In this week's Kith and Kin, Peter Munro from the Borders Family History Society, shares his latest family tree discovery and explains the use of 'score' when talking about years or ages...


Last week I suggested you use ‘Google Alerts’, to advise you when there is new content that might interest you on the internet by setting up an alert for a name that you’re interested in. In my case, that’s “Aristide Blank” but after someone commented on the article, it occurred to me that book authors are sometimes listed as with their surname coming first.

So I should set up an alert for “Blank, Aristide” too. I’ve just done a search on Google for “Blank, Aristide” and it has produced 753 results.

Curiously, although Google searches used to ignore punctuation, a search on Google for “Blank Aristide” produces 772 results.

The first page of results contains libraries and the genealogical site, My Heritage.

One of the library results led to Patrice-Aristide Blank. He, too, was the son of Aristide by a woman whom he never married, Micaella Tuchner-Satinover.

I had heard of Patrice before but hadn’t known how he was connected.

Apart from anything else, he was a French journalist, though DBpedia cites him as a press-magnate.

The same source states that Aristide founded an airline that grew into Air France and that in addition to all the roles that I mentioned last week, he was also a playwright.

The first three Society speakers for this year have just been announced.

They are Norrie McLeish on February 26, his talk is titled ‘Just a Game’; on March 26, Elisabeth Wilson will be talking about the memoirs of Jock Wilson, who was a boy in Berwick between World Wars I and II; and on April 30, Dr Murray Watson’s subject is ‘Writing a Family History for My Grandchildren’.

These dates are all on Sundays at 2.30pm and the talks are in St Peter’s Church, Galashiels.

At a recent meeting of Kelso Writers, one of the younger participants asked what a ‘score’ was in terms of age.

The simple answer is that a score is 20.

When I was a boy, many of the older people I knew used the word score in talking about ages, for example three score and ten (a man’s age, 70), twelve score shillings (about the price of an expensive commodity, 240 shillings or £12).

It seems odd now but it didn’t then.

Similarly, the French counted in the same number, and many still do.

So my grandfather’s age at death was “quatre vingts sept” (literally four score seven, meaning 87), and in Germany, the price of a painting in an antique shop was “dreimal zwanzig und sechs mark” (three times twenty and six, 66 marks).

Gaelic uses the same principle, 40, 60, and 80 being multiples of twenty (fichead in Gaelic).

The system of counting in twenties is called vigesimalism and is said to have been devised by the ancient Assyrians.

It occurs in non-European languages, too, and is also found in the Bible, though that may be because the writers used the language of that period.

In ancient times, traders and shepherds counted by scoring notches on a tally stick with every 20th notch being larger.