My family tree looks similar to that of many others in Atlantic Canada; it contains lines that originated in more than one country. My father’s family is a combination of German and Scottish ancestry.
When I began researching in the 1980s, I focussed on the German line because that was my birth surname. I delved into hundreds of records at the archives, searched thousands of sites online for more information and read stories of how families left the Palatinate area and trekked across borders to reach Rotterdam to board boats for the New World. I studied how the Protestants were over-wintered in Halifax in 1751-52, and then shipped to the South Shore of Nova Scotia where they established Lunenburg.
Researching the German line took almost two decades. While focussed on this surname, I tried to find information about other family lines, too, the Scottish, the English and possibly the Irish connections, but it seemed I never had enough time. Now that I’ve researched the German family extensively, right down to the first piece of property they owned in the New World, it’s time to focus on another heritage: Scottish.
I’ve been gathering information and visiting sites the past few years, hoping to learn more about Alexander McDonald, the man who brought my grandmother’s family DNA to Canada. With a name this common, it’s difficult to find information on him. It doesn’t help that three other Alexander McDonalds served in Colonel John M’Donnel’s Regiment of Foot, too, and arrived at Shelburne with the Loyalists.
In a way, I’m grasping at straws searching for McDonald relatives in Scotland. It’s a hit or miss because the records are old and incomplete, and because there could be hundreds of people with the name Alexander McDonald.
One of the sites I’ve searched recently is the Scottish Post Office Directories . They provide “a perfect basis for researching Scotland’s family, trade and town history”. The site contains more than 700 digitised directories, dating from 1773 to 1911.
Directories list individuals alphabetical, making it easier to locate people. Visitors can browse and search by place, year or name. The site allows researchers to download files freely for personal use. These directories—often published annually—provide a bridge between census records.
The early directories listed individuals by their status/position. For example, the 1773-74 Williamson’s Directory for the City of Edinburgh, Canongate, Leith and Suburbs noted William Moffat in the “Lords and Advocates first Clerks” section and recorded him as a clerk to George Currie, west-bow. Found in the “Noblemen and Gentlemen” section is Sir Alex. M’Donald, potter-row port, but I’m fairly certain this is not the Alex I seek.
Other sections include “Ladies and Gentlewomen”, “Physicians”, “Brewers”, “Stablers”, “Schoolmasters” and a section called “Different Employments” which listed professionals that didn’t fit into the other categories (musician, painter, stocking-weaver, etc.).
The “About the Directories” page provides additional information about the directories, the people who were included and those who were excluded, as well as, the other types directories found on the site. Links to several different maps of Scotland are provided through a link on this page.