16 August 2016

Exposing More of the Famdamily

Have you ever tracked family characteristics? Meaning significant physical traits such as hair colour, specific features of facial bone structure, height, mannerisms, and so on. It can also mean health considerations and illnesses. Hereditary patterns. Realistically, we can only do this for about three generations including our own. Sometimes we might have second- or third-hand health information about earlier ancestors.

In that vein, cause of death is of great interest for the family historian; it's a bonus when the certifying authority required the recording of "contributing factors," which can indicate longer-term illness or disease.

 Genograms, similar to genealogy charts, are not merely a sub-interest of family history or an exercise of mild curiosity. Medical consultants find them useful among other diagnostic tools. Haven't we all heard: "Do you have a history of heart disease in your family?" (... insert diabetes, glaucoma, cancer, etc.) That knowledge clearly could help with potential future symptoms. 

A more difficult characteristic to (attempt to) trace through a family is recurring mental illness.
Archaic euphemisms abound, historically speaking, for what was considered abnormal behaviour. Samples lunatic, insane, hysteric, idiot, imbecile, maniac, the list seems endless. (One general reference is Old Disease Names, http://www.homeoint.org/cazalet/oldnames.htm.) Even today we have dozens of colloquial words to describe someone of odd demeanour or speech. Of course not everyone who was consigned to an old lunatic asylum was off-the-wall batshit crazy. Conditions such as post-partum depression and dementia and autism were not understood and went untreated. In darker times, a family member could be involuntarily admitted, virtually imprisoned, simply for being an unwanted nuisance.

It's not until the twentieth century that psychiatric diagnostics began to more precisely label different disorders. An imprecise science, some might say, as the "disorders" seem to multiply annually. But psychiatrists, psychologists, sociologists and so on do find genograms useful. Family historians will likely find this type of chart more difficult to construct with only anecdotal data for earlier generations besides combing family papers and memorabilia, it calls for sensitive interviewing. In addition to any hereditary factor, "life events" during an ancestor's lifetime can also be contributing factors to illness and/or poor health.



Genogram symbols can vary depending on the purpose under study. Many examples of charts can be found online; http://genograms.org/ is one place to explore.

What about our DNA? It can carry evidence of medical conditions in inherited chromosomes but that is not the purview of genealogical companies that test only for relationship factors. Genetic counselling clinics are available for potentially serious health risks and family planning concerns.

Aside from medical value, creating genograms of our family traits, both physical and mental, from our own research and knowledge, is a way to deepen family history insight.

© 2016 Brenda Dougall Merriman

29 July 2016

Where a Photograph Leads

A FABULOUS photograph in all senses.
Total misappropriation on my part. But who could possibly ignore this couple?! What could I extrapolate from a family (not mine) anecdote?

I cannot make out the Cyrillic script at the bottom left but on the right it says Krasnoyarsk.

Ancestry .. family history .. the ingredients that fall into place each time a child is conceived .. are not of interest to everyone. Which random segments of DNA contributed characteristics from a crowd of those who came before us ― inherited from which parent or which family line ― is of consuming interest to the self-actualized keepers of life's continuum. These days, certain aspects of social media are expanding such interest.

My friend's mother Paule was born about 1913 in Siberia and raised there. The family may have been of Lithuanian origin; the story is fuzzy on when-why-how they were in Siberia at the turn of the twentieth century (deportation by the czarist regime? Voluntary opportunity for land ownership or improved status?). But it seems her father married a native Siberian and had several children. The couple in the photo seem to be Paule's parents.

We know Paule's father was some kind of provincial official in Krasnoyarsk. As part of his job he travelled regionally on a regular basis. The rather suspect aspect of the family story says Paule's mother would occasionally stray away to the steppes in her husband's absence and once had a fling with an enigmatic wandering Russian. Paule's son insisted his mother looked very different from her siblings.

From that, beyond the lifetime of the original storyteller, some of us have extrapolated yurodivy ― the "holy fool" of Orthodoxy, a "crazy for God" ascetic. Less rigorously now, meaning someone outside of and rejecting conventional social norms. An eccentric who marches to an altogether different drum with often deliberately provocative behaviour.

Paule's parents moved from Siberia to Lithuania, probably in the 1930s. She, Paule, became a teacher with several languages to her credit. Her story ended in Canada after tremendous trials during the Second World War. Some friends believe that Paule's only son inherited the yurodivy genes. Now deceased, his often erratic or bizarre behaviour was given the more convenient modern label of atypical bipolar disorder.

Despite the above gentleman bearing a superficial resemblance to Rasputin ― who by many accounts was a yurodivy ― he is clearly a married man of some comfortable significance.

Without the photo, the anecdote is the stuff of exotic daydreaming. With it ... a bit of mysterious substance, if not genealogical evidence.

© 2016 Brenda Dougall Merriman

15 May 2016

Loyalist Research Library - A Conference Extra

The Loyalist Flag (the Queen Anne Union of 1707)
Do you have Loyalist ancestors? Or suspected Loyalist ancestors? A research library dedicated to exactly that special type of lineage genealogy is a gem tucked away in downtown Toronto.

I mention this because family historians are already filling up registrations for the Ontario Genealogical Society’s Conference: June 3-5 in Toronto. This year’s venue is the International Plaza Hotel. If you haven’t registered, there is still room for more! See http://www.ogs.on.ca/conference/

On June 2nd (yes, the Conference really starts on June 2nd for the keen) OGS offers excursions to three destinations among Toronto’s great resource centres, and one of them is the library of the Toronto Branch, United Empire Loyalists’ Association of Canada (UELAC). The UELAC is Canada’s only lineage society; our province was founded by Loyalist refugees in the 1780s.

Take a look at this page on the Branch website: http://www.ueltoronto.ca/library.htm
It gives a small taste of a collection that was begun in the 1880s. Concentrating on the pre-Revolution colonies and Upper Canada up to the mid-nineteenth century, it holds published and unpublished family histories, military rolls and battle accounts, transcriptions of church records, maps, early lineage connections, copies of important government archival sources, microforms, many series of genealogical journals, and more. A volunteer will help you navigate the collection and/or discuss the requirements for proving the lineage steps. May I recommend United Empire Loyalists: Tracing Your Loyalist Ancestors in Upper Canada as one of the how-to books? *

The Toronto Branch UELAC Library is located in Suite 300 at 40 Scollard Street. Normally the library is open on Thursdays, staffed by volunteers, and that will be the case for the excursion on June 2nd. 

But ... they can accommodate you sooner that week (e.g. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday) if you call ahead to make an appointment (416-489-1783) ... as soon as possible!

The first week in June is a golden time for family historians at Canada’s largest genealogy gathering. Thousands upon thousands of our ancestors came to or through the province of Ontario to spread to all corners of the continent — and “Genealogy on the Cutting Edge” promises exciting workshops, speakers, market place, pop-up talks, and of course the irreplaceable camaraderie.

Savvy family historians do arrive early for a few extra research days, before the crowds and the discovering of potential new cousins. Just remember, call ahead to the Toronto Branch UELAC Library if you want to visit ... that week in June or any other time. 

* Available from Global Genealogy online or at their tables at OGS Conference 2016.

© 2016 Brenda Dougall Merriman

03 May 2016

Latvian Independence

Latvia has more than one memorial day for independence. One important day in the national calendar includes TODAY, MAY 4th. It commemorates Independence Restoration Day in 1990 when the Latvian SSR became the Republic of Latvia.

Latvia has a long history of occupation and less history of independence. From the Soviet Union to the European Union has been the most recent and rewarding journey.

"For Fatherland and Freedom"

Earlier the Republic of Latvia had been declared on 18 November 1918, only to end in 1940 with Soviet occupation. The Freedom Monument in central Riga commemorates soldiers who died in the War for Independence 1918-1920 but it has become a national symbol for sovereignty in all contexts.

May 4th, 2015:
Flowers arranged in the shape of Latvia

29 April 2016

Kirk Sessions, Isle of Coll, 1732-1735 - WRAP

My posts of these early kirk sessions meetings were posted in the following order; if you simply scroll down from here they will appear in reverse order:
1 - Ballahodh 26th 1732
2 - Cliad 18 Feb 1733
3 - Ballihough 15 Aug 1733 together with 19 Aug 1733
4 - Breacha 23 Sep 1733
5 - Grisibol no day/month 1733
6 - Ballihough 28 March 1734
7 - Grisibol 7 June 1734
8 - Grisibol 21st? August 1735
9 - Grisibol 11 December 1735

10 - Grisibol 30 November 1735

This map is very helpful for locations; Nicholas Maclean-Bristol, The Isle of Coll in 1716, outside back cover.  
The register for Coll kirk sessions minutes was digitized in folio layout (facing pages). The entries appear on hand-numbered pages 1-10, each entry often beginning or ending mid-page. Page 11 is blank after the last (1735) entry of this period.

Entries resume on page 12 with the date 30 May 1775 and the 1776 entries begin on page 13. The (catechist's) list of Coll inhabitants begins on page 29 (2 December 1776).

It is unknown why the November 1735 entry follows the entry of December 1735. It may indicate the clerk was accustomed to taking loose notes at the session meetings and later transferred them into the register.

Mr. William Morisson who moderated the first two sessions was the Coll and Tiree parish minister living on Tiree. The assistant minister residing on Coll was Mr. Hector McLean (moderator of most meetings). He lived in a house at Cliad where a room was used for Sabbath worship. He was a distant relative of the same-named Laird.

Since Mr. Hector stayed on as assistant minister until he died in 1775, no doubt the kirk sessions continued during the intervening years 1736-1775. But whether meeting minutes were written as loose paper notes or a kept in a separate register, they have not been located.

The Elders in that early period were:
The Laird of Coll (Hector McLean at Breacachadh)
Allan McLean of Totronald
Hector McLean of Knock
John McLean of Grishaboll
Lachlan McLean (Coll's brother)
Hector McLean of Toraston
Donald McDonald of Totamore
Archibald McLean of Uig
In one set of minutes the latter two men were called "Sessioners." I am unable to find a distinction between elders and sessioners.

Local kirk officials mentioned in the minutes were treasurer, collector, censor, and beadle. Unspoken was the session clerk who actually recorded the minutes. We are seldom told who filled those positions from time to time but Donald [---] was appointed treasurer in 1732 and Murdoch Kennedy was the collector in 1733.

Punctuation in the minutes was obviously not an important issue. Spellings of personal and place names vary but are generally recognizable. The use of capital letters for many words is erratic, perhaps largely due to my lack of distinguishing them.

Now having more familiarity with the handwriting and syntax, I will be reviewing the transcriptions with an eye to possibly filling in some missing words.

Other Observations and Questions:
The Kirk Session was the local court for religious observance and social conscience. Ranking high among immorality offences was breach of the Lord's Day by failing to attend the service. The Elders followed a protocol for all transgressions in a system of rebukes, censures, and so on. Serious cases, including repeat offenders, would be referred to the Presbytery of Mull.

More than a generation, forty years, lapsed in the missing period between 1735 and 1775 which is frustrating for family historians, especially those who can identify names in the minutes. The adults named here may or may not have lived until the 1776 list of Coll inhabitants was made.

Connecting people of patronymics with the family surnames that were evolving takes special skill. It was suggested as an example that McIan was the precursor of what we know as the Johnston surname on Coll. Please add (in the comments) your own interpretation or guesses Dhoil? McDonchaig? McMurchuig? McIllhalum? and etc!
Anyone what is the significance of the often-inserted Gaelic "oig" (og) after some names?

Who can solve the mystery of what the [black]smith was making for the community? It's likely an archaic word now. "Toggs"? Something for fishing or agricultural or livestock use? Or a necessary cooking tool? An item belonging to clothing, such as something for shoes?

I take full responsibility for errors and misinterpretations herein. All corrections and comments are welcome!

Some Recommendations
Nicholas Maclean-Bristol. The Kirk on the Hill: The story of the church in the Isle of Coll AD 550-2007. Coll, Scotland: The Society of West Highland and Island Historical Research, 2007.
Nicholas Maclean-Bristol. The Isle of Coll in 1716. Coll, Scotland: The Project Trust, 1989.
Ewen McGee, Isle of Coll: Facets of a gem. UK: Islands Book Trust, 2015.
"The Kirk and its impact on the people," (website) The Reformation - http://www.thereformation.info/covenanters2.htm
Hebridean History - www.hebrideanhistory.com
Isle of Coll Genealogy - www.collgenealogy.com

2016 Brenda Dougall Merriman

24 April 2016

Kirk Sessions, Isle of Coll - 10

It is unknown why this November entry follows the previous entry of December. It may indicate the clerk was accustomed to taking loose notes at the session meetings and then transferring them into the register.
This is the last entry of session minutes until the same register resumes 30th of May 1775.

One final post will follow soon to summarize some of the salient points.

Grisibol November 30th 1735
After prayer
     Sederunt Mr Hector McLean Modr
     Lachlan McLean of Toraston
     John McLean of Grisibol          Elders
     Hector McLean of Knock

The Session appointed their Bedle to Summon
the Censor to meet at Grisibol on the [11th?]
of next month and to bring along with 'em
all Such as they found guilty of Immorality
on the Sabbath[.] They obligd him also to
cite Callum McIan vc Gllespig & Mary nin
[Raoil?] and Donald McIan vc Eachan & Ann
nin Challum Delinquents[.] They also oblig-
ed him to cite Ewen McNeil oig & Char-
les McDhoil vc Kerlich Ten days after
     Closed with prayer

20 April 2016

Kirk Sessions, Isle of Coll - 9

Contumacy - willful, stubborn non-compliance when summoned.

Grisibol December 11th 1735
After prayer
Sederunt Mr Hector McLean Modr
Allan McLean of Tottranald
Lachlan McLean of Toraston              Elders
Donald McDonald
Archibald McLean in Uig

The Session appointed their Bedle to Summon
the persons following viz Neil McRory
John Duigh McRory, Angus McDhonehuigh
Niel McIan oig, Hector McIan oig, Murdo
Campbell, John Campbell, Rory McInnes
Donald McIan oig in Ballihough [I---]
in Tottamoir Hector McLean, Niel McIan vc
Neil[.] The Session appoints that whoever is
guilty of Immorality on the Lord's day should
forfeit one shilling sterling
(next page)
And that whoever absents from sermon without
a very sufficient should forfeit one shilling sterling
and that a shilling sterling be payd for Contumacy
by any one declining to Compear before sessions
in order to have their fines ascertained or
upon any other account And that the Censor
in the place do assist the Collector in raising the
fines and if it be found necessary the next Elder is
to be Called to their assistance
            The Session appoints that the fines
that are to be thus raised be Employd after the
following manner The Collector & Censor are
to have the half of 'em Equally divided
twixt them and the other is to be Distirbutd
to the poor[.] Nothing Else Occurring the Session
Concluded with prayer

Part of December 1735 entry

16 April 2016

Kirk Sessions, Isle of Coll - 8

Reminder: the first transcription has an introduction (click link to see it).
This session meeting was the first in 1735, over a year after the previous meeting.
In the lists of names, sometimes there are commas, sometimes not. I've added semi-colons to separate the different farms/touns where miscreants are named, but see below the transcript for a re-sorted list.
"Each End" below refers to the Two Ends of Coll that were in Campbell tenure.

Grisibol ^Col August [21st?] 1735
Sederunt Mr Hector McLean Modr
Allan McLean of Tottranald
John McLean of Grisibol Elders
Donald McDonald
Archibald McLean in Uig

The Session appoints that Sermon
(next page)
should be preached by turns in Each End of this
Country till the next Summer Season
The Session observing the great aversion
of people to come to worship on the Lord's
day are fully resolved to put the laws against
Immorality in Execution against ['em?] and in Con-
sequence of this Resolution have ordered the
persons following to pay fines viz. Hector McIan
oig, John Dugh McRuary, Niel McRory, Don-
ald McIan oig, Niel McIan oig, Innis Mc
Dhonnihough, Murdo McIlluhally, Rory Mc
Ian vc Ewen, Ian McMhurchuigh, Cally Mc
Ruary in Ballihough[;] In Tottamor Ea-
chan McDhoil vc Kerlich, Niel McIan vc Neil[;]
in Faull Donald McRuary, Innis Roy
Niel McFergus[;] in Ardnish Eachen McIll-
hallum, Ian McDhoil vc Ian vc Neil[;] in [Tor?]
Eachan Doil McDhoil vc Neil, Callum McMh-
urchuigh, Cally McOigh, Charles McNeil
It has been observed that Donald Mc
Illispig vc Dhuil (scribble) has two several Lords
days passed by the usual place of worship
in time of Sermon and went about some
other business for which he is to be fined
The Censors appointed to mark such as
were guilty of Immorality on the Lord's day
reported particularly Hector McEwen repor-
ted that Callum McIllespig vc [Cannel?]
was pulling & gathering sticks &
(next page)
Heather on the Sabbath day Ewen McDhoil
vc Eachan reported that Several women in Gall-
anach went late on the Saturdays to fish [some?]
eels and did not return till the Sunday
mornings Muldo-- Mc ----- observed Donald
McIan vc Innis stragling on the Lord's day
Its remarkable that Charles McDhoil vc Kerlich
stragles from place to place on the Lord's day
Ian McDhoil vc Ian McDhoil Charles Mc
McLachlan [mhain?] Gillespig McKinnon in
Knock were all found guilty of Immorality on
the Lord's day as was Donald McInnis vc
Rory in Knock

Re-sorting the list of names:
Hector McIan oig
John Dugh McRuary
Niel McRory
Donald McIan oig
Niel McIan oig
Innis McDhonnihough
Murdo McIlluhally
Rory McIan vc Ewen
Ian McMhurchuigh
Cally McRuary

Eachan McDhoil vc Kerlich
Niel McIan vc Neil

Donald McRuary
Innis Roy
Niel McFergus

Eachen McIllhallum
Ian McDhoil vc Ian vc Neil

Eachan Doil McDhoil vc Neil
Callum McMhurchuigh
Cally McOigh
Charles McNeil oig

Ian McDhoil vc Ian McDhoil
Charles Mc McLachlan [mhain?]
Gillespig McKinnon

© 2016 Brenda Dougall Merriman

12 April 2016

Kirk Sessions, Isle of Coll - 7

Click on illustrations to enlarge.
There is no usual sign-off "with prayer."
Pen scratches or splashes occur on the one page.

Grisibol 7th June 1734
After prayer
Sederunt Mr Hector McLean Modr
Allan McLean of Tottranald
John McLean of Grisibol Elders
Hector McLean of Knock

     John McLachlan vc Ian vc Dhoil being
asked if he would own the Child fatherd
upon him by Margaret nin Neil vc
Dhoil Said he would not and Said he was
ready to Depose that he had no guilt with her
But it being suggested by Some of the memb-
ers of the Session that Mary nin Eachan vc
Lachlan [Iar?] was present to their lying in
bed together And the young woman being
put upon oath declared that this young man
the Said Margaret and herself (scribble) being
Lodged in a [little?] hutt She went to bed
befor any of them Soon thereafter this young
man went to bed And that Some time
after the sd Margaret went to bed but
she could not observe her lying with the
said John meanwhile The young man
owns that he lay with this Margaret
once & again for want of bedcloaths
but Disowns guilt with her
Angus McRory mhoir being required
to declare what he heard this
Margaret Say in relation to this af-
fair Says that upon John Mc
(next page)
Lachlan Challenging the Said Margaret
for fathering her Child upon him She
Said that he needed not think shame [for?]
owning her Child and that if he would [own]
the Child [she?] would give him no more
     However on [anyr?] occasion one Nick Cor-
air spouse to John McWilliam vc Rory hav-
ing declared upon oath befor the Session that
Early in the morning she (scribble)
Surprized the Sd John & Sd Margaret
in bed together Stript to their Shirt
No Soul being in the hutt but them[selves]
(scribble) The Sd John confessed his
guilt & owned the Child And Hector
McLean of ^Knock becoming baill for the Sd
John's Submitting to discipline & paying
fines and Lachlan McLean of Toras-
tan becoming baill for Sd Margaret's
Submitting to Censure & paying her fine
The Child was Baptized

© 2016 Brenda Dougall Merriman

07 April 2016

Kirk Sessions, Isle of Coll - 6

This is the first entry for 1734.
It covers two and a half pages in the register, the longest entry.
It ended as usual "with prayer" but the clerk added one more item of assistance and two marriages that occurred months later.
"Bail for consignation" money was a deposit made by a relative or friend (sometimes called a cautioner) to the kirk session to ensure that the marriage would take place within a certain time period and the couple would observe chastity until then. The custom was not consistent within the church or across the country. In this case, the money might have been received in March and the clerk was obliged to record later that the events did take place. Canadian family historians may be more familiar with the similar "posting a bond" to ensure the intentions of the proposed marriage.

Ballihough March 28th 1734
After prayer
Sederunt Mr. Hector McLean Modr
The Laird of Coll
Allan McLean of Tottronald Elders
John McLean of Grisibol
Hector McLean of Knock
Donald McDonald

The session finding that there are Several D[elin-]
quents who's fines have not yet been modifyd
do appoint (scribble) John McKerlich vc Neil oig
to pay ten shillings sterling of fines & the
woman that fell with him as many [shilli-]
ngs They also appoint Donald McEa[chan?]
vc Kerlich vc Rory a Relapse in fornication
to pay fifteen shillings sterling
(next page)
[and] the woman that fell with him seven shillings
& six pence
Mary nin Ian vc Eachan a fornicatrix being
Interrogate who was father to her Child Said that it
was John McDhonibaigh vc Ian vc Dhonibaigh
and the said ^John being asked if he had guilt with her
said he had. And being Interrogate about the time
he had guilt with her Said that it was about the
Latter End of May last or the beginning of June
whereas the woman alleges it was about the
Latter End of June Last The Session appoints
the said John to pay Ten Shillings Sterling of
fines & the woman that fell with him seven
shillings & six pence
Fergus McNeil vc Dhoil being Cit
to the Session & having Compeared was Charged
with willfull Desertion in refusing to Cohab
it with his wife And being E(scribble) ----
tly Exhorted to Live with her Said that he
would never Cohabit with her Whereupon
the Session thought it proper to Suspend any Cen-
sure till they Should Consult the Presbytery
[of?] Mull about this affair
Archibald McIan [Iar?] being found
guilty of Stealing a Sheep on the Lord's day
the Session appoints that he Should Stand
befor the Congregation on the next Lord's day
and that he be publickly reproved
The Session moved with the miserable condit-
ion of a fatherless & motherless boy from Tirey
that is much distressed with sickness and Exp-
[osure?] --- to the severity of the weather thro'
(next page)
want of Cloaths did bestow three shillings [ster-]
ling upon him out of the Poor box in order
he may provide himself in some cloaths
The Session appoints John Duigh McKer[lich?]
vc Neil oig to pay three merks of his fines [to?]
old Malcolm McIan vc Dhoil Duigh and
nin Terlich vc Neil oig other three merks of
his fines & The Session shall take --- Am-
The Session appoints John Duigh to pay
the six merks he still owes after paying
the six merks already mentioned to Donald Mc
Ian [mhain?]
The Session appoints Donald McEa-
chan vc Kerlich vc Rory to pay three merks to
a poor blind boy at Tottronald son to Neil
The Session appoints their Collector M[urdoch]
Kennedy to give Donald McIan [mhoir's?]
Children five merks and a half due by Donald
Morison Closd with prayer
The Session appoints two merks & four
pennies to be given to Ter[---]ard in Grisi-
John McDhoil vc [mhurchuigh?] in Feall
and Mary nin Ian were married on the [8th?]
of July 1734 Ter[chaurd?] McDhoil [mhai-]
----- becoming baill for Consignation money
Neil McIan in Faull & Gorm[muill?]
nin Duill married on the 10th of July
1734 John McDonchaig in Faull be-
ing baill for Consignation money
(scribble, end of page and meeting)

© 2016 Brenda Dougall Merriman