A catalogue of new developments and ideas. Each month we'll feature a
different area of research. This
the most problematic aspects of searching your family tree can be the
lack of consistency of names in official documents. Names have many
varied origins - some were patronymics, named after the father, others
relate to the name of the place where they lived, or the occupation they
were employed in. People themselves sometimes used different names from
those by which they were known by officials. It took a long time for surnames
to stabilise throughout the country, and many Scots still did not have
a stable surname in the Eighteenth Century.
changed over time and for many different reasons, for instance, when emigrants
reached a new country they often changed the spelling of their surname
and you may need more help to trace them back to their original Scottish
Also, in the past many people were illiterate and so had no conception
of how their name should be spelt, so those entering the data would just
have to guess what they thought the spelling should be. This often led
to some confusion - even brothers from the same family could have their
name spelled in different ways, There are even cases of people themselves
using different names from those by which they were officially known,
so its best to try different variants if youre getting stuck,
This problem is not just confined to surnames either, sometimes forenames
were abbreviated, or diminutives were used. So for instance you may have
to try Kate instead of Catherine, or Jim instead of James.
that can be of help is that Scots often named children by following a
simple set of rules. Don't use these as a firm guide but you may find
this pattern in your family tree:
1st son named after father's father
2nd son named after mother's father
3rd son named after father
named after mother's mother
2nd daughter named after father's mother
3rd daughter named after mother
Always be aware though, that this is not a hard and fast rule, but it
was a common practice.
books for more help on Scottish surnames:
Black, George F. The Surnames of Scotland. Edinburgh: Birlinn, 1999
Dorward, David. Scottish Surnames. Glasgow: HarperCollins, 1995.
of surnames should be used with great care however, as names have changed
so much over time that the older ones are often of little value.
Focus on Clans and Gaelic Sources
the 1901 Census
Imaging of records
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