Sunday, December 05, 2010

Surname Saturday - Cowie

One of the family lines I'm researching is my Cowie line on my Dads side from Buckie in Banffshire, Scotland who are mainly fishermen.

The problem this time is not spelling as I've thankfully only come across a couple of options Cowie, Cowey, and possibly Coue or Couie. It's more a question of the number of different families in a small area sharing the same surname and profession but not necessarily related.

The electoral roll for Buckie has over 200 Cowies and searching the 1881 Census on Ancestry has 571 Cowies just for the Parish of Rathven although narrowing for fishermen gives a slightly more hopeful 139.

The answer in that part of the country to help them work out who they were talking about was to have 'tee names' or boat nicknames that can be passed down familes and often turn up in vital records and newspapers as found in a snippet from the Banffshire Advertiser of 1902 transcribed by Allan Fraser for Buckie

May 29
An article title -'An Aged Crew of Buckie Fishermen'
Buckie harbour all but deserted of herring boats apart from 2 or 3 of the old scaffies that are fast disappearing. The crews of these with up to date character of the boats but one of these, 7 the Margaret would if met on the high seas probably cause many a fish to rub their eyes a second time thinking that it was a phantom boat.
The crew of 8 has been got together by John Cowie 'Carrot' as skipper, who says, "We don’t go out but when we like".
The total age of the crew is 567 with and average age of 71. They are Messrs - John Cowie,'Carrot' 70, Alex Cowie, 'Dosie', 74, William Cowie, 'Dosie', 72, Alex Cowie, 'Dougal', 72, George Thomson, 'Law' 70, James Cowie, 'Carrot',70, George Cowie, 'Carrot', 65 and George Cowie, 'Cornal' 74.
That seven out of the 8 men are Cowies illustrates the necessity of tee names among fishermen.

My tee names (so far) - Cowie 'Coup', Cowie 'Rosie', Smith 'Peter',

Saturday, December 04, 2010

National Archives of Scotland

Back in June of 2006 I blogged about finding the web pages for The National Archives of Scotland. Searching their catalogue and finding the following entry about a Justiciary appeal by my GreatGrandfather Patrick Shields against the then Lord Bute!

Record: 1 of 1
RefNo Title Date
JC31 Justiciary Appeals Processes 1864-1994
JC31/1906 Justiciary appeals processes, 1906

CountryCode GB RepCode 234
RefNo JC31/1906/19
Repository National Archives of Scotland
Justiciary appeal by Patrick Shields, porter, North British Railway Company, Rothesay, and residing at Minister's Brae, Rothesay v The Most Honourable John Crichton Stuart, Marquis of Bute and Earl of Windsor etc.
Date 1906
Description Lodged 16 March 1906. Appeal dismissed.
AccessStatus: Open

I kept promising to arrange a visit to check out the record but life kept getting in the way.

I eventually made it up to Edinburgh to visit the National Archives in November of 2009. You need to register as a reader and show proof of address and photo id and you can then access the records free of charge. As I already had the record details it was quite straight forward to request the actual documents and they were shortly delivered to my desk as a bound wrap of legal documents tied in ribbon.

It was quite exciting to unwrap these and find the original documents from the court record where my grandfather was found guilty, the handwritten letter from my grandfathers lawyer lodging his appeal to the typewritten findings of the High Court of Justiciary.

I discovered my Great Grandfather had been found guilty of Day Poaching on land belonging to Lord Bute.

On the 26th November 1905, Patrick had been found in the grounds of Barone Park Farm near a rabbit burrow, in a turnip field, with rabbit nets, a ferret and a brown collie dog. When asked what he was doing by the gamewatcher a Mr John McGhee, he admitted he was looking for a rabbit.

You would think a straightforward case so why the appeal?

His lawyer, Mr J Scrymgeour Hepburn, lodged the appeal and argued the gamewatcher had not been asked who the owner of the land was and had not said himself who the owner was, so could you be convicted of poaching if no proof or evidence had been given that someone else owned the land. He put forward that as there had been no evidence of the ownership of the property and it could be in either of two parishes you could not impose a penalty. This despite it being common knowledge that the lands were part of Bute Estate.

Sounds like a legal technicality to me.

It did to the High Court as well. They repelled the procurators contentions and convicted my grandfather and charged a penalty of 20 shillings plus 10 shillings for expenses with the alternative of 14 days imprisonment.
My grandfather sensibly paid the fine.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Surname Saturday - Slaven/Slavine/Sloan

Since starting to research my family history I've discovered that we shouldn't be to precious about how we spell or pronounce our names as in the long run it will help us break through more brick walls.

Take the Surname Slaven, now there are several generations of these in my family and at the moment I have two families both called Slaven who only seem related through marrying into my Shields family. However tracking some of them down has proved rather tricky.

The first influx of Slavens came from Ireland originally as Slavines. Most of them adopted the Slaven spelling but a few went with Slavin and due to some who couldn't write I also have Slavan, Sleven and on one census I think his handwriting must have been awful as they are recorded as Sloan.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday

This time a gravestone from my Cowie side of the family. My Greatgrandparents George and Isabella Cowie on my fathers side. This was taken in Burnside Cemetery at Rathven outside Buckie in Banff.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sunday's Obituary - Patrick Shields

The Buteman and Rothesay Express - Friday 15 August 1963, Page 5.

Mr. Patrick Shields

Rothesay lost a well-known and respected citizen with the death last Thursday of Mr. Patrick Shields, Mary Cottage, Hillhouse Road, one of the last surviving "Pointing Porters" of Rothesay Pier. He was 89.

In his earlier years Mr. Shields, who was noted for his friendliness and good humour, is thought to have saved the lives of almost 30 people from drowning, and he was the recipient of the St. John of Jerusalem Medal for services to humanity - one of the highest civilian awards obtainable. It was presented to him in 1924 at Kelso Royal Agricultural Show by the then Prince of Wales (now the Duke of Windsor).

Mr. Shields was also awarded numerous certificates for life-saving by the Royal Humane Society. He was the first captain of Rothesay Swimming Club and gained a prize medal for captaincy at the first annual competition in July, 1894. He retained the swimming club cup, being the first person to win it three times in succession.

Mr. Shields often returned to the baths in later years and on his 81st and 82nd birthdays he enjoyed a dive from the springboard.

He retired as a pier porter at the age of 65 and, until about ten years ago, conducted a licensed brokers' business with a store in Ladeside Street. During the first world war he served with the 51st Highland Division.

Mr. Shields is survived by his wife, two sons Matthew and Charles, and four daughters Mrs Isobel Lachlan, Mrs Margaret McLean, Mrs Christine Lavery and Mrs Mary Slaven.
The Funeral was on Saturday to Rothesay Cemetrery from St. Andrew's Church.
One correction to this should be that his sister Isobel had the surname Locklin not Lachlan.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Sorting Saturday

Having this week off work has been great and mean't I could spend some time sorting out my genealogy files and try to find a better way of organising the information I already have and try to remember where I've found things.

At the moment all my census returns and certificates are in two ring binders. The first binder is for my direct ancestors and is divided into families by marriage so all the birth/marriage/death certs and census returns relating to each couple (and their unmarried children) are in there with a family group record sheet at the front.

The second binder is sorted the same way but for siblings and descendants of my direct ancestors. It also holds certificates of people I've found, who may or may not be related, until I can add or remove them from the tree.

I also have plastic document wallets with other certificates, id cards, medical cards, photos but they're not sorted at all.

Then there are my computer files that are meant to be sorted into the four main surnames Cowie, Shields, Duncan and Smith with documents, images, photos and information as subfiles. That's where it breaks down, is a certificate a document or an image if I found it online or worse just information, some certificates like marriage certs refer to more than one surname so do I store it twice, once in each folder. Same with photos. I have ended up with duplicates of a lot of information and sometimes they even have different file names. I need help :)

The information parts are the most trouble some as sometimes I find things online and bookmark them to find later but that never seems to work as now I have hundreds of bookmarks under genealogy but I cant remember why I bookmarked which one, or what I'm looking for when I go back to that page.

So finally this week a partial breakthrough that seems obvious when you know it but I've been researching for 10 years and didn't think of it myself so I'm sharing it in case anyone else is like me :)

Above is a link to GenealogyGuy's Online Genealogy Information Gathering Method called Gather, Dump Store. It is split into 3 parts and it's well worth watching all of them. The basics are using Cut and Paste to copy information and, I know if you've been using a PC at all in the last couple of years that you know how to cut and paste but trust me, this seemingly simple idea has helped me start to reorganise and actually find stuff again.

He also has various other videos and a website full of tutorials and ideas at Treasure Maps

The one change I did make was instead of using Google Docs I've taken a tip from DearMrytle and signed up for Dropbox you can read more about it on DearMyrtles site here if you would like to sign up you can either click the referral link on Dear Myrtles page as I did or click here on mine :) Thanks.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Follow Friday - Surfing route to my own lost page

Ok this is my first attempt at Follow Friday and is a bit mad but go with me, I want to tell how I found my long lost geocities family tree page totally by accident today.
  • While searching Facebook for that group today, I found an 'interest' page just Genealogy.
  • That took me to his blog and todays entry about it being a year since Yahoo closed down Geocities and how all that information may not be lost after all.
  • He goes on to mention a site called Reocities which manged to salvage quite a lot.
  • On the Reocities home page it explains they have saved millions of pages and to find them just change the address on any of your old links from geocities to reocities.
I had tried to back up the pages from Yahoo before they shut down the site but could never find a way to reopen the files or access the information in them so I love the fact that someone else thought all that information was worth keeping too.

As family historians and genealogists we love finding things our ancestors chose to keep and lament the things they didn't or were unable to keep. As we move to ever more digital information someone else gets to choose what will be kept. Maybe we should think about how our descendants will find our information in the future if its only ever digital.

If you had a geocities account its well worth checking out Reocities and the Making of page is great reading.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Matthew Shields

My grandfather Matthew Shields,
early 1930's Terratorial Soldier with Royal Garrison Artillary

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday

I've decided I need to be more regular in my blogging. To try and help me keep me on track I'm going to use some blogging prompts from so for today its the turn of Tombstone Tuesday.

This is a photo of the first gravestone I found when I started my family tree research.

When my grandfather died in 1995 we were clearing out cupboards and I found various photos and documents including birth and marriage certificates, old newspapers and lair records.

Later, while visiting the cemetery to see my Grandfather's headstone, I used the details on the lair records to find my great grandparents headstone (pictured left).

In Memory of Patrick Shields
Died 7th March 1963, aged 89
Beloved Husband of
Janet Cunningham
Died 23rd Dec, 1970, aged 92.
also their children
Patrick & Jenny
also their Daughter
Isabella Shields
Died 26th Feb, 1984, aged 82
Beloved wife of James Locklin
Lost at sea HMS Hood 1941.

This stone was a great starting point for my research and gave me lots of information for my initial family tree.

The red glow on this photo is not ghost related but due to light getting into the film in my camera in the days before digital.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


I'm having to transfer all my family tree research over to a new program as my current software is becoming unreliable.

I had been using Cumberland Family Tree (CFT) since 2000 and loved it as it was really easy to navigate, input data, add custom details and notes and I love the way it did reports. However recently its started moving data from one individual to another for no reason, in some cases duplicating people I haven't even worked on in months. I've found I was spending way to much time having to re-verify and re-enter data to the correct people I wasnt getting time to do anything else.

I've since found out that the creator of CFT has closed his website and no longer offers support for the program. So the search for a new program begins, why do there have to be so many, why so expensive, why so many features to chose from, maybe I should go back to pen and paper :)

While I'm contemplating the many, many choices hopefully with guidance from 'Your Family Tree Magazine' I've decided to transfer everything to PAF and can then use that to transfer to any other program. I can't copy the GEDCOM from CFT to PAF as I would be copying all the errors as well so have started my tree again from scratch!

This is where I hit the 'Sources' problem.

I was so busy entering data and having fun finding my ancestors and their details I didn't bother to write up my sources at the time or keep a research log.

I did at least kept copies of all the birth, marriage and death certs, census printouts, notes of conversations with family and photos of grave stones but they're in two big files and currently only the certificates are sorted into two sides of the family (my mums and my dads) the rest is in a big heap of notebooks.

So using the advice on PAF help files and various online articles found thanks to Google and Cyndi's List I'm learning the joy of citing my sources and updating my tree on Ancestry at the same time.

The research log I'll have to just start from now and risk duplicating all the searches I've already done. Maybe this will help me be more organised.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

World Archives Project -

Having a browse through my copy of Your Family Tree Magazine this month there was an article about volunteering to help with various transcriptions project. Having had a nosey through a few of the sites I decided to try as I already have a subscription to that and recently found a few family members in their World War I records.

I've done a few records now mainly easy Naturalization index cards that were typed in the first place and even though these have nothing to do with my own research its really quite interesting.

Here is the blurb from their site.

The World Archives Project gives people everywhere a unique chance to help save the world's historical records — millions that might otherwise be lost. Anyone can participate by accessing record images in our system and entering relevant names, dates and other facts to make the information searchable online.

As part of the World Archives Project:

•All indexes will remain free to the public on
• will donate copies of record indexes and images from the project to partnering government archives and genealogy societies.
•Images and indexes from the project will be available for free to patrons at thousands of subscribing libraries across the U.S.
• will provide free advertising to partnering genealogy societies.
And coming soon:

•Active contributors will be able to vote on which records the project indexes next.
Currently, active contributors are participants who help index 900+ records per quarter.•Active contributors will receive free access to original images in the project’s databases. Those who already subscribe to will be eligible for a discount on renewal.
Active World Archives Project contributors can currently get 10% off an annual U.S. Deluxe membership renewal and 15% off an annual World Deluxe membership renewal. Active contributors coming up for renewal can call Member Services at 1-800-ANCESTRY to get the discount.