Not so fast!

Team Scotland* finished the North Coast 500 today–five hundred miles, walked and biked in 40 days. Compare that to the 238 days it took me to complete the 480.9 miles of my personal Camino. Just over a month compared to eight months to travers five hundred miles, give or take a few. For those of us who did both, this seemed way too fast. Admittedly, the Camino seemed way too slow and tedious so I’m thinking that there has to be a happy medium.

For me, it might be biking. The pace of biking is nice. Completing more miles in less time for my virtual journey is certainly nice, but I also enjoy simply covering more distance on my forays whether in my neighborhood, community or even more distant adventures. I’ve been able to ride most of the 44.6 mile Fox River Trail from Oswego to Algonquin. I was able to ride further afield on the Waubonsee Creek Trail. This week I had a fun ride on a country road I discovered by car sometime last year. Taking it at a biker’s pace was even nicer.

Heather, one of my team members, also said she missed the time to read books and learn about the country she walked through with this faster trip. I did manage to read quite a few Scottish books and also worked for a bit on my Scottish genealogy.

It was especially here that I had to make myself slow down and heed the warning: “Not so fast! Genealogy has changed a lot in the 40-some years that I have imbibed. The Internet has made a lot of things easier to research. It has also made it easier to do sloppy research and make more mistakes.

I decided to focus on my Marshall roots. My grandfather, Robert Marshall, was born in Torphichen, West Lothian, in 1890, the son of Edward Marshall and Jean Ross. Edward Marshall was born in nearby Bathgate in 1847, the son of another Edward Marshall and his wife, Janet Leishman.

This Edward Marshall was born in 1818, the son of Robert Marshall and Elisabeth Morton who were apparently married in 1820. (Yes, noted.) Robert died three years later and Elisabeth married Peter Kerr in 1825, with whom she had several more children. There is no death record for Robert other than a notice that one of Elisabeth’s relatives, a John Morton, paid for the mort-cloth for his burial. Not finding a death record is frustrating because I am missing information on the cause of death, which for a 26 year old could be interesting. Robert died leaving two children, three and less than one years old. More importantly, a death record would normally include the name of his parents.

I would really like this information because on Ancestry I found a line of Marshalls going back eight or nine generations to the mid-1500s. A Richard Marshall had several children, including a Robert and a James. James’ family eventually emigrated to Australia, where Ian Marshall, a descendent has worked on his family tree and shared this information. It would be so nice to claim that Robert Marshall as my ancestor and gain all the others as a result. But not so fast!!! I tried and tried to really satisfy myself that this was my Robert Marshall, but alas, there really is no proof.

Scottish naming patterns can make things challenging as the first son is usually named after the paternal grandfather; the second son named after the maternal grandfather and the third son named after the father. If a family had several sons, they all might name their eldest sons after their father, resulting in cousins sharing the same name so it is difficult to prove genealogical paternity unless there is more than a birth recorded.

Whilst** trying to establish Robert’s paternity, I read through several Kirk Session records about a Robert Marshall who was accused by an Agnes Shanks of fathering her illegitimate child. Usually when this happened, the young man was brought before the session and admitted his responsibility but in this case, Robert repeated denied the charges and was given the opportunity to bring in witnesses on his own behalf. Eventually the case was delayed and then apparently dropped. Later, in a late-registration of an illegitimate birth, I found a notation that Robert (no surname) and Agnes Shanks had a baby, Thomas, baptized. Interesting story, but again, was this “my” Robert Marshall or one of his same named cousins or someone from a different family altogether? There is really no way of knowing.

So, in the end, I had to leave myself with more questions than answers in my Scottish Genealogy in order to be sure I wasn’t mistakenly jumping to conclusions. Still, it was pretty fun while it lasted.

Back to my Conqueror journey: I may do a short trip, biking “alone” the next few weeks, but then I want to start the Lord of the Rings challenges. There are five challenges and five medals. The first, The Shire, is relatively short (145 miles.) Since our family has enjoyed both the books and the movies, as well as the location for the movies, I thought it would be fun to do the first challenge as a competition between our three main family units: The Birkeys, The Bruces, and the Hurnis. If the they want to continue, we’ll do the 680 miles of The Fellowship as one team and so on.

Hopefully we’ll find a way to find that middle ground between “slow” and “not so fast!”


*Team Scotland was my first experience of adding miles together as a team. There were five of us accumulating our walking and indoor/outdoor biking miles together. We estimated it taking us 70 days to complete, about 25 miles a week, but it flew by much faster.

**Whilst is a uniquely Commonwealth word that I’ve rarely heard here in America. I’ve heard it in New Zealand and now in several of the books I’ve read during my Scottish reading. I kind of like it.



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