Monday, 28 November 2016

Scotland's Community Heritage Conference 2016

We recently attended Scotland's Community Heritage Conference 2016 in Aberdeen. It was a great day so I want to tell you a little about it.

We genealogists (professional or hobbyists) approach research looking at the people. First we gather names and dates, then we start to think about their lives. We met many people at the conference who work from the other direction, they focus on a community, thinking first about people’s lives then perhaps looking at the individual people. This means that these are the people we need to contact once we have our lists of people and dates! This is particularly true if you are planning a trip to Scotland to research your family history and have a limited time here.

One of my favorite talks of the day was given by Lorna Summers of the Portsoy Salmon Bothy. Laura has worked hard in Portsoy to not only tell the story of Portsoy Harbour but also make history live. Within the renovated bothy is a museum but they also have a lot of events going on which bring the fishing industry to life for young and old alike. The highlight of the calendar is the The Annual Scottish Traditional Boat Festival. If your ancestors were involved in the fishing industry this would be a great place to get a feel for what their life was really like.

Before lunch we experienced ‘One-Minute Mayhem: 60-second presentations against the clock. If you have met me you may well imagine that I was tempted to join in but at the same time I did have to think about what I was going to say. Jean Shirer, our dear friend from the Aberdeen Family History Society, stood up and did an excellent presentation and so I raised my hand and followed in her footsteps. Graham recorded my 60-second presentation so you can judge for yourself how well I did!

At lunchtime there were some tours on offer, we opted for the St. Mary’s Chapel and Mither Kirk Project and the Aberdeen Archives tour. To be honest I did not know what to expect on the first tour, we had time so we went but I had done no research; we were amazed. As you can see from the photos this old church (now in trust) has been excavated and an archaeological dig has taken place. It was clear to see the remains of previous churches and graves, burials from before the time our research often takes us. As we stood looking at the bones stuck in the wall (in places they had been used as rubble when the building was redesigned) it reminded me that when we see a gravestone or a death certificates these are very very real people! One of the amazing objects to be found was a scallop shell, a pilgrim token from Santiago de Compostela, Spain! There are various open days so if you are in Aberdeen I can definitely recommend that you visit and see the place for yourself.

After lunch Amy McDonald from the National Library of Scotland gav a talk called, “Connecting Scotland’s Sounds”. She played Scottish fiddle music taken from a wax cylinder of 1909! To be able to hear something your ancestors created and/or listened to brings a whole new dimension to your family history! You can follow Amy and the team on twitter to learn more about preserving and sharing Scotland's sound heritage!

All in all it was a great day and hopefully there will be a similar event next year.