Four weeks ago I was in Scotland; in the Perthshire village of Kirkmichael to be precise.
I was there because I knew that a distant branch of my family had lived in the village for most of the nineteenth century (and most likely well back beyond that), and I wanted to see if I could find any trace of them.
It took a couple of attempts to find the local cemetery – signposts for the church took me to one long abandoned and apparently without a churchyard.
Eventually, back in the village I found what I was looking for. It’s not a large cemetery; but an old one full of the plain headstones apparently favoured by Scots Presbyterians. I spend quite a lot of time in cemeteries these days, and have noticed definite “fashions” (or at least trends) in headstones. Not only are the Scots’ headstones usually quite simple shapes and largely unadorned with carving; they also seemed to me to contain very straightforward epitaphs. Whilst in Scotland, I didn’t see any of the “fell asleep in the arms of Jesus”-type inscriptions that are quite common in New Zealand.
But back to Kirkmichael. It was a very wet, grey day and I wasn’t wearing particularly robust shoes, so I was briefly tempted not to explore the cemetery with it’s slightly abandoned, overgrown feel. Thankfully, the feeling was very short-lived, for at the very bottom of the graveyard, close to the boundary wall and alongside the River Ardle, I found the headstone of my 3x great grandparents James Wallace and Anne Cunnison. Born in 1801 and 1807 respectively, James and Anne represent the oldest of my ancestors I have found an actual physical connection to, and it was a very special moment for me to stand in that little churchyard and know that I was touching something so connected to me.
As far as I know James and Anne lived their entire lives in Kirkmichael. This stands in complete contrast to their grand-daughter, Isabella Wallace who was born in St Madoes – also in Perthshire, but moved to Dundee as a child when her father died. She married my great grandfather Stewart Cruden in Dundee, then lived in several Fife villages before ending up in Dysart for a time before emigrating to the United States. Stewart and Isabella lived for 10 years in New Jersey before returning to Dysart in the early 1930s.
I had hoped that there would still be family members in the village, but it was a bleak day and even the pub was closed. I did try the cafe/general store/petrol station, but found it owned by a family from Coleshill, near Birmingham. They were fairly recent “incomers” and weren’t much help on the family history front. They did however serve a decent cup of coffee and quite nice lemon drizzle cake. And we had a pleasant chat about Coleshill; a village I know well from having worked there in the early nineties.
Ironic really to travel half way around the world in search of ancestors only to find a piece of my own past in the most unexpected place.
All photos taken on iPhone 4 and edited with Aviary Ultimate Photo Editor.
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