First - the quotes...!
Chris van der Kuyl, chief executive of service provider Brightsolid:
"ScotlandsPeople now has nearly 80 million records and will continue to add new exciting data sets to what is, without doubt, a world-leading website. Brightsolid is enormously proud of the fact that it has established a strong track record in publishing sites such as ScotlandsPeople, and has built a centre of excellence in this growing and popular genealogy market sector. We understand the community and we know how to innovate and develop online products for family history enthusiasts."
Jim Mather, Tourism Miniser, Scottish Government:
"Once again Scotland has proved that it can make available the key records for those who wish to trace their Scottish family history. It is estimated that over 50 million people across the world claim Scottish ancestry, with ancestral tourism estimated to contribute £64 million annually to Scotland's economy. Following the success of the year of Homecoming, the improved ScotlandsPeople will help connect people to their ancestors and cement links between Scots overseas and their home country - encouraging them to come and walk in the footsteps of their ancestors and boost revenues in the Scottish economy."
Duncan Macniven, Registrar General for Scotland:
"This is a great step forward in the ongoing improvement of the ScotlandsPeople website, which has over one million registered users. We are proud to have one of the most comprehensive sets of family history records. These changes will continue to make us one of the world leading websites for family history. This creates a platform for the launch of the 1911 census in April 2011."
OK - now for the event! I was very kindly invited to attend the official launch at New Register House in Edinburgh, and managed to catch some words with a few people there.
The first person I spoke to was Andrew Nicoll of the Scottish Catholic Archives, who has worked long and hard to ensure that the day would finally come when the country's entire Catholic parish register collection could be made accessible online. He described some of the ups and downs of the process, and kindly showed me some of the original registers which had been made available for the event, including the wonderful registers from St Andrew's in Glasgow, which have extraordinary detail, including the names of parishes and counties in Ireland where many initially hailed from. An interesting discussion we had concerned the Mormon church and its relationship with the Catholic church - I had been under the impression that their (lack of) accessibility to Catholic records was a complete black and white issue following the edict of the Vatican a few years back issue. In fact that is not completely the case, with Andrew citing an interesting project in the Toronto diocese, where the two churches have been co-operating to an extent.
I then found myself talking to Jim Mather, the Government's tourism minister. The conversation somehow steered towards discussion of the Scots and the Scotch-Irish (Ulster Scots), with the minister telling me of an exciting new television project that will happen next year from STV which will look at the heritage of the Scots who made their way to the States. Definitely one to keep an eye out for!
ScotlandsPeople's Raymond Evans and Deputy Registrar General Paul Parr gave a basic demonstration of the new site, and I then caught up with Alison Wallace of Brightsolid who talked me through some of the more advanced functions, as well as an update on what to expect over the next few months - not only with new record sets, but of course, the 1911 census, which will be launched 100 years to the day it was taken, on April 4th 2011. I also caught up with Ken Nisbet from SAFHS, Dee Williams of the ScotlandsPeople Centre, and for the first time met up with Bruce Gorie from the Court of the Lord Lyon (and thanked him for help with my last book!), and at long last, Duncan McNiven, who I've emailed and spoken to on several occasions in the past, but never actually met!
A great afternoon, a great team effort from the record holding organisations, beta testers and online staff, and a great new site for those with Scottish ancestry, now ready for the challenges of the next decade of the 21st century. If you've ever wondered why the rest of the United Kingdom looks on in envy at the set up here in Scotland, you'll find the answer at www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk - Alba gu bragh!!!
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