This post isn’t so much about the ancestors per se as it’s about frenzied preparations for two days of research at General Register House in Edinburgh. That’s the one at the east end of Princes Street. As opposed to the one at the west end of Princes Street, imaginatively called West Register House. NAS. National Archives of Scotland. My hotel is thankfully nearby, as memorized from a colourful and distracting street map, so I calculate a maximum 10? minute walk after breakfast heading east. No dallying at shop windows along the way.
Historical Search Room, General Register House, Edinburgh; http://www.nas.gov.uk
Anticipation of an adventure, they say, is half the fun. Who said that, anyway? It may be the only fun. Time constraints allow for two days at NAS, within the specified hours of 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Every minute is precious. Who knows how much time is eaten up with registering (passport type photos required), orientation, filling out forms, and waiting for retrievals and printouts. Never mind the important in-between part of computer and microfilm searching.
My primary research goals are at the one facility. I pursue Donald McFadyen relentlessly in the perhaps mistaken hypothesis that he served in a militia unit during the 1790s. A previous search of the Breadalbane Muniments was negative, so I apply myself to the collections of the Earls of Airlie and Maclaine of Lochbuie. There are muster and pay rolls for the Breadalbane Fencibles and the Argyllshire Volunteers among them. Somewhere among the meters-long shelving of estate papers. White gloves time, I believe.
My Frasers will receive some attention at GRH since my little expedition has been ordered to make an ancestor detour to Killin in Perthshire. Cousin Lizzie paved the way for me—metaphorically speaking—into a village that may have looked like this when our mutual Duncan Fraser (1783-1867) was the village blacksmith.
Monemore Cottages, Killin, Perthshire; postcard.
I go to GRH armed with specific catalogue references. One collection alone took two days of trawling the online finding aid through hundreds of items. This is the fun part? Not that I’m complaining ... thank you, gods of the NAS for the finding aids! The kinks in my neck and shoulder muscles should recover just in time to assist my pilot in keeping the transatlantic Airbus aloft for seven hours (Monty Python helps ... “Always look on the briiight side ...”).
My confidence is still a little shaky that I will understand the accents and vernacular of the native Scots. More archival time eaten up if I embarrass myself by asking them to repeat what they said several times. Or I could pretend to get it the first time, and proceed as if transmission went well. That usually lands me in some hopeless or hilarious (in hindsight) contre-temps but then again it could be a good diversion from intensive, eye-crossing research.
Edinburgh is really the only place on the itinerary that demands absolute research discipline. But only until 4:45 p.m.! What then? The map is mesmerizing. It promises historical sites of sin, depravity, and ancient murder mysteries. Whisky tasting and tartan weaving. Greyfriars Bobby. Campbell’s Close. Grassmarket. Deacon Brodie’s Tavern? Malt Shovel Inn? Ahhh ... the Hebridean Bar; surely a place for Celtic music.
Dominic Beddow and Claire Littlejohn, The Illustrated Edinburgh Map (Harper Collins Publishers Ltd., 2007).
Now that I’ve put myself on the published record, we know there must be follow-up. The netbook may or may not decide to obey me but I have Luddite backup. The adventure will unfold, as my granny never said but someone’s did, the good Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise. Being translated means Icelandic volcano, hold your temper, eh? I mean aye.