Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Dron Churchyard monumental inscriptions CD

Helen Grant from Scottish Monumental Inscriptions has very kindly sent me review copies of two new Cds covering Perthshire based churchyards. The CD for Aberuthven I will review in a forthcoming issue of Discover my Past Scotland, but I thought I would give the other a quick once over for this blog!

The CD for Dron contains 86 images and is priced at just £3. You first have to install a viewer, and once done this allows you to view images of the stones within the churchyard one at a time. The viewer displays the image on the right of the screen, and a transcription of the inscription on the left, and each image is fully searchabale by surname. In due course the company’s website will also host an online index to all of the names on its CDs.

It's possible to use the viewer to zoom into the images if you wish to consult a particular part of the stone, but you can also view the original JPEG images without the viewer, and the inscriptions via a Notepad file.

This and other CDs for churchyards in Banffshire, Borders, Edinburgh, Fife, Highland, Invernessshire, Lanarkshire, Morayshire, Perthshire and West Lothian can be ordered from Scottish Monumental Inscriptions at The prices vary according to the amount of data on the CDs, and Mac versions can be ordered upon request.

Definitely one to keep an eye on!

(Many thanks Helen!)

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The written language of the Picts?

Are the engravings found on Scotland's ancient Pictish stones a form of writing that go way beyond just being of decorative value? Some awfully clever people now think so apparently!

The Picts lived in Scotland from 300 to 843, though they never really disappeared, as many of us are as much their descendants as we are from the other Celtic tribes around at that time. Their language and culture did almost completely vanish, however, with only some place names and a few rock engravings left to testify to their former existence.

For more, see

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Tuesday, 30 March 2010

1832 electoral roll for Dull online

From Colin Mayall, via Perthshire Rootsweb:

I have now posted the 1832 Electoral Roll for the Parish of Dull at:
A preponderance of Menzies, a number of Glen Lyon Campbells and a smattering of Loch Rannoch Camerons! Dull can be confusing with so many detached portions and part extending over the Hills to Amulree.

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Further update on British Library 19th Century newspapers

The British Library has made a formal announcement on the new additions to its 19th Century Newspaper Collections, already noted here on this blog on February 9th (see British Library 19th Century Newspapers update).

I'm not a hundred per cent sure if access has been extended to libraries just now (i.e. beyond university access only), or whether the library I have online access through has just caught up, but suffice to say I had a lot of fun last night going through the Dundee Courier and other papers (there are 22 new titles in total). Sadly this update is not yet available at, the publicly accessible version of the site, and no timetable has as yet been announced for this to happen.

For the British Library's press release visit
Extra! Extra! British Library adds extra 1 million pages to online newspaper resource.

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Easter Relic Trail at Summerlee

Follow the Relic Trail at Summerlee Museum this Easter. From the BBC....

Inspired by the CBBC series, Relic: Guardians of the Museum, the Relic Trail gives families a great reason to visit three museums during Easter.

The museums involved are Summerlee, the Museum of Scottish Industrial Life at Coatbridge, Smith Art Gallery and Museum in Stirling and Dumfries Museum.

The CBBC show, developed in partnership with the British Museum, challenges children to put their skill and ingenuity to the test and the Relic Trail will allow families to do exactly the same thing on their journey through the museum.

The trails are free and feature objects in the museum collection that have contributed to the BBC A History of the World project and website. Memory, reasoning and problem-solving are just some of the skills that families will need as they race against time to become successful relic hunters!

For the whole story visit

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Monday, 29 March 2010

Discover my Past Scotland 18 now on sale

The April issue of Discover my Past Scotland (issue 18) is now on sale at a spring time bargain price of just £2.50 (heck, it's so good a price it's like that ALL year!).

In this month's issue John Hannavy looks at the Scottish textile industry, Wendy Glass examines Dundee in the 1950s and the Ancestral Scotland website, Michelle Higgs explores the iron working industry, Sue Wilkes visits the Highland Folk Museum and Katie Howard ventures forth to Shetland. Yours truly discusses business records for your Scottish research, as well as the latest genealogical news and product reviews, and in addition there are all the regular features such as Q&As, Bygone Days, events and more.

The snow is about to hit us yet again (what is it with frozen rain this year?!) but the joy of joys is that is that this is one magazine you don't need to visit the shops for - it's readable online at and can also be downloaded from the site in a handy PDF format, in case you do decide that you want something to read on your laptop as you venture forth into the Arctic tundra by train in the next few days...

Now remind me - did I mention the £2.50 bit...?!

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On the radio...!

Yikes, they've put me on the radio...!

Amongst several items today, the last edition of BBC Radio Scotland's Past Lives series looked into the history of Glaswegian firm R. and J. Dicks Ltd, which was famous a hundred years ago for synthetic rubber shoes made from guttapercha resin - the original 'gutties'. As well as descendants of the family, yours truly was also interviewed, as my great grandfather's loyalty to the firm led to his untimely death as a civilian in occupied Brussels during the First World War, where he had been trapped with his family following the war's outbreak.

The programme also looks at the original co-operative movement in Fenwick, and more. It can be listened to again via the BBC's iPlayer for the next seven days at

(Thanks to Mark Stephen and Debbie McPhail at the Beeb)

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Sunday, 28 March 2010

New CDs from Scottish Monumental Inscriptions

From Scottish Monumental Inscriptions (

New on CD this week we have:

Tibbermore Church and Cemetery, Perthshire.
Aberuthven Church and Cemetery, Perthshire.
Abertnethy Church and Cemetery, Inverness-shire.
Auchterarder Church and cemeteries, there are 4 separate burial
grounds on this CD.
Dron Churchyard Perthshire.

These have now all been added to the website.

Currently under transcription we have:

Crail Church and cemetery, Fife.
Forteviot Churchyard, Perthshire

Waiting to add to CD we have:
Trinity Gask and Findo Gask churchyards Perthshire combined on one CD.

We have also updated the Glenfarg CD to include the old churchyard of Arngask.

We are also now on Twitter -

(With thanks to Helen)

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Criminals photo index from Fife

Fife Council has posted an Index to Register of Photographs of Criminals 1912-23 on its website. The index was compiled by Sheila Jackson; it includes the names of 271 people in the register, and states if there is a mug shot of the offender. The register also lists their convictions and the name of the court where they were tried.

To see the index, which can be downloaded in PDF format, visit

(With thanks to Tunji Lees)

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Saturday, 27 March 2010

20th century Glasgow Herald editions on Google News

Several editions of the Glasgow Herald are now freely available to view at Google News, for the 1930s to 1960s and some from the 1980s. This adds to the coverage of the paper already available at the Britiosh Library 19th Century Newspaper Collection at

For the Google News coverage visit

(With thanks to Alan at Talking Scot)

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Friday, 26 March 2010

Cheapside Street Disaster 50 years on

The 50th anniversary of the Cheapside Street Disaster, which saw the death of 14 firemen and 5 members of the Glasgow Salvage Corps, is this coming Sunday. The BBC remembers the incident at

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Thursday, 25 March 2010

More Chelsea Pensioner records online

Quick update from

We’ve just added more Chelsea Pensioners British Army Service Records 1883-1900 to our site. There are now 289,783 records for you to search.

We’ll keep you posted on all the new updates we make to these records - you can expect to see plenty more in the coming months.

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Network Rail to strike after Easter

If you are planning on travelling to an archive or library anywhere in Britain from April 6th-9th, bear in mind that a rail strike has been announced today for those four days - the latest development in the Spring of Discontent.

As I write, it looks like the buses will still be running on those days - for now!

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Aberdeen book added to Internet Archive

The armorial ensigns of the royal burgh of Aberdeen: with some observations on the legend relating to the capture and demolition of the castle, by John Cruickshank, published 1888, has been added to the Internet Archive website at

(With thanks to John Reid of the Anglo-Celtic Connections blog).

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Historic Scotland membership offer

From Historic Scotland:

Following the success of its 2009 ‘Make Your Own History’ marketing campaign - which resulted in membership levels reaching an all-time high - Historic Scotland is launching its latest major drive to encourage Scots to make the most of their country’s rich heritage.

The 2010 ‘Make Your Own History’ campaign, which runs from 26 March to 11 July, will highlight the opportunities for great family days out offered by Historic Scotland’s outstanding heritage properties and leading visitor attractions.

And to encourage families to enjoy the historic highlights on their doorstep and become Historic Scotland members, ‘Make Your Own History’ is offering a special incentive - 15 months’ membership for the price of 12. A year’s free entry for all the family to Historic Scotland’s 78 paid attractions already costs less than £7 a month but during the campaign, an additional three months is being offered for free.

The new campaign features a high-profile television advertisement fronted by ‘Monarch of The Glen’ actor Hamish Clark. It will be screened for the first time on 26 March and is being aired on STV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 until the end of June.

The humorous commercial shows Hamish on horseback at Edinburgh, Stirling, Doune and Blackness Castles, making an impassioned speech to a gathered crowd. He calls on Scottish families to forego boring and mundane weekend activities and instead, to make the most of their free time by enjoying unforgettable visits to Scotland’s great historic sites.

As well as urging people to make their own history by enjoying memorable experiences at Historic Scotland attractions, Hamish promotes the special sales incentive of three months’ free membership.

In addition to the TV ad, the ‘Make Your Own History’ message will be promoted through a mix of marketing elements including PR support, a leaflet door drop, a dedicated microsite, the websites of Historic Scotland and Edinburgh and Stirling Castles, text messaging and on-site sales.

For the first time, Historic Scotland is also using social networking sites Twitter, Flickr, YouTube and Facebook in its marketing mix to reflect their increasing prevalence and enable visitors to post images of their visits online.

Another advantage membership offers is free entry to an extensive and varied range of events and activities at Historic Scotland’s attractions. This year’s highlights include a Jousting Extravaganza at Linlithgow Palace in July, a Celebration of the Centuries at Fort George near Inverness in August, daily events throughout the summer at Edinburgh and Stirling Castles, and Christmas family activities.

For more information on the ‘Make Your Own History’ membership offer, visit: (From Fri 26 March)

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The Golfers painting to be recreated in Fife

A research project carried out by students from the University of Strathclyde's Postgraduate Diploma in Genealogical Studies a couple of years ago is bearing fruit this year, with a plan this summer to reconstruct a modern day equivalent of the famous 1847 painting The Golfers by Charles Lees with modern day descendants of those featured. The story is covered in today's Herald at Descendants tee up to recreate golf’s most celebrated painting.

Yours truly was one of the students involved. My particular task was to track the modern direct 'heirs' of Hamilton Anstruther, John Grant of Kilgraston, John Whyte Melville, Neil Ferguson Blair, William Davidson Playfair, and William Henry Drummond (the Master of Strathallan), by looking for the senior surviving representative of the first born line in each generation, a task which I was able to successfully resolve for five of the six candidates. I was but one of the students, though, and work was also carried out into the other players by Alasdair MacDonald, Audrey Wyper, Elma Lindsay, Margaret Cunningham, Maureen MacIntyre, Pauline Foster and Steven Johnstone, as well as course tutor Bruce Durie. (It may well be that additional work was carried out by the successive course intake in 2009 - if so apologies to the students not named!)

Keep an eye out towards July for more coverage in the media on the project.

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Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Did you leave photos behind at WDYTYA? Live

From the Federation of Family History Societies:

at Olympia February 26 - 28

Are you missing some old family photographs that you took with you to the show?

CAB Search who had a stand within the Society of Genealogists Family History Show would like to reunite some photos left on their stand with their rightful owner.

Please contact Jill at CAB Search direct on or by telephone on 020 7060 1849 if you are the owner or pass this message on to anyone who you think may have an interest.

(With thanks to Philippa McCray)

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Stuart monarch stamp series

A series of stamps depicting the Stuart monarchs from 1406-1603 has been released by Royal Mail, including the first ever to show Mary Queen of Scots.

There's more at

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Tuesday, 23 March 2010

More Perthshire militia records online

A couple of people have been in touch to express disappointment that the recent Ancestry release on Perth militia survey records from 1802 only covers the burgh of Perth itself - sorry, but that is the nature of the records!

However, here's the good news - they aren't the only Perth militia records in existence! The Perth and Kinross Archives site has several databases of Perthshire based militia records online at its website here.

The collections are (with details from the site):

Perthshire Militia Petitions, c1704-1859, mainly 1790-1810

The Perthshire Militia Petitions database comprises information gleaned from over two hundred petitions to the Magistrates of Perth against illegal enlistement. It also contains information from applications to join the Militia and about men who deserted.

Perthshire Militia Certifications, 1802-1810

The Perthshire Militia Certifications database contains details about families who were claiming assistance from the Crown while the father was away on duty. Each record notes the soldier's name and that of his wife, the number of children they had aged under 10 years, their parish and often included the soldier's regiment. The original certficates were signed by a JP, the local minister and the regimental commander.

Assorted Perthshire Militia papers, 1680-1891, mainly 1785-1820

The Assorted Perthshire Milita papers database includes details of notes of payments for allowances, marching guineas, receipts and returns of nominal rolls, plus the muster rolls for Fencibles in Comrie and for Perth Guildry, 1680-1690

Hope they help!

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James Ferguson display at National Library of Scotland

A new exhibition is underway at the National Library of Scotland. From the NLS:

James Ferguson display
18 March to 28 April
George IV Bridge Building, Edinburgh

Our treasures display for March-April focuses on James Ferguson (1710-1776), a remarkable 18th-century Scottish astronomer and scientist.

Apparatus Ferguson devised to demonstrate his public lectures on science subjects helped make him one of the most successful and popular lecturers of the day. He was also a popular writer.

Self-taught Ferguson became interested in mechanics and astronomy while growing up in Banffshire, where he was born. He began his scientific career in London, where he moved to in 1743.

Celebrating the 300th anniversary of his birth, our display brings together books, notebooks, drawings and scientific objects.

Admission free.

Opening hours:
Monday-Friday: 09.30-20.00
Saturday: 09.30-17.00
Sunday: 14.00-17.00

More information on what is on display can be found at

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Monday, 22 March 2010

100 year old Perthshire photo album

I've been researching my Scottish ancestry for some ten years now, and a decade on, enormous strides back in time now tend to be replaced by little progressive achievements as I slowly continue to chisel my way back in time. Today, however, I received a cracker of a surprise!

Last week on an online discussion forum, a poster asked if anybody had a connection to a John Kinloch or a William Comrie, as she had just found a photo album in her attic which she wished to dispose of. The album was not connected to her family, but in researching her own tree she knew how valuable it could potentially be. The names rang a bell, and after consulting my tree I realised that they were possibly related to my McEwan line in Perthshire. I contacted her and she very kindly offered to post the album to me.

The album arrived today, with dozens of wonderful images taken between the 1860s and the 1890s, but at first glance there seemed to be little to go on. Only a handful of the images, mainly carte de visit format, had names scribbled onto the frames, but in teasing the images out of their holders I've discovered that a few have additional info written on the backs, as well as vital information on the photographic studios where they were taken, which can help to date them.

About half way through the album, however, I came across the following image:

Now I know this lot only too well...! The picture shows Alexander Comrie, his wife Mary Paterson, and their children Annie McCowan Comrie, David Paterson Comrie, Jessie Paterson Copeland Comrie, Peter William Comrie, Helen Hardy Comrie and Alexander Comrie, as taken in approximately 1890. The reason I know this is that a few years past a distant cousin sent an almost identical image to me - the only difference being that Alexander senior's hand is not placed on Alexander junior's shoulder in the earlier version I have.

Alexander's grandfather, Andrew McEwan, was the brother of my four times great grandmother, Janet McEwan, who married Andrew Henderson and went on to have several children, including my three times great granny Janet, who was murdered in 1866. This image has therefore confirmed that the album is one that was held by someone connected to my family almost a century ago - the question now is who?

There are several clues - an image of the Reverend William Comrie, who died in Auckland in 1884 is labelled 'Uncle William', whilst another is labelled 'William Comrie Cousin Schoolmaster', and there are other names which should help to narrow it down a bit.

However, there are many images without descriptions, some taken in Ayrshire, others in Glasgow and New Zealand. In a few weeks time (once my next book is out of the way) I will digitise the images in the album and place them online with as much information as I can confirm. Hopefully other descendants of the McEwans and the Comries can find them of use, but also come forward to perhaps help identify some of those shown within them.

So if you are connected to the McEwans of Madderty or the Comries of Crieff and Fowlis Wester, and perhaps have some images yourself, please do drop me a note and I'll keep you appraised of when I am able to get this rolling.

More soon!

(And a huge thank you to the heroine of the hour - Mrs Susan Barnett in Dundee!)

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Format of the 1911 Scottish census

I mentioned a few days ago that work was underway for the digitisation and indexing of the 1911 Scottish census. I've learned today that unlike the same census for England, Wales and Ireland, where the original household schedules survived and have been digitised and made available online, the same schedules have NOT survived for Scotland.

So exactly what is the form of the 1911 Scottish census? The enumerators' returns have survived, as with previous censuses, but in the 1911 returns the information is recorded across TWO pages. As with the English and Irish returns the entries include the same information on the length of marriage, the number of children from the marriage and the number who have survived. But don't be expecting additional pages describing outhouses etc - there aren't any.

It has also been clarified again that the returns will be out next year in April at the earliest, but not before.

(With grateful thanks to Dee Williams at the ScotlandsPeople Centre).

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Laurel Bank School Glasgow - 1952 Who's Who

Now available at the Original Record site (

1952 Laurel Bank School, Glasgow: Old Girls' Who's Who

Laurel Bank School for girls was opened near Glasgow University in 1903 by two Scottish women graduates. For the half-centenary celebrations in 1953 a history of the school was published, including this 'Who's Who' of old girls, compiled by Mrs Christine White. The names are listed alphabetically by surname and christian name (in capitals), with married surnames in brackets; dates at school; degrees or awards; career, and war service (War); children (Ch.); grandchildren (; present occupation (Occ.); and address. We have indexed this on both maiden and married surnames.

The Original Record website has some truly extraordinary records, though takes a bit of getting used to and can be quite pricey. It has some really rare collections though, and plenty of Scottish material within its ten million records, so well worth checking out.

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'Famous Scot' Sir James Black passes away

Sir James Black, the Nobel Prize winning scientist credited with inventing beta-blocker drugs in 1962, has passed away aged 85. Sir James was one of the six 'Famous Scots' to be featured in a series of rolling family history exhibitions at the ScotlandsPeople Centre in Edinburgh during 2009.

The centre's website at carries an online summary of Sir James' stint at the exhibition. For news coverage of his passing, visit

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Sunday, 21 March 2010

Now English/Welsh GRO is to discontinue index checks

The latest Lost Cousins newsletter from Peter Calver has more information on the forthcoming developments at the English and Welsh General Register Office at Southport. As well as the already well reported price rise in certificates to £9.25 from April 6th (see GRO England and Wales - certificates price increase), the centre will now also be discontinuing its reference checking service, because

"We have been advised that there is no clear remit in statute for charging for a service to check additional index references, or to retain partial fees. In order to ensure full legal compliance, and in view of the fact that we cannot afford to offer this service free of charge, we are regretfully withdrawing our reference checking service from 6 April. This will include the withdrawal of the "checking points".

Until April 6th, staff will check that you have picked the right index entry for the record you are interested in prior to despatching an order. From April 6th, you're on your own - if you haven't done so, you will get the wrong certificate, at a waste of £9.25. So do double check your reference numbers prior to making an order.

We are now in the midst of the biggest financial crisis that this country has ever faced, and it should probably be no surprise that the Government is going to start saving pennies and cutting services where it can and to start taxing us to the hilt where it thinks it can get away with it. It's obvious that the goings on at the GRO are just a tiny example of much more serious things to come over the next few years, but I suspect the GRO, like anywhere else in the civil service, can only respond to the circumstances it now finds itself in due to the ineptitude of the current Labour Government which thoughtfully decided to bring the UK close to bankruptcy. Mind you, there's also the whole DOVE and EAGLE fiasco to consider...!

I seriously doubt that England and Wales are a special and unique case, so it may well be that Scotland and Northern Ireland follow suit in the months to come (just a guess, I haven't heard anything as yet!). At least here there are options, as unlike our southern neighbours there are alternatives to access the information beyond the ordering of certificates. The ScotlandsPeople Centre gives unlimited access to all family history records up to the present day for a tenner. It is not quite so rosey in Belfast - a statutory cert costs £12 from the GRONI, the highest in the UK, and that's prior to any potential price rise, but again it has a research room where for £2.50 per entry you can gain the relevant information (albeit the last time I was there I had to have it read out to me like I was some sort of imbecile!!!).

It is right to complain about the rises and the withdrawal of services, and I'm sure there is plenty more to come. But I'm guessing the decisions of the GRO in Southport are undoubtedly a reaction to another much bigger problem - and I have no doubt that many of us will take seriously our responsibilities at the next election...

(With thanks to Peter Calver)

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Saturday, 20 March 2010

Out with a bang...

Sorry, but this one appeals to my sense of humour...!

A priest recorded, “On this day, married a 103-year-old woman and a 95-year-old man, both aged but not infirm. Both taken out of bed dead the following morning.”

Sourced from the Detroit based
Flint Journal.

(With thanks to
genealogynews on Twitter!)

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Shetland Hamefarin 2010

From Visit Scotland:

In June this year, Shetland will host a 'Hamefarin' welcoming Shetlanders from all around the world back to their home islands. The ceremonial return of those of Shetland extraction offers an opportunity for Hamefarers to reforge lost connections, enjoy the culture and heritage of Shetland and enjoy a very special holiday. Hamefarers are expected from as far afield as Australasia and North America and for many, the visit to the land of their forebears will be for the first time.

Shetland's Hamefarin will be from June 14th - 26th. A website outlining the programme of events is available at

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Industrial action at Edinburgh archives next Wednesday

The following announcement has been placed on the National Archives of Scotland news site by Alison Horsburgh, Head of Reader Services:

Following a national ballot of members, the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) has informed the National Archives of Scotland (NAS) that a one-day strike will take place on Wednesday 24 March 2010. The NAS search rooms will be open as usual, but we will only be able to offer a restricted service.

We hope to be able to provide these services:
access to self-service microfilm and digital images in the Historical
and West Search Rooms
access to catalogues and open-shelf library books
adoption appointment

The following services will not be available:
document productions
copy orders
supervised locker facilities

If you require assisted access to any building, please telephone: 0131 535 1334 in advance of your visit and we will make every effort to help you. If you have any queries concerning this notice, please telephone: 0131 535 1365.

The ScotlandsPeople Centre has also posted the following:

We understand the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) has called its members out on industrial action on Wednesday 24 March. This may have some effect on the availability of the ScotlandsPeople Centre service that we cannot predict at this point in time. We will endeavour to provide as normal a service as possible.

Other facilties across the country may also be similarly affected, so do check with the archive in question if you are planning a trip next Wednesday.

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Hanoverian memorial at Culloden?

Military historian Trevor Royle wants a monument at Culloden to the redcoats who fell in the battle, as "the thousands who fought at Culloden should be remembered because the battle and regiments involved were important to the future development of the nation and the British Army". There's more at

There were many Scots on the Hanoverian side, as well as many English, but no matter what the outcome may have been, the aftermath led to the most shameful period of British history, with the virtual destruction of Highland culture. If the regiments involved themselves will still not grant Culloden as a battle honour today, one questions why we should be required to do so on the site where the Hanoverian regime committed some of the greatest war crimes in British history?

Should there be a memorial to the Hanoverian side at Culloden? I suspect not. In many ways though, I suspect it's really an academic point, as I'm not sure how long it would last if there was one...!

PS: I should add, it would also be great if the image of that idiot Bonnie Prince Charlie was taken off all our shortbread tins...!

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Friday, 19 March 2010

1802 Perth Militia Act Survey records go online

Those loveable loves from Ancestry ( have finally released the Militia Act Survey returns for Perth from 1802, some three years after first being digitised at the A.K. Bell Library in Perth. In total it contains some 973 schedules for houses within the burgh of Perth (not the county).

In 1797 the Scottish Militia Act was passed, requiring a ballot of men aged between 18 and 30 for compulsory service, with another act in 1802 extending the age limit to 45. The following is the wording of the schedule form for the Perth records from 1802:

TAKE Notice that you are hereby required within Fourteen Days from the Date hereof, to prepare or produce a Lift in Writing, to the best of your Belief, of the Christian and Surname of each and every Man resident in your Dwelling House, from and after the age of Eighteen Years complete, and not exceeding the Age of Forty-five years complete, distinguishing every Person in your Dwelling House of such age as aforesaid, claiming to be exempt from serving in the Militia, together with the Ground of every such Claim delivered to my house at South Street Perth.

The records are not complete - many from the Craigie district in the east of Perth in particular are missing - but in effect this forms the basis of a useful census equivalent from 1802.

The collection is accessible at Ancestry spent several weeks at the A. K. Bell in 2007 and digitised vast swathes of records, followed by a similar foray to Cupar in Fife. The 1802 Perth records follows the release two years ago of an index to Perth based newspapers on the Ancestry site, and was indexed through its World Archives Project. Other records soon to follow will include school records for Perthshire.


(With grateful thanks to Tunji Lees for the tip off)

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Aberdeen & NE Scotland FHS on Facebook

If you're interested in Aberdeenshire roots, be advised that Aberdeen and North East Scotland Family History Society has a Facebook page at

Sign up for all their latest news!

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Thursday, 18 March 2010

Scotland for the Senses blog

What can I say about the Scotland for the Senses blog? Just go visit it at and let it speak for itself...!

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New online ordering service from Kew's National Archives

The National Archives at Kew is introducing a new online document ordering service - but it's going to cost you if you don't know exactly what you are looking for. Here's the announcement from the site's news pages:

From Monday 19 April 2010, we are introducing a new online process to order copies of documents that are not already downloadable from our website. This will replace the existing estimate request and Digital Express services.

This new streamlined service will provide an instant quote based on the average cost of copying similar documents and means customers will no longer have to wait ten days for a quote. It also protects the documents as they will only need to be handled once. The ordering process and range of copying options has also been simplified. However, as is currently the case, customers will still be able to request paper copies, or digital scans for download or delivered on CD.

As some documents can contain hundreds of pages, where a customer does not know which pages within a document they need copies of, a search fee of £45 will be introduced to recover the cost of searching for the information.

The Digital Express service will cease taking new orders as of 31 March 2010. Existing record copying customers will be able to log-in to the new system with their existing log-ins and passwords.

News concerning new car parking charges effective at the archive from Tuesday April 27th is also available at A standard day ticket will cost £5.

Also from TNA, although Ancestors magazine is sadly due to cease publication with the next issue, editor Simon Fowler has placed his favourite ten articles from the magazine's illustrious run online at The articles can be printed from the site. One of the best issues in the run, number 57, can also be viewed for free at, and several other articles can be found in the compilation Starting Out in Family History Ancestors bookazine from September 2008, now reduced to £4 (+p&p) at the TNA shop - see

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Heraldry job - in New Zealand!

If you fancy a change of scene, there's a job going as Assistant Curator - Heraldry with the New Zealand Army, where you will be responsible for 'maintaining, preserving and researching the Heraldic Collections at the National Army Museum'.

The full job specs are at

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1911 Scottish Census news

The 1911 Scottish census is currently being imaged and indexed, and the ScotlandsPeople Centre has confirmed that it is hoping to make it available in April 2011, both online and in the centre at the same time.

In other news from the centre:

Customer Survey
A survey will commence on Monday 22nd March for customers at the Centre on the SP network. There will be a monthly prize of a free day search to encourage customers to complete it, and the following four questions will be asked:-

age group;
how the customer heard about us;
how long the customer has been researching their family history, and
requests views and opinions.

The survey can be accessed by clicking the 'About Our Records' tab, which changes to 'Research' and takes you to the home page. The survey is part the way down the home page.

Missing 1851 Census Records
It has been determined that some 1851 census records were indeed scanned but that the images are very dark, the age old curse with that particular census of blue paper hosting brown and red text. The registers will require to be re-scanned but in the interim the centre is looking at how best to improve the image. Colour scanning may be the best option, but there may be issues such as with printing the records, so further investigation is currently underway.

Request forms for materials are now being updated, following the recent withdrawal of fiche and film. Please note that you can request up to 5 Post Office Directories at any one time.

Valuation Rolls and Kirk Session records
The digitised Valuation Rolls and Kirk Session records will continue to be available at NAS for the foreseeable future.

Finally the centre would like to alert people to the fact that farm horse tax records from 1797-1798 are available at Free of charge - and my understanding is that plenty more tax records will be made available in due course!

(With thanks to Dee Williams)

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Changes to RCAHMS search room

From the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland:

RCAHMS is pleased to announce changes to our Search Room services from 12th April 2010, which will enhance the way that you can consult our Collections.

Changes to our opening times

Monday - closed (pre-booked group visits only)
Tuesday - 9:30am to 5pm
Wednesday - 9:30am to 5pm
Thursday - 9:30am to 6pm
Friday - 9:30am to 5pm
Consultations and appointments

All visitors are encouraged to make an appointment before their visit, but drop-in visitors are still welcome

Appointments are always required for consulting the National Collection of Aerial Photography

There is a new system for consulting stored collection items - Request Forms need to be completed for this material, up to a maximum of 10 items per request

The retrieval of requested collection items will be at set times throughout the day:
10:30, 12:00, 13:30, and 15:00 for the National Collection of Aerial Photography and
10:30, 13:00, and 15:00 for all other material

Boxed photographic prints, library books and periodicals remain on open access
Improved digital facilities

There will be more computers for browsing our online resources, some with double screens

Free Wi-Fi has been installed for use with your own laptops

The number of workstations has been increased for consulting the National Collection of Aerial Photography

More online images

We will be increasing the number of photographs and drawings being digitised so that more images are available to view online

For further details about these changes, please see our website. We will be reviewing these changes over the next 3 months and welcome your feedback - please complete our online survey.

That all sounds good to me...!

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WDYTYA USA to be shown on Watch & BBC

Crikey, you think you get the news then along comes someone to rain on your parade...!

Following a conversation with a Wall to Wall spokesperson a fortnight ago I announced that Who Do You Think You Are USA would be shown on the BBC prior to the next British run of the series - in fact, it looks like UKTV has in fact secured the rights for its Watch channel. A press release from the channel includes the following:

Paul Moreton, the Watch channel head, said: "I’m incredibly delighted that we’ve secured the U.S. version of Who Do You Think You Are? Getting such an invaluable insight into the lives of some of Hollywood’s biggest stars means this is real must-see family telly, perfect for Watch."

So there...! The full release is on Dick Eastman's site at

Going off now to shoot myself*...

(*No, not really...)

PS: I should add that I have now seen the first episode - it is very funny stylistically, it has that OTT style we come to know and love from American adaptations of British shows. When I suggested the Gordon Ramsay USA style I hate to admit it, but I was not a million miles off the mark...! Not a comment on the factual content, just the style e.g. lines such as "Seven of the world's best loved celebrities", when I've personally only heard of three of them. Can you imagine the Bill Oddie programme - "The world's most famous ornithologist..." etc!! Love it!

UPDATE - I was RIGHT first time! The press release from UKTV talked about acquisition of "exclusive U.K. multichannel and non-linear broadcast rights for the show", but my ex-TV radar kicked in as there was no mention of "UK terrestrial rights". I have therefore contacted UKTV and have been told the following by its press office: "It will run on the BBC first and then Watch. Hope that helps."

So it is official - the BBC is showing it first, and then the multichannel re-runs will be exclusive to Watch.

I need a drink! :)

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Brightsolid completes acquisition of Genes Reunited

From Brightsolid...

Brightsolid today announced the completion of its acquisition of Friends Reunited Group from ITV plc for £25 million, following clearance by the Competition Commission.

The online innovation business, which is owned by DC Thomson, already owns and operates a number of online sites where people go to search their past, share their story and connect with people and places. It announced its intention to acquire Friends Reunited Group in August 2009 believing it an excellent opportunity to utilise this experience to bring new focus to the iconic brands in the group (Friends Reunited, Genes Reunited and Friends Reunited Dating).

The completion of the deal will now enable brightsolid to integrate the brands within its online publishing business. As part of this, the genealogy site Genes Reunited will remain separate from Brightsolid’s other genealogy services, including Both brands are already key players in the dynamic family history sector and united are set to make Brightsolid one of Britain’s leading genealogy businesses.

Chris Van der Kuyl, CEO Brightsolid said: “It is fantastic news to finally get the green light from the Competition Commission for the completion of the deal. It has certainly been a frustrating period for all involved and meant that we were unable to take any control of the brands until this point. We’re now looking forward to working with the team at Friends Reunited Group to agreeing and implementing the new ideas to shape the direction of this exciting business.”

(With thanks to Simon Fowler and Debra Chatfield)

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Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Scottish Heraldry Made Easy

I've just discovered the following on the Internet Archive's Open Library site - Scottish Heraldry Made Easy by G. Harvey Johnston, 1912, published by W. & A.K. Johnston Limited, Edinburgh and London.


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First Fromelles soldiers identified

The first 75 soldiers have now been identified from the recent Fromelles excavation by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Full details at - they are mainly Australian and South Africa, though with several Presbyterians I suspect there'll be a good few Scottish connections there along the line.

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Lochaber no more - for MacDonald of Keppoch

In January I wrote up an account of a fascinating attempt by the modern chief of the MacDonalds of Keppoch to essentially argue for the return to him of the entire area of Lochaber, under the claim that the land had been stolen from the clan by the incoming process of feudal land tenure many hundreds of years ago (See Lochaber for the MacDonalds?). The 79 year old Keppoch chief argued that the land had been previously held by the clan through the tenure known as 'ur duthchas' - and he wanted it back! His petition has now been heard by the Scottish Parliament, and no doubt he will be unhappy to hear that it isn't on the cards for him. The Public Petitions Committee's deliberations on the claim are now available online at

Robin Harper pointed out that the Abolition of Feudal Tenure etc (Scotland) Act 2000 had already dealt with it by declaring all land in Scotland, with the exception of the Northern Isles, to have been held under feudal tenure. Nigel Don disagreed and asked for an academic to examine the claims. John Wilson's response was that in fact a submission had been heard from Andy Wightman, who is one of the foremost authorities in the country on Scottish land tenure, who agreed that feudal tenure replaced ur duthchas in the 12th and 13th centuries. Everyone then basically agreed it would be a jolly good idea just to close the petition and to move on to some proper business...!

Quite what MacDonald had been planning to do with the land once he had gained control of it, I have no idea! Personally I am glad to see the back of his claim. I've always believed respect should be earned, and quite who he was expecting to get thanks from in Lochaber is perhaps a mystery for another day.

More importantly, I would now like to raise a petition to ask the Government not to ever send me out an overdue tax bill for 2 pence Sterling again (sent last week), which cost the price of a second class stamp to post in the first place! :)

(With thanks to Graham MacDonnell of the Great Glen Genealogical Research Centre in Inverness).

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Merchant Navy Gallantry medals from WW2

From Simon Fowler's Ancestors magazine blog:

If you are researching merchant seamen who served in the Second World War then you might be interested to know that an index to Merchant Navy Gallantry awards in series T 335 is now available through The National Archives online catalogue. You can search for awards by the individual seaman or by their ship.

The records show the date the award was gazetted, the medal awarded and the rating of the person at the time as well as the ship he was serving on. However, probably of most use are the citations which give the reasons why the medal was awarded in the first place.

(With thanks to Simon)

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Beannachtai na Feile Padraig!

Have a good one! If you need a decent pub in Ireland today, you can try Anthony's Inn in Piltown, County Kilkenny, or Dobbin's Inn, Carrickfergus, County Antrim. Cold Guinness on tap at all times and the best Bushmills 10 year malt in existence...! No rivers dyed green, guaranteed - just the best craic in Ireland! :)

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Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Free Irish records access on World Vital Records

From World Vital Records (

Have Irish ancestors? You can search on WorldVitalRecords’s Irish databases until March 21st for free!

Just go to our Irish Collection where you can search all of the databases, choose a single database to search, or browse through the pages of the collection.

This collection includes Irish Wills, Irish Passenger Lists and the Special Report on Surnames in Ireland.

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Castle Bonkers!

I live about ten minutes away from Kelburn Castle in Fairlie, which is on the outskirts of Largs in North Ayrshire, and home to Lord Glasgow. I have not visited in a while, but the fortuitous win recently of a family season ticket at a raffle saw me heading there once again on Sunday with the family in tow...

Since my last visit, there's been something of a noticeable change! Last year, the castle folk brought graffiti artists over from South America to wreak havoc on the building's exterior, for the simple reason that it needs to be replaced soon anyway with new render. I personally think the whole nation should follow suit - it's bonkers, it's brilliant and it should be a national imperative with all our great houses - have a look...!

The castle will be fully open again for the summer season from Easter. For more information, visit
God bless the Scottish nobility and all who sail in them...! lol :)

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Scottish accountants in the family?

If you have any Scottish accountants from the late 19th century in your family, Carol Hansen's blog post at may be of interest, pointing out some useful research resources at Google Books.

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PRONI closed for St Paddy's Day

From Gavin McMahon at PRONI in Belfast:

Dear All

This is a reminder to all visitors that PRONI will be closed tomorrow, 17th March 2010, for St Patrick's day. Happy St Patrick's Day

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Chelsea Pension records go online

From those wonderful folk at FindmyPast (


* Most popular records at The National Archives
* In-depth and colourful insight into the lives of ordinary ranking soldiers
* Records include servicemen born in the UK and throughout the world, including India and Jamaica

Today leading family history website launches its most exciting record collection online since the 1911 census - The Chelsea Pensioners' British Army Service Records - in association with The National Archives and in partnership with FamilySearch.

Known as "WO 97" at The National Archives, these most frequently viewed records are now online at for the first time ever. The collection comprises over 6 million full colour images of the service records of soldiers in the British Army in receipt of a pension administered by The Royal Hospital Chelsea, and who were discharged between the dates 1760 and 1913.

Many of the soldiers listed may have served in some of Britain's most significant wars, including the Battle of Waterloo (1815), the Crimean (1853 - 1856) and both Boer Wars (1899 - 1902). The records only list those soldiers who either completed their full service in the army or who were wounded and pensioned out of the army. The records do not include those killed in action or army deserters or officers. Signatures of prominent officers such as that of Robert Baden-Powell can, however, be found on some soldiers' service records.

Each individual soldier's record consists of a bundle of a minimum of four pages, full of fascinating personal details, and could be up to 20 pages long! The details that can be found in these records are invaluable to family and military historians, providing a rich and colourful story of our ancestors' lives, with a level of detail that is hard to find in any other historical records.

Information the records may list

* Date and place of birth
* Age
* Name and address of next of kin
* Height
* Chest size
* Complexion
* Hair colour
* Eye colour
* Distinguishing features
* Rank and regiment
* Occupation before joining the army
* Kit list
* Medical history
* Conduct and character observations
* Countries where, and dates when, the soldier served
* Date the soldier signed up and date of discharge
* Service history including promotions, campaigns and countries where they fought
* Details of marriage and their children's names, baptisms and dates of birth

As well as being some of the most detailed records available to family historians, the records not only include servicemen born in the UK, but also throughout the world, with many soldiers born in India and even the Caribbean. These records are also invaluable to Irish, Scottish and Commonwealth researchers, as many men that joined the British Army from these countries throughout the centuries did so for a number of reasons; personal or economical. Indeed, almost 18 per cent of the soldiers listed in the records were born in Ireland so the records are consequently a fantastic new resource for anyone with Irish ancestry.

The first quarter of a million records from this significant collection have gone online today, covering the period from 1883 – 1900 and comprising around 1.4 million images. The remaining records will go online over the next 18 months.

Incidentally, the records, when completed, will be followed by the equivalent Irish records of the Royal Hospital Kilmainham in Dublin.

(With thanks to Debra and Amy at FindmyPast)

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