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Jack Wishart, Family Genealogist 

 
(1939 - 2015)

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Lt. Col. Jack G. Wishart Jack Gillespie Wishart was born in Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland on 15 April 1939. He left St Columba's High School in Cowdenbeath to study Chemistry at Edinburgh University, and in 1960 he graduated with B.Sc (Hons) and started work as a teacher. There he met his future wife, Skip, but they couldn't afford to marry on his meagre teacher's pay so, in 1964, Jack left teaching to join the Royal Army Educational Corps.

In 1974, Jack was posted to the Ministry of Defence in London where, at a diplomatic reception in Lancaster House, a chance encounter started his genealogical quest. While chatting to a colleague, Major David Boobbyer, he inquired about his unusual name. Major Boobbyer replied that it was Cornish and there were few of them about. Jack said something similar about Wishart, and how the English can neither spell nor pronounce it properly - they say Wise Heart or WishART, whereas the Scots say WISHart. Major Boobbyer demurred, explaining that a neighbour of his was a Wishart and they both knew how to pronounce it correctly. David Wishart's Tree, Abernethy 1914

This chance remark by David Boobbyer inspired Jack to write to the neighbour expressing an interest in where he came from and whether they were related. The neighbour turned out to be Scott Wishart (7 Jun 1897 23 Apr 1979), a retired pharmacist from Montrose in Scotland. He gave Jack his family tree, which had been compiled by a relative, and his brother's address in Perth. So, on his next return to Scotland, Jack visited Scott's brother David Wishart who readily volunteered more Wishart data.

Jack also quizzed his father about their forebears and began visiting New Register House, Edinburgh to search the statutory records of births, marriages and deaths for Scotland. Gradually he sketched out the details of his family. However, one name eluded him - his grandfather's twin brother (and it took him until 2005 to find him)! Jack trawled wider and wider, collecting all the Wisharts he could find, and so the family database was started.

In 1976, Jack joined the Society of Genealogists in London and spent his lunch hours there, garnering more data on Wisharts (Jack asserts that working in the Empress State Building in Lillie Road was reason enough to lunch elsewhere). Initially he collated his data by drawing little trees and hanging names from branches, but this method quickly became impractical. As he had recently worked in in Army Intelligence at that time, he decided to employ hush-hush Intelligence procedures - he transferred his data to record cards, one card for every Wishart, and he now has over 21,000 cards. Therefore, if your name is Wishart, chances are you've a card in his file!

Each time he created a tree, Jack had to extract the cards relevant to the branch, lay them out in the right order, and then laboriously transcribe them to paper. This might seem clumsy and time-consuming in the computer age, but it was simple and allowed for missing branches to be slotted in easily as new data were submitted.

Postings to Cyprus, Edinburgh and the USA followed, and at every opportunity Jack garnered more Wishart data. When he had assembled a few thousand names he was able to exchange his data with others who had collected several generations. This added to his base, and Jack was soon corresponding with fellow Wishart enthusiasts throughout the world, amassing more cards with each new contact. Those who have corresponded with Jack will doubtless recall his thorough, questioning approach, and many will be grateful for the extra details he has been able to add to their own family trees.

After his return to Britain, Jack was appointed Commander Education, Scotland and North East England, and he and Skip bought Milton House, Milton of Balgonie, an address that will be familiar to many of his older correspondents. Jack retired from the Army in 1989 but was employed as a civil servant in the army headquarters near South Queensferry, near Edinburgh.

He retired from the civil service in 2000 and became a freelance expert in border security and related equipments. He has not yet retired.

In 1995 he bought the Family Tree Maker program, and since then has produced more than 130 trees in electronic format. Sending a family tree to a fellow Wishart is now so much simpler and more informative than it was when he used only record cards.

He routinely looks at the Genes Reunited website to look for fresh Wisharts whom he can help by adding to their individual family histories.

If you have been inspired by this account of Jack Wishart's dedicated and tireless genealogical effort, now spanning more than three decades, then you have the means to enrich it right at your fingertips. Just download the family tree form and send him your data, or complete and submit our tree inquiry form. You never know, he may be able to trace your family line right back to the 12th century.

On behalf of the worldwide family of Wisharts we'd like to thank you, Colonel Jack for your dedicated work and for bringing us all that little bit closer together.

Sadly, we have to report that Jack Wishart died suddenly on September 14, 2015. There is an obituary here .