Monthly Archives: January 2018


My Favourite Photograph

Week 2 of 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

The Edward Family

The photograph was taken around 1907/1908 as the baby in his mother’s arms, Edward Scorgie, was born in October 1907.

So why did I choose this out of the many in my family album?

I love the fashions especially the hat on baby Edward and the beautiful lace collar on Beatrice, my grandmother, front left.

The absence of men intrigues me, we have matriarch Jean in the centre with her daughters Mary and Agnes and five of her grandchildren surrounding her.

However, this is also one of my favourite images because all is not quite as it appears.

To the causal glance it shows a respectable family who are comfortably well off.  Little David Watt holds a toy yacht and the children are fashionably dressed.  But how many of these were studio props?  A closer inspection shows Beatrice and David’s shoes to be scuffed at the toes.

In truth the family had already experienced scandals with two illegitimate grandchildren including Beatrice, and heartbreak as two of Jean’s daughters Susan and Elizabeth had died from TB.  The family scraped a living on a small holding.  Son Dave (who had emigrated to Alaska and the gold mines before this photo was taken) was soon to be called home to help provide for the family as his father was no longer able to labour on the land.

The disparity between image and truth doesn’t really matter to me, nor the fact that we may never know why this photograph was taken or who paid for it.  It captures a moment in my ancestors’ lives when they stood proudly in front of the camera as an united family group.

It also encapsulates the challenge of all research – take nothing at face value.  Always question the source be it a photograph or document and always set the material within the context of what you already know.



2018 Genealogical New Year’s Resolution

Family History ResearchAt this point, mid way through January, the goals and resolutions we set at the turn of the year often become lost in the reality of day to day life. Genealogical goals are no different and keeping that research momentum going throughout the year requires planning and identifying tools to help us achieve our aims and break down those brick walls. Often we recognise the need for further support – a course we want to attend; books to read or calling in a professional to review existing research. One of the simplest steps is to tell someone about your goal.

As a professional genealogist time spent on my own family tree is often low priority in any week, so this year I am taking up Amy Johnson Crow’s challenge to blog about 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

Week 1 – the Starting Point

Beatrice Laing nee Beattie

Beatrice on her wedding day , December 1922

My interest in family history started as a wee girl listening to my maternal grandmother, Gran Laing talk about her family. Born Beatrice Beattie on the 3rd August 1898 Gran was illegitimate, her mother died from TB in February 1907 leaving six year old orphaned Beatrice to be raised by her maternal grandparents Peter and Jean Edward.

Peter and Jean had 12 children who survived to adulthood and their humble household often accommodated extended family members. Six of their children emigrated and throughout her life Beatrice maintained a connection with these scattered family members.

Widowed at the age of 67, Beatrice moved in with my parents when I was a toddler and lived with us for the next 17 years. The stories from the dispersed Edward family and how the choices each sibling had made led to a very different life, some filled with success and others with hardship, started me on the family history research  journey. The tales of my grandfather’s family were equally intriguing- why did Willy leave home and never return? What became of his sisters? Was he really related to Major-General Tom Gordon Rennie?

Beatrice Laing

Beatrice with great grandchild Susan Paterson, 1969

In the years since her death I have answered some of these questions and reconnected with descendants from most of the branches of the Edward family. However there are always more questions to research. I look forward to sharing the successes and the remaining challenges throughout 2018.