History | Culture | Ancestry
The family historians of 2014 are spoilt for choice when it comes to being able to present the information that they have collected. We have so many options open to us in presenting our work in an engaging, interesting and more easily consumable way. A great example of this is using Google Maps as a tool to plot the birth places or other events of a family history.
While I realise I could hardly have been the first person to think of using Google Maps for this purpose, I only recently thought of using it to plot the locations of family births. It was ultimately a very worth while exercise, and led me to further research that helped to fill in some of the blanks that are always contained in a family tree.
Mapping birthplaces is not an exact science. Sometimes birthplaces are listed by the exact location of the house, while others are only known by parish. Standardisation of records in Scotland did not occour until 1855. Prior to this, records were collected by the local church parish and varied in quality. The record shown above is relatively detailed for its time, showing that in 1792 my 6x Great Grandfather John Roy was a ‘Gentleman’s Servant’ at Rose St, Edinburgh. It also shows that he was a member of the congregation of the Chapel of Ease in St Cuthbert’s Parish.
In the map I created, I did not include birth places where only the county were known. There is obviously a bit of a selection bias in who is included, as those places with more complete and more easily searchable pre-1855 records have a higher likelihood of being included.This generally does not favour areas such as the Gaidhealtachd and Ireland where many of my ancestors came from. Thus, my ancestors listed on the map from places such as Angus and Perthshire, seem over represented when compared with their actual proportion on my family tree, while places like Ireland are under represented.
For example, the numerous listings around Scone are more of a reflection of being able to trace my family tree back to the early 1700s in that location. This can be contrasted with the sparsity of Irish markers because of the harder to trace Irish records in which I have only made it back to the mid-1800s at best. So while I had more ancestors from Ireland than Perthshire, the map doesn’t really reflect that due to the disparity in available records.
None the less it still gives a very good general idea of where the various families come from. By way of explanation, Red markers indicated families from my maternal side, while Blue represents the paternal. In terms of unknown Irish births I listed them as Dublin just to include a listing, while for Scotland I was more discerning and did not include births where only the county was known.
So as can be seen there is a fairly wide mix of birthplaces from across Scotland and Ireland. My Paternal side definitely has much more of a variation, probably reflecting the fact that this part of the family tree primarily joined itself up in Glasgow, which had a much more diverse population of people from all over Scotland. My maternal side on the other hand came together in Greenock and the connections are much more heavily concentrated in Argyll and Ireland. This is entirely consistent with historical demographic trends which saw large amounts of people from both Ireland and Argyll moving to Greenock for work, which was a thriving port in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
There were also three births outside of the British Isles, all of which were due to military connections. There is of course my own birth in 1985 in Stuttgart, Germany as my father was serving in the American forces. My 3x Great Grandmother Mary Lunney, born in Meerut, India in 1832 and my 4x Great Grandmother Harriet Sporton, born in Gibraltar around 1824, also had military connections as both of their fathers were serving in the British Army.
In terms of locations where there are no known connections, the Borders, Stirlingshire, Sutherland, Northern Isles, Outer Hebrides and North East of Scotland have never really featured anywhere in my family tree. The two parts of the family generally have connections to completely different parts of Scotland and Ireland, with Islay and Mull being notable exceptions.
However, it is interesting to note that in 1825 my 4x Great Grandparents from my paternal side, Hugh McCorquodale and Jannet McCallum, lived less than a mile from my 4x Great Grandparents from my maternal side, James McLean and Marion McLachlan. Indeed, it isn’t beyond the realms of possibility that some 160 years before I was born, two sets of my ancestors from completely different parts of my family tree actually knew each other.