28 July 2009

McFadyens Part 7: The Coll Parish Questions

Those darn Collachs! Some of my frustrations are aired on FaceBook and mailing lists, but I might as well elucidate here. For the record. Notice I’ve included some views of Coll to relieve the monotony between questions. Linda Temple has sent some much appreciated photographs.

In 2007 I had drafted a 19-page McFadyen family history. Today it is over 40 pages, without intensive time spent on it. And that is not following every child of every child. It seems the more the miraculous Internet expands, the more there is to explore—so helpful when distant from the ancestral site. As I go through it to clean up my footnotes, every page presents opportunities for additions. Still, some of the resources at my disposal raise troubling genealogical questions.

Maybe this diversion to my blog will draw some answers. She said, wishfully. Being basically lazy, I hope for answers from those wiser in Scottish ways. Maybe I will have to blog more than once on these questions that painfully bog down the writing.

This year I received several pounds of paper copies of almost the entire Kirk Session minutes for the Isle of Coll. They have serious time gaps from 1733 and quite a few pages of illegible handwriting. The gaps can be explained historically. The incumbent minister, if there was one, had equal duties on the Isle of Tiree or elsewhere, depending on the time period. The handwriting, well ... we know paper was expensive in the olden days and those Presbyterians righteously crammed a lot onto one page.

Truthfully, I have reviewed every page. That’s obvious from the forest of sticky notes flopping off the top and sides of the pile. Have I done anything about it? Ummmm. The proper answer seems to be to create a chart or spreadsheet or database for all the McFadyen mentions. An attempt at family reconstructions. And why would I do that? The answer here must be because they are all more or less related at some historical point and MY people are mostly missing in those church minutes. Some of the others could be siblings of my Donald the Soldier, or even his parents’ generation.

The proceedings of the Kirk elders are liberally interspersed with lists of baptisms and marriages, albeit a few missing pages here and there in my copies, inexplicably. Among the actual minutes are copious references to illegitimate pregnancies, the result of criminal connexion, as the elders liked to say (often abbreviated as crim con which has a nice modern ring to it). Sometimes the guilty parties even agreed to marry, if they were not already married to someone else.

Q #1: Were these lists of babies or marriages in the Kirk Sessions then recorded in the Old Parish Register (OPR) for Coll & Tiree? Maybe the Kirk Session minutes are the only record of them? (Laziness raises its ugly head again; I could be cross-checking these from the wherewithal.)

Q #2: Are Coll & Tiree OPRs actually included on the IGI? I know they have been filmed by the LDS, and thanks to volunteers have been sorted and indexed on collgenealogy.com. Five of MY baptisms do appear on the latter, corresponding to patron submissions on the IGI, which also correspond to information sent to me by a local Coll historian in the early 1980s. But they are missing on the IGI extractions of parish registers (OPRs) regardless of every surname spelling I can come up with.

Next. The Presbyterian Short Catechism aka Westminster Catechism (1674) is important with regard to a complete list of the just under 1,000 inhabitants of Coll in 1776. The newly appointed clergyman visited every household and asked the questions of the faith to guage the local level of piety. His list is duly entered in the Kirk Session minutes.* I learned the catechism is instructional in nature, consisting of 107 questions (imagine what the long version must look like), being especially appropriate for youngsters and the illiterate.

In the 1776 record, adults have both first names and surnames. This applies to husbands and wives and adult children. Under-age children have first names only. Here is where I run into a bit of trouble. Most sources I’ve seen concur that under-age means under the age of seven years. Nevertheless I have a dissenting opinion, from a Coll local historian, that under-age refers to under twelve years of age.

Q #3: You saw it coming: does "under-age" mean children under seven or under twelve? Is there a reliable source to consult/cite?

Next. In that 1776 list, the wives are identified with their birth surnames according to Scottish custom. There are some widows whose households have only under-age children, i.e. the children are mentioned merely as first names.

Q #4: Do the widows bear the surname of their deceased spouse or their birth surname? The question has a direct impact on what surname those underage children were known by.

Four questions. I’m sure I’ll think of more.

* For those with no access to the Kirk Session minutes, the 1776 list is thankfully transcribed at collgenealogy.com.

Top: Coll parish church, Arinagour, Coll; Linda and John Temple.
Middle: Cemetery at Crossapol, Coll; Linda and John Temple.
Bottom: Traigh Hogh, Coll; by fishski at flickr.com.

1 comment:

Cherie Cayemberg said...

Great post, but I'm so fixated on those beautiful pictures! Absolutely gorgeous!