27 June 2013

Revisiting research with new information sources

A reminder from Brenda Turner of the importance of revisiting problems as new resources are continually becoming available.

"I last did a ton of research trying to figure out where my gr gr grandfather Archie was born, about 10 years ago. He seemed to be from a small place in Ayrshire. Finally I tracked down what may have been his birthplace by scanning huge, and unindexed (and mind-numbing) OS maps of Scotland with a magnifying glass. I visited there in 2004, sure, then, it was the right place.

In the last few years new information has come up which has lead me to think Archie may have been from Northern Ireland. I have never been able to explain those new details away.

In anticipation of my 2013 UK trip for family history research, I decided damn it, this is going to be the year I figure out all out for good! I've now been working on this here, electronically by distance, for about a month, to be followed by on the ground research on the spot in both Scotland and Ireland. Of course, everything has changed in this research since 2004. Now there is a great free site called Scotland's Places. In there in sources such as the 1785 to 1798 cart and farm horse taxes, cross referenced against the much better Scotland's People site with sharp views of OPRs, I have found clues that while Archie may well have been born in Ayrshire, he may have been born to Irish parents. I have found clues to indicate that his geographical proximity to his wife's family (he married her in 1822 in the Perth Ontario Military Settlement) means that he may have been purposefully travelling with her family when he came to Canada in 1820.

And now, something that was never available way back then, is the Northern Ireland Ordinance Survey maps and Irelands's place names online. I was immediately able to identify the same placename as Archie's supposed birthplace in Antrim on its east coast. In fact, he may have been Irish anyway. But I have now ordered from Abebooks.com and read an enormous amount about Antrim's history. What I have learned about Scots-Irish sea travel has shown me that there was practically a ferry service running between Belfast and Ayrshire, the voyages were so frequent. And ferries still operate today between Stranrear, Ayrshire and Belfast, a voyage of about 2 hours.

Nothing is settled yet. It's still all just possibilities to try to pin down overseas. I plan to spend some days at the Mitchell Library in Glasgow, and at the local family history libraries and archives in Ayrshire. And I plan to spend about a week at PRONI, and to visit Antrim's east coast where he may have been born, my first visit to Ireland ever.

So, always revisit your old research. Who knows what new sources you may find."

Thanks Brenda. Your tips welcome.

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