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The study communities

The study communities

One of the aims of the project is to compare demographic patterns and processes for different places. In order to properly assess the interplay between economic opportunities, migration, marriage markets, physical and disease environments and the resulting fertility, nuptiality and mortality rates, we need to be able to follow families over time, linking demographic events to the household and occupational circumstances at different points in time. In short, we needed to reconstruct entire communities over time rather than taking a random sample of individuals from the entire country which, although offering a greater range of conditions, would not provide the opportunities to connect different events to the same individuals. We therefore chose four different places with contrasting economic and social structures.

The four study areas.
This map was compiled from boundaries supplied by UKBORDERS, EDINA, University of Edinburgh

The lowland town of Kilmarnock in Ayrshire was expanding over the course of the nineteenth century: its population grew from 21,200 in 1851 to 33,000 in 1901. It had a mixed economy and a sizable female labour force: fully one quarter of the 5,338 persons over the age of 20 working in manufacturing in 1871 were women. In contrast Skye was a relatively isolated Hebridean island, covering seven parishes, with an economy then dependent on crofting and fishing. It had a population size comparable to Kilmarnock at the beginning of the study period (22,500 in 1851), but progressive depletion by out-migration helped to reduce this to only 14,500 by 1901. Torthorwald and Rothiemay, on the other hand, were single parishes with only 1,254 and 1,414 inhabitants in 1861. Although rural like Skye, their economies and demographic patterns reflect the dynamics of family farming and life-cycle service in two high illegitimacy regions. Both were predominantly agricultural but while Rothiemay was surrounded by similar, wholly rural parishes Torthorwald was influenced by proximity to Dumfries, a sizeable county town.

Linkage will enable a clear sense of community and family relations to be discerned, allowing comparison between the two rural parishes while providing indicators of how the crofting community on Skye differed from rural communities elsewhere in Scotland.