Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Scottish genealogy in 2009

"It was the year of fire, the year of destruction, the year when everything changed...."

Sorry, not so much a description of Homecoming Scotland 2009 as the opening title sequence from 90s sci-fi show Babylon 5!!! But what did happen in 2009 for those researching their Scottish ancestry? I've asked a couple of fellow genealogists to let me have their thoughts on the year's most significant developments. ..

Scottish genealogist and writer Sheena Tait, now based on the Herefordshire/Middlesex border in England, regularly contributes articles to both Practical Family History and Family Tree Magazine. The following are what she believes to have been the biggest developments this year:

"ScotlandsPeople now has “the full set” with the addition of OPR burial records & modern marriage index entries, whilst Catholic Parish Register births & baptisms are an additional bonus. The WWI Service Records (WO363 “Burnt records”) are also now complete on Elsewhere, the proposed purchase of Friends Reunited and Genes Reunited by BrightSolid (the parent company of and has been referred to the competition commission - at last the government in England is waking up to the size & importance of the genealogy market in the UK".

Graham and Emma Maxwell run a research service in the Borders, and have been trailblazing a brilliant new census service for the region on their website, with free transcripts linked to maps at the National Library of Scotland's online maps section, allowing you to view the house described in a particular entry. Definitely worth a visit at! I caught up with Emma to ask what she thinks the biggest family history development of the last year has been:

"This is a big question, as more and more is made available online it’s hard to identify what has really helped the most. I would suggest the Valuation Rolls that have been added to the National Archives of Scotland’s 'Virtual Volumes' computer system (not online yet). At the moment the index covers the valuation rolls for all of Scotland for these seven years: 1855-56; 1865-66; 1875-76; 1885-86; 1895-96; 1905-06 and 1915-16. Now we can very easily have a glimpse into the lives of our ancestors between census years, I think this is an excellent development however possibly a very under-used resource."

These are indeed a great resource, and the good news is that they will be going online via the ScotlandsPeople site in the near future, along with more Roman Catholic records and kirk session records.

For me, the biggest developments of 2009 were perhaps the formal opening of the ScotlandsPeople Centre in Edinburgh in January, and the launch of the new ScotlandsPlaces website at The creation of the Discover my Past Scotland magazine is another notable event (actually launched at the very end of 2008), and of course, Homecoming Scotland had some major events throughout the year, such as the Gathering. The British Library 19th century Newspaper Collection finally opened up to the public, with digitised copies of three Scottish titles (Caledonian Mercury, Aberdeen Journal and Glasgow Herald) included, as well as the Belfast Newsletter and the Dublin based Freeman's Journal. There was an excellent article in the History Scotland magazine on how medieval Scottish pooh was cleared away, Deceased Online completed the release of burial records for Angus, and ScotFamTree launched an online Scottish genealogy channel through its excellent discussion forum.

So what's in store for 2010? Oooh, bucket loads, but you'll need to keep your eyes peeled on this blog and elsewhere to find out...! :) lol On a personal note, it's only ten weeks or so until the next Who Do You Think You Are? Live event in London, and I'll be down helping out Bob and Liz Blatchford on their stall. Hopefully the first of two books that I have written will be available by then, entitled Researching Scottish Family History, to be published in February by the Family History Partnership, and there will be more Scottish genealogy courses from yours truly through Pharos Teaching and Tutoring Ltd, with the 5 week Scottish Research Online course starting on April 14th, as well as plans for a new course later in the year.

Remember that you can view everything that has happened in the last year and more via the archived blog posts found on the right hand side of this screen (which are fully searchable), and you can subscribe via an RSS feed and other means. You can also keep up to date on the latest happenings via my Twitter page at

Now what did you think the biggest developments of 2009 were...?!

(Many thanks to Emma and Sheena)

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