The Orkney Islands lie about six miles off the northern tip of mainland Scotland. The islands extend about 50 miles from North to South and about 30 miles from East to West. Orkney consists of about 70 islands, many being too small to inhabit. Together they have a total coastline of approximately 570 miles and covers an area of about 380 square miles with Orkney's largest island, "the Mainland", occupying most of that area.
Birth, Marriage & Death records for ancestral South Ronaldsay Families CROMARTY (1624-1874) DUNCAN (1658-1874) DUNNET (1700-1874) LEITH (1659-1874) MATCHES (1763-1865) ROSIE (1679-1874) records for related South Ronaldsay Families ANNAL (1679-1874) DURRAN (1772-1784) GRAY (1658-1872) GUNN (1679-1874) LOUTIT (1780-1874) PETRIE (1663-1874) SANDISON (1757-1872) Contact the web site master
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Of the 70 or so islands, less than one-third are inhabited. According to the 1991 census, the islands have a total population of approximately 19,500 people. The majority of people live on Orkney's largest island, "the Mainland", with the greatest concentration of people being around the communities of Kirkwall and Stromness.
The name "The Mainland" is a corruption of the Old Norse "Meginland", but was originally known as "Hrossey", meaning "Horse Island". The island is occasionally called "Pomona", but this stems from a 17th Century cartographical error. "Pomona" is not a name used by local Orcadians.
The parish of South Ronaldsay and Burray is part of the southern islands. Burray has two communities, Northtown and Southtown. South Ronaldsay has one large community, St Margaret's Hope, and a dozen smaller villages. These villages include, from north to south, Hoxa, Quindry, Grimness, Papley, Herston, Widewall, Aikers, Sandwick, Lythes, Linklater, Burwick, Cleat and Liddel. The 1821 census lists 1389 residents in St. Peter's parish and 553 residents for St. Mary's parish. Only 245 residents were listed for Burray.
The earliest known history of the islands indicates that the Celtics (Picts) inhabited the islands, and that the Norse had summer camps there. About 900 AD, Norse earls established permanent settlements in the Orkneys and assumed control over the islands. Scottish nobles settled on the islands about 1200 AD, but Scotland didn't assume control of the islands until the 1470's.
Gregor LAMB, in his book, Orkney Surnames, says that there have been 291 definite Orkney surnames. While many names have become extinct, he says 105 continue to exist to this time. Some are thought to be about 800 years old.