2023 The Year of the Rabbit

I’ve spoken about rabbit holes already and I think it’s amusing that 2023 is the Year of the Rabbit! I am determined that it won’t become the Year of the Rabbit Holes! Especially because this year I want to have my One-Place Study out for people to have a browse through rather than continuing to be a far off dream.

Yesterday evening, I settled down to do some researching for my One-Place Study. I took out a notepad and asked myself a question about who lived in the parish in 1841 who worked in a specific industry. A lot of results came back, so I kept changing the keyword on FindMyPast to see what the different variations came back as. I realised that I had to narrow down my searches to that specific place and not within a 5 mile radius which would take in villages not only from different parishes, but also from a different county.

I then thought about how many deaths occurred in the parish attached to the occupation 2+/- years from 1841. Interestingly, only two names came up and one looked as though he may have been an owner within the industry. So instead of aimlessly heading down a rabbit hole, I thought that this character that I had discovered was going to become the subject of my investigation!

I posed myself a new question. I soon realised that there was a difference between the transcriptions on the man’s surname and the records available on Scotland’sPeople. There also seemed to be a difference in the transcription on the place of residence and where I found him in 1841. I could make an educated guess, but I really needed more evidence.

I put his name and the name of his place of residence from the 1841 census and also from the death and burial transcription from FindMyPast into a Google Search, but nothing came back that cemented my guess of where he lived. I’d need to dig deeper and cross reference between FindMyPast, Scotland’sPeople and putting my thoughts onto paper and into Google to see if there were any further clues.

I couldn’t find any records for the man besides the 1841 census return and his death on Scotland’sPeople, so I again went back to FindMyPast and found even more variations in the man’s surname. I eventually came across banns for a marriage to a lady who had the same first name as one of the three women living with him on the 1841 census, the only one of the three with the same surname. There were banns for them in his parish and also in her parish. I picked up the certificate for his parish to see if it gave his occupation, but sadly it didn’t. I then looked for baptisms of children to the couple, but there were no baptisms for any children with all the various spellings to a father with his first name. That made sense as the other two women living with the family had different surnames, possibly both servants.

With a better idea of the surname variant and the age of the gentleman, I tried again to find his baptism and lo and behold there he was. He was not in the parish he married in, nor where he lived in 1841, but in the parish where his death and burial was recorded. With the new information on who his parents were, I managed to find a fair number of siblings born between the 1750s and 1770s, but no marriage or banns between his parents anywhere in Scotland. Not even the wildcards and tricks worked.

The question I set myself was not into his extended family for the time being. I wanted to know who he was because I want to write a blog about him and how he ties to my parish even though it seems he lived elsewhere. I didn’t know if his link was just familial or if his work connected him back as he didn’t live too far away in the neighbouring county.

I tried to look for any record on the man but drew many blanks, so I headed to the newspapers where I managed to find out more. With new places mentioned, I went back to Google and put in his name with the new places and found on Old Scottish transcripts of two cases against him in the 1830s, not long after he was in the newspapers.

With another place name to put into Google, a link to a Facebook group came up with an old photograph from the area with someone responding with the name of the residence I was looking for! I looked at the photograph, jumped onto GoogleMaps and started working my way down the street to match the photographs on the Facebook group with the GoogleMaps Street View to either find a building or a road name that linked to what had been there before.


Yes, the building I was looking for actually had its name painted on the side of it! My guess from the mistranscription on the death/burial was right and there I was, looking at the building that this man and his wife lived in shortly before his death in 1843. Amazing!

I still have newspaper articles on the gentleman to read through and more digging to do before I try to pull it together and tie it up with a bow for sharing with a wider audience. I need to look into his parents too because I don’t know what his father’s occupation was. I haven’t looked at the kirk sessions or any other records that may add more colour to the life of this gentleman, his family and the parishes he lived in or the occupation and industry he was involved with.

I think most genealogists and historians love a good rabbit hole. This year, though, I plan on making sure that I keep tabs on which burrow I’m heading down and what questions I’d like answered before I get lost in the maze of the historical warrens. I’m keeping track of where I found the information so I can go back to it and hope to share the gentleman’s story in the next few months.

What are your goals for 2023?