National Novel Writing Month

While reading Tumblemoose, one of the writing blogs I follow, I noticed a reference to National Novel Writing Month. The blog entry was called “Time To Get Your NaNo On!”

Apparently every year, in November, aspiring writers decide they are going to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. The idea is to write and not edit your work just get the words down on paper.

I thought this might also work for those of us who are procrastinating about writing our family histories. Now I know a lot of detail needs to be included in the family history, especially sources, but this could be a way for us to get the words on the page without thinking about the size of the project. How many of us have a great family story that would make a good novel?

The main idea is to just stop and take time to write without getting caught up in the details. You can not start writing until November 1st but you can start writing outlines, develop characters and story ideas. From a family history point of view you can decide on the family to focus on, write out source lists, plan outlines of what you want to include in the book. Once November 1st rolls around then you can start writing. This would be roughly 1667 words a day.

Are you up for a challenge?

©2010 – Blair Archival Research

Amanuensis Monday – A Family Treasure from John Sheddens Campbell

My Great Great Grandfather was John Sheddens Campbell. He lived in Glasgow where he raised his large family, 18 children from two marriages. John Sheddens Campbell started out his working life as a blacksmith as was his father before him. When his working life ended he was the owner of James Boardman Company where he was a die sinker and engraver. He started in the company as a clerk and then a brand cutter and traveler. He took over the company in 1866.

At the end of his life John Sheddens Campbell was blind. Several of his sons had immigrated to British Columbia and he decided to dictate a family history to my Great Grandfather Frederick Thomas Campbell to be sent to his other son Harold Dietz Campbell who was living in Vancouver.

I don’t know when the copy of it came into the hands of my family. I always remember my Grandmother having a copy. It was rolled up with an elastic band around it. When I got it I put it under my mattress to flatten it out so that it could be read and transcribed.

It is doubly special to me as it is the words of my Great Great Grandfather as written by my Great Grandfather.

The document is eleven pages long and on the top is written “To Harold Dietz Campbell from his Father John Sheddens Campbell.” From the handwriting and ink it does not appear to have been written at the time of the documents creation. At the end of the family history is another note “All the foregoing was written from memory in September 1911 by John Sheddens Campbell who died 4th May 1918, aged 78 years.” Now I know that the information after 1911 was added by someone else. The previous part of the message is in the same ink and hand as the document.

The family history covers John Sheddens Campbell’s maternal and paternal sides. It is written with the relationships being described as those to John Sheddens Campbell and Harold Dietz Campbell. So they talk about John and Harold’s Aunt, cousin, Great Grandfather, etc.

John starts with his Great Grandfather around 1700. He mentions that a couple of his sons were killed at the Battle of Culloden under Prince Charlie in 1745. Next is John’s Grandfather who did iron work on the Stockwell Bridge in Glasgow. He built his home and smitty in Goose Dubs and the name is still used in the area today. He married Margaret Graham of the Montrose Graham’s and they had three children. Their son John who was working on sailing vessels had been paid off and was on his way home when he was press ganged into service on the Victory and was killed at the battle of Trafalgar. This fact has yet to be proven.

His other son Walter was a solider and fought under Wellington in 1810. He describes all the battles, his regiment, pension and his medals. Walter was also among the first to become “teetotal and join that movement in Glasgow in 1830.”

Now while he is going through the family connections he says things like “Aunt Mary” “Mrs. Sherriff” and “you know about them so I will not go into detail here” which is very frustrating from a researchers point of view.

John Sheddens Campbell describes first and second marriages and families. Some went to Australia and he says that Harold knows about them as he met them during his visit. When John talks of his half brothers going to Australia he says “they corresponded regularly with home for 9 years – that is to 1857 since then all knowledge of them …has ceased, though for 50 years or more I have tried many ways to discover any of them, but have failed all along the line.”

His maternal side starts around 1740 with the reference to a French refugee called “Guiliamus something?” who changed his name to William Robertson. When talking of his Grandmother and the land she owned he provided the 1911 street names where the land was located.

He describes their attributes, how, when, where deaths, births, marriages and other events happened. At one point he describes how a family member immigrated to South Africa and how “mother,” his wife, corresponds with them. I found this interesting when I ended up corresponding with their Great Great Granddaughter in South Africa eighty years later.

He did make a few errors. He got the name of his maternal Grandfather wrong. He left out several bits of information that during the Edwardian period people would not talk about but have since been discovered.

The document is too long to fully transcribe here but I have transcribed it and it has been published in the “Journal of the Glasgow & West of Scotland Family History Society” Newsletter No 76, June 2006.

Still when all is said and done this is a wonderful little treasure to have when you begin your family history research. I have referred to it often and reread it many times. Each time finding something new that I either had not noticed or did not remember.

Thank you John Sheddens Campbell.

©2010 – Blair Archival Research

Scottish Distributed Digital Library

The Scottish Distributed Digital Library is a collection of texts, images, and sounds with Scottish themes that can be found throughout the internet. There are several areas on this website. The first is collections which are an alphabetical listing of holdings and you can either use the SCONE collections landscape or click on the highlighted title to take you to the link. There are 231 entries on this page.

The first one I clicked on was “John Thomson’s Atlas of Scotland, 1832” and it took me to the digital file at the National Library of Scotland. When I clicked on Renfrewshire I got a map that I was able to expand and look at in more detail. The boundaries are done in colour and there is some detail in the form of trees, loughs, mountains and roads but no homes except when in the towns where you can see the homes lined along the street in black blocks. There are town and parish names on the maps as well as reference names such as Barracks and chapel. There are a lot of names on the map and it can be difficult to find that place of interest.

What I like about the maps is the detail and the fact that at the borders they name the next county so you know what to look at next. You will also find an index for each county. The index includes references to find the place on the map. On the reference page for the index you will find a link to the map for that county.

When I clicked on the section for books there was a link to follow but it was broken. It mentioned Scotland’s Culture so I found that website. Here they show you how to search for many topics and to use “Worldcat… the largest network of library and content services.” On Worldcat you can do a search and it will tell you the closest library for your area where the book can be found. It will also provide you with a link to digital copies, if they are available, and you can view it online. I clicked on “Loyalty and Identity: Jacobites at Home and Abroad” by Murray Pittock, Paul Kleber Monod and D. Szechi. It was published in 2009 and a table of contents is shown on the page along with a brief summary. You are required to purchase this eBook.

So I tried another one. This time “Strongholds of the picts: the fortifications of dark age Scotland” by Angus Konstam and Peter Dennis. It was published in 2010. This took me to ebrary where I was able to read the book online for free. I found this process a bit hit and miss.

They also have a Metasearch and when I clicked on “select others” there was a display of all the available catalogues. Here I selected “check all” and I put in Scotland family history as my search term. I got hits for a few libraries. Some said “Source did not open”, “No matches found” and “Shortcut was not found.”

I chose the results from Glasgow Caledonian University Library catalogue which had ten results. None of the results were digital but they provided some reference material that I had not previously known. It would have been nice if there had been more of a description of the book available, but then I can search for it on Worldcat to find out more.

The last selection was Subjects. Here they provide a long alphabetical list of items. Under Glasgow (Scotland) – History I chose eBooks about Glasgow and got seven books on Glasgow. One of interest to those who might have professional ancestors from Glasgow was “Memoirs and portraits of one hundred Glasgow men who have died during the last thirty years and in their lives did much to make the city what it now is” by James MacLehose, 1886. There are biographies and pictures of the gentlemen.

Another one was “Glimpses of Old Glasgow” by Andrew Aird which was published in 1894. There are Contents and Indexes to choose from but the indexes are a little misleading as they index the topics discussed and then there is an index within that index. A lot of the biographies have to do with Ministers of the church and well to do citizens. One section of interest is Events which provides some background on things like “Electric Lighting, Inauguration of.”

Four of the books listed were published prior to 1900. Two were published in the first decade of the twentieth century and one is published in 2004.

The Scottish Distributed Digital Library is a good resource for finding more information about the times in which our ancestors lived and helping us to possibly find more details about our ancestors. There are some limits but I believe this is a work in progress.

©2010 – Blair Archival Research

National Archives of Scotland Record Guides

Have you ever visited the National Archives of Scotland website? They have a whole section devoted to Record Guides. The directory covers adoption to wills and testaments and everything in between.

They provide a history of the record and places to look for more information. Those places could be within their own records or other archives and libraries. There are also suggestions for further reading on the topic of interest.

This was my first stop when I was looking for information on a Scottish divorce. Here I found a history of divorce in Scotland and they provided the information you would need to find a divorce record. At this point they also pointed out what kind of research services they are able to provide.

Want to find out more about Scottish records? Then check out the Record Guides Directory at the National Archives of Scotland.

©2010 – Blair Archival Research