Ian Morrison: New member introducing myself

+9 votes

I have just joined Wiki-tree and it looks like a great place to add my family tree. I'm a software engineer so although I have not been researching family history for long, I have been working logically for over 30 years :-) I understand the importance of facts, references and logical connections. I've looked at the intro videos, and read the intro texts, so have a basic understanding of how wiki tree works. My first question is:
(1) what is the best way to put what I have done in Ancestry into Wikitree? I have over 1000 people in Ancestry. Is this going to take a long time? An annoying thing with Ancestry is there are a lot of poorly researched family trees, and people just copy them, adding to the errors.

My second question is:
(2) I have an interesting family mystery - a change of name from MacPhail to Morrison, at Lochbroom, Ross-shire, Scotland. Maybe other people know of similar stories? Has anybody heard of an entire family changing their surname? I have numerous theories, and read a number of articles on Alias's. Was it due to persecution? Was it to gain favour with someone? Did they not like the name? This is a small fact when one individual is involved, but it becomes a big mystery when eight (or more) people are involved. Maybe some of these questions can be answered through DNA? I have a public tree on Ancestry at https://www.ancestry.com.au/family-tree/tree/165771259/family/pedigree?cfpid=192221902669  which shows a Hugh MacPhail (1745) (Kirk officer at Lochbroom) and his six children, all baptised MacPhail. Up to 1811 a further six grandchildren are born probably all baptised MacPhail. Then, from 1815 onwards all of the above 12 people (and other decendants) are named Morrison in all census and death records. A particularly interesting record is one for Roderick MacPhail which states on his 1819 marriage record he is named "Morrison Alias McPhail". I have a lot of records for all of this family including death records showing parents names - linking them to Hugh Morrison/McPhail - Church officer, and  birth locations all link them to the eight McPhail birth records. It would be great to solve this mystery.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.


Ian Morrison
WikiTree profile: Ian Morrison
in The Tree House by Ian Morrison G2G Crew (430 points)
retagged by Ian Morrison

3 Answers

+7 votes
Best answer
Hi Ian, welcome to WikiTree!

As Marion mentioned, it is possible to import a GEDCOM, but best keep them small if you do, as you have to check each one.  I have 27,000 in my Ancestry tree and decided not to import. The benefits are I was able to find sources that were not behind a paywall, so others can see them. Yes, it takes a little time, but I am convinced it has improved my research.

Whatever you decide to do, have fun!

by Wendy Taylor G2G6 Mach 8 (84.3k points)
selected by Marty Franke
Thanks Wendy.
+7 votes

Hi, have you looked at the list of MacPhail’s in case any of your ancestors are already here?


The other way to bring profiles over is via Gedcom. (Max 500) However I have done it once, and wished I hadn’t, as you still have to check each one anyway.

by Marion Poole G2G Astronaut (1.2m points)
Hi Marion,

thanks for your reply.

I have checked and no McPhails match mine.

I did also upload a Gedcom file, which then gives a report showing potential matches. I have not found any matches yet, but still looking. Is this different to what you said you did?
+5 votes
Hi Ian,  My husband descends from Hugh.  I also have a few theories about the name change.  I have been reading a few articles that may help.

This one about Scottish surnames: - https://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk/research-guides/surnames

Also this one which is a good starting point if you want to go web-surfing down the rabbit hole of history. -  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scottish_clan#Collapse_of_the_clan_system

Particularly the parts about the Jacobite uprising of 1745;  (The 1745 laws prohibited wearing Highland clothing, which I found interesting after reading about Hugh and his brothers always wearing kilts in the dead of winter), and the part about the Highland clearances. (This perfectly describes his family, fishing on the coast of the mainland at Gairloch while crofting at Lochbroom).

MacPhail means 'son of Paul', so Hugh could be a son or descendant of someone named Paul.  Or perhaps his mother was a MacPhail?  

I found that the name MacPhail is a sept of the MacDonell clan, which were the clan around Lochbroom.  The Morrison clan comes from the north-east of the Isle of Lewis, which is definitely well represented in the DNA matches.  I suspect that persecution of the clans led to his family using the McPhail name for a while and then perhaps reclaiming the Morrison clan name when laws against them eased up from the 1780s.
by Susie O'Neil G2G6 (8.4k points)

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