Pining for the West

Family History | October 23, 2009

People who want to find out more about their family history can sometimes wonder how on earth they can make a start.

So for a kick off I think that it is quite interesting to take a look at the National Trust surname search page.

You can then enter in all the family names which you have dug up and it will come up with a map giving you the highest density of that name at a particular time period.

For instance if you enter in the name Carruthers (that always sounds quite a posh name to me somehow), it comes up with Dumfries and Galloway in Scotland as the main area for that surname.

Dumfries and Galloway is close to England but you could never mistake it for England. It always amazes me that the place is so vast and feels so remote. Just miles and miles of hills and sheep, and there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of signs of habitation. Very atmospheric though and I think a bit spooky but maybe that’s just because they aren’t the hills of home.

The internet is a fantastic tool for family research and I think if you google just about any county in Britain they will have a genealogy section on their website. All very exciting.

Don’t blame me though if it turns out that you are descended from a long line of cut-throats or sheep thieves!

One of my collateral ancestors was transported to Australia for sedition, but I’m quite proud of him. It was 1795 and he was trying to get the vote for the common man. Unfortunately he ended up dying of yellow fever. He was a tenant farmer, nothing at all exciting until his mouth got the better of himself and he upset the government of the day.



  1. You did well! I only got back to 1835 Poland (and it turns out, this could be Hungary) according to one census. I don’t know where in Poland though because I don’t know the real Polish name I have been told that it may be SAMSON because this is pronounced SHIMSHON hence SIMPSON. This particular ancestor was a Jewish tailor by the way. So we got Welsh, Scottish and Polish (or Hungarian) in our family, a real mixed bag!

    Comment by echostains — October 24, 2009 @ 12:01 pm

    • I think we are all mongrels here, if we’re honest. My own name (Skirving) isn’t in Scottish surname books but is in an ancient Scottish names book. It originates from Scandinavia so I’m probably a descendant from a Viking raider. The other names are all boringly Scottish though. Makes you wonder about the BNP, they are almost certainly from a mixed bag like the rest of us. It’s nice to know where people lived and when. Very strangely the mother of the poor transported soul ended up living in the street which runs past the bottom of where I live now. I only discovered that a few years ago, until then I didn’t know that we had anything to do with the east of Scotland, but I still prefer the west.

      Comment by piningforthewest — October 24, 2009 @ 8:23 pm

  2. Aw the poor woman! it must have broken her heart I think that you do find certain kind of patterns emerging as you research your family tree. Also surnames will come up again and again (and not only in the tree, in aquaintences and friends). It’s as if your history has already been wrote and every generation, the experiences, names and places are jumbled up then thrown, like dice, so certain componants are still there, but in a slightly different way. For example, fate has decreed it that you live on the street where your ancestor was: it’s as if you’ve been drawn back. Have you links with Australia? Perhaps in the future one of your family will live there, this time with great success (to address the balance)

    Comment by echostains — October 25, 2009 @ 4:00 pm

    • I completely agree with you. I have an uncle who emigrated to Australia in the 60s. His name is the same as the transported man’s name. My uncle won the Australian lottery shortly after he got there, just enough money to buy a large plot of land in a posh suburb of Melbourne and build a house. Then married happily and had two daughters. All very neat.

      Comment by piningforthewest — October 25, 2009 @ 10:21 pm

      • Now that is neat! I am convinced there’s a pre planned pattern drawn up for us or a rough chart. Perhaps it’s in our genes, these instincts drawing us onwards and towards these places and people. You hear about people having heart transplants and taking on the tastes and traits of the doner: a kind of memory stored in the organ or DNA. I was trying to get this kind of idea across in this altered book page I did ages ago;

        Comment by echostains — October 26, 2009 @ 10:10 am

      • Yes , I think that everything is genetic, you just inherit traits diluted to a different strength. Outside forces must play a part too and different experiences will bring about a totally unexpected outcome. It reminds me of when my husband used to be a research chemist, if an experiment had an unusual outcome they would look into the sky and say, ‘the clouds are different this time’. Very little is known about the workings of the brain anyway and I’ve thought for a long time that we have echoes from past generations. I wondered if that was how you came about your name.

        Comment by piningforthewest — October 27, 2009 @ 12:28 am

  3. Heheh perhaps I did in a subconscious way, I’ve always liked the past. The name Echostains came about when I was doing my Personal project for my degree. I had branched into abstract art and the paintings were about communication, through what I called ‘Shadowmaps’ which were a kind of code (colour combinations etc that communicated with the viewer) then ‘Yellow Wallpaper’ (based on a short story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, which used colour as a narrative. For example I’ve got one painting called ‘1066; which uses kind of Bayaux tapestry colours to suggest the narrative. The ‘echo’ is the ‘conversation’ the viewer has with the ‘stain’ thereby ensuing an exchange. If you type echostains into my search you will find some paintings (unless they’ve disappeared, lol! like a post I was doing the other night, I was FUMING about that, it’s happened a few times now)

    Comment by echostains — October 27, 2009 @ 1:31 pm

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