Monday, March 31, 2014

Chasing the ancestors in Scotland

Today we are going back in time...almost twenty years to be precise.  In early June of 1994 I headed north to the county of Sutherland in the north of Scotland.  At the time I was very much into family history and wanting to know more about the Scottish blood than runs inside my veins.  My great great grandfather left Scotland for Canada when he was a young lad of 8 in 1815 - I suspect but I don't know for sure that it was as a result of the Highland Clearances. I assume he left with his parents but he could have been beamed down for all I know..finding his parents has remained a mystery for me.  I know several possibilities but nothing definite - the search goes on. (although I must admit it has been abandoned for quite a few years now)  I had been told by family members several years before that our family was originally from Dornoch, Scotland so off I went.

I didn't discover anything pertinent to my family but I certainly had a wonderful time and discovered a much overlooked but fantastically beautiful part of Scotland.

So here we go...let me introduce you first to the lovely town of Dornoch.  Yes, Dornoch is the town where Madonna married Guy Ritchie....don't hold that against it!

The beautiful deserted beach on the Dornoch Firth

While I was there RAF jets were flying over - it somehow added to the wildness

Dornoch Cathedral


I had based myself in a bed and breakfast in Golspie for several days as it was a good transportation base. (stay tuned for a post of the spectacular Dunrobin Castle which is situated there) Another day I took the train to Rogart via Helmsdale.  On the platform in Helmsdale I started chatting with a woman from Rogart and told her why I was going there.   She told me to get a hold of Johnny Ross in the village.  Once I got to Rogart I headed to a local shop and talked to a fellow named Sandy. He told me how to get to the local cemetery in New Rogart.  After a 25 minute walk I arrived but couldn't find any Rosses there.


Lovely scenery seen along my walk to the cemetery

 I walked back to town and went to the pub.  Sandy came in and introduced me to Malcolm Ross so we chatted about what I knew about my family and Malcolm bought me another G & T.  I liked the people of Rogart!   A bit later John MacDonald, the postmaster came in and Malcolm told him about my search for my family roots.  He offered to take me to see Margaret Ross MacDonald who was very knowledgable about local family history.  At first I was hesitant - my English roots were saying "you don't just drop in on people you don't know" but they all convinced me she would love the company.  So off I went in his little red postal van to visit Mrs. MacDonald.  She was as cute as a button and at 95 as sharp as a tack.  She insisted on making me tea but started me off with a sherry. (two G & T's and sherry - yes I was feeling a bit happy) When she brought out the tea it was on a tray with shortbread, cheese, crackers and cake.  Unbelievable!  As we chatted it didn't sound as if we came from the same family but you just never know....  Her daughter-in-law and grandson turned up to do some gardening a bit later and looked at me as if to say "what has she dragged him now"  My regret?  I didn't take any pictures of her...or if I did they didn't turn out.    The postmaster came back to pick me up and I bade Mrs. MacDonald a fond farewell.  I later wrote to thank her for her kindness.  John insisted I see the cairn dedicated to Sir John A MacDonald (first Prime Minister of Canada)  and took my picture there.  He then stopped so I could photograph the highland cattle and then dropped me off at the train station.  What an amazing day!  I hope to return someday. In my heart of hearts I KNOW I am from Rogart!!! 


This cairn dedicated to Sir John A MacDonald was built on the site of his grandparents - Sir John himself was born in Glasgow but the area is very proud of their connections to him. 

Hairy Coo...



Beautiful area around Rogart

2 comments:

Katrina Elisabet said...

Lovely! Family roots are fascinating to me. My mum and I are currently researching ours on ancestry.com. My mother's side is a conglomeration from the British Isles, and my father's side is Swedish. Guess it means I've got a lot of cool places to (someday) visit!

Laurie said...

For sure Katrina - lots of great traveling ahead for you!. Genealogy is very addicting - the problem is when you hit a roadblock like I have with the Scottish side. I need to get back into it!!! Every winter I say I will do it then I never do!!! I hope to go back to that area next year with a better idea of where I am from for sure!!!