Parish records for the area only survive from 1797 and include baptisms and marriage, but no burials. From 1797 until 1857 (just after the introduction of civil registration in 1855) the villages on the shore of the loch were in the Parish of Applecross, that is except for the setllement at Diabaig (far west of the north shore) that was in the parish of Gairloch. In 1857 the registration district of Shiledaig was introduced to cover the northern portion of the Applecross parish and Diabaig seems to have been added also.
One feature of the Scottish registration system that has proved very useful is the listing of parent’s names on death certificates. Whilst these can sometimes be incorrect, especially when someone was very old when they died, they can be very useful when trying to identify the correct family or couple.
Another stumbling block is the anglisized names. Of course the locals had gealic names that suitably identified everyone, but with a limted number of both forenames and surnames it is sometimes very hard to trace the correct people.
I have been helped in this journey of discovery by two specific publications. In 1997, Murdoch MacDonald, published a book called Old Torridon (ISBN 0 9530978 0 3). The book concentrates on the people and places of the Inner Loch and provides a look at the history, geography and local life in the area. The author grew up in Alligin and had interviewed many of the “old people” of the area. At the same time he also made available a CD containing transcriptions of local records for the communities on the north shore of Loch Torridon. The records transcribed included selected baptisms and marriages, school records, details of local lairs or burial plots, and family information about people listed in the 1891 census.
I obtained the book and an associated CD back in 2006 when the book was out of print. I was therefore very pleased to see copies of the book available in local shops when I visited Loch Torridon in 2019. The book can also be purchased on Amazon. I do not know if the CD is still available.
I also have a copy of the Applecross Poor Register 1845-1917 complied by Stuart Farrell and published by the Scottish Genealogy Society.
These registers are a goldmine of genealogical information. Each entry usually contains details about a person such as their current address, birthplace, age, marital status, family members and date of death. There is an entry in the register for my gggrandfather that illustrates this point.
I was surprised to find my gggrandfather in the register as I knew he had worked his whole life. But instead of having a physical disability that prevented him from working, he seems to have suffered some sort of mental breakdown. He was in Perth Asylum from 23 February 1904 until 10 January 1906 and on the poor register from 26 October 1904 until 10 January 1906. Fortunately he recovered and went back to work.
As a farm servant or agricultural labourer he and his family had moved around the country. In fact, when he was admitted to the poor register he was living in Redgorton in Perthshire. The entry includes the following narrative:
“This Pauper is brother to Anne Mackenzie in Register [see below]. There are more than 40 years since he left the parish. But he has no Settlement by Residence at the time of becoming chargeable, 10 Jan 1906 liberated on 6 months probation, in charge of his wife will not be chargeable during probation”.
This entry also contained his birth place (Inveralligin), age, and a list of his children – including their ages and their current residence. His five sons were all living overseas and the entry listed each country of residence. By the time I saw this entry I already knew where his sons were living, but this information could be very useful and the reference to his sister, Anne, let me find out what had happened to her.
By adding in the records available at Scotlands People (i.e. the old parish registers for Applecross, census returns for 1841-1911 and statutory records for both Applecross and Shieldaig parish) and DNA matches from around the world, I have been able to track the movement of people either within the area or out and around the world.