[Up] [Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

Re: Argyll-the Geal=Names

Neal , that is a most interesting comment on the "diaspora" of the Sinclairs. As an Australian member  from the Caithness branch, I find it even more interesting. The fair skinned Redheads are still turning up among my grandchildren, despite my  father being a mixed red/black ( he had a red beard) and two of my grandchildren  have the red hair.
My mother had dark hair and brown eyes, yet her siblings were fair. I was born with dark hair and skin which fried in the sun, and all my children with my dark haired, fair skinnned husband  are fair skinned , differing shades of hair, blue eyed, with one brown eyed exception. Most are unmistakeably resembling my Sinclair cousins.

As people tend to marry physical types that are like to their family of origin or psychological types that compliment their own strengths and lacks, it may not be surprising that there is a similarity in colouring etc.

I know I recognised Niven on our first meeting, although I had never seen photographs of him, becasue of a physical resemblance to my Dad.  Yet they were second cousins.


At 11:56 31/08/99 -0400, you wrote:
Thank you John and Niven for your timely contributions.
One of the curious aspects  that led me on a tangent this summer in research was the use of gaelic language and the naming or descriptive uses of the names of individuals. Let me share with you what I am gradually discovering.
One is that the naming traditions before 1600 are something of a mystery. We are so imbued with the thought that an individual has to have a christian name and a surname it comes a bit foriegn to us that a surname may not be important or more easily descriptive than a proper family surname. It may be advanced that surnames were not important, not commonly used and never were written where the culture was illiterate, (meaning they couldn't either read and /or write or had little need to learn). This was widespread before 1700 and very widespread before 1600 in rural areas as well as the cities.
In discussions of this aspect of the absence of a Proper Surname name in social traditions I have found the reasons were simple. The concept of ancestral history was limited to those with property and others simply had no reason to use or adopt one in the absence of a need for written records. The key importance for naming was Christian names which focused then if anything primarily on father - to - son relationships. I have found it is with Christian naming patters that the ancestral ties were preserved. Hence the practice was common of using grandfathers names as Christian names for their grandchildren.
Descriptive names in both Gaelic and English were common and refered to the individuals trade or occupation. It was oddly enough an early form of advertising and recognizing the skills or abilities of the individual. Secondarily, some descriptions were based on geography. This ment that we had descriptive names in both languages ie Gealic=Ceards and ie. English = Smiths. Now the key question is simply that one can make no assumption that everyone carrying the trade name or a descriptive name was related by blood nor can one assume that the gaelic "sons of" all were related to one another. This may be different when the "son of" refers to a proper name ie. MacDougall or son of Dougall.
The conclusions I get thus far, is that the naming traditions were, prior to 1600, at best confusing and at worst followed a number of social patterns that combined descriptions of trades, geography and tradition, families and titles. The further back one gets in time the more the social use of surnames / proper names appears unimportant (apart from property). On the other hand from 1700 to today the use of surnames becomes increasingly important until today it requires a statutory process to legally change ones name after birth. Not so in Shakesperes time. This conclusion in so far as I have come to have a conclusion, is limited in this one important aspect. In Scotland and elsewhere there were common use of surnames based on geography and family relationship going well back in time to before 1000 with some family names which obviously are the basis of what we appreciate today as the core of Clan History. But these names are best traceable with the chief or lairds connected with title and family peoperty. Hence the line of the Earles of Caithness and Sinclair is well documented through lineage, property and title. This does not apply directly to the general population of the Orkneys, Caithness or for that matter Argyll betewn 1000 and 1800.
The second I have a really interesting learning curve to understand and that is our assumptions arising from gaelic as a langauge written and spoken. I am further behind here. Gaelic is blurred with Scots useage, dialects and it being a "sort of dead language" here is North America. It does not help that it was outlawed in 1745 in Scotland and English became dominent for education. I have good evidence that gaelic was spoken widely in Argyll and used by the first immigrant Sinclairs to Canada and the United States and Australia (1200-1850'sff). There is a revival movent today with the language and there are 2 colleges of Gaelic in Nova Scotia and Celtic study departments are here in the University of Toronto and St Francsis Xavier University to name a couple of other acedemic institutions. I have learned two thing on this, it is a tough language to learn and appreciate and secondly I am not about to devote what it takes to absorb this so I have approached some wiser than I in the spealing of the Gael..
Now Niven you may have given a clue for the dispora of the Sinclairs when at one point you suggested that there were at least 11 pockets of Sinclairs that started following the Battle of Hastings and that they may have initially dispersed all over. This would be interesting if true because it would not be illogical as other families did this. The tight unit of families associated with geography is not a neat as we would hope.
Now the current speculation of skin colour I have reservations about. One can remember that if any gene mix from 1588 is examined there are some 20 or so generations of "mixing" and whether we are dark or light skinned is very moot. Even if there was a pocket of Spanish that did not inter mingle I imagine that physical characteristics are complex when origins are studied. Then one realls the migrations into Argyll 1700 to 1900 were massive Sinclairs included and all best are off. I mention the fair skinned red heads but in my family they could have come as easily from the Earle of Morton as from the Sinclairs of Argyll.
Now some of the discussion with the Spanish recalls some of the debate with Mr. Ramsay as to proofs and folklore. Our group has been reading all we can on Argyll and this Spanish hypothesis has just now surfaced. Karen informs us that McNokairds go back to 1200 in naming traditions and the Spanish is a connection with 1588? The interesting part is the connection with Gaelic in Spain illustrating if anything those picts and scots "got around". Still even verbal folklore has an importance so we wait to learn more.
So the Sinclair History is advancing a bit and the current discussion is relevant to Sinclairs whether they be tied to Caithness the Orkneys or the Argyll regions and assists us in appreciating genealogy, names, and derivations of names in a social context.
Yours Aye;

[ This is the Sinclair family discussion list, sinclair@mids.org [ To get off or on the list, see http://www.mids.org/sinclair/list.html