Lochs and Stornoway Records go online August 2014


Update on Hebridespeople.com

The immediate news is that we have now added Lochs Parish to the main data-base, so that it now includes Lochs and Stornoway parishes – the whole eastern side of Lewis – as well as Harris, bringing the total number of entries to sixty-three thousand!  We were now working on the Parish of Uig, which, with a bit of luck and a lot of embrocation for my typing fingers, should be ready by the end of the autumn.

I am frequently asked  how clients can get the most results from the databases , and perhaps the best explanation is to give an example. We had an enquiry recently from a client in Connecticut whose ancestor was George, a son of William and Rachel MacLeod, who had come from the Isle of Lewis in the mid-eighteen hundreds.

Most emigration from Lewis at the period was to the Eastern Townships of Quebec, near the border with the USA, from 1838 to 1863, and to Bruce County, Ontario, near Lake Huron, in the 1850s. 

We can then look up the hebridespeople.com.uk website; this is done by buying credits – minimum

£10 for 10 credits, with reductions for larger quantities.

We look first in the emigrants section, of which the entry screen costs one credit. If we call up all William MacLeods on the emigration section of the data base, we find twenty-three William MacLeods – which is interesting, but not particularly useful! – but there is also a summary of the information for each. From this we can see only one that fits the details we have, so we can call up his entry.  Alternatively by specifying more details on the entry screen we can call up directly any that fit.

You can see that the ease of identifying the correct person depends on the amount of starting information – there are over 350 John MacDonalds on the database, so obviously  a great deal of information would be required to identify any one person of that name, whereas a Farquhar MacLennan is probably unique. Our database does not of course claim to be wholly comprehensive (though we are adding to it all the time) but it does cover all the main families we can trace in the main emigration areas.

In our case, we have identified the appropriate entry, so we can call it up, at a cost of 5 credits –

William MacLeod ; born 1813; married to Rachel Finlayson;  son of Donald MacLeod and Margaret MacKenzie;  left from Branahuie, Stornoway Parish, Isle of Lewis; settled in Lingwick Township, Compton County, Quebec, in 1842

The information about where they came from and where they settled is gathered from census returns both in Scotland and in Quebec, which also give us an indication of ages – neither William nor Rachel appears in the OPR for Stornoway Parish. We know from Quebec records that William and Rachel both died in 1899, but the records do not show parents’ names. However, we know from oral tradition that William was a brother of a Mrs Catherine MacLeod  of Bayble, Lewis, and her death register there in  1907 shows her parents as Donald and Mary MacLeod.

There is even less formal information about Rachel – only an entry in the census of 1841, but her Gaelic patronymic is remembered as Raonaid Dhomhnaill ‘ic Sheorais – Rachel, daughter of Donald son of George – that her father was drowned when she was a young girl and that she was brought up  by her uncle John Finlayson of Coll, in Lewis.

References are shown for our emigrant register – Q608 – and our Hebridean register – 8325. These refer to Family Notes and a handwritten Family Sheet, both of which can in many cases be accessed direct from the emigration database.

Alternatively, or in the case of non-emigrant families, we can then move to the main Hebridean database. This is currently available for the Parishes of Lochs and Stornoway on Lewis, and for the Parish of Harris, but other parishes are being entered as available.

Again access to the entry sheet costs one credit, and again, the more information you have, the easier it is to identify the correct entry – on this database there are already over 700 John MacDonalds, and many more to come!

Having chosen the correct entry, you can then download it for a further five credits. This will give parents, where known, spouse where appropriate, date and place of birth (though pre-1855 these may be from census records and not necessarily wholly accurate), date and place of marriage, date and place of death (if known) our family tree reference for the person and spouse, and where they have been located in appropriate census records from 1841 to 1901.

Access can also be had to Family Notes, which give earlier family history, the first generation of children, and their marriage details and references. These cost a further ten credits.

In the example we are using, we get more information about the members of the extended family of William (Ref 8325) and Rachel MacLeod –

Donald MacLeod of 11/12 Branahuie is believed to have been a son of Murdo, but nothing further is known about him. He was married to Mary MacKenzie, daughter of John MacKenzie and Ann MacKinnon, with four of a family – Margaret, who did not marry; Isabella, who married Roderick MacIver of Tolsta and emigrated to the Eastern Townships of Quebec; Catherine, who married Donald MacLeod (8456) of 37 Lower Bayble, and William, who married Rachel Finlayson, daughter of Donald Finlayson  (7285) of Tong, and also emigrated to the Eastern Townships of Quebec, where they were among the first settlers on the shores of Lac Megantic.

If we call up the Family Notes for Rachel’s cross-reference (7222) we find –

George Finlayson of Aird Tong was a son of James Finlayson, who according to some sources came to Lewis from Lochcarron in Wester Ross in the 1750s. George Finlayson was married to Ann MacLeod, but nothing further is known about her. George had a brother John who appears in estate rentals in Tong as mac Sheumais mhic Anndra – son of James son of Andrew. George Finlayson had five of a family – John, of whom nothing further is known; Ann, who married Murdo MacIver in Quebec; Kirsty, who married John MacDonald, also in Quebec; and Donald, whose daughter Rachel married William MacLeod (8325) of Branahuie and Quebec.

Access is also available to family sheets, which are working family tree sheets, hand-written by Bill Lawson, showing the family from the earlier records to the 1920s, with cross-referencing of spouses. These also cost ten credits, so that the whole information made available costs twenty-six units (£26) – surely a bargain for the amount of information provided. If your starting information is less exact, you may have to spend more credits in making the first identification of the correct family, so the moral, as in all genealogy, is to do your homework first!

Not all researches will end up so successful as this of course – there are many cases where the source information is just not available – but perhaps this example will show what can be done.