Sunday, 15 June 2014

The archives of the National Trust for Scotland

I was privileged to hear a most interesting talk at the Galloway Family History Fair yesterday, it was regarding the archives of the National Trust for Scotland (NTS).

Ian Riches, the Trust’s archivist, began the talk by outlining the history of the NTS. He quoted Sir John Stirling Maxwell, a founder member of the NTS, who said; “The National Trust for Scotland serves the nation as a cabinet into which it can put some of its valuable things, where they will be perfectly safe for all time, and where they are open to be seen and enjoyed by everyone.”

This has certainly proved true, the NTS has large estates, stately homes, castles, large gardens, small gardens, tenement houses, paintings, furniture and, of interest to all of us, archives!

A large component of the NTS archive are the papers relating to properties whilst they have been in the care of the NTS, the business of the Trust if you like. It takes 400 boxes to contain the minutes of the NTS! These will certainly be of great interest to anybody researching the history of a property in the care of the NTS.

Haddo House

As well as paperwork relating to the organisation they also have estate papers for some properties. Ian told us about how 18th and 19th century estate papers were found in a coal bunker at Haddo House! If your ancestor worked on the estate these could be really useful. Thanks to the work of the Trust these have been preserved for the benefit of everybody who needs to access them. Note however that not every property has an archive, the papers may still be with the family or they could have been deposited at the National Records of Scotland.

One of their great archives is on the Scottish island of Canna where, amongst other things, they hold sound recordings dating from the 1930’s that were collected by John Lorne Campbell. Thanks to the work of the NTS you can hear these recording online. If your ancestors lived on Canna or a neighbouring island you may be privileged to find a recording made by them, but even if this is not the case, still take time to listen to the voices of the past and imagine the lives your ancestors led.

To round off this fascinating talk, Ian showed us some true treasures from the NTS archive. One was a journal written by John Ross, a supply teacher on St. Kilda, and the other was a diary kept by Alice MacLachlan, a school teacher on St. Kilda and the wife of Peter MacLachlan, the minister there in 1909. These firsthand accounts were fascinating to read and we were delighted to hear that the trust plans to digitise these treasures and make them available online in the near future. You can see a wee glimpse into the diary contained on the first page of this PDF from the NTS.

Perhaps reading this you think it would be useful to your research to investigate what theTrust holds which could help you. Work is underway to create an online catalogue, a mammoth task! In the meantime contact Ian Riches and he will do what he can to help you