21 August 2008

McFadyens Part 2

One of the most instrumental keys that unlocked doors to my McFadyen research was a derivative source. Sometimes serious(1) genealogists give short shrift to derivative sources when we are lecturing or teaching. In this case my source is a book, a compilation by J.L. McDougall called History of Inverness County, Nova Scotia.(2) The information compiled by McDougall comes from descendants of pioneer families. To a genealogist, family memory presents cautionary flags about factual reliability ... memory often being stories repeated through generations until they take on a life of their own, freely embellishing details or abandoning them altogether.

This is not to denigrate a witness who personally observed certain events. It’s also not to denigrate the acclaimed oral tradition of highland clan genealogists and bards. Can today’s family historians discern historical accuracy and truth? Derivative sources and the information provided need a lot of examination and further research to attempt reasonable or convincing conclusions about events and relationships.

The 690-page Inverness county history has no index at all and no table of contents. It’s something like digging a trench with a teaspoon. Nonetheless, the value to me has been monumental and without it, I would be nowhere. Or still searching for the legendary Ish!(3)

Many years ago from this book,I newly learned:
• My ancestor John McFadyen was the son of Hector and Jessie;
• Hector McFadyen was the son of Donald and Flory;
• Donald, Flory and the kids are recorded arriving at Cape Breton on the ship Saint Lawrence in 1828;
• Donald was “a pensioned soldier” from the Isle of Coll, Scotland, who settled at River Denys.

That’s an abundance of information, to be verified if possible and also suggesting more sources to explore. My examination had to ponder ambiguities and inconsistencies in the book’s information, compared with the incomplete searching I’ve managed thus far. For instance, one section of the book says the family came “about 1820.” A different source indicates these people were cleared and shipped in 1826. I think I’ll go with the ship’s embarkation date of 12 July 1828.(3) See what I mean about derivative sources? Not only that, the good captain of the vessel reported “former residence” of every passenger as the Isle of Rum. That may be because Rum is where they assembled to meet him and his ship; the estates of their laird Maclean of Coll included part of Rum.

Corroboration of the family’s origin in Coll looks good, thanks to Scottish parish registers and British military records—Donald the soldier deserves more space at a future time. But the absence of Hector’s baptism (and that of a few other children) in Coll parish registers and the dearth of existing Cape Breton sources for the nineteenth century have stymied the good connecting links between generations.

I have much to do yet {don’t we all :-}

(1) Serious does not imply humourless. Please.
(2) J.L. MacDougall, History of Inverness County, Nova Scotia (Truro, Nova Scotia, 1922; reprint Belleville, Ontario: Mika Publishing, 1972).
(3) See blog post “Early Days With McFadyens” 12 August 2008.
(4) Original ship’s list in Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management (NSARM), RG 18.

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