Not too long ago, I shared my experience of joining American Ancestors’ recent Scottish Heritage Tour. In that post I briefly introduced you to an intriguing ancestor of mine—John Lynch Breslin, Jr., who was imprisoned for attempted arson. Today I want to discuss how I discovered him, how I learned more about his story, and how I went about emotionally confronting such a noteworthy skeleton in my family’s closet.
It is important to acknowledge that understanding Scottish records is relatively straightforward, particularly from the 1800s onwards. Records are organized in a clear and manageable manner, including information such as register number, sex, admission date, prosecuting court, previous incarcerations, name, age, height, birthplace, current residence, occupation, health status, committed offence, trial date, conviction sentence, and release date. This absolute wealth of information can provide a comprehensive view of an individual—the depth of which I struggle to match for the non-criminal members of my family tree, which unfortunately includes many individuals who are remembered only by a series of names and dates.
Hugh MacDiarmid, one of Scotland’s most successful modern-day poets, once described his home country as having “loose ends.” Scotland is, undeniably, a land steeped in legends, myths, and mysteries—from the enigmatic Loch Ness monster to the ancient marvel of the Ring of Brodgar. The allure of the unknown, these “loose ends,” as MacDiarmid put it, has always been an integral part of Scottish culture. As someone deeply rooted in Scottish ancestry, my admiration for the country my ancestors and I grew up in has been deepened even further by the aspects that have no concrete answers. Recently, I was invited on an insightful genealogy tour of Edinburgh organised by American Ancestors/NEHGS, allowing me to delve deeper into these mysteries and pursue my own family’s “loose ends” in Scotland.
We embarked on a genealogical journey through Scotland, focussing on tracing our tour members’ Scottish ancestors. We visited three national repositories: The National Records House which houses Scotland’s People Centre, the National Library of Scotland, and the Scottish Genealogical Society. Continue reading Tying Knots in the Loose Ends of Scotland→