Six Questions I Asked Myself

Now we have gotten started on our journey, and know that we are really going to go, I thought it would be good to ask my mum some questions. Someone on Twitter suggested the best thing to do when researching your ancestry is figure out what you already know and go from there. We have some facts and dates, but what else?

I came up with these questions to find out more information from my mum, and also to enquire more into how she was feeling about the whole thing, but I thought I would answer them to. So, whilst I wait for my mum to get back to me with her answers, please find mine below:

What does finding out about about your maternal family mean to you? 

For me, I see it as a chance to find out more about my mother and her heritage. I have some memories of my grandmother. but unfortunately she passed away when I was young, so I don’t have detailed memories. I remember her visiting us and I remember long drives to Edinburgh to visit them. I remember cuddling up to her in her chair, their flat, their cat, me and my brother being told off for making too much noise!

There aren’t a lot of women in my family. My mum has brothers, my dad had brothers, I have brothers and both my grandmothers died when I was young, so really its just me and my mum. All these amazing women in my past that I don’t know anything about and never had the chance to get to know. I feel this way about all branches of my family tree, but theres something about your mum isn’t there? That female line of motherhood.

“Mothers of daughters are daughters of mothers and have remained so, in circles joined to circles, since time began.”

Signe Hammer

What does Shetland mean to you? 

Going to Shetland has been a dream for my mum, and through her it has become my dream. It is an archipelago of mystery. A set of islands that have been spoken about and in my memory since the day I was born.

I absolutely love Scotland. As I’ve always visited family members north of the border, and known that my parents were born and raised in Scotland, I’m very aware that I have a huge Scottish heritage. I lived in Edinburgh for a couple of years but at that time there were lots of things going on in my life and it wasn’t a brilliant time. Scotland, however, still means so much to me- my husband and I’s favourite holiday together was exploring the highlands in our campervan. As we stood at a wet and windy John O’Groats looking out towards the Orkneys, it was impossible not to wonder what life was like for my ancestors, knowing my grandmother had been born 150 miles north of where I was standing. After the 758 miles we had driven to get there, it felt so near yet so far.

My husband I at John O’Groats November 2017

Going to the Shetland Isles, as cliched as it sounds, will be like completing a journey.

What do you know about your family in shetland at the moment? 

I don’t think we have any living relatives in Shetland anymore, I think they have either passed away or emigrated to the mainland. I imagine they were quite poor, they lived mostly on Yell as crofters, knitters and fishermen. Thats about as much detail as I know. The same locations keep popping up, Burravoe, Mid Yell, Sandwick and of course Lerwick, so, at least we have a starting point of where to look once we get there.

Are there any mysteries we need to solve? 

The mystery that was revealed regards some illegitimacy down the line. The story as I understand it, is that my grandmothers mother was born out of wedlock, as was her sister. Apparently my great great grandmother went to work in London and whilst there worked as a domestic servant and had an affair with a man in the house, possibly the son of the family. There is no father mentioned on either marriage certificate of the daughters, and we haven’t tracked down their birth certificates yet. On a census record once they returned to Shetland, it is documented they were born in England. I’ve also discovered that actually, my great grandfather was illegitimate to, so to find out who these men were, my great great grandfathers would be amazing.

What family member/ thing are you most interested in finding out? 

Aside from the mysteries above which I’m really keen to answer, I think I’d also like to know more about my great grandfather. He served in the merchant navy, and when I asked my grandad about him, he couldn’t remember a great deal, but said that my great grandfather was a commodore.

My Great Grandfather, Andrew Scollay

My knowledge of naval ranking is slim, but I’m sure that a commodore is pretty high up there and not a natural rank for the son of a single mother from Shetland. Any comments on this would be appreciated.

What do you want to do when we go to Shetland, specific places or things? 

I definitely want to go to Lerwick and check out the museums and archives and just the town in general. There are some exact addresses we have that would be great to visit.


There are some places on Yell also that will be important to go to, Old Haa museum especially.

For me, I also really want to see some of the wildlife and scenery. I’ve never seen an otter in the U.K. before and apparently Yell is the ‘otter capital of Britain’.

An otter on Yell

A beach on Yell

It would be great to learn about the culture of the people on the Islands to, and of course try any local food, I bet the seafood is amazing up there!

Hopefully my next post will contain my mother’s thoughts on our trip,

Til then

Ali xx

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