A website which brings Hebrideans, and their descendants, together has been launched to share the Isles’ culture, history and genealogy.
Launched in both Stornoway and South Uist with separate events www.hebrideanconnections.com is the result of a shared enterprise of ten separate Communn Eachdraidh’s with the joint aim of preserving the islands’ outstanding cultural heritage in digital form complete with interlinked records of islanders and those who left the isles.
Developed in association with funding from Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, HIE and the Scottish Government’s People and Communities Fund, Hebridean Connections began as a project launched by the Communn Eachdraidh in Bernera, Uig, Kinloch and Pairc, to digitise, manage and publish online their vast collections of cultural and social history, collected over many years.
Software and systems were developed and the database was launched, now with 72,000 records online from these and other areas and new material being added every day.
At the core of the database is the genealogy of the area, sometimes reaching back to the mid-15th century.
Already the website has attracted huge interest from all over the world.
Visitors from more than 20 countries have logged on with 3,000 visits to the new website in its first month and more than half of those being return visitors.
Hebridean Connections combines local and family tradition, clan histories, church records and legends, that are matched to provide the real stories behind a family tree.
Crucially, the local traditions also provide the links between families and areas that are often impossible to deduce from statutory records.
Add to this a huge array of photographs, documents, stories, songs, recordings, maps, ephemera and background history, and the result is a collection that brings the history of these island communities to life.
Think of it as a digital version of oral history: explore the connections between the people, places and stories of the Western Isles to experience the rich cultural heritage.
IT support is being provided by Aberdeen University as the site, which already has 5,000 new historical records, continues to grow.
The historical societies of Uig, Kinloch, Pairc, Ness, North Tolsta, Barvas and Brue, Caroloway, Bernera, North Lochs and Berneray are contributing to the project.