|Introduction by Ian McNeur
Wanganui, NZ. 1996
Our earliest known ancestor lived in Inveraray, Scotland, and that is where I first took an interest in family history as I visited the town at the end of a working holiday in England in 1952.
I had been friends with Joyce Atkinson in Wellington at the beginning of the war.
Later when I took a working holiday in Australia and England, Joyce was already in London, so I looked her up. We were married there and before returning to New Zealand, we hitch-hiked north.
While in Glasgow, we dined with a distant uncle, Alec, and his wife and daughter Jean at Fairlie and visited William at Largs.
We spent a couple of days at Inveraray, as my uncle George had suggested that ancestors may have come from there and we hunted McNeurs.
First we found the tombstone of Alexander, erected by his son John, then we found in the church records John - "keeper of the town knock" and one or two others.
Considering the brevity of our search and the large number of McNeurs in early Inveraray, it is amazing that we found our key ancestor and his grandson, although that knowledge was to come much later.
As we had no firm link with Inveraray the notes remained dormant.
Wanganui, NZ, 1991
In due course, my brother Jim (Archibald James) became interested in the family history and he took a copy of my notes.
He sorted out the cousins, uncles, aunts, nephews, and nieces, and built a tree.
Also he dug up a considerable part of the story of grandfather James and his wife Margaret in South Otago.
Our daughter Katherine had been corresponding with Fiona, a distant cousin in Scotland, so she obtained details of the family there and eventually learned of Sandy Hargreaves, descended from an American side of the family, now living in Palmerston North who had records of her part of the family.
Jim put it all together and gave us each a copy.
The next step was when my cousin David decided to do some investigation.
Jim sent him all he had found and David hired a researcher, Ann Garvan,in Edinburgh to trace back.
It was Ann, sorting through the Edinburgh records who found grandfather James' family - the shoemaker James and then Archibald and Sarah born and married in Inveraray.
Jim fitted the names in, and the dates more or less fitted.
Unfortunately, Jim died in 1990, so the history returned to me.
Joyce and I then joined with David to hire Ann Garvan again.
David wanted to trace Margaret Hunters' family and I wanted to check the McNeurs that we found in Inveraray in 1952, as well as getting a copy of the church record of the town knock.
This took us another step forward but an amazing breakthrough came before Ann's report arrived.
Jim's compilation mentioned a John who had been post runner in Inveraray, so I obtained Uncle Alec's copy from my cousin Ruth.
With the reference from that, I wrote over to Inveraray for a photocopy of the appointment and this is when the long arm of co-incidence tipped the scales in our favour.
The first reply I received was from an Australian lady, Alice Collins, who was on holiday in Scotland, called into the Argyle record office to collect some photocopies and saw my letter on the desk.
She too is a descendant of Archibald and Sarah and has put in ten years of solid and detailed research and offered to share her notes with us.
Alice is therefore the source of almost all of our Inveraray information and she has done a wonderful job of sorting through the maze of old records, some almost illegible, carefully matching a birth record with the correct marriage record and with the person named in a public event to ensure that she always has the right people.
With the earliest ancestors, there may have been a small element of doubt as so many births and marriages were not recorded, but the characters in this family tree have been so carefully researched, including consultations with experienced archivists and historians, and they fit so properly that I believe all our identities are true.
In Port Glasgow a great deal of our information still comes from Alice although our researcher, Ann, has provided a solid basis to build on.
All in all, we are very lucky to have so much detail and to reach so far back as legible records allow.
This is not a genealogical treatise but rather an attempt at a readable account to discover the sort of people our ancestors were, and the conditions in which they lived.
For this reason some of the "if's" and "but's" and less relevant details have been omitted.
As Alice's research was done the hard way before the modernisation and computerisation of the records and as some of these earliest records were virtually illegible, it is possible that a researcher now could add to the earlier parts of this story.
NB: Updated by Ian's daughter Kathy in 2010, using modern technology to check records and find more information.
Blaxland, NSW 1988