Hebridean Connections is different from most historical and genealogical sites because records of people, places, stories, historical events and so on are all interlinked. Thus you can navigate from one record to another using the links at the right-hand side of each record, and you can carry on doing this almost indefinitely. For those of you who have used the old Hebridean Connections site, all the information on that site has been transferred to this one and the links work in the same way.
The records in Hebridean Connections are classified into different types, such as ‘People’, ‘Crofts and Residences’, ‘Historical Events’ and so on. In addition, the ‘Record Types’ list that appears when you click on ‘Browse Records’ includes ‘Image Details’ and ‘Sound Files’. These provide you with access to complete lists of the images and sound clips held in the system.
Although the distinction between types is normally obvious, there are some grey areas. For example, does a church built in the 19th century belong to the ‘Buildings and Public Amenities’ record type or the ‘Historical/Archaeological Sites’ record type? If in doubt when searching, we suggest that you try both possibilities. Alternatively you can choose the ‘All Records’ option in the search box on the home page.
Browsing the records
If you are not searching for any particular information, simply click on ‘Browse records’ at the top of the home page, select a record type and click on any record that arouses your interest. We would suggest ‘Stories, Reports and Traditions’ as a good starting point for website users with a general interest in the history of our islands. Then you can either navigate from one record to another using the links on the right-hand side of the record page, or return to the list of records to find something new.
You can click on 'Title' at the head of the first column of any list of records to sort them in alphabetical order. However, this may not work if the volume of records is very large and/or you have a slow internet connection.
Searching for records
Many of our users are interested in finding particular information about their families or another area of interest. The search box on the home page allows you to search the titles and descriptions of records (though not any other fields such as ‘Record Maintained by’ or ‘Also Known As’, at least for the moment). Importantly, this search box has an ‘All Records’ option that is not available if you click on ‘Browse Records’.
Asterisks can be very helpful when searching. For example, if you want to find records that mention emigration, you can choose the ‘All Records’ option and type ‘emigr*’ into the search box. This will return all records that have the words ‘emigration’, ‘emigrant(s)’ or ‘emigrated’ in their titles or descriptions. You can also use double quotation marks to search for exact phrases. Searching is not case-sensitive.
You can also search individual record types by clicking on ‘Browse Records’ and then choosing a record type from the list. The search box you then see does exactly the same as the search box on the home page, with the important exception of ‘People’ records, for which a wider range of search options is available. You can narrow your search by the person’s date of birth, within a range such as 1850-1860. You can also use the ‘Lived At’ search box to find people who lived in particular places. For example, if you enter ‘Cromore’ into this box, the system will find people that are linked using the ‘Lived At’ relationship to records whose titles contain the sequence of characters 'cromore' (but note that quotation marks do not work for this particular type of search).
Viewing individual records
Each record consists of a title, a description (which may in some cases be blank) and a record summary. The summary includes details that vary according to the type of record and the amount of information available, Most of these details are self-explanatory but please note that the ‘BK reference’ field is used as an internal reference by some of the historical societies that also maintain Brother’s Keeper databases, while ‘Subject ID’ is a unique number allocated to each record by the Hebridean Connections system itself. The ‘Record Maintained By’ field specifies which society is responsible for the record, using codes that can be found in the list of societies on the home page. The ‘HC’ (= Hebridean Connections) code is used for records that are managed centrally.
In addition, every record is linked to one or more other records and the links are listed on the right-hand side of the page. You can use these links as a way of navigating through the site. You may occasionally come across records that are waiting to be reviewed for publication, and in the meantime you will not be able to see the details. Note also that while 'Information Obtained From' links enable you to navigate from other records (e.g. People records) to Resources records, the often very lengthy lists of reverse links are not displayed when viewing the Resources records themselves. Finally, some records have hyperlinks within the description field that take you to other records in Hebridean Connections or to external sites.
Some of the records in the system have been assigned geographical coordinates. Using the 'Map Search' function you can see where these records are located, and you can also search for specific locations. Note that blue pins represent groups of records and are not clickable. To view and access records, you need to zoom in until red pins appear. Each of these represents an individual record, and if you click on it you will see the title of this record, which is in the form of a hyperlink to the record itself. You can zoom in stages using the + and - symbols at either end of the scale, or you can slide the zoom indicator by clicking and dragging at the appropriate point on the scale.
COVID-19 Coronavirus update, March 2020: during the current pandemic period, Hebridean Connections staff and our contributing colleagues at Western Isles heritage organisations do not have access to the usual range of research resources with which to respond to comments and enquiries.
We would therefore be grateful if you could delay your submission of queries and comments until after the end of the pandemic; we hope to post updates on this page as our situation changes.
We look forward to hearing from our researchers in the future and in the meantime send best wishes for good health from the Outer Hebrides.
One of the innovative features of our website is that it allows people to submit new information and images in the form of comments that are visible to the public and can be replied to. In this way everyone can help to increase its value. Comments will be reviewed periodically and, if appropriate, the relevant records will be amended to reflect new information.
To submit a comment in relation to a particular record, scroll down to the bottom of the record and click in the comment box. This will prompt you to create a Disqus account if you do not already have one. Other login methods are also available. See our guide to commenting for more details.
Although our new website is now available to the public, development has not come to an end. We expect new features and functionality to be added over the coming months. This page will be updated as appropriate.