“Will You Send Back A Letter From America?”


Genealogy is like an infinite jigsaw, giving immense satisfaction with every fact that is slotted into place. But for some researchers, the drive to reunite the pieces can extend beyond family history.

A recent Spring Clean in the Research Centre revealed an envelope of photos of the Copland family from Orkney, sent to the Society in 2009 from Christina in Virginia, USA, with a covering letter.

Robert Tait Copland 1805-1879

“It’s my hobby to collect, research and return to families pictures from their family’s past. Sometimes I’m successful but most often I’m not. When I’m not successful then I will donate the pictures to a historical society or county library. It’s just a hobby but it’s nice to see these photos being reunited with loved ones.”

Helen Copland or Bishop

Christina had bought the collection on eBay in 2005 from a seller in Texas. She had been unsuccessful in tracing living relatives and had passed the photos to the Society.

Anne Copland or Cook

Research tools available to genealogists have moved on since 2009, and I found a number of Copland descendants in Ancestry’s Public Members Trees. Selecting one at random, I contacted Hetty in Australia and told her we had twelve photos of her ancestors. She was delighted and was able to tell me about her Orcadian family.

Robert Copland (1871-1939)

“I am descended from Robert Tait Copland’s cousin Robert Copland whose daughter was my 3rd great grandmother Margaret Copland (married John Barclay from Greenock, Renfrewshire). Margaret moved from Orkney to Edinburgh. Her younger brother, another Robert Copland, also moved to Edinburgh and worked as a clerk for Robert Tait Copland. Margaret Copland/Barclay had a daughter Mary Dickson Cowan Barclay who married William Paterson Mackay (from Shetland) in 1845 and immediately set sail for South Australia.”

Violet Copland

And what of Christina, the original donor, back in Virginia? Thankfully, she still used the same email address and I was able to make contact. She too was delighted at the outcome of her kind donation, and looks forward to posting the story on her social media site: www.facebook.com/RummagingInTheAttic

Jessie Lorimer Copland

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