Scottish Genealogy

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 /