Thursday, 17 December 2009

I think Scotland knows we're here

Since dad passed away we've been looking for his family in Scotland, with no luck at all. I've sent a pile of emails to various places in and around Kilmarnock (his home town), trying to get a small bite on something that might be a lead to direct us to his living relatives. We know they're there, they have to be! Dad had a large family, and we have found that some of my aunts and uncles were alive until this past decade. Their descendants are all still in the same county. Given that every marriage and death record we have lists the same address for over 50 years, it's not a stretch to assume they don't move around much. Dad coming to Canada, and one going to Australia seem to be the exceptions.

Everything is a dead end. There are no online cemetery records, city directories, or any kind of property or tax lists, unless you pay for them. With limited funds, that's not an option. My sister Joanne did order some records of marriages, deaths and divorces, and that so far is our only lead. Albeit a good one. We've got something to go on with those, especially my father's first wife being granted a divorce from dad 3 years after he came to Canada on the grounds of abandantment. We know he came here in 1951 - we have the ship manifest. She divorced him in 1954. The manifest lists his next of kin as his wife in Scotland, at the same address listed on every other record we have. There's no doubt it's them.

I sent an email to the town newspaper - The Kilmarnock Standard, hoping to get a bite of anything. Last week I got it. It goes something like this...

From Frank Beattie
for Kilmarnock Standard

I'm afraid your email to our on-line editor seems to have been doing the

It seems to have fallen on me to respond.

It is not clear from your email which area of Scotland your father came
from. Before anyone can help it would be essntial to have as much basic
information as possible, starting with your father's name, occupation, date
of birth, places of residence etc.

I realise from your email that any information have may be suspect but you
have to make a start somewhere.

Given a name and occupation and approximate date, say 1948, it should be
possible through local street directories to find an address.
You do not say what age your father was in 1951. If he was old enough and
was not in a reserved ocupation, he would have served in the military
during World War II and his service records should be available.
Your own birth certificate will be of use in that parents names, ages,
occupations, and home address will be given.

You should be able to access all birth, death and marriage records for
Scotland from 1855 through the Burns Monument Centre, which just happens to
be in Kilmarnock. Contact them though

If you can provide me with enough basic information which would allow your
siblings, nephews, nieces or other relatives to recognise you or your
father, please get back in touch and I will put a request in the Kilmarnock
Standard (printed version). Our readers are very good and this sort of

Your brother - no name provided - may well be in the local phone book. What
could be simpler?

Best wishes, Frank Beattie

Now we have something. Now we have a direction. Now we have hope. This guy is willing to write a story about our plight in the paper. Now we have to figure it out.

We only have one shot at this, so we have to make it count. They will publish a story based on what we send them, how much detail is up to the paper. Working for a newspaper I'm aware of the restrictions of space, especially with human interest stories, they tend to get chopped for the regular news. So we have to be very precise and very brief. We have to write what we want to appear in the paper and hope they don't chop it up. We only get one shot to grab my relative's attention and prod them to respond to us.

We very well could be opening a can of worms here, but that's the chance we have to take. All we want is to know if we have cousins, aunts, uncles, or even a brother in Scotland. With our family being so small, we all crave knowing if there are more of us. Even if they are thousands of miles away.

So we'll write, and then we'll wait. Maybe Christmas will bring a gift that none of us could foreshadow. We'll get Scotland's attention.

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