Monday, 1 November 2010

Localised Scottish access to digitised kirk session records

A huge thanks to genealogist Alison Smith from Gene Genie Scotland for a heads up on developments concerning a long running massive digitisation programme that will help revolutionise how we can pursue an important resource for our research at a more localised level here in Scotland.

For some time the kirk session records of the Church of Scotland have been accessible in a digitised format at the National Archives of Scotland, having been digitised as part of a project being co-ordinated between the NAS, FamilySearch and the Church of Scotland. The long term aim of this has been to make the records available for consultation at local archive level, and not just in Edinburgh. Full details of the project can be viewed at

Alison has contacted me to say that she has been able to now view these records at Aberdeen Archives, and that access is now also available across Scotland. I am unclear as yet as to which archives are participating in this endeavour and now offering access, but will hopefully find out soon for you! It would appear that records of synod papers, General Assembly papers, and nonconformist records are also included in the venture (as promised in the project outline), in addition to the kirk session records. Until now the records have been undergoing testing via several presbyteries and concerned partners. The Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire Archives site has the following announcement:

You can now access kirk session records for the whole of Scotland from both our searchrooms! Following a collaborative project between the National Archives of Scotland (NAS) and the Church of Scotland, digital images of kirk session records can now be viewed online. Please Contact Us for further information.

A travelling display to tie in with the 450th anniversary of the Reformation, entitled Spreading the Word - the Digital Legacy of the Scottish Reformation, has just visited Aberdeen City Libraries and Union Square shopping centre in the city, and will next month be travelling to Orkney Archives, after which it will visit other venues around Scotland during the winter months. Again, I can find nothing else online about this for now, so hopefully will get a press release or further details shortly.

The release is significant as kirk session records and other church papers are some of the most significant resources beyond the basic parish registers. At a time when the NAS is itself under pressure to close the West Register House search room from early next year, localised access will not only take the pressure off the fewer search places available at General Register House, but will also help both amateur researchers and professional genealogists across Scotland, and not just the fortunate few who can make it into Edinburgh with ease.

More news as I get it - and a huge thanks for now to both Alison, Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire Archives, and the project partners involved.

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