The Annal surname is known to have originated in two main areas; South Ronaldsay (Orkney) and Fife. I am quite sure that the two groups are completely unrelated. I am equally sure that all the South Ronaldsay Annals are related to each other, but I have not been able to establish the relationships between all the various branches.

Family history research in pre-19th century South Ronaldsay is always a challenge. The key source material, the Old Parochial Registers are, for long periods, entirely missing. In fact, other than a register covering the years 1657 to 1669 and another starting in 1749 running up to the late 1750s/early 1760s, there is nothing before the 1780s. We are therefore reliant on a few other sources which provide us with isolated glimpses of the population of the island.

It seems virtually certain that all the Annals of South Ronaldsay are descended from one person: a man called James Annand, a wright in St Margaret’s Hope who died sometime around 1615. The ‘change’ from Annan(d) to Annal(l) is discussed elsewhere.

The consequence of the lack of parish register material is that we have a gap of more than 150 years between the death of James Annand the wright and the start of anything approaching comprehensive coverage of the births and marriages of South Ronaldsay’s inhabitants. So the people who we find in the remarkably detailed 1821 census are at least five or six generations removed from our ‘founding father’. James had two sons and one of those, John, had three. These are the potential grandparents and great grandparents of the Annals whose baptisms we find in the second surviving parish register, which begins in 1749.

The best I’ve been able to do is to trace each line back as far as possible and to place the various families into theoretical groups. Since first identifying them, I have discovered that certain groups are related to others. I soon found out that the Liverpool and Gravesend Annals came from South Ronaldsay and I have been able to prove that the Yorkshire Annals came from Fife. There are therefore a number of missing group letters.

Group ASouth Ronaldsay – East Side, Lythes, Mossetter, Stane, Myre etc.
Group BSouth Ronaldsay – Linklater, Mossetter etc.
USA; Argentina
Group CSouth Ronaldsay – Mossetter
Edinburgh; Canada
Group DSouth Ronaldsay – Sandwick
Wick – Keiss; Holm
Group ESouth Ronaldsay – Papley, Grimness
Gravesend; Greenwich
Group FSouth Ronaldsay – Papley
Aberdeen; Rossyth; Australia; USA
Group GSouth Ronaldsay – Grimness
Edinburgh; Goodwick (Pembrokeshire); Leicester; Melksham
USA; Canada
Group HSouth Ronaldsay – Holland
Oswego, NY
Group MSt Andrews, Fife; Dundee; Dalry, Ayr; Kilwinning; Well, Yorkshire; Leeds; Bradford
Group PDeal, Kent

We can probably narrow it all down even further. Groups A, E, F and G are almost certainly closely related as are Groups B, C, D and H. The only significant group which I have not (so far) been able to trace back to either Orkney or Fife is Group P, the Annals of Deal in Kent.

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