Kinsearching June 1, 2008




Marleta Childs
P. O. Box 6825
LUBBOCK, TX 79493-6825

     The fifth volume in David Dobson's latest series, SCOTTISH HIGHLANDERS ON THE EVE OF THE GREAT MIGRATION, 1725 - 1775, pertains to THE PEOPLE OF THE NORTHERN ISLES. Commonly known as the Orkney Islands and the Shetland Islands, the Northern Isles lie to the north of the mainland of Scotland.

     As Dobson explains in his introduction, the background of the islands differs from the history of most of the Scottish Highlands where the population was of Celtic origin and spoke Gaelic. Noteworthy is the fact that the Orcadians (inhabitants of the Orkneys) and the Shetlanders were primarily of Scandinavian descent, with an element of Lowland Scots. Due to their lineage, they spoke a dialect of Norse (Norwegian) from medieval times until the language was eventually superseded by Scots. In addition, compared to the complex factors causing emigration from the Highlands on the mainland, the reasons for Orcadians and Shetlanders to leave were simple: poverty and lack of opportunity.

     Once isolated on the northwest fringes of Europe, the Northern Isles found themselves astride a major sea route as trade expanded between North America and northern Europe. Stromness in the Orkneys became the first or last port of call for many vessels crossing the Atlantic. Beginning in the seventeenth century, for instance, the ships of the Hudson Bay Company sailed from that town to the New World. The accessibility to oceanic travel led to a stream of emigrants going to America and the West Indies in the eighteenth century; among those leaving in 1774 were individuals headed for Georgia on the Marlborough.

     In his introduction Dobson reminds genealogists that the most important sources of family data are the Old Parish Registers of the Church of Scotland. For the Northern Isles, however, only eight such registers date from the 1600s while just nineteen start in the early 1700s; the rest cover the period from 1751 to 1800. Like other books in the series, this volume identifies resources that either supplement available church records or can be used in their absence.

     Although the publication is not a comprehensive directory, it compiles references to more than 1,000 residents in the Northern Isles during the eighteenth century. Because the amount of available information varies, details for some persons may only be the individual's name, a location (place of residence, for instance) a date, and the source of the material. Additional facts for a few people may concern occupation or military service, names of relatives, and date of death. Recurring surnames in the volume include BAIKIE, BONAR, CLOUSTON, DISHINGTON, FEA, FLETT, GIFFORD, GRIERSON, HEDDELL/HEDDLE, ISBISTER, MOWAT, NICOLSON, SANDERSON/SANDISON, SCOLLAY, SPENCE, and TRAILL.

     Family researchers who have Orcadians or Shetlanders in their pedigree will wish to see what interesting and helpful information appears in SCOTTISH HIGHLANDERS ON THE EVE OF THE GREAT MIGRATION, 1725 - 1775: THE PEOPLE OF THE NORTHERN ISLES. Genealogical collections that have the first four books in Dobson's series will want to add a copy of the latest volume. Libraries which do not have the Scottish set should consider placing it in their holdings.

     The 98-page paperback has an informative introduction, maps, interesting illustrations, a list of transatlantic shipping links, and a key to sources. Names of the principal individuals are arranged alphabetically. Since some entries mention other people, such as relatives or employer, an index to their names would be helpful. To the book's price of $16.50, buyers should add the cost for postage and handling charges. For U. S. postal mail, the cost is $4.00 for one book and $2.00 for each additional copy; for UPS, the cost is $6.00 for one copy and $2.50 for each additional book. The volume (item order #9013) may be purchased by check, MasterCard, or Visa from Clearfield Company, 3600 Clipper Mill Rd., Suite 260, Baltimore, Maryland 21211 (for phone orders, call toll free 1-800-296-6687; fax 1-410-752-8492; website

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