Scottish Memory Lane - Genealogy

Scottie's Granddad and Grandma and aunt and uncle in California, 1939

Delving into your family tree and finding out about your heritage can yield a lot of intersting facts - and often unexpected surprises!

I'm hoping that readers will send in their own stories and memories of their own childhood in Scotland. All contributions should be sent to

Recently added stories have placed beside their title.

A Broken Branch - the Memory of a Failure

After several years of genealogical research I had traced four families back to the early seventeen hundreds, the first records being of John Macdonald born in the now non-existent village of Raitts in the central highlands at Newtonmore (a village only a few miles from a location that is claimed to be the exact geographical centre of Scotland) Graphic of Newtonmore Main Street © Gordon Hatton via Wikimedia Commons. Many family movements were still unsolved, and one mystery concerned the emigration of my grandfather Alexander Macdonald along with his wife Janet and five sons who in 1889 emigrated to Auckland New Zealand.

The move to Auckland (NASA view of Auckland on the left is via Wikimedia Commons) wasn’t too surprising in an age of mass emigration from Scotland, but what remains a mystery is that three years later they all returned to Scotland. I decided that I would try to solve this reverse move, and with the help of the Auckland genealogical society to find out why the de-emigration. I started at base with passenger sailing lists from Glasgow to Auckland and after several blanks I eventually found the family, Mr, Mrs and five sons on board. Next step was trying to find out why the return.

Passenger lists from Auckland to Glasgow yielded no information, but as suggested by my helpers in Auckland that the normal sea sailing route was from Australia to Britain and sailed from Melbourne to Portsmouth, and there they were Alexander, Janet and not five but now six sons. The mystery still unsolved was why the return, and many hours of research still today leaves it unanswered.

Now seventy years on, I often wonder where I would have been today if the family had stayed in New Zealand. I would have grown up a Kiwi, no doubt boasting of my family roots in Scotland, and along with thousands of other New Zealanders celebrating Burns Nichts in that country. And if my grandfather’s third eldest son, my father, had grown up and married there would I have been born there too? This possibility surfaced many years later - a coincidence.

In 1945 the end of WW11 found me in Trieste (graphic here via Wikimedia Commons )in northern Italy. My Regiment was billeted in AO5 (Army of Occupation Camp 5) a tented area on the city outskirts. AO2 was occupied by the Kiwis, the New Zealand Expeditionary Division, who had been our companions for the last two years, as we advanced through enemy occupied Italy. Now, if my family had remained in New Zealand, would I then, in 1945 have been billeted in Army of Occupation Camp 2?

Alistair Macdonald, Beckenham, Kent UK


My full name is David Lindsay Picken, and I was born on December 2nd, 1928 in Cairo, Egypt (graphic of Cairo here is © Abdallah, via Wikimedia Commons), because my father, who was in the army and his regiment, the 1st Royal Dragoons was stationed there.

My father was born in Pollokshaws, Glasgow, on Dec 18th 1890, and my grandfather James Picken, was born in Stewarton, Ayrshire,in 1867.

The name Picken goes back to an Alexander Picken in Stewarton about 1730, and the name seems to disappear there after that. The origin of the name appears to be from a French Norman name Picquin, so may have arrived in Britain with the man I call "Willy Conk" (also known as William the Conqueror - graphic of Bayeux Tapestry via Wikimedia Commons) in 1066!

My mother was born in Cathcart, Glasgow, in 1905 as Sarah Ann Lindsay, and my grandfather David Lindsay was born in Glasgow, in 1872, and this name goes back to Andrew Lindsay about 1720 in Montrose.

The name Lindsay goes back to the time of King David I (see graphic), and a David Lindsay was one of the signers of the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320. Some historians believe it was this declaration that formed the basis of the American Declaration of Independance, which is not surprising, since 13 signers of that document were Scots! Since then, about 70% of the Presidents of the U.S.A were either Scottish born, or had some Scottish ancestors.

Andrew Pickens of American Revolutionary fame was the son of a Scots emigrant.

David Picken, now in Calgary, Alberta, Canada

A Sense of Belonging

Now retired and loving it, I was a travel agent and manager for over 40 years. My genealogical journey began with a small push from my daughter, and I havn’t looked back since. I've made some incredible discoveries, with the help of many people along the way.

Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, during the World War II, I married Sheila in that city, and we immigrated to Canada in 1969. I originally began researching my family history when daughter Fiona gave birth to our first grandchild. Fiona wanted to know more about where the family came from, so she could tell her children about their family history.

I turned to a genealogical service site to build my family tree. I loved the fact that I can invite other family members to the site, making research a collaborative effort. I learned many things along the way. I discovered that - prior to Queen Victoria’s reign - most people had huge families. One ancestor had 13 children! Another favorite find was that my ninth great-grandfather was The 4th Duke of Argyll (pictured here).

I was able to trace my family tree back to 690 AD (being a distant relative of a Duke helps as they often have better records going further into the past than the rest of us). It has created a wonderful legacy to pass on to my grandchildren and to future generations.

The most important thing that I learned was that when it comes to family history research, you just have to go for it - and jump right in. You never know what you will uncover, but you’re sure to make some amazing discoveries. But you’ll never know until you begin!

You can read Brian's story and see some additional graphics at his page on My Heritage.

Brian Campbell, British Columbia

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