Thursday, 21 May 2015

Tracing Your Scottish Ancestors

If you need some help tracing your elusive Scottish ancestors the May ‘Then & Now’ competition prize is just what you need.


This month we are giving away two hours of professional genealogy help in the National Records of Scotland and we are also including a copy of the book ‘Tracing Your Scottish Ancestors’. This book should be on the desk of every Scottish genealogist! It will help you learn why records were created, how they have been kept and what information you can learn from them, it is the official guide for the National Records of Scotland. We hope that this book, kindly donated by the National Records of Scotland, together with our time will help you get over a brick wall in your family history and propel your research forward!

To enter find an old Scottish photo, recreate it and email both photos to me. To see full terms and conditions see our previous blog post: www.scottishgenealogyblog.blogspot.co.uk






Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Finding Birth, Marriage and Death Records Before 1855

From 1855 onwards, finding records of births, marriages and deaths could not be much easier than it is in Scotland. All historical records are available to view on the Scotland’s People website (at a fee).


For the period prior to 1855, the Scotland’s People website also has the Church of Scotland Old Parochial Registers (OPRs) that have survived. The question is this: if you can’t find a birth, marriage or death in the OPRs, does that mean that no record exists?


The answer is a resounding NO! There are many registers lying unindexed which could hold the key to progressing your family tree.


Our new Learning Zone section ‘Finding Birth, Marriage and Death Records Before 1855’ has been designed to explain the situation and help you find the records you need.

Please let me know if you have a question which is not covered in the Learning Zone.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Using Marriage Contracts to Trace Your Family Tree

Marriage contracts are just one type of deed that can be very useful when you are tracing your family tree. As well as detailing the persons getting married they frequently mention other family members including parents, siblings and sometimes even more distant family members. They were usually drawn up by families who had land or wealth of some kind. If your family worked on the land rather than owned the land you are unlikely to find a marriage contract. 

There was no legal obligation to register a marriage contract, it was a private document. As a fee would be involved in registering the document it was often only done if and when it became necessary. For example, a marriage contract could be dated 12 July 1735 but only registered on 20 December 1769; as you can see in this entry on our website index. 

Finding these marriage contracts without an index can be challenging and time-consuming. That is why we have decided to begin indexing sections of the Register of Deeds that are currently un-indexed. We hope this project will uncover many genealogical gems that will help you and others research your family tree.

So far we have indexed 1,072 entries… there’s a long way to go! We are indexing these under the ‘Sponsor an Index’ initiative: can you help? From just £7 you can be involved in getting Scotland’s historic records online: http://scottishindexes.com/sponsor.aspx

Thursday, 30 April 2015

The people behind the names


The Kelso Dispensary 
When you trace your genealogy you research the names, the dates and the places. This has to be step one. The second step, though, is digging a little deeper and finding out extra details that can help you understand somebody’s life.

Take this entry in the 1851 census of Stichill, Roxburghshire: Margaret Guthrie, aged 73, born in Greenlaw, married to James Guthrie. James and Margaret have a daughter living with them, her name is Alison and she is 30 years old. You can see the full entry on our website.

Tracing James and Margaret back to the 1841 census we see they that are living in the same house. A quick search online tells us that James Guthrie married Margaret Waddel in 1807, in Stichill.

Using these common genealogy tools we have learn something of James and Margaret. What else can we learn? Thanks to a generous contribution through our ‘Sponsor an Index’ scheme we can learn something remarkable.

When just 16 (in 1780) years of age Margaret was seen at the Kelso Dispensary due to ‘Obstructed Menses’. How scared she likely was as a young girl being seen by a physician in an age when this was very rare. We do not know how severe her condition was but it is possible that it is only because of the kind (and free) help of the Kelso dispensary that Alison was ever born.

The lesson for us, don’t be content with a list of names, dates and places; dig deeper, search more records and learn more about the lives of your ancestors.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

The Kelso Dispensary


For the majority of people in 1777 there was no proper health care. Struggling to simply feed and clothe their children, most families couldn’t afford to see a doctor or buy medicine from the apothecary. This meant that of course there was high infant mortality, and countless families left to rely on the parish for poor relief when the man of the house was taken ill, or died.


In Kelso a group of men and women wanted to change this and they founded the Kelso Dispensary. A charitable institution, it was founded by benefactors and subscribers. Each subscriber could ‘recommend’ people who couldn't afford to see a doctor and they would receive free healthcare.


The records that the institution left behind are fascinating. They record who visited the dispensary, which parish they were from, who recommended them, the date seen, the age of the patient, the disease and the outcome of the case.


We think it is fitting that the records of this charitable organisation are the first to be indexed by our ‘Sponsor an Index’ programme. The first 1,743 entries are now online for you to access for free.

We hope that these prove useful to you. If they don’t cover the period needed get in touch about our ‘Sponsor an Index’ programme and together we can get more of these records online.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Sponsor an Index


The Problem!

Just a few short years ago there was very little in the way of online genealogy indexes. Tracing your ancestry was slow and time-consuming. Today the world has changed, and many people can trace their family tree in Scotland using online records, perhaps getting back as far as 1800 in just a few hours!

Sometimes, though, we hit a roadblock. We may also be intrigued about the lives of our ancestors and want to dig deeper.

Even if we know that records exist that could help us further, if there is no index and we are not fortunate enough to live near the archive where these records are held, it can be very expensive to have someone research our family tree for us. What we need is an online index!

Large companies are working on this situation by indexing a large number of records, then selling subscriptions. This can be useful if the company has a large number of records that you want, but can be frustrating if you sign up to find out they don’t have the records that will help you.

We want to provide a free website, one which gives you the source reference of the original document so that you can go and view the original record for free, or if you can’t visit in person pay just a small fee for the record you need.


The Solution

We are finding that more and more clients ask us to search records that could also be useful to other researchers. This has left us with the conclusion that it may make more sense for individuals to ‘sponsor’ an index. This way the genealogy community as a whole only pays once for the indexing to be done. The index goes online for free and then all your distant cousins can use it too.


How it works

You sponsor an indexer to spend a set amount of time (in 30 minute blocks) to index a record of your choice, with a date range of your choice. That set amount of time will be spent on indexing the record you have chosen, and then the index will be made freely available online for everybody to access. As a sponsor your name will accompany the release of the new index entries, and  will also remain permanently on our ‘Sponsor Appreciation Page’. Additionally, if the new index contains a specific entry you are looking for you will receive it free of charge.

We have a list of records ready and waiting to be indexed, but if you don’t see what you need get in touch and we’ll see if we can index the record you’re looking for.

30 minutes - £7
1 hour - £10
5 hours - £40

Most items held by the National Records of Scotland can be indexed, but there may be additional charges, get in touch and we’ll see what we can do. Search their catalogue to see what treasures they hold that we could help you access.


How much will be indexed?


How much can be indexed in a set period of time depends on the type of records involved. The ‘Notices of Admissions by the Superintendent of the Mental Institutions’ are one of the slowest records to index. A volume (one month) can take up to ten hours! Prison registers are among the quickest, with over 100 prisoner entries being possible in an hour. Once we know the record you are interested in, we can advise as to the amount we can likely index in the time available.


What to do next

Visit our ‘Sponsor an Index’ page on our website and choose how long you would like us to spend indexing the record of your choice. Add that time to the PayPal cart and proceed to the checkout. Once your payment is through I will email you and you can tell us what you would like us to index. You can find the list to pick from here.


Wednesday, 15 April 2015

A good dig through dusty documents!


One of the things I love about being a genealogist is that every day is different, you can never know exactly what you’ll find. I was looking through some Dumfries Sheriff Court processes the other day (on the hunt for ‘paternity’ cases) and came across a case innocuously entitled Jones v Lochmaben. As this bundle of folded papers tied up with string was larger than the others and appeared to contain some sort of notebook I untied the string to have a nose inside. 

This lengthy case was regarding the ‘Nuisances Removal (Scotland) Act 1856’. It would seem that far from being the picturesque holiday destination that it is today, back in 1866 Lochmaben had a big problem with dung, pigsties and general filth.

Amongst the items was a large document entitled: “Report of list of Nuisances in the Burgh of Lochmaben on 6th and 7th November 1866”.

Within are contained the names and addresses of 182 households, detailing the condition of the property. I found this item fascinating, it tells us so much about the town that after reading a few entries you could almost smell the place!

Here are some excerpts: 

No. - 140

Date of Inspection - 7th [November 1866]

Name and Occupation of Occupants of Premises - Ebenezer Brown Hill, Free Church Manse 

Description of Nuisance - An accumulation of dung and filthy stagnant water and very dirty yard.

Remarks - [In pencil] None*

No. - 141

Date of Inspection - 7th [November 1866]

Name and Occupation of Occupants of Premises - John Clark, Schoolmaster 

Description of Nuisance - A necessary* containing in and about it a great accumulation of filthy matter.

Remarks - [In pencil] None

No. - 167

Date of Inspection - 7th [November 1866]

Name and Occupation of Occupants of Premises - Robert Thorburn, Labourer.

Description of Nuisance - One Pigsty containing one Swine and an accumulation of Dung at Back of House.

Remarks - [In pencil] Nuisance

No. - 176

Date of Inspection - 7th [November 1866]

Name and Occupation of Occupants of Premises - John Green, Carter

Description of Nuisance - A House unfit for Human Habitation Occupied by Green. Having only one small apartment and his Family consists of Himself, Wife and 7 children. The House is Thatched on roof and they Occupy one Small apartment in which there is 3 Beds and where they all live both night and day. No ventilation. Bad House. 

Remarks - [In pencil] Nuisance.

No. - 178

Date of Inspection - 7th [November 1866]

Name and Occupation of Occupants of Premises -Barnard Kelly, Hugh McGauchie, William Helon

Description of Nuisance - All keep Lodginghouses with no Rules and Regulations formed for their Guidance and Conduct. 

Remarks - [Blank]


The dusty documents make your hands quite dirty!
I hope I am not alone in being fascinated by this document and as we continue our research in the Sheriff Court records of Scotland I hope to come across more wonderful accounts like these. 

This particular record does not neatly fit into our existing collections, so for the time being we have created a PDF index to this specific record which you can download for free from our website; just click this link.

If you are researching your Lochmaben forebears and see an entry relating to your family please get in touch and I will email you the full account relating to them.

*We presume the ‘necessary’ was the toilet… it’s mentioned as a ‘necessary’ quite frequently.
*The remarks in pencil we believe to have been added at a later date, perhaps on a subsequent inspection.