John Ormond, weaver, married Katharine Henderson, daughter of James Henderson, in Forfar in 1767. Baptism records can be found for three children:

  1. Jean Ormond (1768) Forfar
  2. Margaret (1771) Forfar
  3. Charles Ormond (1776) Forfar

His daughter Margaret married John Spence in Forfar in 1792. Charles married Betty Adamson in 1804 though no information is given on their marriage to confirm whether John is still living or dead.

John Ormond lived in Bankhead of Turfbeg, a farm on the outskirts of Forfar.

However, there were many John Ormonds born between 1700 and 1749 in Forfarshire, and several who were buried between 1775 and 1850 (though none in Forfar and no burial record for Katharine). Weaving was also a very common profession and so isn't very useful as a distinguishing feature. It seems Scottish burial record keeping during this time was extremely incompetent.

Are there any further options I can utilize to attempt to differentiate the John Ormond I am looking for from the others in order to possibly find a burial or baptism for him? I can't find a list of graves in Forfar during this time period online either. Is this simply a case of a name being too common to be traced further?

  • Scottish burial recording wasn't incompetent. There was never any intention to record burials in the vast majority of parishes, and, unlike the Church of England, no mandate to do so. The Statistical Accounts will often say if burials were recorded. Many of the so-called burial parish records are actually records of cash transactions for the hire of the mort cloth to cover the coffin. Doesn't help that much but understanding the background is never a bad idea.
    – AdrianB38
    Oct 28, 2019 at 18:34

1 Answer 1


One of the pitfalls of being self-taught when you're doing genealogy research (as I was when first starting out) is that you can pick up bad habits from using tools like hints which are intended to 'make things easier'.

Beginners are shown how to match up people by name, and age and place, and unless you are watching a demonstration specifically about sorting out same-name people, you might get a brief suggestion to add more identifiers to pick out your person from the group of same-name individuals.

As you've seen, however, eventually we all reach a point where the technique of cherry-picking our person out of a record set and matching the names fails us. At that point, we have to employ what some people call Advanced Genealogy Techniques (but others would simply call 'genealogy'). Working only online may also fail -- we may need to seek out records which are held only in archives and other repositories.

People don't live in isolation -- they have extended family, friends, business associates, and neighbors. When the same-name individuals are too many to sort out by the easier techniques, it may be time to start over and approach the problem as if you've never looked at it before, using different research techniques.

Location, Location, Location: Start a project notebook for your location, the same way you would do for someone doing a One-Place Study, but concentrating on the time period of interest. Are you aware of what maps are available from the National Library of Scotland's map collection and other repositories? Have you gathered information from population studies so you know the total population of your place during your research subject's lifetime?

Context: Have you studied the history of weaving for this area for the time period? How large was the population of weavers in your study place? How was the skill passed down through the generations?

Survey the literature: Have you consulted guide books on studying weavers, on doing Scottish genealogy in that period, or looked for articles about solving problems similar to yours in genealogical publications?

Records survival and access: Have you made an inventory of what records may be available for your study population, both online and offline? Mark D. Herber's Ancestral Trails has some material on Scotland -- look for similar guides, and gather finding aids and research guides from places like National Library of Scotland.

Understand the nature of the records: For each record set you use -- do you know who created each record and for what purpose? Most records are either mandated by law (church or civil law), or created to follow the flow of money. Part of understanding the records also includes knowing the reasons someone might not be included in a record set, such as problems with record survival or people not wanting to pay the fees associated with the record-keeping.

Understand finding aids: Have you looked for finding aids such as David Dobson's work, some of which is searchable in Findmypast's database Scotland, People Of Dundee & Forfarshire (Angus) 1550-1799? Just like record, you can get more out of indexes, transcriptions, and finding aids if you understand how they were created and how they are arranged. If you use any volume of transcribed or extracted material, don't just cherry-pick the entries for the people you are looking for. Read the front matter in the book to learn more about how the book was created.

Write specific, answerable research questions: You've asked about finding specific records for your research subjects. If you can't locate any records, you may have to re-frame your question and find the information you're looking for in other record sets or by inference. Guides like the Record Finders (formerly called Record Selection Tables) in the FamilySearch Wiki can help.

Once you've had a deeper look into your study place, look for connections between people every time you examine each record, because you may not be able to solve your problem only with records that mention your research subjects by name. The answer you seek may be revealed only when you study all the records of their extended family, plus their friends, associates, and neighbors (what used to be called a 'cluster'). Elizabeth Shown Mills calls the friends, associates, and neighbors the "FAN club".

You might have to trace several different families with similar names in order to rule the records out as belonging to a different cluster of people. When I find a new record for a person, I often start by asking "What can I find out about this John Smith?", assuming it is not the John Smith I'm looking at. If I am wrong, and that record did belong to my John Smith, the evidence usually drives me back to my study person.

Many of the resources in the reading list are US-based because I am in the USA and have better access to materials born here. However, advanced researchers learn to read case studies from other localities and apply those research techniques to their own study places. Search for books and journal articles about your study place, about the area of Scotland, about doing Scottish research in general. See what records other researchers were able to find, and how they were able to use those records. If you are looking at a case study like the one in Quicklesson 11, or in Dr. Thomas W. Jones' class on Inferential Genealogy, look at the techniques used and then ask how you can do the same with the resources you have. This is obviously more work than cherry-picking names and matching up records, but when you solve the difficult problems, it's much more rewarding.

Further Reading:

  • Thanks for this advice Jan, but how should I go about studying John Ormond of Turfbeg's FAN club? The time period I am studying is before newspapers and census records, and the only family I know of are his children, his wife and his father in law. Are there any other types of record which may help me to establish a FAN network?
    – Charlie
    Oct 27, 2019 at 17:06
  • 1
    What part of my answer wasn't clear? When you are working in this time period in any country, the answer to "what other types of records you can use for your research besides church records?" is "anything you can find". Have you ruled out land records, probate, tax records? Have you looked for guides online for doing research in Scotland in this period? Start here: familysearch.org/wiki/en/Forfar,_Angus,_Scotland_Genealogy
    – Jan Murphy
    Oct 27, 2019 at 20:31

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