Roots: A Small Tale

Editorial by Rory Sinclair in Roslin O Roslin, Summer 1996 (Vol 3 No 4).

Back in the pre-computer days of the early 1960's, my father spent a small fortune hiring genealogical sleuths to physically examine parish birth records in the area within a 10 mile radius of Stirling Castle in order to locate evidence of the birth place of his great-grandfather, Alexander Sinclair. He was not successful but it was not through lack of trying.

Years later, I spent about 18 months in the Mormon records and found that our Alexander Sinclair was almost certainly born in the small town of Fintry in the Campsie Fells directly west of Stirling and north-east of Glasgow. Everything fit that we knew and it was exciting tracing back his ancestors to a James Sinclair born about 1670 (roughly when the Kirk records started to be kept) in the Town of Tillicoultry only a few miles down the road.

Our Alexander stood in the middle of ten generations -- the members of the first five were born, lived and were buried in this very tiny area of this small nation. By contrast, the next six generations have spread all over North America.

It was natural that I would go to Fintry on my next trip to Scotland. I wanted to see where he lived and perhaps understand why he left. I was to find much more.

It was September of 1991 that I first set foot in Fintry. Actually, the birth record stated that he was born in Newtown, Fintry and I walked into a small gift shop through a tiny little door to ask what exactly was the difference between the two. The proprietor, the very cheerful Mrs. Wilson, set me straight immediately. "Well," she said, "you're in Newtown now! This was the name they gave to this area because the houses were built for the workers for the new weaving mill that was built in the 1790's. Why do you ask?"

I told her that my great-great grandfather Sinclair had left these very streets about 150 years ago. "Sinclair..." she mused. "There's a Mary Sinclair that lives in this town, she's over 80 and her family has been here a long time. Here, I'll call her up right now!" She did; Mary wasn't home but I got her address and we began to correspond.

It took a couple of visits to Scotland and a couple of near misses but Mary and I finally met in April of 1995. She is an absolute delight! We talked for hours and she gave me what she could of the names and dates in her family history. She insisted I take with me her photographs of her parents and grandparents. On my return, it was back to the Mormon library and the final news is in: Mary's grandfather and our Alexander Sinclair were cousins -- their fathers were brothers! And so, Mary is our cousin, a descendant of the branch that stayed behind. Mrs. Wilson wasn't just kidding when she said that Mary's family had been in the area for a long time -- 11 generations officially and who knows how long before that?

As a friend once said to me: sometimes small doors lead to big rooms. Until next time....

Yours Aye


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