Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Genealogy: Finding Fact From Fiction

Most families have stories that are handed down the generations. Sometimes this family folklore is true, but often stories get embellished down the line, and the genealogist needs to sort out the kernel of truth from the accretions of fancy. In my family, there was a story that an ancestor of ours, one Robert Sherratt, was a groundskeeper on the estate of a Scottish laird named Farquharson, and that Robert married one of the ladies of this family (the old romantic tale of a lady marrying "beneath her" station). This was the explanation for why my grandfather's middle name was Farquharson (which had also been his grandfather's middle name).

While the story wasn't entirely true, I have discovered that it was close. There was an old Scottish laird named Archibald Farquharson, the 7th laird of Finzean (an estate in Aberdeenshire, pronounced "fingan"). He was an old unmarried successful merchant in Campbeltown (on the opposite side of Scotland) when he inherited the estate unexpectedly after a cousin died with no heirs. He came to Finzean, and he married a much younger girl named Christian Spring, whom he met in Aberdeen. They had a young baby boy (also named Archibald), and the old laird died just a couple years later. Just after the old laird died, Christian's sister Isobel married a gardener named Robert Sherrat (my 4x-great-grandfather), and they moved to the Finzean estate where Robert was an overseer until the young laird came of age. They continued to be associated with the Finzean estates for the rest of their lives. So, not exactly the romantic family tale, but still pretty good.

The Spring and Sherrat families were so honored by their connection with this eminent Farquharson family that Farquharson appeared as a middle name (or sometimes a first name) for many subsequent generations, even after some of them emigrated to Canada. There were also many children named Archibald and Christian. I've mapped much (though not all) of the descendants of Robert Spring of Aberdeen (1700s), and put together this web page, which has kept me busy from blogging lately.

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