02 September 2009

McFadyens Part 9: Footnotes and Fantasies

I know, I’m neglecting the Dougalls and Frasers. Best to concentrate on one project at a time, to get the maximum effort into the story and the mechanics. Strike while the iron’s hot. Stop delaying and dallying with dreamy thoughts that a visit to the Isle of Coll is in my future and will somehow fuse everything together. Just because I saw the McFadyen homestead in River Denys (Cape Breton), doesn’t mean I’ll find a heap of stones in Scotland where my ancestors once lived barefoot and ate turnips. It doesn’t mean I’ll have a huge epiphany or a sea change or something. As I understand it, tourists often fail to grasp local colloquialisms, so they miss the healthy humour of today’s Collachs.
Who, by some reports, tend to party away half the night. This is how they raise money for a new community centre so they can have bigger parties. I'd never get any rest if I went.
Photograph "Arinagour Sunrise," Welcome to Coll (http://www.visitcoll.co.uk/wallpapers.php?g=1&w=1024&h=768). This is what happy Collachs see on their way home after a successful ceilidh.

But I digress. This was supposed to be about my resolve to shape up my McFadyen family history (Ancestors and Descendants of Donald McFADYEN and Flory McLEAN from the Isle of Coll, Scotland, to River Denys, Nova Scotia). The cards are on the table and the iron is in the fire. I confess: I’m a manual, word-processing, do-it-yourself family history writer. The shaping up means checking every footnote, about 200 at last count, for proper standards and consistency. Elizabeth Shown Mills’ Evidence Explained is THE guide, not to mention her QuickSheets for citing online sources. A good footnote/citation checker will pay the greatest attention to each note in sequence. A not-so-good checker, like me, will get distracted by each note and start rummaging through files to see if I missed a nugget or go online to search/add more information or start bugging the relatives again. It gets painful when I find myself subscribing to more databases or waiting for new bits from phone calls and postal mail.

Discipline is absolutely necessary to stop the straying and go with what I’ve got. Otherwise, as all writers and historians know, the job will never end. We want to research, write and edit forever. And let me tell you, I acknowledge that 200 footnotes are a modest pittance compared to the ambitious projects I see other genealogists undertaking. Sigh. Will anyone in my family ever understand why I’m doing this the way I’m doing it?

Then I must check my genealogical numbering system, including all those superscript numbers and when they should be italic or not. My suspicion is that I may have mixed the Register system with the NGSQ system sometimes. You’d think I would have used Numbering Your Genealogy: Basic Systems, Complex Families and International Kin (authors Curran, Crane and Wray, Special Publication no. 64 from NGS, 1999) from the get-go, avoiding this retro situation. Well, this perfect booklet was published way after I’d started my constructing. Too late to wipe it out and start again from scratch.

You can take a car on the ferry from Oban to Coll, but why bother when you can rent a bicycle on an island measuring about 3 miles by 12 miles. I’m only seeking a driver from Edinburgh to Oban who won’t kill us driving on the wrong side of the road. Might as well keep the dream alive.

1 comment:

Sheri Fenley said...

This is so great to know that even geniuses like you have a problem sometimes getting distracted and led on another path (your footnote review example). It's good to dream but I need to get my head out of the clouds before I float away!