until 1883.

So my questions about him were:-

  • Where was he in 1871?
  • Why did this couple not have children for 5 years after being married?

I found a man with the same name living in Sowburn, Otago in New Zealand, recorded as a miner, in an 1880 Electoral roll, and also in the same region in 1871. If this is the same man as my Unst-born cousin, it would answer both the above questions with “he was in New Zealand”. It would also suggest that he went to New Zealand sometime between 1861 and 1871; came back before 1878 and got married; went out again after that; and came back again before 1881 – possibly before, or because, his father died in late 1880.

Sowburn, Otago is now called Patearoa. It is a small settlement in the heart of the Maniototo Plain that is a rural farming community that has links going back to a gold rush in the 1860’s. The location he lived in New Zealand and the occupations listed on various records, suggest he went to New Zealand for the gold rush.

Also, he is one of the few people in my Unst tree from this era that had a will. When he died in 1918, he left his wife £573. 12s. 5d. suggesting he was successful in his foray in gold mining.

Euphemia Betsy Hughson

Euphemia Betsy Hughson was my husband’s grand-aunt, and Morag’s great-grand-aunt. She was born in 1875. The family refer to her as Aunty Phemie.

Auntie Phemie

Auntie Phemie

Her family lived in Colvadale, now an abandoned area (on the island of Unst in Shetland), father John Hughson, mother Jemima (nee Johnson). The family home was Gardin, Colvadale.

Colvadale Map

Map of Colvadale
Click on the map to go to the zoom-able version on the NLS website.
This view is spread across three maps, click on quadrant to go to the full view of the appropriate map.

Top Left of Map Top Right of Map Bottom of Map

They were a large family, sisters Jemima and Robina and brothers James, Arthur, Thomas and John Henry.

John and Jemima Hughson's Children

John and Jemima Hughson’s Children

In the 1891 census Aunty Phemie was detailed as a knitter – (mostly the occupations for women on the census were knitter or spinner).

Her father John, was skipper of a sixareen. Read a story about him here.

In the 1911 census Euphemia was still living at home and detailed as a knitter. The household, as normal in those days, was large.

By this time her father, John Hughson had died (in 1909) and her mother Jemima was listed as head of the household, which included three daughters (knitters) and a son (working on the croft) as well as a six grand children and a elderly boarder.

1911 Census

ROAD, STREET, &c.,
and No. or NAME of
HOUSE.
NAME and Surname
of each Person.
RELATION
to Head of
Family
AGE
(last Birthday)
and Sex.
CONDITION
as to
Marriage
PROFESSION or OCCUPATION.
Males Females Personal Occupation Employer,
Worker, or on
Own Account
If
Working
at Home.
Colvadale Jemima Hughson Head 73 W Knitter On own account at home
Jemima Spence Daur 43 W Do Do Do
Euphemia Hughson Daur 35 S Do Do Do
Robina Hughson Daur 32 S Do Do Do
John H Hughson Son 26 S Crofter Do Do
John T Hughson Grand Son 16 S Working on Croft Worker
Jemima J Spence Grand daur 10 School
John A Spence Grand Son 6 Do
James Hughson Grand Son 4
Tamar Williamson Boarder 85 S
John W Hughson Grand Son 18 S Fisherman Own account
Peter J Hughson Grand Son 17 S Do Own account

They would have a struggle to make ends meet.

Croft details Colvadale

This document shows the croft details from her father’s time at age 51. A cow, a calf and three sheep were the extent of their croft animals.  His main source of income was fishing, and if it was not a good year at the fishing, they would fall behind on rent payment etc. Notice that they were in arrears to the tune of £22 which was several years-worth in arrears.

There is a saying about Orkney and Shetland, that Orkney men are farmers with a boat, and Shetland men are fishermen with a bit of land.

John Hughson obviously depended on the fishing to make a living, and if there were some bad years for the fishing, then it was very hard for the family.

Euphemia Betsy Hughson married Andrew Thomas Cluness in Colvadale, on 7 December 1916 when she was 41 years old. They were married for 26 years before he died age 75.

As an older lady, having lived for so many years in Colvadale which was in quite an isolated part of Unst, she moved to “Westerhoose”, Muness and lived there for some time.

Later she moved to the centre of Uyeasound to a smaller house at Hays Place.

This was originally accommodation for workers in the Herring Fishing times, and later was rented by a variety of folk.

Robert Hughson (my husband’s brother) can remember her “flittin” (moving house). He thinks he would have been 4 years old at the time, so that is about the mid-1940s. He recalled two boats being taken round from Uyeasound to Muness, one with a motor, the other sail.

“There was a fine big stone that we could take the boat in alongside at Muness.

The furniture and bits and pieces were taken from “Westerhoose” to the shore by gig, loaded onto the boats and taken round by sea to the pier at Hays Place, Uyeasound.

Then everything had to be taken in a hurl (wheelbarrow) up to the house and put in place for her in her new home.”

She lived there for some years before she died in 1969 age 84.

Patronymic Surnames

In modern times in Scotland (and many other countries) the way surnames are assigned is well known to us. As a child you get the same surname as one or both of your parents. This has been the case since around the same time as the Statutory Records began in 1855. In Scotland, a Statutory Birth record provides both the parents names and the child’s full name so there is no doubt the name the child has been given.

The prior records, kept before 1855, are nowhere near as verbose. These Old Parish Baptism Records record the father’s full name and address and the child’s first name. Here’s an example.

Baptisms 1802
Oct 24 Thomas Johnson, Cliprogarth a Son John

You might be thinking, well, that’s not a problem, the child’s full name is easy to extrapolate from the father’s surname. Clearly the child is called John Johnson. You would not be alone in thinking that since that is how the various online indexes would interpret this record too. However, this is where the practice of using patronymic surnames comes in and confuses the issue.

Patronymic Surname

A patronymic is where the child does not inherit the surname of their parent but instead gains a surname based on the father’s first name. In the example above, if the child had a patronymic they would be known as John Thomason, that is John son of Thomas.

This is a pattern that I believe was inherited from the Norse people who settled Shetland. Going back far enough in the records I am studying you do also come across the female form of this pattern, for example Joanna Williamdottir, that is Joanna daughter of William. There are not many examples of these and it seems that by 1800 the girls were following the male pattern, so Joanna would be Williamson just like her brothers.

So how do you know which surname pattern is in use in this time period prior to the start of Statutory Records? The answer is you can’t tell from just one record. You simply have to remember to bear it in mind when searching for records about a person. Some people used them and some did not.

For further reading, the Icelandic scheme still in use today is similar to how it was in Shetland in the early 19th century.

I’ve written a few blog posts where patronymic surnames have played a part in the research:-

Tracking Thomas Johnson

I can’t resist a puzzle, and when someone posted a question about an Unst ancestor in the Shetland Genealogy Facebook Group, I couldn’t resist taking a closer look. Their 4th Great-Grandparents were John Thomason and Barbara Jane Winwick who I had in the Unst Family Tree already, and they were trying to determine John’s parents. John died on 8 April 1847 which is before 1855 and thus part of the Old Parish Records which means that no parents of the deceased are recorded.

Obituary. Burials at Baliasta 1847
Died Buried
John Thomason, Watquoy 8 April 10 Apr at Baliasta

She had found a John Thomason born to parents Thomas Johnson and Ann Williamson, and wondered whether that John could be the same one.

Thomas Johnson from Unst, and Ann Williamson from Yell (the neighbouring island) were married in Unst on 29 November 1801. From the Old Parish Record of their marriage contract we also know that Thomas was from Clipragrath.

1801 Contracts of Marriage
Nov 29 Thomas Johnson, Clipragarth and Ann Williamson

Ann Williamson/Johnson can be found in the 1841 and 1851 census returns living with her daughter Mary. She is recorded as a widow in the 1851 census, and was likely a widow in 1841 as well, but that early census does not record such data. To double check this is the same Ann Williamson, I found her daughter Mary’s death record in Unst on 10 July 1877 which shows her parents to be Thomas Johnson and Ann Williamson. So we have the correct person here. Finding all the siblings seemed to be the right thing to follow.

Looking through the Unst Old Parish Baptism Records from 1800 until 1823 (starting just before they were married in case there was a first child out of wedlock) for all children born to a father of Thomas Johnson, yields the following list.

  • 1802 Oct 24 Thomas Johnson Cliprogarth a Son John
  • 1804 May 2 Thomas Johnson Cliprogarth a daughter Mary (this one is written on the end of the list of 1804, after all the December entries, it could be an infant who died young, or a recording error.)
  • 1805 May 10 Thomas Johnson Cliprogarth a daughter Mary
  • 1808 July 15 Thomas Johnson Cliprogarth a daughter Jean Barbara
  • 1808 July 15 Thomas Johnson Cliprogarth a daughter Elizabeth
  • 1814 Feb 17 Thomas Johnson Cliprogarth a daughter Margaret
  • 1818 Aug 23 Thomas Johnston Gardie a Son WIlliam born 20 Aug
  • 1819 Nov 1 Thomas Johnson Midyell a daughter Ann
  • 1820 May 14 Thomas Johnson Haroldswick a Son Thomas born 7 May
  • 1822 Sep 1 Thomas Johnston Skaw a Son John born 11 Aug

Clearly these are not all the same father, however, the first five children (with Mary recorded twice) all born to a Thomas Johnson of Cliprogarth look very likely to be siblings.

To double-check sibling-ship, we need to find the death records for those who died after 1855.

  • Mary Thomason we found already, died in Unst on 10 July 1877. Her death record confirms both parents.
  • Elizabeth Thomason died in Unst on 17 May 1899. Her death record confirms both parents.
  • Jean Thomason is living with her twin sister in the 1861 census, and the relationship recorded confirms her as Elizabeth’s sister.
  • Margaret Thomson died in Unst on 18 December 1884. Her death record confirms both parents.

Confirmation of the parentage of all the sisters, who died after 1855, and the high likelihood that all the children born to Thomas Johnson of Cliprogarth are siblings, leaves me in no doubt that John Thomason was the son of Thomas Johnson and Ann Williamson as well.

Finally we must ask, could there be any other John Thomason born around the same time who is the man married to Barbara Jane Winwick? All we really know of John is from the 1841 census return where his age (which will have been rounded down) is given as 40.

Looking through the Unst Old Parish Baptism Records from 1795 until 1805 for all children called John, yielded a list of 46 Johns. It is unknown when looking at such entries, what surname the child will use in future records, as patronymic surnames were still very much in use at this time and the OPR entry only records the child’s given name (regardless of how some genealogy websites choose to transcribe it!). Considering both surname forms, we end up with the following list of John’s to follow-up on.

OPR Baptism Entry Patronymic Name Name
1798 June 17 George Thomson Gunister, a twin Son John John Georgeson John Thomson
1798 Sep 9 Thomas Miller, Skreveld, a Son John John Thomason John Miller
1802 Oct 24 Thomas Johnson Cliprogarth a Son John John Thomason John Johnson
1804 Mar 10 Laurence Thomson Setter a Son John John Laurenson John Thomson
1804 July 8 Thomas Harrison & Ursula Williamson a Son John John Thomason John Harrison
1804 Dec 14 Thomas Anderson Cliff a Son John John Thomason John Anderson

Here’s what we know about the above John’s.

  • John Thom[p]son, son of George Thom[p]son, lived and died in Bighton and married Ann Spence Trail. He is not the John we are looking for.
  • John Miller, son of Thomas Miller, lived and died in Petister and married Catherine Thomson. He is not the John we are looking for.
  • John Thomson, son of Laurence Thomson, married Margaret Mathewson. He is not the John we are looking for.
  • John Harrison, son of Thomas Harrison & Ursula Williamson, was a mariner, lived outside of Shetland, and married Margaret and Sarah. He is not the John we are looking for.
  • I don’t know anything about John son of Thomas Anderson, but the other children born to Thomas Anderson of Cliff used the surname Anderson, so I don’t believe he is the John we are looking for.

Through a process of elimination, we can therefore confidently say that John Thomason, son of Thomas Johnson of Cliprogarth, is the same man that married Barbara Jane Winwick. There is no other man it could be.

John Thomason and Siblings

John Thomason and Siblings with their spouses