Thursday, 27 May 2010

Scottish Overseas Missions exhibition

The National Library of Scotland is hosting a month long exhibition in the George IV building on the worldwide role of Scottish Presbyterian missionaries, from June 2nd to 30th. From its website:

Our June display focuses on Scottish Christian missions. It highlights the contribution that Scottish Presybterian churches made to the world missionary movement.

Letters, diaries, notebooks and photographs illustrate some of the work carried out by missionaries from Scotland. Stories include those of Robert Laws (Malawi) and Dr John Anderson Graham (Kalimpong, India).

Among the exhibits is the last known letter written by Dumfriesshire-born Jane Haining before her death in Auschwitz concentration camp in 1944.

Material on show comes from the papers of the Church of Scotland Overseas Mission Board and other related sources.

My family is stuffed with missionaries, though working through the English Presbyterian church rather than the Scottish. James Paton, brother of my great grandfather David, moved to London and had a family there in the late 19th century. His eldest son, Rev. William Paton, became the secretary of the International Missionary Society and worked for a time in the 1920s as a missionary in India. His sister Mary became a missionary and worked in China prior to the Second World War - she was rescued by a British destroyer dispatched from Hong Kong when the Japanese invaded in the late 1930s. William's son, Rev. David Macdonald Paton, also became a missionary, though as an Anglican minister, and also served in China, but was forced to leave following the Cultural Revolution. He didn't do too badly though, he ended up as one of the present Queen's royal chaplains and archdeacon of Canterbury Cathedral!

If you have missionaries in your tree, there are several useful sites outside of Scotland which might also help. The main gateway for records concerning missionaries is the Mundus website (, which lists over four hundred separate collections. The University of Southern California’s Internet Mission Photography Archive ( is also well worth consulting, as is the catalogue of holdings for the London based School of Oriental and African Studies (

There's also a display currently on at the library about how to ruin a good day's walk. It involves something called 'golf'...!

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

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