Tracing Our Ancestors

While walking in their footsteps

Posted by Jo Turner on January 21, 2019

Tracing Our Ancestors

On a crisp Autumnal day, driving over the Firth of Forth, across the impressive new Queensferry Crossing, I was eagerly heading to meet my brother. It was a gloriously sunny afternoon, and I was looking forward to the adventure that lay ahead.

My brother had done an amazing job tracing our ancestor’s on both our maternal and paternal sides. We had arranged to meet up for a few days and explore the lowlands of Scotland in search of our maternal forefathers and mothers, hopefully to find some missing links about great, great, great (et al) grandparents long gone.

We had a rough plan, and set off towards the village where our mother had lived, before the family moved south in the late 1930’s. I had been there before taking our mother to see where she had lived as a child, a couple of years before she died. The cottage where they had lived had lone gone, but the school remained, now converted into flats, and the original bridge across a burn (stream), which Mum walked over each day on the way to school.

The mines, where my grandfather had once worked, were long gone too.

The weather had changed and as the drizzle and cloud set in for the day, we headed further west to our accommodation for the next couple of nights.

That evening, whilst sitting in a pub, having a meal, we looked over some of the paperwork my brother had brought with him. It was fascinating to see all those family names and dates in front of us. Some were familiar to me, but many were not.

Tomorrow promised to be an exciting day.

The following day brought the sunshine back, and after a hearty breakfast, we headed towards the area where our mother was born. Again, I had had a brief visit there previously, with my husband, but it was the 1st visit for my brother.

It was another mining village, and again the mines were long gone.

What started to dawn on us both, was the immense social history that was unfolding in front of our very eyes that day.

Before the industrial revolution of the early 19th century, our ancestors had mainly been tenant farmers and minor lairds/landowners. We were able to pin point the locations of several of the farms where they had once lived.

This was very satisfying, as not only did this bring it all alive. But, after the confirmation that the cottages our mother had lived in, were both demolished, it gave some foundations to our family history.

I had always been a bit sad that nothing of our mothers’ Scottish childhood homes remained, but by going back further in time, a rich tapestry of our family unfolded, and after wondering round a couple of local graveyards and driving around a bit, everything from the previous 250 years felt very much alive!

In fact, for the first time in my life I had a real sense of where I’ve come from.

Now, whether it’s because I’m female, but I was particularly interested in my maternal grandmother line. There’s something reassuringly grounding, knowing that I come from a long line of women from the same rural area. In fact, my sister and I belong to the first generation of women in our direct maternal family line that were not born in Scotland.

For years, I have had a longing to know where I came from, and I wanted to have a sense of my roots.

Sat here writing about this, in the early hours of the morning, before the sun has risen, I can feel something stir inside of me. Something that I wasn’t aware of before, something that now finally gives me a strong sense of who I am.

Maybe, you have a strong sense of who you are? And where you are from. Maybe you don’t.

Either way, we can as women (and men), put down roots wherever we are, and form the strong foundations that give us a sense of belonging. I’ve chosen the Highlands of Scotland, but what I also know, is that I’m from a very long line of Lowland women.

I know that green hills and the flowing waters of the glens run through my veins wherever they may be, and that is enough, knowing that I’m a country girl at heart!

My mind flies back to my childhood and I remember the times I spent with my maternal Grandmother and my Mum, and how Scottish it all felt even being in the South of England. I feel immense gratitude for that, my only wish is that I’d explored more about our family tree when I was younger, and they were still alive.

I remind myself that everything happens at the right time, in the right place, and breathe a sigh of relief in that knowing… ☺

Thinking back again, our childhood holidays were nearly always in the mountains and occasionally at the coast, so it is no wonder that I live where we do, right in the mountains and right by the sea.

A wave of gratitude washes over me, as I sit here in the 21st century with all my creature comforts around me. Another day is dawning, and I know it will be a sunny day.

I also know my ancestors are right behind me, they have my back, and that makes me smile ☺

There is more family research to be done, there are some tantalizing missing details, but the links are there, and I will remind myself, again and again, I know who I am!

Come the spring, we will renew our search. For now, the snowy mountains are calling…

Thank you for walking along side my family footsteps with me today.

With gratitude, always ☺