Friday, 28 March 2008

Berneray connections

The last week, including the long Easter weekend, has been a very "local" one. I haven't got half as much work done as had originally set out to, instead having lots of often accidental conversations with various people, and looking up information. Both fun, and illuminating.

The main Berneray event over Easter was the Historical Society "drop in".  Visible is a steady growth in the amount of "stuff" collected by the Societies current initiative, and the type and nature of the "stuff" - not just pictures, but data and metadata about Berneray. For an island with currently 124 permanent residents, it's a huge back-history. I've previously worked on metadata and digitisation projects (ironically some also funded by the NOF), so how this one progresses is of particular interest. The issues concerning data and content capture, preservation, duplication, accuracy and checking, cross-referencing and metadata are made more difficult by the almost impossibly complex connections between residents past and present, and the fragmented sources of information.

Seeing some of the older information, especially the family names, has also reminded me to restart looking into my family past. It's tricky as most of my living relatives are scattered across Canada; I have relatives in all 10 provinces and three territories, especially clustered in British Columbia and Nova Scotia. Unfortunately, I'm not in contact with most of them. When I was younger, some of them sent magazines and parcels of chewy fruit stuff to my family, but despite going to the US several times I've never gone over the border to visit any. A trip is becoming overdue. Hmmm, sudden thought - next year is the "homecoming" year, and it would be good if any of them with a proven connection visited the Outer Hebrides.

The intriguing part is that a lot of these Canadian relatives are there because their ancestors emigrated from "rural" west Scotland in the 19th and early 20th century; mixed in with the names are MacKillops and MacLeods. One elderly relative in Canada speaks some Gaelic, has talked of Harris roots, and apparently has a large collection of Scottish material, which a second cousin of mine is looking into. I have no idea or evidence at the moment, but - who knows - I might be distantly related (it would be quite a few cousins away) from some of Bernerays current residents, which would be really bizarre.

The event last weekend also helped to clarify Ruth's family connection with Berneray. Her Mothers cousin (a Mackay) was married to a local (a MacLeod yet again; that surname keeps popping up) who still possesses a croft on Berneray. It's strange, seeing him in a school photograph from around half a century ago, surrounded by people who still live on Berneray and who we know. We're starting to wonder if, subconsciously, distant mentions of Berneray, Harris or the Hebrides or other historical fragments may have influenced our decision to move to Berneray. 

Even stranger is that Ruth has quirky non-genealogical connections with both the next two couples who will become permanent residents of Berneray. Speaking of which, the issue of population statistics in the Outer Hebrides and Berneray is something I'll blog about soon.

No comments:

Post a Comment