[Memo to Self: Know your geography. Know your county boundaries. Know your parishes. Maps, maps, maps.]
I’ve said that before in so many words, and am not too proud to admit mistakes (Parkhead, sigh). Luckily my cognitive skills are not so impaired that I couldn’t rescue a 30-year-old error. Reviewing old research, to my bemusement I discovered I’d misplaced a county. Or rather, identified a place name with the wrong county.
Here I’d been claiming West Lothian (alone) in Scotland as my ancestral grounds. Branding my Dougalls, you might say. After all, the important marriage took place there (the emigrant couple), when that county was known as Linlithgowshire. Once upon a time the River Almond divided two counties and all the little nearby places where John Dougall once lived and worked.
“Linlithgow” certainly struck a repeated chord in the collective family memory for five-six generations. No-one ever mentioned Midlothian or Edinburghshire. And yet, that is where most of the action took place. As much action as I can uncover.
Our John Dougall was baptized in West Calder parish, commonly ascribed (had I understood it) to placement in the County of Midlothian. It seems almost certain he was born at Parkhead—named as his parents’ residence in the parish record—in Linlithgowshire. For some reason, John’s parents ignored the kirk at Abercorn near Parkhead. Each time a new Dougall came along in the 1780s they travelled about thirteen miles and across five parishes to West Calder in a different county for baptisms. Needless to say, family ties are suspected for the aberration.
The illustration is of a church that today lies in ruins, having been replaced by a new kirk in 1880.
Rest assured, West Calder was not playing musical chairs, but has always occupied the same position on the south side of River Almond since at least 1647. The Family History Library microfilms have the Midlothian label. My old gazetteer goes with Edinburghshire (the maps and print are so tiny only an insect could read them; I should have hired an ant to decipher). The National Archives of Scotland uses either name indiscriminately without regard, it seems, for appropriate time periods. Scotland’s Places explains all, praise be.
The title of a genealogy or family history normally includes—at a minimum—a surname and associated place name (identification). Perhaps “the Lothians” here would be an acceptable glossing over. Titles are not the place to muse as above. Having already screwed up one self-published family history by forgetting the wonderful cover illustration, recklessly onward I plunge.
Photograph, Heart of Midlothian, Royal Mile, Edinburgh, David MacClean, 2004.
 David E. Gardner, Derek Harland, Frank Smith, compilers, A Genealogical Atlas of Scotland, 2nd ed. (Provo, UT: Stevenson’s Genealogical Center, 1972).
 Brenda Dougall Merriman, Ancestors and Descendants of Donald McFadyen and Flory McLean, Isle of Coll, Scotland to River Denys, Nova Scotia (Alpharette, GA: UniBook Publishing, 2010); http://www.unibook.com/en/home, Biography category.