Orkney research trip (June 2012)

Stromness high street

I made a preliminary trip to Orkney to discuss my project with the Orkney Family History Society (OFHS) as is it likely I will continue to require assistance, hints and guidance from local genealogists.

During my brief visit I met with Howie Firth, whom I have been in email and phone contact with since mid April.  Howie is the convener of the annual Orkney International Science Festival (OISF) – his  enthusiasm for further research about the Pandora’s Orkney connections has been very stimulating and rewarding in terms of good local contacts and helpful suggestions. Howie also invited me to present a paper at the 2012 OISF.

I also had positive discussions with OFHS members George Gray and Cathleen Spence and noted the facilities offered by the Orkney Library & Archives to help track Orcadian ancestors. George helped me find the baptism record of Richard Mackey (Stronsay, 1765)

I hope to continue comparing notes with family historians –in Orkney and elsewhere- who may already have constructed family trees with the names of the Pandora’s Orcadians who died in the wreck.

Pronouncing Cray’s name

Wm.Cray’s name may have been misspelled by the Pandora’s clerk as it may have been pronounced to sound that way but was usually spelled as ‘Croy’- a well-established Orkney name. (Pers.comm. Kay Davidson)

Mackey and Mackie or Miller and Millar are often also found to be interchangeable as there were no consistent spelling rules.

Robert Fea

The project’s viability was demonstrated by the assistance I received from local Orkney family historian Bill Rendell, whom I e-mailed a few days ago in re the Fea name.

Bill instantaneously put me in touch with a correspondent of his (Thomas W. Fea) in California who claims direct descent from a C18th Orcadian, James Fea (born about 1770) – this immediately presented the possibility that this James Fea was a brother or a first cousin of the Pandora’s Robert Fea, another of the Pandora’s Orcadians.

So, Thomas W. Fea’s DNA profile being to hand already, I forwarded it as a pdf. to Bond University on the Australian Gold Coast .

And for a short time –while Sheree Hughes checked her results against ‘California’ Thomas Fea’s DNA signature – there was the very real and exciting prospect that an incredible stroke of pure beginner’s luck was about to happen with a positive match… But alas, word from Dr Hughes advised that Thomas’ Y chromosome signature neither matched Tom nor Dick or Harry’s!

I wonder, does this indicate now definitively that neither Tom and Dick nor Harry was Robert Fea?


First Steps….

While visiting Barcelona on holiday I happened to meet Kay Davidson and in the course of casual conversation my nascent Orkney descendants project came up; it transpired that Kay knew people in Orkney whom she suspected would be as thrilled and fascinated as she had been to hear about the Pandora’s connection with Orkney and the relatively large number of Orcadian men on board.

I am therefore indebted to Kay, whose contacts, enthusiasm, good offices and advice were very encouraging and in no small degree contributed to the ‘genesis’ and development of this project. One of the people she put me in touch with was Alf Baird, who suggested contacting Howie Firth, the convenor of the Orkney International Science Festival.