Friday, 20 August 2010

Enjoyable day at SFT forum annual meeting

I spent an enjoyable day today at Dumbarton's Burgh Halls today at the ScotFamTree forum's annual gathering, well attended with members coming from across Scotland, and as far afield as Canada and California.

Following a brief introduction from Alex Airlie, the first talk given was by forum member Evelyn on some of the ills that befell children in times of old - including cases of infanticide, baby farming and all sorts. A real attention grabbing presentation, and only a brief cameo from a dancing banana! (A feature of last year's meeting!)

After lunch there was another fascinating talk by forum member Bitza, about the role of chid labour in Scottish mines and the ordeals went through, as well as those of their mothers ands fathers - all of them the unspoken heroes of the Industrial Revolution. Bottom line, no coal, no steam!

As well as extraordinary tales of women being forced to give births in the mines and then sent straight back to work, Bitza also mentioned that three generations of her mining ancestors had all died in their fifties. It reminded me of something I've found in the past when tracing descendants of mining ancestors, concerning causes of death. In several cases I have found miners dying from bronchitis, but even when their own children did not follow them down the mines, I've often found that their cause of death was bronchitis also. It could be a coincidence, but I did wonder whether there was an epigenetic factor involved in that?

For those unaware of epigenetics, it is a fairly recent field of science that has identified how an environment can actually impede on your genes, and how this can be passed on to the next generation - the classic nature versus nurture debate. An example often quoted involves the Second World War - there was a famine in Holland under Nazi occupation, and many pregnant women gave birth to malnourished children, who were as a consequence born smaller than they should have been etc. Yet when those children grew up, and they had children of their own, those babies were also born smaller than the average, even when well nourished. Somehow the event had been passed on genetically. It could be nothing to do with that - my "ology" is genealogy, not biology! - but it did make me wonder (comments more than welcome!).

The last talk was given by Tommy Crockett, who discused the new Robert the Bruce Heritage Centre in Renton, where the Bruce spent the last three years of his life at Pillansflatt. Amazingly, there was nothing in Renton to commemorate his last days there, and hence the new centre, housed in the old station building, which was donated by ScotRail, and which opened in March 2010. After the talk we all piled into cars to pop around for a visit. It is a small centre, but has some interesting artefacts and paintings depicting his life story. Luckily for us the Bruce was also there, so we were all on our best behaviour! It is open from Mondays to Fridays 12 noon - 4.00pm and Saturdays and Sundays from 12 noon - 5.00pm. Admission is free, and there's plenty of parking (see

An enjoyable day, and the fact that I won a bottle of red wine, two books and two bars of tablet in the raffle will see me returning next year! For more on the excellent ScotFamTree forum, visit Keep up the good work folks!

The heritage centre in Renton, the Bruce, and newly crowned SFT queen Evelyn!

Professional genealogical problem solving and research
Researching Scottish Family History (New book)


jock said...

What a great day Chris eh ? !!

Thank you for all your time and mentions !

''All Hail The King !!''......or queenn in Evelyn's case

DianaR said...

Sounds like great fun! And for those of us who speak a different version of English, would you care to explain "two bars of tablet"? :-)

Chris Paton said...

Crikey, how do you describe tablet? It's a sort of fudge eaten by Scottish patriots! :)