How to use the Hebridean Connections system
The records on this website are interlinked using various kinds of relationship. For example, a record of a person may be linked to other family members, to an address, to an occupation, to an image or images, and so on. You may find that simply clicking on an image on the home page will set you off on a fascinating trail. Blue hyperlinks within the text or in the list at the bottom of a page will take you to other records; thumbnail pictures or sound icons associated with a record will open media files. However, the database also supports conventional searches.
The search box on the home page can be used to return all records that feature a particular word or part word (such as ‘emigrants’ or ‘emigr’) in the title or descriptive text. You can use this to search for particular people but note that a search for ‘Mary Mackenzie’, for example, will return records that feature ‘Mary’ and ‘Mackenzie’ in the description even if the two words are in different places. Soundex is used, so that Mary McKenzie will also find Mairi Mackenzie.
The results appear to the right, in closed folders, organised by record type: Boats, Businesses, Crofts and Residences, Historical Events, People etc. The number in parentheses indicates how many records exist in that folder. Clicking on the ‘+’ will open the folder to reveal individual records.
The results list can be regrouped in many different ways. Instead of viewing the list by record type (the default option), you may wish to organise it by crofts and residences, for instance. This can be done using the drop-down menu at the top of the page. The same list of results will be regrouped, although some records will be omitted if the necessary information does not exist for them.
This is much more versatile and powerful than the simple search. However, there are a couple of important points to note. The main search box searches only the titles of records, and unlike simple search, if you enter more than one word in the search box you will only get results for that exact phrase: ‘Mary Mackenzie’, for instance. The second box searches record descriptions and the titles of associated records. So you could narrow your search to people called Mary Mackenzie who lived in or were associated with Balallan, for example.
Depending on the type of record, additional fields will appear, so you can search within a range of dates, for example. Note that if you are interested in records from the two areas that do not feature on the home page map, Berneray and Carloway, you can browse these by setting the ‘Select type’ box (under ‘Attributes/Classifications’) to ‘geo ref’ and ‘...then select value’ to Berneray or Carloway.
All records with geographical coordinates are linked to a map, which can be accessed via the ‘Show on Map’ button associated with these records. Alternatively, the map search function allows records to be viewed on and accessed from a map, using the zoom and pan tools to focus on the area of interest. The ‘Show Info’ tool will allow you to view records corresponding to single icons, or to clusters of icons within a rectangular area that you can draw on the map.
Collections of records on particular themes can be called up and searches carried out within the text of those records. However, only a small proportion of the records in the database have been categorised by theme.
The ‘Visited Pages’ tab provides a list of all recently visited records, in order, to allow for easy backtracking.
A note on personal names
Gaelic was and to a large extent still is the language of the community. However, records were kept in English and therefore personal names are mostly given here as recognised English equivalents, some of which are:
John Ian, Iain
Margaret Mairead, Peigi
Christina Ciorstag, Ciorstaidh
Catherine Catriona, Ceit
At one time, very few given names were in common use locally, and the same applies to surnames: people would be uniquely identified within the community by a Gaelic patronymic or nickname. This means that there are literally hundreds of Donald Macdonalds or John Macleods, for example, within the database. This can be frustrating to researchers, but it is hoped that the advanced search capabilities will help narrow the field.
For more detailed information on searching within Hebridean Connections, please visit our blog. In case of difficulty please contact us using the feedback page or at our office at Ravenspoint, South Lochs, Isle of Lewis on +44 (0)1851 880737.