Coigach Lines

Tenant Genealogy of Coigach Crofts, Scotland, 1800-1900

Archive for January, 2009

Coigach Crofts – Tenant Genealogy – 1800 – 1900

Posted by alibaster on January 19, 2009

Coigach and the Summer Isles lie in Ross-shire, 60 miles north-west of Inverness, capital 0f Scotland’s Highland Region.


            In the early 1800s the Coigach townships were “lotted” into over 200 small-holdings

of 2 to 4 acres of cultivable land, each with proportionate hill-grazing rights. Most of these crofts extended from High-Water mark on the north-east shore of Loch Broom to the hill dyke, behind each crofting township, which kept the hill grazing stock out of the crops under cultivation.


            Access to the sea was important for bringing in seaweed for fertiliser and for subsistence fishing, using open boats small enough to be hauled up above High Water mark. Catches from the seasonal shoals of herring in Loch Broom were salted for the winter to provide the staple meal, along with home-grown potatoes kept away from the frost in a pit.


            The first crofting tenants had to clear, drain and enclose their croft and build thatched cottages and other shelter. The Cromarty Estates landowner’s factor came from Easter Ross annually to collect rents and any rent arrears due from each tenant. Once a family had established themselves in a croft they retained their tenancy through several generations.The tenant’s surname rarely changed except where the tenancy passed to a married daughter. Families were large however, and a croft was too small to share, so younger siblings who married locally often left Coigach, and many emigrated.


            Genealogist/descendants of these families face the problem of frequent repetition in Coigach of both surnames and given names, and the difficulty of identifying their own ancestor Murdo Maclean or Margaret Macleod from among the many on offer. This difficulty is reduced by wider knowledge of the local families and of potentially relevant pairs of parents of the time. It should vanish when all family parents are known and all the wrong Murdo Macleans can be eliminated. These family descent diagrams result from my study of the records of Coigach between 1800 and World War One.


            Crofts Numbers 210 to 223 inclusive are in Altandu township which was inhabited for most of the 19th century by eight distinguishable Maclean families, three part-time Macleod families and one each Stewart and Mackenzie families. Their descent diagrams are on pages 1 to 9. Eight daughters of these families married into other Altandu families, five into families from the adjacent township of Reiff, and eighteen into families from other crofting townships within Coigach.



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