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.