20 October 2012

This Time It's Forenames

... Scottish, that is. Highland/Gaelic practice, to be specific.

It didn't escape my notice that my ancestor Margery McIntyre was also referred to in some Quebec records as Mary, Marion or Margaret.
▪ Margery: marriage 1808; baptisms of sons Samuel, John, and Hugh 1819; son Daniel 1824.
▪ Mary: baptisms of daughter Elizabeth in 1821; daughter Mary in 1822.
▪ Margaret: baptism of daughter Ann 1812.
▪ Marion: burial of son Charles 1845.
I won't even mention that she was strangely identified as "C." McIntyre in the 1851 census with her husband and many children.

That Margery/Marjorie derives from Margaret seems quite straightforward. Marion is a version of Mary. Marion is also a form of Sheila, I'm told, and could be a diminutive or substitute for Morag and Sarah. Googling can be dangerously hypnotic and I got as far as Marsaili and Marcail as versions of Margaret/Marjorie/Marjory, both meaning "a pearl," before I snapped out of the trance.

In the wildly optimistic hope that after "Margery's" birth a minister was in the vicinity with a sessional clerk somewhere in his wake to record it, I searched ScotlandsPeople for baptisms 1782-1788. Her Quebec records of marriage, one census, and death indicated 1785-1786 as her year of birth.

Ever tried searching for a Mary Anybody in a large database? Yes, I see sympathetic heads bobbing. How to narrow the results when you don't know who her parents are--the very item you seek? Creative fallback, it might be called. Since Margery had five sons, I persuaded myself that one of them bore the name of her father. Each variation of her name had to be used with each of the five male names. "Refine your search" over and over again sure used up the SP credits faster than you can say where's my credit card.

The results from all this switching, examining, saving, printing, and too much coffee took at least a day. Not to forget that most Highland parish registers have erratic, dismaying gaps. The names Margery and Marjory were hopelessly unproductive. I confess, I didn't get to Marion yet. Lowland parishes and unlikely mothers' names were eliminated. Down to my selected winnows:
▪ d/o John McIntyre & Sarah Graham, Kilninver & Kilmelfort, Argyll, baptized 27 June 1785
▪ d/o John McIntyre & Elizabeth Cameron, Kilmallie, Argyll, baptized 14 September 1779
▪ d/o John McIntyre & Elizabeth Cameron, no location given but RD 525, baptized 1 October 1777
▪ d/o John McIntyre (mother unnamed), Cornaigbeg, Isle of Tyree, Argyll, baptized 9 February 1785
▪ d/o John McIntyre & Elizabeth Cameron, town, Kilmallie, Argyll, baptized 29 December 1784

John and Sarah are dark horses; Sarah is quite an alien forename in my families but the surname Graham caught my eye because of previously-discussed potential connections. Tyree (Isle of Tiree) got my attention too, only because (irrationally) I have a weakness for its sister Isle of Coll.

But John and Elizabeth! Cameron AND Kilmallie! even though Camerons are a dime a dozen in Argyll. I'm very partial to these entries. John was the name of Margery's first son, Elizabeth was her second daughter. Here we have daughters Margaret and Mary possibly born to the same couple. Examination of the actual parish pages showed the 1779 Margaret baptized in Maryburgh (the town settlement at Fort William) according to the page. When I checked the full entry for 1777, the parents of that Margaret were from Achnacroish, a tiny place on the Isle of Lismore (which corresponds to Registration District 525) about twenty miles southwest of Fort William. 

A screen shot of Mary's baptismal entry would go nicely here and as soon as I get the hang of it, who knows what might appear.

So it seems that we have two separate couples in different locations. Of course there is no marriage available <SIGH> for either couple. Only the daughter Mary's baptism in "town" at the end of 1784 is close to the target year of birth. Some other nickname might have been preempted for Margaret of 1779, leaving "Margery" for her younger sister Mary ... then again, all that googling may have messed with my head. Searching for other children 1770-1800 of a couple called John and Elizabeth did not yield any further baptisms. In other words, no evidence of a child Catherine, potential sister of my Margery and future wife of John Cameron.

Cameron collaborator Nancy has pointed out that close inspection of the parish register in that period reveals the likelihood of post-facto recording. Year after year of entries are made in the same hand, as if copied from a prior source, and are not signed by the officiating clergyman. Nancy has found two conflicting items in her own family, with one entry appearing in the wrong year and a mother's name misplaced in another.

It's known that some parishes began recording baptisms and marriages in their Kirk Sessions minutes, so I can understand the transition to keeping a separate register and perhaps copying what went before (the Isle of Coll is an example). Moreover, Don Steele said, "As the maintenance of Parish Registers depended on the Session clerk, they vary considerably over the years as one clerk succeeded another. As in England, the entries in Scottish registers were often no doubt written up from some rough notebook kept by the clerk, and in some cases this is all that has survived."[1]

The ifs, maybes, and howevers continue to multiply.

[1] D.J. Steele, Sources for Scottish Genealogy and Family History, Vol. XII of the Society of Genealogists' National Index of Parish Registers (London and Chichester: Phillimore, 1970), 72.

© 2012 Brenda Dougall Merriman


Yvonne Demoskoff said...

I like your tactic, or "creative fallback", as you call it, where you search for all variations of one name combined with all variations of the other name. It obviously makes for a lot of work, but could very well lead you to the right set of people. Keep us posted!

BDM said...

Thanks for visiting, Yvonne. I will likely spend plenty of hours like this, chasing ghosts :)