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Orkney's pre-history, of the megalithic, bronze and Pictish ages, provides a colourful backdrop but has little genealogical relevance.In contrast, much of Orkney's recorded history, whether it concerns the earls, the clergy, lairds, townsfolk, udallers (see Land and its Ownership ), or tenants, is full of genealogical interest.
Scots had started to settle in Orkney in the previous century, but it remained a semi-autonomous Earldom until 1614.These were odal or udal tenure which was of Norse origin, and feudal tenure of Scottish origin.In practice most of the culivated land (townland) was held in the run-rig system where small plots worked by different tenants were intermixed in a bewildering mosaic without formal boundaries.Fishing is also a highly significant industry but recently tourism has overtaken both it and farming in terms of earnings.The discovery of oil beneath the North Sea led to the construction of a pipeline terminal on Flotta, one of the islands that surround the sheltered harbour of Scapa Flow.See also a Bibliography of older Books and Guides on Orkney.
More specialist bibliographies are listed on other pages of this site, including the individual pages for Orkney Parishes and Islands.
They include burial chambers and rings of standing stones as well as the Stone Age village of Skara Brae which has been designated a World Heritage Site.
Viking raiders arrived from Norway 1200 years ago and colonized the islands but they came under Scottish rule in 1472 when, along with Shetland, they were ceded to Scotland in lieu of a wedding dowry." From "Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia", 1996.
The union of the Scottish and English parliaments in 1707 saw political control pass to London, but many powers were devolved back to Scotland in 1999 with the restoration of the Scottish Parliament.
Orkney is blessed with a wealth of records which are of use to both historians and genealogists.
The sowing and the harvest were shared by the tenants in proportion to their holdings.