Wednesday, 30 December 2009

National Library of Scotland :New Courses

The NLS have announced new courses for family history research in 2010. Find out what resources the Library holds to help you with your family history research.The workshop includes some practical information on how to become a Reader and a short tour of the public areas.

Getting Started at NLS
  • 11 Jan  2pm
  • 11 Feb 10am
  • 9 March 6pm
Discovering Family History at NLS
  • 12 Jan 10am
  • 8   Feb  2pm
  • 10 March 6pm
Book online

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Highland Archive Update

The minute books of the Presbytery of Inverness have been returned from NAS in Edinburgh.Covering the period from 1739-1751 they reveal the pro-government stance the church took against the rebels at Culloden. Earlier kirk session records from 1688-1711 have also returned home. It is hoped other volumes of Inverness and other Highland presbytery minutes will come back,along with other kirk session records in the new year. Since the new archive opened there has been an increase of 130% on the same period last year. Due to the provision of proper environmental storage conditions ,more records it is hoped will be returned from Edinburgh.

Whats in the archives
  • Education records from the 1860s including logbooks and admission registers for more than 300 schools
  • Poor relief records,1845 to 1890
  • Property valuation rolls,1868-1989
  • Records of highway authorities,including Turnpike Trusts,1804-1890
  • Dean of Guild and building control plans and registers,1890-1975
  • Inverness Burgh records including HighCourt and Inverness County Sheriff Court process papers,17th to 19th century
  • Abridgement of Sasines for counties of Argyll,Caithness,Inverness,Nairn,Ross and Cromarty and Sutherland from 1781.
  • Police archives 1858-1992
Opening hours Mon-Thurs 9am-5pm or until 7.30 on Wednesday.No need to make an appointment.

Monday, 28 December 2009

ScotlandsPeople: New Images Announcement

ScotlandsPeople have announced that the images of the Statutory Register of
  • Births for 1909
  • Marriages for 1934
  • Deaths 1959
have been made available today on line at

Also the January edition of Discover My Past Scotland Magazine will also be available from 29 Dec ,at

Sunday, 8 November 2009

West Register House,Edinburgh

West Register House in Charlotte Square contains the West search room of the N.A.S. Built in 1811 as St.George's Church to the design by Robert Adam it was supposed to mirror another church built at the axial end of George St in St Andrews Square.This was never built and instead the Dundas Mansion of the Royal Bank of Scotland stands in its place. The church closed due to a falling congregation and severe dry rot problems and was taken over by the Scottish Record Office (now the National Archives of Scotland) in 1964.
The West Search Room contains:
  • Scottish Office and Scottish Government records
  • Court records of Court of Session,High Court of Justiciary after 1800
  • Sheriff Court records excluding wills
  • Divorces to 1983
  • Rail,canal,coal,gas,electric,steel industries records
  • business records
  • maps and plans

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Famous Scots- Sir Jackie Stewart OBE

The final identity at the Famous Scots Exhibition at the Scotlands People Centre has been announced as triple world championship racing car driver,Sir Jackie Stewart OBE. World champion in 1969,71 and 73 he was born in Dumbarton next door to his dad's garage. His roots however are firmly on the land with a gamekeeper grandfather and generations of farmers in Renfrewshire.
The exhibition is open from 9 November - 31 December.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Halloween-Scottish Witches

This memorial at the entrance to Edinburgh Castle esplanade,marks the site where over 300 women were burned  to death accused of witchcraft.One of these victims was accused of witchcraft for using a spell to sink the ship carrying King James VI as it arrived at North Berwick.
A very interesting database and electronic resource, The Survey of Scottish Witchcraft by Edinburgh University has over 4000 people listed between 1563 -1736. Information about who,where and why they were tried is available and their fate.
Other useful publications are: The Scottish Witch hunt in Context (Studies in Early European History) Julian Goodare
Witchcraft in Early Modern Scotland:James VI's Demonology and the North Berwick Witches    Lawrence Normand

The view from North Berwick Law over the town towards the Bass Rock and the Firth of Forth

Monday, 26 October 2009

The New Highland Archive

Today sees the opening of the new Highland Archives and Registration Centre at the Bught Park,Inverness. The £10.5 million centre incorporates an archive conservation unit,a dedicated family history centre,a ceremony suite and office accommodation.
What archives are available ?
  • Local authority archives
  • School Education Records
  • Poor Relief Records
  • Valuation Rolls
  • Estate and Family Archives
  • Business and Solicitors records
  • Records of Societes and Associations
  • Maps and Plans
  • Sasine Registers
  • Will Registers
  • Harbour and Turnpike Trusts
  • Shipping Registers
  • Tartan Archive
Highland Archive Newspaper Article

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Genealogists Hunt for Glencoe Chief

An article in todays "Scotland on Sunday" reveals the hunt is on for a new Chief of MacIain of
Glencoe. The last chief died in 1907 and now Colin MacDonald,83 of Christchurch,New Zealand has proved that six generations ago his ancestor was Alasdair MacDonald who was murdered in the massacre in 1692. However the 17th Chief Ewen MacDonald,a surgeon in the Honourable East India Company may have married an Indian while serving there. Genealogists are looking for his descendants a Ewen last known in New Zealand in 1907 and a Stuart last known Missouri,US. Both lines could have a stronger claim.(

Thursday, 22 October 2009

OPR and Kirk Session Brought to Life

By the churchyard gates of Duddingston Kirk,there is a gatehouse formerly used to watch for "body-snatchers"in the early 19th century,who stole corpses to sell for medical research. The best known being Burke and Hare.

Adjacent to the main entrance gate there are also four rough stone steps dating from the 17th century. Known as "Loupin on stane" from the Scots word for jumping,it is believed the local farmers brought their wives on horseback  to church and the stone platform enabled the farmer's wife to mount up behind her husband.

Also by the entrance gate there is one of the few remaining examples of  "Jougs" . Once used as punishment, the iron collar in two halves, fastened by a clasp and suspended by a chain was fitted  around the neck.The Kirk Session had punative powers for offences such as blasphemy,swearing,drunkeness,adultery and breaking the Sabbath. Parishoners had to undergo the humiliation of appearing for a number of Sundays with their necks in the Jougs,before proceeding intothe church for public rebuke  .

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Famous Scots - Tilda Swinton

Throughout the "Homecoming Scotland 2009",the National Archives of Scotland have been holding an exhibition about famous Scots. So far those featured have been Billy Connolly,Sir James Black,Shirley Manson,Brian Cox and now Oscar winning actress Tilda Swinton.Swinton whose family can be traced back to the 9th century in Berwickshire,has starred in many films including as the White Witch in "The Lion,the Witch and the Wardrobe" (2005),and in 2008 won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress with George Clooney in "Michael Clayton" (2007). The exhibition continues until 6 Nov 2009, the day after Swinton's 49th birthday, Monday -  Friday 0900-1630. The sixth and final Famous Scot will be announced shortly.

The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh

This imposing building is the home of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. Designed by the famous Scottish architect,William Playfair 1790-1857 to hold a meeting hall,museum,lecture room and library. The College recently celebrated its Quincentenary year in 2005. There are many records held here of interest to the genealogist and medical historian. Surgeons who qualified as licentiates or fellows of the College may be traced through the manuscript records and there are printed directories going back to the early 19th century.Parentage of surgeons may also be traced through the apprenticeship records of burghs. Edinburgh has published its apprentice records to 1800. The members of the R.C.S. go back to 1581 and contain the names of candidates who appeared before and satisfied the examiners when they were elected members of the Incorporation. Some further information about members and fellows may be obtained from The List of Fellows of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh from 1581-1873 published 1874. The library and museum are both open to the public and regularly hold exhibitions. and

Monday, 12 October 2009

The Scottish Genealogy Society

The Scottish Genealogy Society located at 15 Victoria Terrace,Edinburgh was founded in 1953 to promote research into Scottish Family History and to advance and encourage the collection,exchange and publication of material relating to Scottish genealogy and family history. An annual membership of £20 gives free access to their extensive library,lectures and quarterly magazine,'The Scottish Genealogist'. The library has an extensive collection of monumental inscriptions,census publications,Old Parish Records on microfilm and online index of family histories deposited by researchers.
For more information

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Forth Rail Bridge and VR letterbox

While researching the Forth Railway Memorial I took this photo of the famous railway bridge with a rare original Victorian letterbox in the foreground. It has the initials V.R.

The Forth Railway Bridge Memorial

On 3 July 2007 a memorial was unveiled to honour the 71 men and boys killed in the construction of the Forth Railway Bridge. Started in 1883 and completed in 1890 it was the first major steel bridge in the world and the second largest span of any cantilever bridge.

At its peak,the workforce or ' Briggers' as they were known numbered 4600,the majority were British but many of the men working on the caissons foundations were Italian.

A list of those killed during the construction from newspapers,family recollections and genealogical records is still on going by the society.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

ScotlandsPeople Centre

ScotlandsPeople Centre normally only open Mon-Friday will be opening on Saturday 24 October between 0900 - 1600 for a free introductory one-hour taster sessions in the Adam Dome,General Register House for new visitors to see the centre. Taster sessions for people new to family history research will be for one hour and be an ideal opportunity for you to become familiar with their digitised records.Only one taster session per person so they expect to be very busy,but can be booked in advance on 0131 314 4300 between 0900 and 1630 or online.

The Surnames of Scotland :The Top 10

A survey was done by N.Bowie and G Jackson in 2003 for the General Register Office for Scotland to find the most common surnames in Scotland. Their findings showed that on a national basis their had been little change in surnames over the last 140 years. 1 in 8 surnames began with Mac/Mc. Their finds for the top 10 are :

  1. Smith

  2. Brown

  3. Wilson

  4. Campbell

  5. Stewart

  6. Thomson

  7. Robertson

  8. Anderson

  9. MacDonald

  10. Scott

If all spelling variations of MacDonald were used this would move into second place.

Scottish Christian Names:The Top 10

Every so often the General Register Office for Scotland(GROS) publishes the 100 most common boys and girls names. Here are the top 10 for 2008 and for an interesting comparison those for 1855.



  1. Jack

  2. Lewis

  3. David

  4. Liam

  5. James= Ryan

  6. Calum

  7. Login

  8. Matthew

  9. Cameron


  1. John

  2. James

  3. William

  4. Alexander

  5. Robert

  6. Thomas

  7. George

  8. David

  9. Andrew

  10. Peter



  1. Sophie

  2. Emily

  3. Olivia

  4. Chloe

  5. Emma

  6. Lucy

  7. Ava

  8. Katie

  9. Erin

  10. Hannah


  1. Mary

  2. Margaret

  3. Elizabeth

  4. Jane

  5. Janet

  6. Ann

  7. Agnes

  8. Isabella

  9. Helen

  10. Catherine

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Scottish Roman Catholic Parish Records

Today the digitised parish records of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland went on line at

About 700 have survived,the earliest from 1703. Births,baptisms,confirmations,deaths,burials,seat rents etc are recorded. Due to persecution many Catholic registers do not start until the late 1790s. The next long awaited digitisation expected soon will be the Session records of the Church of Scotland.

Tombstone Tuesday

Further to an earlier blog on Scottish kirkyards,here is an interesting site with many links to churches and graveyards throughout Scotland.

Many famous sites are recorded in Aberdeen,Glasgow,Dundee and Edinburgh. There is also a video clip from ITVnews of members of the Borders Family History Society recording inscriptions earlier this year.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Scottish Quakers

Quaker Meeting House, Edinburgh.

Quakerism came to Scotland with the Cromwellian occupation of the 1650s and meeting houses were established in Aberdeen,Edinburgh,Kelso and Hamilton. It never grew to large numbers in Scotland due to persecution by Episcopalian and Presbyterian churches. Many therefore emigrated to North America from 1664.

Scottish Quakers and Early America 1650-1700 by David Dobson,Baltimore,MD,USA Genealogical Publications.1998 lists 500 Society of Friends members in Scotland and traces their movement to East Jersey in the 1680s.

Paul Burton who wrote a PhD "An Active and United Body;Change in the Society of Friends in Scotland 1800-2000 " has an extensive bibliography at
The National Archives of Scotland also has Society of Friends records under catalogue number CH10.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

National Library of Scotland

Situated in Edinburgh
the National Library of Scotland is Scotland's only copyright deposit library,which means that a copy of every book published in Britain must be lodged there.Many historically important books and manuscripts from the 11th century are found here and growing at 400,000 a year. It holds 7 million books and over 2 million maps. It regularly holds exhibitions,the most recent exhibited the final letter of Mary Queen of Scots before her execution.

There are many informative pages on Scottish family history covering all topics from vital records to newspapers and emigration. I will post more later about their extensive online collection of Scottish maps which are held in another repository.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Clan MacNappy or MacDiaper- A new Clan?

The Scottish Register of Tartans has just registered a new tartan -the MacNappy tartan.

No there is no such clan,but this has been designed for the Perth and Kinross branch of the Real Nappy Network. Their aim is to reduce the amount of waste that goes into landfill. The tartan will be used for promotional material and real nappies as well.

The Scottish Register of Tartans was established on 5 Feb 2009 and a free search can be made at for the thousands of clan,family and corporate designs.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Scottish Handwriting

I have just started the Palaeography course at the National Archives of Scotland and one of the web sites recommended is This site run by the Scottish Archive Network (SCAN) has a range of material to dip into from a coaching manual and letter recognition to a weekly poser to test your progress. Have a go at writing your name in the Secretary Hand of the 1500-1700s. All good fun and learning at the same time. Also examples of early Scottish documents : testaments,deeds,letters.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Fife Family History Fair

The Fife Family History Society is holding it's fair on
3rd October at Rothes Hall,Rothes Square,Glenrothes.There is an impressive list of speakers and topics

Home And Away: Scots on the Move The speakers are :

  • Billy Kay on The Scottish World
  • Dr Norman Reid on Fife Families Abroad
  • David Webster Military and Commercial Scots in Northern Europe
  • Linda Fitzpatrick Scottish Fishing Communities on the Move
  • Jennie Calder The Scottish Impact of the American Frontier
  • Dr Marjory Harper Adventure and Exile: Snapshots of Scottish Emigration

Sunday, 27 September 2009


Following on from an earlier blog on Annandale which mentioned the Border riding families of Johnstone and Maxwell,here are some other links with information about the Border Reivers. These have useful background social and historical reasons why this way of life was prevalent on both sides of the Border.

The Elliott DNA project has results for many Border surnames and reveals a melting pot of Scots,Angles,Norse,Norman and perhaps even some Roman have left their genes in Border families.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Scottish Kirkyards

The Scottish kirkyard has been vastly underated as a place of historical importance,offering a wealth of information to the genealogist and local historian.
Dane Love,a teacher from Ayrshire will be giving a lecture on 'Kirkyards' at the Dumfries and Galloway Family History Society. This will be held on Wednesday 30 Sept at the Cumberland Street Day Centre,Dumfries.

Dane has written several books about Ayrshire,kirkyards,Jacobites and Covenanters. His list of publications can be viewed at

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Scottish Place-Name Society

The Scottish Place-Name Society is holding its autumn conference in Glasgow University on Saturday 7 November.
Topics covered are Gaelic placenames,Pictish Phonology and Shetland Placenames.
For more details please view

Scotland's Global Impact

As part of the Year of Homecoming a three day conference is being held in Inverness from 22-24 Oct.Opened by Alex Salmond there are well renowned speakers talking about how one small nation changed the world!
Information on the programme is available at

Sunday, 13 September 2009

The Annandale Way

Just spent a beautiful autumnal day walking part of the new Annandale Way in Dumfriesshire. Saturday 12 September was the opening day for this new long distance walk from Moffat to Annan on the Solway Firth following the course of the River Annan from its source to the sea.

It is 55 miles from the high hills above the Devil's Beef Tub passing near the towns of Moffat,Lockerbie,Lochmaben and Annan. Passing through the area long associated with the Border Reiving families of Moffat,Johnstone,Halliday,Irving,Jardine,Graham,Bell and Carlyle this is the perfect walk to become familiar with your ancestral home.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Introduction to Scottish Genealogy

A new course run at the University of Edinburgh is due to start on 30th September. Dr Bruce Durie is the tutor and the course is held on Wednesdays over ten weeks.

For course times,enrolment and course summary,please contact the University of Edinburgh.

New Highland Archive and Registration Centre

The purpose built Highland Council Archive in Inverness, will open it's new search room on Monday 26 Oct 2009. The archive holds the records for the former county councils of Inverness-shire,Nairnshire,Sutherland,Ross and Cromarty and the eleven burghs within these former counties.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

A Route to your Roots

Saturday 5 Sept 2009

A Family History Seminar 0900-3.10 at The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter day Saints,Albany Bank,36 Edinburgh Road,Dumfries


More info at

Monday, 24 August 2009

Scottish Handwriting Courses

Having difficulty reading curly writing in deeds and testaments, then here are two courses starting over the next few months at Edinburgh and Aberdeen Universities.
Both cover the period 1500-1700 and are weekly over ten weeks. Well worth while.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Prospect of a new Chief of Clan Gunn

Mr William Murray Gunn of Wick is considering applying to the Lord Lyon to become the first recognised Chief of Clan Gunn,since the death of Morrison Gunn in 1785. Hugh Peskett,the Scottish editor of Burke's Peerage has proved the line of descent.

Scotland's Genealogy - a new blog.

We find no vestige of a beginning,no prospect of an end.

James Hutton 1795

Welcome to 'Scotland's Genealogy' a new blog by Chris Halliday,amateur genealogist and enthusiast of Scotland's history.

New to blogging ,this will be a steep learning curve, but there is no time like the present so be patient.

Why 'Scotland's Genealogy' ? Well all the obvious domain names have gone; Scottish, Scots, as the popularity of Scottish genealogy increases. Will there soon be too many professional genealogists competing for business?

I look forward to hearing your comments and lets see where this will go.