Monday, 14 May 2012

Names and Places

When you are researching your family tree the surnames you discover can often give an indication as to where your ancestors came from. Surnames that begin with Mac or Mc are typically Scottish in origin, for example. Similarly, names such as O'Reilly would suggest a family line originating in Ireland.

In addition to these obvious national indicators, it is often the case that a surname can provide a clue regarding the particular area of a country that your ancestors came from. This is especially true in Scotland, where the clan system ensured that people with the same surname could often be found grouped in the same specific locations. This is by no means an exact science when it comes to genealogy, but it is useful information to have at your disposal. 

I wanted to highlight some of the ancestors I have discovered as examples.

  • Cruickshank - this name and its variants is very common in the north-east of Scotland. My line goes back to St. Fergus in Banffshire.
  •  Third - another north-east name, I have traced my line to Fraserburgh, and before this to Rathen in the mid 1700s.
  • Campbell - one of the most common Scottish names. The earliest ancestor I can find is Edward Campbell, born in Edinburgh in 1806.
  • Leith - from Slains in the north-east.
  • Kennedy - although Irish in origin, there is a large population of Kennedies in Ayrshire in Scotland. The earliest ancestor I have been able to find is Hugh Kennedy, who was born in Colmonell in 1753.
  • Cummings - another Irish name, my line goes back to the early nineteenth century in County Tyrone.

These are just some of the names to be found in my family tree, and I'm sure other people have found ancestors from much more exotic locations. I'm hoping to do so myself. I have, however, been able to travel to many of the towns and villages where my ancestors lived. To stand where your forebears stood hundreds of years before is a humbling experience, and I recommend it to anyone.

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