family trees and frustration

I've been dabbling in genealogy for years, and have a fairly detailed family tree now. It's interesting; simply pondering sometimes what my 93-year-old Grandma-in-law has seen in her lifetime is mind-boggling.

On this family tree, I apparently have a great-grandfather who was Scottish. From the Blair Athol clan the story goes, which is in the Perthshire region of Scotland. Well, when we were visiting Great Britain this past spring, we'd be travelling through the Perthshire region... and we had to of course go and see Blair Castle.

We discussed with our kids what the grand overall plan for the trip was, and when it was appropriate we let them know where we'd be going soon, or the next day, or whatever. For some reason my son seemed to believe that we'd be staying in Blair castle. That it was his ancestral home or some such nonsense and we'd be tossing the present owners out while we took over the castle. Had to set him straight on that one.

On the day that we were to visit Blair Castle, we started out in Inverness and were to make it all the way to Edinburgh that evening. Not too tight a schedule, but we had to keep moving mind you.

In the morning we visited Culloden Battlefield visitor centre, which was opened in 2008. Wonderful, modern, enticing museum all about the last civil battle on British soil. While it wasn't exactly my cuppa tea ~~ I find my interest in war details wanes quicker than most ~~ it was an excellent museum. It even had GPS-linked audio guides for you to walk around the actual battlefield. Very cool. But I had to make sure we kept to our schedule if we were going to visit the oh-so-important Blair castle before we got to Edinburgh. (not to mention Crieff, but that's another story)

Finally we get to the Blair Athol region and wow, there's quite a queue of cars! ...oh, but it's okay, they're going to the highland games right next door and not going into the castle proper. But we are! Which is too bad in a way, because those highland games look like fun...

We get inside, and some nice greeter happens to ask us just what brings us... hmm, the accent is not quite American... are we perhaps Canadians? to the castle. Joe thumbs towards me and says 'she has Blair ancestors' ... whereas the nice Scottish gentleman turns to me and ever so slightly apologetically (after all, we've already paid to enter) confesses that the Blair castle is actually in the Murray clan.

The Murray clan owns Blair castle.
Not the Blairs.

I'm sure my disappointement showed on my face, but we accepted the nice gentleman's Kids Quiz to complete whilest touring Blair castle and trooped off.

Picture the most boring, staid, stuffy home. Hunting rifles and antlers on display everywhere. Now picture curling, ancient-fonted paper labels of the hundreds and hundreds of utterly useless artifacts displayed. Oh, but there's more: the Incredibly Difficult Kids Quiz to complete!

Which had as one of its objectives to Find the Highlander. Midst all the clutter, in every single room, there was hidden a Scottish figurine, about one-and-a-half inches in height. On windowsills or behind bed legs or on lintels. And the kids were not going to finish the tour until every one of those highlanders was found...! Maeve was almost in tears one time because we were forcing her to leave one room without having found the little... well, I tracked a guide down and asked very calmly between clenched teeth just please where is the little *&$#! in this room??

Skip ahead forty-five minutes, we enter the ever-present-at-the-end-of-every-tour gift shoppe so the kids can hand in their completed quiz and claim their prize (a lolly, a pencil... those were some of the previous spoils). However when they hand over this quiz they are cheerfully informed that their names will be put in the bin and one lucky winner will be notified at the end of the month. Did they make sure to include their address and phone number??

So now we're all grumbling. Joe because I've dragged him away from the fantastic museum at Culloden, me because we've just wasted precious travelling time by visiting this castle. And the kids now because they've busted their haunches finding that damn highlander and answering all the oblique questions throughout this dustbin only to find out that there wasn't any reward at the end. Oh, and everyone was hungry.

Joe and I both had booze with our lunches at the Blair Castle cafe.

I titled this The Most Frustrating Day of the Trip in my journal that evening.

But wait, the irony has another layer. One that was slathered on only once we'd been home for months.

In the process of transferring data between computers recently I tidied up some of my genealogy files and happened to get curious one evening. It's been years since I collected any more data, and this internet has grown a lot in the interim. I decided to look up some names online.

I found some British censuses, and on one my great-grandfather is listed. With his place of birth, hereto unknown to me. But now I know that my great-grandfather is not Scottish. Nay, for this census lists his place of birth as ... London.

As is his father's. And... the neighbourhood in London in which at least two generations of my family lived, worked and died was mere blocks from where we picked up our rental car. I could've walked over to the church where my great-grandfather was christened. Instead we... well, you know what we did. I won't mention it again.

So as it stands right now, my family tree has no Scottish ancestors. Which is too bad, because I certainly loved the country...

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