Sunday, 13 September 2009

Free census returns for the Scottish Borders

I had the great pleasure yesterday of meeting Graham and Emma Maxwell at the National Family History Fair at Gateshead. The couple run Graham Maxwell Ancestry just a couple of miles from Gretna, and on their website at they have many freely available resources for those with ancestors in the Borders area.

The thing that drew my attention yesterday, however, was a census service that the couple have been working on since 2001, but which they have only recently placed online. Located at, it provides a free to access transcription of the 1841 to 1861 censuses for various counties in the area. So what you might add, hasn't it been done? Not like this it hasn't!

For each search, you can access the household and see a full transcription. Not happy with just giving you the details for that particular census, they also have links to the same household, where they have established it to be correct, to the family in the additional two censuses - in other words, if you are on the 1841 census page, you can potentially link to the same family in 1851 and 1861. The site also provides a link to an online map from the National Library of Scotland showing where a particular location was to be found. This feature is currently working for Peeblesshire and the parish of Roberton, but more is to be added in due course.

In addition, if the couple know that a particular person went on to marry somebody else, they've added a note to that effect. Maiden names, or other surnames that may have applied to the person (e.g. children of unmarried parents can swap between father’s and mother’s surname) have been included in a special additional “other names column”. This information is presented in italics to show that it is not part of the original records.

The coverage so far:

1841: Berwickshire, Peeblesshire, Roxburghshire & Selkirkshire together with parts of Dumfriesshire and Midlothian - 103,662 names

1851: Berwickshire, Dumfriesshire, Peeblesshire, Roxburghshire & Selkirkshire together with parts of Kirkcudbrightshire, Lanarkshire and Midlothian - 208,527 names

1861: Berwickshire, Peeblesshire, Roxburghshire & Selkirkshire together with parts of Dumfriesshire and Midlothian - 113,335 names

For a good example of an entry that typifies what they are achieving, visit

The couple also produce resource books of use to those in the Borders, including the Castleton Parish Register 1707-1710 and Hearth Tax 1695, the 1811 census for Ladykirk, Berwickshire, and the 1831 census for Ladykirk, Berwickshire. Recent releases include a Prison Register Index for Jedburgh (1843-48 - Volume 1), and another for Hawick (1844-1862). I'll be reviewing these in a forthcoming Discover my Past Scotland. The publications are an index, but full copies of the original entries, sourced from the National Archives of Scotland, are available for £5 from the couple.

I meet a lot of professional genealogists who can do the job and who are competent, but only occasionally do I come across some who I would describe as inspirational. These guys fit the bill - go visit their site!

Professional genealogical problem solving and research

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