Saturday, 17 April 2010

SAFHS Conference 2010 - report

It was a last minute decision, but I was able to free up some time to go to the SAFHS Conference today in Livingston, hosted by West Lothian FHS - and it was a corker!

Local boy Alex Salmond didn't turn up - apparently there's an election on? - but Registrar General Duncan Macniven did the honours in opening the conference, providing a short overview of the ScotlandsPeople story. Some interesting facts emerged from this. The ScotlandsPeople website ( now has a million registered users, with some 700,000 credits purchased last year alone, from customers based in 176 countries. The biggest user in recent times? The Vatican! Those crazy Catholics....! :) Also, some 22,000 visitors used the ScotlandsPeople Centre last year in its first year of opening.

The ScotlandsPeople website is due to undergo a major relaunch in September, following Brightsolid's winning of the new contract a few months ago. There will be some new functionality on the site, but the team are keeping their cards close to their chests beyond that on other changes, so stay tuned, though a Catholic records update is due imminently. On the plus side, Duncan seemed to confirm that the 1911 census was due to be released on April 3rd next year, and gave a tantalising glimpse of things to come, with an image on his Powerpoint presentation of a blank enumerator's return for the census, which as mentioned on this blog a few days ago is indeed a two page document, unlike previous returns on one page, and unlike the rest of the UK with the original household schedules made available.

Duncan also mentioned that plans were afoot for the roll out of the ScotlandsPeople computer system to local family history centres, and over a coffee later that morning with Dr. Irene O' Brien from Glasgow City Archives I had it confirmed that this will be late summer this year from the Mitchell's point of view. I have a date, but I'll be metaphorically shot if I reveal it! Suffice to say, there is a date, so take heart, the big move from Park Circus is soon to be a reality, and the ability to carry out family history research in Glasgow is going to take another major leap forward! It will be likely that the Mitchell will be the first to get up and running, with other centres following soon after.

It was also revealed by the Registrar General that the extension to the wills coverage on the ScotlandsPeople site will be extended later this year.

The main talks were provided by Dr. O'Brien, who talked about poor law records (with a West Lothian bias), Dr. Morris Macrae on the story of James Young Simpson (with lots of encouraging advice for me after on researching a particular physician ancestor of mine), Professor Michael Hitchman on the history of the Scottish paraffin industry in West Lothian, and Elizabeth Henderson on the history of Friendly Societies.

A great day out!

Registrar General Duncan Macniven gets the show on the road

Professional genealogical problem solving and research
Researching Scottish Family History (New book)


Beth said...

I've been to Scotland twice for family research - as my people were Glasgow based I look forward to a return trip when I can do even more at the Mitchell Library. As I am USA based I do so appreciate your updates on events and changes in Scotland Chris!

Chris Paton said...

Glad to help!