Scottish Genealogy

Monday, 19 December 2011

Happy Birthday to...Dr John Kirk

This day, 100 years ago, I would have been pleased to wish Dr John Kirk a very happy 29th birthday.  He would no doubt have not been very interested in my good wishes as he would have been quite busy taking part in David Livingstone's Zambesi expedition of which he had been a part since 1858.  

By 1861, Kirk and Livingstone and their fellow explorers would have been in the area of Lake Nyassa and Kirk would be busy collecting botanical samples and corresponding with the great scientific minds of his day - people like Richard Owen and Joseph and William Hooker.

But my best wishes for Kirk would perhaps be reserved not for his genius as a botanist, but for his role in attempting to hasten the end of slavery in Zanzibar whilst he worked for the consular service there in the 1870s. 

An interesting man, who has left a wealth of papers, many held here in Edinburgh at the National Library of Scotland which may be of interest if you would like to investigate his life.  There will be also be a talk about Dr (later Sir) John Kirk at the National Archives in London on 12th January 2012, given by Alastair Hazell, whose book The Last Slave Market traces the extraordinary life of Kirk.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Christmas Shopping in 1861 - today's adverts in the Caledonian Mercury

As I undertook some more of my festive shopping today on a pretty busy Princes Street here in Edinburgh, I began wondering what I could have bought for those nearest and dearest to me in the past.  Now, the Scots traditionally have been more animated about New Year than about Christmas, but I decided to take a browse through the options available in the adverts from the Caledonian Mercury newspaper on this day 150 years ago...

Now, for the man in your life you could perhaps choose something from your fine local milliner's - 'The Operative Hat Company' of 73 St Mary's Wynd were advertising that 'we make as good hats as can possibly be made' and that they could 'sell cheaper than any other house in town'.  Great - that's the place for me!

If you really wanted to spoil him then perhaps you could get some ox hide leggings at 7s 6d , sold by 'The Ox Hide Leather Leggings Factory' (who knew there could be such demand that a factory would be needed?)

Ladies were reminded on the same page 'in making your purchases for the laundry, do not forget GLENFIELD PATENT STARCH' used by 'her majesty's laundress' no less.

You can also treat someone to some fine corned beef (at the Royal Emporium on George Street), first class teas (at J Pirret's on Clerk Street) and American apples and Russian cranberries (at Baxter's Place).

Image: Toa55 /

All the makings of a cheerful Christmas for everyone there I think.  And for some light reading whilst digesting the apples and cranberries, perhaps the newly released Memorable Women of the Puritan Times or the 'temperance tale' entitled Drift: A Story of Waifs and Strays...

All adverts quoted are from the front page of the Caledonian Mercury from the 17th December 1861

Monday, 12 December 2011

RCAHMS seeks your feedback on social media and archives

Just a quick reminder that the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland [RCAHMS] are looking for your opinions on changes to the way that they use social media to allow users to interact with their collections.

As part of the 'Beyond Text' programme (investigating communication across time and place using performance, sounds, images and objects) RCAHMS will be looking to implement some of the following ideas:
  1. Image tagging – to enable users to add their own keywords to Canmore images and to search for these tags, turning Canmore into a browsable image bank
  2. Thesaurus – to enable users to nominate Canmore images to represent each site type definition
  3. RCAHMS Data Service – to enable members of the public to search for data and export the results to develop new interactive resources, for example Apps
They have an online survey at their website and it is well worth taking part so that you can add your ideas to the mix.  Social media is playing a bigger part in our lives, and it is now also playing a bigger role in archives and other cultural institutions too.  Visit their site to read more about the Beyond Text project and take part in the survey - you need to hurry though - last day for the survey is the 16th of December. 

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Happy Birthday to...Robert Louis Stevenson

Photograph of RL Stevenson
Sometimes I remember that it is the birthday of someone famous - now that I have this blog I can remind all of you too when the person is both famous and Scottish!

Today, Robert Louis Stevenson would have been 161 years old!  Actually, he died in 1894 at the age of 44, but he packed quite a lot into his short life.

Robert Louis [Lewis] Balfour Stevenson was born at 8 Howard Place, Scotland, on 13 November 1850, to Thomas Stevenson (1818–1887), and Margaret Isabella Balfour (1829–1897). The Stevensons were a 'lighthouse' family: Robert Louis's father was a lighthouse engineer and his grandfather was the famous Robert Stevenson (famed designed and builder of lighthouses).

Although Robert started to study engineering at Edinburgh University, he soon found that his heart was not really in it, in one of his poems he wrote:

Say not of me that weakly I declined
The labours of my sires, and fled the sea,
The towers we founded and the lamps we lit,
But rather say: In the afternoon of time
A strenuous family dusted from its hands
The sand of granite, and beholding far
Along the sounding coast its pyramids
And tall memorials catch the dying sun,
Smiled well content, and to this childish task
Around the fire addressed its evening hours

As well as his well known writing career, Stevenson travelled widely and just before his death purchased a tract of about 400 acres of land on Upolu, an island in Samoa, where he lived under the name of Tusitala (Samoan for Story-teller). He died there in 1894, leaving behind a rich body of work which has inspired generations.

I found Robert Louis Stevenson through his Kidnapped and the Strange case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and later found his other novels, novellas and his poetry.  His own epigraph comes from one of my favourite collections of his poetry: Underwoods:


Under the wide and starry sky,
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.

This be the verse you grave for me:
Happy birthday, Robert Louis Stevenson 

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Thankful Thursday - the Macdonald brothers in WWI

An act of remembrance...

Image: dan /

Today's post is a personal one in honour of three of my great uncles who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country and lost their lives long before I ever had the chance to know them.  

These were three of the five sons of my great-grandmother and great-grandfather, Christina MacCrimmon and Alexander Macdonald.  Thinking of them losing three sons in such quick succession is almost too much to bear.  

To John, Alexander and Duncan - and the countless others who have given their lives over the years - we send our heartfelt gratitude for your sacrifice.

In Memory of

1292, "A" Coy., 2nd Bn., Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders
who died age 25
on 24 April 1917
Son of Alexander and Christina Macdonald, of Corbie Hill Rd., Davidson's Mains, Midlothian.
Remembered with honour
Commemorated in perpetuity by
the Commonwealth War Graves Commission

In Memory of

S/17540, 8th Bn., Black Watch (Royal Highlanders)
who died age 23
on 19 July 1918
Son of Alexander and Christina Macdonald, of Store Buildings, Davidson's Mains, Midlothian.
Remembered with honour
Commemorated in perpetuity by
the Commonwealth War Graves Commission

In Memory of

203403, 1st/5th Bn., Highland Light Infantry
who died age 21
on 24 August 1918
Son of Alexander MacDonald and Christina MacCrimmon MacDonald, of Davidsons Mains, Edinburgh.
Remembered with honour
Commemorated in perpetuity by
the Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Sunday Supper - a trip through the archives

A chance encounter with a mention of a recipe in the catalogue of the National Records of Scotland [formerly National Archives of Scotland] got me wondering how many recipes from former days might be recorded in the archives.  

A quick look through the online catalogue for the Scottish archives at gave some intriguing examples:

Some of the 18th century recipes sound fairly reasonable (don't really fancy the boar's head or snail water myself!):

GD150/3413: Recipe to cure a boar's head   
RH15/10/18a: Recipe for making snail water 
GD16/58/5: Recipe for orange wine
RH9/17/191: Recipe for baking herrings. Taken from my Lady Glenorchy's book
GD68/2/156: Recipe for making ginger wine

By the 19th and 20th centuries, we have moved on to some quite tasty sounding offerings:

GD172/2880: Recipe for buttermilk cheese
GD113/5/106c: a recipe for raspberry vinegar
GD157/1744: Recipe for sponge cake

But I think that my two favourites have to be a couple of undated offerings that tell us more about the politics of those who wrote them than they do about their tastebuds...
GD24/5/162/27: A recipe for making a true whig
the ingredients guarentteed to make anyone 'as sound a whig as ever  beheaded a King, murdered a bishop or abjured a Lawfull Prince'

GD157/1384: An abusive recipe for making a presbyterian in two days
Description: `Take the roots of hipocrisie and ambitione ... ane handfull of the spirit of pride, two drams of the seed of disentione and discord ...'

Food for thought?

Friday, 4 November 2011

Major new project set up to study everyday life in Dumfries and Galloway

The European Ethnological Research Centre [EERC] has set up a brand new project aimed at gathering and publishing information about everyday life through the ages in Dumfries and Galloway.

This ambitious study, which is believed to be the first of its kind in the UK, aims to produce substantial publications in a variety of formats. It seeks to bring together research carried out by Dumfries and Galloway's inhabitants, academics and others sharing interests in such topics. 

The organisers say that they hope to publish the results in a variety of outputs, such as additions to their popular Flashback series and in multi-authored books, as well as having online resources associated with the study.  

They will also be holding public events, such as concerts and exhibitions, in which the results of research will be disseminated. 

Image: nuttakit /
Perhaps one of the the most interesting aspects of this study is that it is designed to be participative, with the people of Dumfries and Galloway being involved in the process.

They have set up a project blog, where you can find out more and where interested parties can contact the organisers.

It looks to be an interesting attempt to trace the history and culture of people in a particular place through the experiences of the ordinary folk who live and have lived there. 


Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Lord Cochrane exhibition at National Museum of Scotland

The National Museum of Scotland is running an exhibition entitled 'the real master and commander' all about the life of Thomas, Lord Cochrane.

He was also the Earl of Dundonald, and he was appointed an admiral in the Royal Navy, and served until his death at the age of 84.  He is perhaps most famous in South America (where many of his notable exploits took place) but this exhibition should help to bring him to fame in his own country.

Image: Juan Gnecco /
The exhibition is a great mixture of original documents relating to Cochrane's life which are held in the National Records [Archives] of Scotland, and extraordinary collection of personal possessions and dramatic paintings.

If you can't get along to Chambers Street in Edinburgh to see the exhibition in person, then the National Museum of Scotland has devoted some webspace to him on their site.  Visit their website and find out more about Thomas Cochrane - the real master and commander!

The exhibition runs until 19th February 2012 and is free.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Scottish Life Archive

Looking around on the internet the other day, I came across the page for the Scottish Life Archive, which seems to have had a bit of a facelift since the last time I visited the website.

The archive has been around since the 1950s and aims to collect, record and preserve documentary and illustrative evidence of Scotland's material culture and social history.  

They have built up a fascinating collection of material that could be useful for anyone researching aspects of Scottish local or family history and you can get a taste of what they have by visiting their website, and you can view images of some of their photographic collections on flickr.

Viewing the collections is by appointment only (see their website for contact details), as well as holding photographic and film material the Scottish Life Archive is home to a unique collection of manuscripts, letters, diaries, books, leaflets, oral recordings, maps, plans, trade catalogues, paper ephemera and an extensive newspaper cuttings collection.

If you're searching for details about a particular person, place or theme, then it might well be worth a visit.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Digging for clues to the past at Bannockburn

Work began on Monday [3rd October] at the site for the new visitor centre at Bannockburn.

As well as looking for clues about the battle of Bannockburn itself, archaeologists will be trying to identify a possible Roman road that was identified as running through the area in an Ordnance Survey map drawn up during the 19th century.

Derek Alexander, Head of Archaeological Services at the National Trust for Scotland said that, “The survey will hopefully identify any linear features which may be a trackway or road and old field boundaries. It may also locate pits associated with camp of the Scots army."

This is all part of the preparation work for the new visitor centre at will be interesting to see what they find...

The project is a joint venture between the National Trust for Scotland and Historic Scotland and you can find out more at the Historic Scotland website. 

Image: nuttakit /

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Lost Conan Doyle novel published...

The British Library have just published a novel entitled The Narrative of John Smith which was written when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was 23 - three years before Sherlock Holmes saw the light of day.

The novel was apparently sent it to a publisher but it was lost in the post and Conan Doyle then had to reconstruct it from memory.

The book is available from the British Library, and you can find more information about it on their website

It's described as 'a novel of considerable biographical importance' and at £9.95 is well worth having.  I'm ordering my copy now...

Image: ntwowe /

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Images of Edwardian Scotland from RCAHMS

If you missed the interesting supplement in the Scotsman last weekend: Edwardian Scotland Picture Supplements, then you can still view some of these great images online at the website of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland [RCAHMS].

There are some really great photographs available to view on the website, as well as some interesting information about photography at this time - the images are taken from the RCAHMS collections and display examples of the work of famous photographers like Bedford Lemere & Co and Thomas Annan alongside more informal snapshots from private family albums.

It's an interesting resource and certainly displays something about RCAHMS collections that I didn't previously know about - well worth a look.

Image: m_bartosch /

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Scots Abroad: Emigration Stories from Scottish Emigrants

A 'shout-out' today for another great online resource that is interesting, informative and FREE!

The National Library of Scotland [NLS] have a great digital resource available at which links you to transcripts of letters and journals, and audio versions of these, along with background information and really great visual resources - drawings, photos, maps and pamphlets and much more.

This is a fascinating glimpse into the huge range of records that the NLS have and gives a real glimpse into the lives of people who left these shores to create new lives.

There is a lot of very detailed information in these pages and it is well worth 'bookmarking' to return to again and again.  The website also links into the NLS Scots Abroad database which gives details of material relating to the lives of Scots and their experiences overseas.

Image: Idea go /

Saturday, 10 September 2011

St Kilda and Mingulay School Log Books Online

The last school log books for the islands of St Kilda and Mingulay have gone online as part of a joint effort between the National Records of Scotland (NRS) and the Tasglann nan Eilean Siar (Hebridean Archives).

These books were written by the teachers and give a fascinating insight into life on these Scottish islands.  The Mingulay log book dates from 1875 to 1910 and the St Kilda log book covers the years from 1901-1930 - that takes us right up to the date when the island was evacuated.

They are interesting documents to browse through for a real glimpse of the way people lived on these remote islands.  Well worth a look...

Image: Felixco, Inc. /

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Scotland's Archives Matter

The Scottish Council on Archives has recently released a new publication entitled 'Scotland's Archives Matter'.

It seeks to 'showcase the work of Scotland's archives and illustrate their vital importance not only as priceless cultural treasures, but also as a critical part of modern Scottish society.'

Sentiments with which I wholeheartedly agree!  And if you look carefully, you'll find a few words in there from me, written when I was still an archivist at the National Archives of Scotland [as it was then!] talking about my use of archival material when I was student [that's a wee while ago now!]

Worth a read - it's very nicely done.

Image: Maggie Smith /

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Find out more about the history of Scottish working men and women

The National Library of Scotland is featuring in my blog again with a mention for their upcoming exhibition entitled:  Scottish working people's history.

The display promises to give a fascinating insight into the lives of ordinary Scots workers who involved themselves in the development of the early trade union movement.  Highlights of the exhibition are:

  • The original deed of establishment in 1761 of the Fenwick Weavers' Society in Ayrshire which is regarded as the world’s first ever co-operative society  
  • A membership card issued almost two centuries ago to one of the first ever trade unionists in Scotland  
  • The service and pay book for John Dunlop who fought against fascism in the Spanish Civil War

Finding out more about ordinary folk rather than the 'great and the good' is always a challenge when using documentary sources, but exhibitions like this can at least give us a glimpse into aspects of the lives of our more 'humble' ancestors.

The exhibition runs from 2nd September until the end of October at George IV Bridge, Edinburgh, and should be well worth a visit.  More details can be found at:

Image: Simon Howden /

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Talk on National Library of Scotland Maps

A really early 'shout out' for an upcoming event that might be of interest to many...

Chris Fleet the National Library of Scotland's senior map curator will be speaking about the history of Scotland as shown through maps on the 4th October 2011 at the NLS.

You can book online or find more information at - it should be an interesting discussion as it promises to take a look at mapping the nation from the 2nd century AD right up to more recent 'digital endeavours'.

Image: luigi diamanti /

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Protecting, preserving and recording our war memorials.

I read today about a project that I hadn't come across before: 'In Memoriam 2014' is a national project which will, with the assistance of local communities and groups, locate, log, maintain then protect the nation’s war memorials in time for Remembrance Day 2014.

The project hopes to encourage local communities and youth groups to locate and get involved with their local war memorials and seems well worthy of support.

You can find out more at the In Memorium website or check out their facebook page.

Image: Arvind Balaraman /

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Scottish Archive looking for your old family movies...

The Scottish Screen Archive has a remarkable collection of film and video documenting the social and cultural history of Scotland over the past 100 years and more.

Their films cover much of 20th-century Scottish social, cultural and industrial history as well as giving rare glimpses into the lives of ordinary Scots across the generations.

Now they are looking for help with their latest project: Specifically they are asking for donations of films shot between 1970 and 2010 including those from:

Video workshops, Community groups, Action groups, Cine / video clubs, Promotional films for local industries / charities / tourism, Sport and leisure, Footage depicting significant changes in local communities, Special local community events – e.g. gala days, millennium celebrations and more...

An additional project is seeking evidence of children using film technology and they are looking for material from those
  • who made their own movies as a child
  • who were part of a group that ran video workshops for children
  • who participated as a child in movie making during the 1970s-2000.
Contributing to the archival collections could mean helping to create an invaluable resource for future generations who may look back in 50 or 100 years or more and ask what our lives were like now.  So if you have some old cine-film lying around the house, now might be the time to dig it out.

Find out more at the Scottish Screen Archive website.

Image: dan /

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Scottish Surnames and Naming Traditions

The newest Find My Scottish Ancestors research guide is now live on my website.

This one deals with Scottish surnames and the naming traditions that so often dictated the naming of children.

Some of the ways in which names passed down through a family can be great clues for anyone trying to trace their Scottish genealogy, so do have a look.

Have a look at the Find My Scottish Ancestors Surnames and Naming Traditions Research Guide


and remember that the Beginners Guide to Tracing Your Scottish Ancestors and the Emigration/Immigration guides are also available.

Hope these help...

Friday, 15 July 2011

Lost Byron memorial book finds a home at the National Library of Scotland

What a lovely story to read about: a priceless piece of history has recently been returned to the UK after being lost for more than 150 years.

The memorial book, which was placed at the site of Lord Byron's burial vault in St Mary Magdalene Church in Hucknall Torkard, outside Nottingham, went missing sometime after 1834 and finally surfaced in 2008 at a church sale in Savannah, Georgia!

How it got there remains a mystery, but the book was kindly donated to the National Library of Scotland [NLS] by Marilyn Solana who picked up the book off a stall at the sale for $35.

Plans are underway to conserve the book, which is a little the worse for wear after its travels, and to digitise images of the book and make them available online.

The book itself contains more than just signatures of people who visited Byron's grave - it holds personal tributes and some poems left by more than 800 people, many of them famous figures of the day.

The book will now join the multitude of other Byron items held by the John Murray Archive at the NLS.

Image: scottchan /

Monday, 4 July 2011

Online Family History Resources: Scottish Tax Records

There are a few great genealogy and local history resources available online which perhaps don't always get the attention they deserve.  Among these I would count the eighteenth century tax rolls, some of which have been available for some time on the scotlandsplaces website.  

These records date from the late 1700s and can be invaluable in helping to trace ancestors before the period when the Scottish census was taken.  The two sets of tax records which are available online are the Farm Horse Tax and the Clock and Watch Tax from 1797-1798 and, although the records are not indexed, digital images of the books can be browsed on the scotlandsplaces website. 

Simply go to the homepage, select the county in which you are interested, and then choose to view the historical tax records from that county.

These records are not as comprehensive as the census records, but they do give the following information:
Farm Horse Tax: Names of owner and number of horses and mules used in husbandry or trade
Clock and Watch Tax: Names of owners and number of clocks, gold watches and silver or metal watches

There will be an indication of where the individuals lived, but the lists are usually simply split by parish with a list of names for each parish - still they can be an invaluable research tool, and they are especially useful for those who may be researching from a distance.

And...they're free to access!

There are all sorts of other taxation records available at the National Records of Scotland [formerly National Archives of Scotland], maybe one day there will be even more of these available to researchers online too.

In the mean time, why not check out these online records and see whether any of your ancestors owned a gold watch... 

Archives resources for tracing Scottish family history

Image: Suat Eman /

Thursday, 30 June 2011

New exhibition at the National Library of Scotland: Banned Books

From the 24th June there has been a new exhibition running at the National Library of Scotland which highlights censorship of published works throughout recent and not so recent times. 

From Lady Chatterley's Lover to an issue of the Woman's Weekly magazine [I'm not kidding!] the exhibition looks at books that have been banned or censored as well as dealing more generally with censorship and the relationship between authors and censors.

Find out more about how attitudes have changed [or, sometimes more surprisingly, not changed] over time in this fascinating exhibition. Topics include racism, sexism, attitudes to euthenasia, government censorship and many more.

On a Scottish note, the exhibits include 'The Merry Muses' a collection of bawdy verse taken from a manuscript that was in the possession of Robert Burns's widow, Jean Armour. First published posthumously in 1799, it contains some of his own work as well as songs he collected for the amusement of his friends in the Crochallan Fencibles, an Edinburgh drinking club.

This is a great exhibition and well worth a look if you are in Edinburgh.  It will run until the 31 October this year, but if you can't get here to visit before then why not have a peek at the detailed information that the NLS have provided about the exhibition on their website at

Image: graur codrin /

Monday, 20 June 2011

Finding Your Emigrant / Immigrant Ancestors

The newest Find My Scottish Ancestors research guide is now live on my website.

This one deals with Scottish emigrants and emigration records in general.  If you had ancestors who left these shores and built new lives in the 'new world' then this guide may help you to trace your Scots roots on this side of the world.

If your ancestors left from Scotland and immigrated to the USA, Canada, Australia or New Zealand then the guide will be particularly useful, but it does also contain links to other useful sites and resources that deal with emigration on a worldwide scale, so do have a look.

The guide gives an overview of what you can do from home, and the other types of resources that are available here in Scottish archives and in archives across the rest of the UK.  Have a look at the Find My Scottish Ancestors Emigrants and Emigration Research Guide and remember that the Beginners Guide to Tracing Your Scottish Ancestors is also available on my website.

Hope these help...

Image: prozac1 /

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Early signs of life on remote Scottish Island

If you wanted to get away from it all, then you couldn't get much further off the beaten track than the island of Boreray.  Mostly, there's not much there but the seabirds.

Situated over 65km west of the Scottish Outer Hebrides, the St Kildan island of Boreray was previously thought to have been uninhabited, but work by the National Trust for Scotland and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland [RCAHMS] have recently reported that they have discovered agricultural field systems, terraces for cultivating crops, and three possible settlement mounds.

They believe that some of these settlements could date as far back as the Iron Age.

RCAHMS surveyor Ian Parker said, “This is an incredibly significant find, which could change our understanding of the history of St Kilda. This new discovery shows that a farming community actually lived on Boreray, perhaps as long ago as the prehistoric period. The agricultural remains and settlement mounds give us a tantalising glimpse into the lives of those early inhabitants.”

Full details of the survey will soon be available on the RCAHMS Canmore database and further details of the finds can be viewed at the RCAHMS website.  More information about the St Kilda World Heritage site can be found at the National Trust for Scotland website.

Image: Tom Curtis /

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Commonwealth War Graves Commission Records

This is the first in what will basically be a series of 'shout-outs' highlighting resources that are available for family history research online, but which not everyone may know about.

An incredibly rich range of resources can be found at the home of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.  They maintain what is called the "Debt of Honour Register" which is the Commission's online database listing the 1.7 million men and women of the Commonwealth forces who died during the two world wars.

You can search by name, place, nationality, and by other options and if you can find the individual for whom you are searching then you will see a good amount of information [where available].  Often you can see the Name, Nationality, Rank, Regiment, Age, Date of Death, Service No, Casualty Type, Grave/Memorial Reference, Cemetery, and often additional information like the names of their parents.

This, in turn, might lead you to more interesting information sources - like military service records, recruitment records, or soldier's wills.  All in all, it is a very useful resource - not a complete listing of the war dead - but a great place to start.

War Graves at a cemetery in Belgium
Image: Marc Aert /

Friday, 10 June 2011

John Murray Archive now in 'memory of the world'

The John Murray Archive at the National Library of Scotland [NLS] has recently been confirmed as having been made part of the UK Memory of the World Register.

The archive contains manuscripts, private letters and business papers from a variety of famous authors and the Murray family of publishers and is a fantastic resource for historians and anyone interested in the history of the written word and the lives of those who have shaped it.

Within the archive can be found letters from Jane Austen, Lord Byron, Charles Darwin and many others.

According the the NLS website, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) established the register in 2010 to highlight some of the UK's lesser-known items of historical interest.

More details can be found at the NLS Memory of the World Update page and more information about the John Murray Archive can be found at the NLS website.

Published book
Image: Michelle Meiklejohn /

Friday, 3 June 2011

Scotlands People Centre Saturday Search

The ScotlandsPeople centre will be open on Saturday 11 June.  So all those would be genealogists who have to work 9-5 every week can now have an opportunity to go and search the fantastic range of resources here.  

Why not go and have a look at the statutory registers of births, marriages and deaths, have a peek at the census records - including the newly released 1911 census returns, and see if you can trace your ancestors back to the old parish registers.

According to the ScotlandsPeople website:

"A limited number of seats will be available to searchers on Saturday 11th June.The charge for a Saturday day booking will be £30.00. Pre-booking is essential."

Find out more at the Scotlandspeople "hub" website.

The Fosters - Robert and Maggie Jane and family

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Edible Archives?

Just posted on the SCA [Scottish Council on Archives] website blog - an intriguing idea...

"This year’s National Archives Awareness Campaign theme is Culture and Diversity, ‘What’s your story?’  As part of this year’s campaign, the SCA is inviting archives and members of the public across Scotland to contribute recipes from their collections and personal cookbooks. Your contributions will be included in an archival cookbook, The Edible Archive."

They are looking for people to take part in this, and it could be a great project, so if you have a unique, traditional or interesting recipe in your collection, (if possible) please include an image, some information about the history of your recipe and submit it to the SCA  by 1 July 2011.

So dig out mum's [or granny's] old cookbook and see what you can find - maybe you have an original family recipe hiding in your own home, just waiting to be unleashed upon the world.

A flyer about the project can be seen on the SCA Notice Board.

And further details are available on the SCA homepage.

Sounds interesting...

A good Scottish meal?
Image: Suat Eman /

Sunday, 29 May 2011

National Library of Scotland Lectures

Short notice, but it's worth mentioning two interesting talks coming up at the National Library of Scotland [NLS]...

Firstly on 3 June, the curator of the John Murray Archive, David McClay, will be talking about Lord Byron and the papers relating to him held at the NLS.  The Murray family have built the largest and greatest collection of Byron papers and archives and these papers now form part of the John Murray archive at the NLS.  It should be a fascinating insight into this collection...

And then, for genealogists, there will be a family history workshop on 6 June which will take you through the resources that the NLS holds.

You can find out more and book tickets at

Lectures at the NLS

Saturday, 14 May 2011

RCAHMS and the Skye Viking Shipyard

The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland [RCAHMS] and marine archaeologists are investigating a 12th century Norse shipbuilding site at Loch na h-Airde on the Island of Skye’s Rubh an Dunain peninsula .

Early indications seem to suggest that it could contain timbers dating from the 11th century.

RCAHMS aerial survey team have been photographing the loch and the surrounding area.  It looks like it could be an exciting find!

More information can be found at the RCAHMS website.

Shipwrek on a beach

Image: Jeff Ratcliff /

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

National Records [Archives] of Scotland RHP Maps and Plans

After being closed for some time, the good news is that access to these records is now possible again...

"The plans collection, which was closed to access on 31 January, re-opens to the public on 4 May 2011, following the upgrading of storage at Thomas Thomson House at Sighthill and the relocation of plans from West Register House. As the transfer of plans between buildings is not yet complete however, those between the references RHP11667 and RHP19999 are not yet available. You are advised to check the current position with the staff of the Historical Search Room (tel: 0131 535 1334; email:"

The new access conditions to many of these will be under the NRS 'digitisation on demand' service.  The idea is that you will make a request to see a particular map/plan and if it has not already been digitised then the conservation department will make a digital image of the item available for viewing in the search room [with about ten days].  Any maps that cannot be imaged will still be accessible, but by appointment.

Further information on the service is available at the NAS maps and plans guide.

Scottish maps and plans

Image: digitalart /

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Scottish Handwriting Poser

The latest one of my handwriting posers is now up on
All of the posers on this website give you a great chance to see some original documents and practice your palaeography skills.

If you want to know all about things starting with the letter 'F' that were being imported to Scotland in the 1660s, then have a peek
Puzzle at the Scottishhandwriting posers

Image: jscreationzs /