Focus part two- In memory of: Laurence Scollay, my second great uncle.

Last week I spoke about losing focus on the task in hand and wanting to get back to my research in a systematic fashion. I soon realised this was easier said than done however as other than say ‘I want to do better’, I still hadn’t changed my methods. Then three things happened at once this week that meant I have actually managed to change things up.

Firstly, my MyHeritage DNA results came through, to be honest, no real new developments have happened through that, except that I have discovered I am less English and more Norwegian. I am aware that is to do with who has tested with what company and merely means that more of my English relatives have tested with Ancestry as opposed to my European cousins on the continent. However, I see it simply more as further confirmation of what I already knew, and as complimenting information on my ethnicity. As well as posting my raw data on MyHeritage, I also uploaded it to something called Genesis GED.

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My MyHeritage ethnicity estimate

So, whilst this was going on, I was continuing my research and for some reason that I can’t recall decided to look into my 2x great grandmothers half siblings. I discovered that one of them, Grace Bruce Williamson was one of 12 children, 14 including Christina and Obadiah. Her 12 other half brothers and sisters all shared the same father, Robert Bruce. He, in his time, had these children by 6 different mothers! I decided to google this man for more information and found a blog written by one of his great great grandchildren called Great Flying Scots I contacted the owners of the site to say hi and received a lovely email from Kate Foster, who informed me there was a Shetland Genealogy group on Facebook.

I have joined so many Shetland groups on Facebook recently in the hope of spotting a picture of an ancestor or to find out some more tips for our visit, but I had never seen this group. I joined that night and was amazed to discover they have their own algorithm for finding Shetland DNA matches. I uploaded my data and found I had 3 matches in the group, and potentially more. I was so intrigued, and I am still doing research to figure out exactly how these matches fit into my tree. I have to admit to being a little disappointed that they were all quite distant matches, however with some encouragement from one of the admins, Joan Blanch, and with the amount of illegitimacy in my family tree, even the faintest match could provide clues. It also means I don’t have to search through the hundreds of Ancestry/ MyHeritage matches that are getting me nowhere fast!

The third thing to happen last week, when I realised I still wasn’t making progress, was that I decided to look for a course. I saw one that was advertised on Twitter that seemed beneficial, but it was starting too late and was unfortunately a little more than I could afford. So I googled ‘free genealogy courses’ and lucked out completely, I found one that had started that week and was free. It’s on Future Learn which is a great website for loads of free courses, and if you want to you can pay to upgrade your course and receive a participation certificate for your records. The course in question is called Genealogy: Researching Your Family Tree , produced with the University of Strathclyde it is proving a great help to me. Currently in week 2, we have just covered effective search strategies.

To make my future searches more effective, I’ve learnt I need to be more organised, so I am going through my records, copying things out, figuring out where my gaps are etc. I’m hoping that sorting out my research will also help me to figure out my new Facebook connections. Whilst beginning to organise, I realised there was one ancestor record that was pretty much complete, therefore as a treat from my ramblings, here is the story of my second great uncle, Laurence Scollay:

Laurence Scollay was born on the 2nd February 1881, 9.30am in Linkshouse, Mid Yell, Shetland. The second son of Marion Scollay, a single, domestic servant, his father is not listed. This is the second illegitimate son for my great great grandmother. The birth was registered by Marion with an X in East Yell nearly three months later on the 26th April 1881.

Links House, Mid Yell, a former Merchants House. Perhaps Marion worked as a servant there? The house is now on a buildings at risk register.

Although on the birth certificate his name is listed as Scollay, on Bayanne, Laurence’s surname is listed as Williamson. This gives us a clue to his potential father, but there is no documentation to support this, or to give us further clues. James Williamson was a merchant who lived at Linkshouse, Mid Yell, and he had a son called Laurence Williamson, born 1855.  Perhaps him and Marion were involved? Although it is recorded that Laurence Williamson was living in Gardie in 1881, so they wouldn’t have necessarily been at the house at the same time, or perhaps Marion simply looked up to this intelligent man of the village? From what I have read about this man, it is unlikely he is the father, but the coincidences are there.

In the 1891 census Laurence Scollay is living at 5 Hill End, Mid South Yell aged 10 with his mum, brother Andrew and also his uncle, Robert Scollay. His mum is unmarried and head of the household. Laurence and his older brother are recorded as scholars.

In the 1901 census, now 20, he is working as a general labourer. He is still living with his mother and his uncle.

The next record I can find of Laurence he is aboard the S.S. Nyassa in 1904. The S.S. Nyassa launched on the 26th January 1889, a general cargo ship, built in Glasgow in the Jordanvale Yard by John Reid, Whiteinch, Glasgow. Owned by S.S. Nyassa Co. Ltd- Maclay and McIntyre, Glasgow. She went by two other names and was wrecked on 29th December 1927 at Oshima.

Laurences’s brother was in the merchant navy at this point, so maybe he decided to follow in his footsteps? However it did not end well for the younger Scollay brother. According to the British Armed Forces and Overseas Deaths and Burials, Laurence Scollay (Sully) died on the 1st July 1904. Aged 23, ranked as an able seaman, he had an accident, fractured his skull and suffered a brain haemorrhage. He died in Notre Dame Hospital, Montreal. 

laurence scollay
Record of Laurence’s death

There is an extracted ships log from: Ships name NYASSA Official Number 108791 Date of Voyage 12 May 1904 – 24 August 1904, in the National Archives that I hope one day to check. I imagine an event like this will have made it to the log.

It is a privilege to be able to tell the stories of folk no longer with us. Especially the unmarried, childless individuals forgotten in history. Rest in peace Laurence, I am glad you got to see the world.

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