Sunday 24 April 2011

Researching Scottish Ancestry - WHERE DO I START?

For those of us fortunate enough to have ancestors with Scottish heritage, researching is a fairly easy task. Knowing where to look is usually where we get tied up. Following these hints should help:

THE place for Scottish records, of course, is the office of the General Register (GRO). Their website is the repository for all official documents: birth, marriage, death, census, wills and testaments. Here’s what you need to know:

·        The website is: It is a pay-per-view site, so be prepared. You can purchase 30 credits for £7. It is one credit to view the index and five additional credits to view the image of the record. So, 6 credits to get to that point. At today’s exchange rate, that is about 35¢ per image. Cheap at twice the rate! Credits are purchased in bundles of 30 and are good for one year from the date of purchase. So, if you purchase 30 credits on May 1, they will last you until April 30 of next year. If in June, you decide to give genealogy up for the summer and have 4 credits left, when you resume your research in September, you can add 30 credits to your existing 4 and you will then have 34 credits for one year from September! (Just like roll-over minutes on a phone plan!)

·        Civil Registration didn’t start until 1855. Before that date, you need to look at the Old Parish Registers (OPRs). Find that link on the left hand side of the website and enter the data fields. You will get very little information from the OPRs, so don’t be too disappointed.
·        OPR Births: You won’t get birth dates, since documenting a birth was not the responsibility of the church. What you will get is a recorded statement about the child’s baptism. This will give you the date, the parish and the name of at least one parent, sometimes both parents.
    • OPR Deaths: Rather than death records, you will get burial records or the statement about the purchase of a “mortcloth” for dressing the dead. 
    • OPRMarriages: Marriages are a bit trickier. If your ancestor was married in the church, you will get documentation of the reading of the Banns (intent to be married, usually read aloud for the three Sundays preceding the wedding). Marriage laws were a bit unusual in Scotland, so these records are not always available. Essentially, a couple needed only to declare before two witnesses that they were intent on living as man and wife, and they were then considered to be married. No formality necessary! Marriages also didn’t need to happen in a church, and in fact, often took place at the home of the bride or groom. All still very legal. More on Regular and Irregular Marriages can be found here:

·        Civil Registration started in 1855. There were two censuses taken before civil registration and these can be accessed on the ScotlandsPeople website (left hand side – Census – 1841, 1851)
·        When you start your search ALWAYS start with a census. This will give you not only the name of your ancestor, but the people in their family as well. From this you will glean enough information to help you keep track that you are searching the RIGHT family. You will find the name of the head of the household, usually the father/husband unless he is deceased or away at work on that particular night. If the husband was away, his wife will be listed as the head. All children residing in the home will also be listed along with their ages. Remember that it was not uncommon for children as young as 13 to be away at work. In this case, you will need to do another search just under their name and if they were with another family as a boarder, you should be able to find them. Remember that the ages on the census are approximate since the census was usually done in March, so when you then go to search the civil records for births, make sure you allow for a two or three year window.
·        Census & Birth records are accessible to the public after 100 years. Scotland takes this time frame very seriously so up until that time, you will not be able to access them online. You can see the index for births right up to about two years ago, but you need to order the record from the Registrar General. One the birth records, you will find the maiden name of the mother, which will help you to build her family tree (again, check for her family on the census returns under her maiden name and you will come up with her siblings as well. You will also find the date and place of marriage for the parents of the new baby. This will give you the information you need to proceed with searching marriage records.
·        Marriage Records are accessible after 75 years. Again, the indexes are available up to a couple of years ago, but you need to send away for the actual document. On the marriage record, you will find the names for each partner’s parents, the occupation of each partner AND for at least each father. Mother may have an occupation listed if she continued to work after her children were born.
·        Death Records are accessible after 50 years. The death records will list the name of the deceased, including her maiden name in the event of a woman’s death, the name of the spouse, the place and cause of death. It will also give you some indication of the length of the illness that caused the death in the event that it was from anything other than old age.
·        ALWAYS pay attention to the names of the witnesses on the marriage records and to the names of the informants on a death record. You will find these are often family, close friends or neighbours. These people form part of your ancestors social circle. Knowing this information allows you a better understanding of the story and not just of the dates and place names.

There are a number of other places and repositories to check in your Scottish Research, but these will get you started.
Happy Searching!

© Christine Woodcock, Genealogy Tours of Scotland

Tuesday 19 April 2011

Lots Happening In UK Research

New at RootsIreland (

 Recently uploaded 32,000 baptism records for County Monaghan in Ulster, meaning that all of the Ulster counties now have some representation on the database Irish Ship Passenger Lists. The Centre for Migration Studies, Co. Tyrone, has provided over 227,000 names of Ship Passengers. The records are of passengers, mostly of Irish origin, on ships travelling from Irish and British ports to ports in North America (United States and Canada) from 1791 to 1897.

New Research Facility for Irish Research

PRONI opened a new research facility in Belfast on March 30, 2011. Similar to the Scotland’sPeople Centre in Edinburgh, the new PRONI Centre provides on-site research and assistance. Here’s just a peek at what is available in Belfast:
•New copying facilities including a self-service digital camera
•Interactive, touch-screens with visual and audio content
•Free WiFi
•Enlarged Search Room with internet access and laptop capability
•Reading Room with 80 desks

Merging of Services in Scotland

The NAS & GRO have merged in Edinburgh. From the NAS website: “From 1 April 2011, the National Archives of Scotland merged with the General Register Office for Scotland to become the National Records of Scotland (NRS). This website will remain active until it is replaced in due course by a new website for NRS”

And in Glasgow, the Genealogy Centre has moved into it’s new home on the third floor of the Mitchell Library. Like Scotland’s People Centre in Edinburgh, the new Genealogy Centre facility has 20 computer terminals where research can be done. What this means of course is that whether you live in the west or the east, there is a research centre where you can go and access the records as well as some assistance. It also means less time travelling when in Scotland to do on site research. I am looking forward to visiting both the Scotland’sPeople Centre in Edinburgh and the Mitchell Library in Glasgow, complete with the new Genealogy Centre, when I take a group of other researchers “home” to do research this fall.

Saturday 9 April 2011

The Tragic Death of William & Andrew Carrick

William Carrick, was born 18 July 1817 in Barony. He married Jean Fleming on 06 Sept 1851 in Airdrie.  Jean was the daughter of James Fleming and Jean Summerville. Jean was born 15 February 1820 in Cumbernauld, Dunbarton, Lanarkshire. Jean and William lived at #19 Lechlee Street, then moved to #26 Lechlee St. Jean and William had four children: Jane (1854), Andrew (1855), Rachel (22/8/1859) and Elizabeth (17/8/1962).

William and his son, Andrew, worked at Greenfield Colliery. This mine was located in Hamilton and was owned at that time by the Hamilton Coal Comapny.  Greenfield, the deepest pit in Lanarkshire, was a large colliery employing 929 men who worked below ground and another 144 men who worked above ground. The Manager at the time was a Mr James Hastie and the Undermanager was a Mr Williamson.  William and Andrew were tragically killed in the coal mine at Greenfield Colliery on October 15 1872 when the cable on their lift suddenly broke, sending the men plummeting 780 feet (130 fathoms) to their deaths.  There were a number of reports with regards to this accident since it was not the "run of the mill" roof fall. Unfortunately, roof falls were all too common and did not require a mine inspector to review the case. However, in the case of William and Andrew, the mine inspector, Ralph Moore, was summoned and his report was as follows:

"By the breakage of a round wire rope at Greenfield Colliery, Hamilton, three persons were killed.  The men were ascending the shaft about 4 o'clock in the afternoon, and when near the surface the rope broke, and the cage on which they were ascending fell 100 fathoms to the bottom of the pit.  They were all killed.  The rope had drawn coals all day, and was not overloaded; it had not been in use 12 months, and had only raised 5,000 tons of coal.  The pulley and drum were small (5 feet in diameter), but I could find nothing to account for the sudden fracture." From report by Ralph Moore, Inspector of Mines & Collieries in the Eastern District of Scotland for the year ended 31st December 1872

The accident was also reported in the newspapers. Two such reports were:

From The Scotsman 16 Oct 1872
"Hamilton - Three Miners Killed
At Greenfield Colliery, near Hamilton, yesterday afternoon, three miners, William and Andrew Carrick, father and son, and Thomas Docherty, were killed under painful circumstances. They had ceased work for the day, and were about the last of the workers to ascend No. 2 pit, when by some cause, at present unexplained, the pit-rope broke when the men were within six fathoms of the surface, and the cage and its occupants were dashed to the bottom, a distance of about one hundred and thirty fathoms. Death was instantaneous. The bodies were recovered two hours afterwards, fearfully mangled. Carrick, senior, has left a widow, and resided in Lechlee Streetday before the sad occurrence.  The accident has been reported to the authorities, who are making an official investigation."
. Docherty was unmarried, and had only commenced to work at Greenfield the

From the Glasgow Herald 16 October 1872]"
"15 October 1872
Melancholy accident at Greenfield Colliery three lives lost
About half past four o'clock yesterday afternoon a melancholy accident occurred at Greenfield Colliery, the property of the Hamilton Coal Company, whereby three miners have been killed. The names of the deceased are William and Andrew Carrick, father and son, residing at 26 Leechlee Street Hamilton, and Thomas Docherty, residing at Dixon's Rows Blantyre. They were employed on the day shift in the main coal seam of No 2 pit and had dropped work for the afternoon. They were among the last, if not the very last, of the men who entered the cage for the purpose of being conveyed to the pithead, and reached within half a dozen fathoms of the surface when, by some unaccountable cause, the pit rope broke, and the three miners were precipitated to the bottom of the shaft (the “cage”) in its descent dashing in pieces the wooden beams dividing the separate seams of coal between which they were working.

The pit is the deepest in the district; and as the fall was 130 fathoms, death must have been instantaneous. The bodies were brought up in about an hour and a half after the accident. Carrick, who was 50 years of age, has left a widow to mourn his loss. Docherty was unmarried, and had only arrived at Greenfield the day before the occurrence, and was, it is said, leaving the place yesterday. Mr Hastie, manager, and Mr Williamson, underground manager, were at the works when the accident occurred, and rendered every assistance in procuring the bodies. The sad event created great excitement throughout the town last night, and at the pits work was entirely dropped. The matter has been reported to the authorities, who are making an investigation as to the cause of the occurrence.

Certainly one can only begin to imagine the anguish that befell the Carrick family (and indeed their entire mining community) that day. Young Elizabeth was only 10 when her father and her brother were killed. After William and Andrew died, Jean moved between her daughters.

Wednesday 6 April 2011

April 6 is Tartan Day

April 6 is officially known as Tartan Day in Canada. April 6 was chosen as the date because it is the anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath, the Scottish declaration of independence.
A tartan represents a community, and is an enduring symbol of Scotland that is cherished by Canadians of Scottish ancestry. Many Canadian provinces and other countries already celebrate Tartan Day.
Further to that announcement by Heritage Canada, Canada announced that the Maple Leaf Tartan is now the Official Tartan of Canada. “In creating the Maple Leaf Tartan fabric, David Weiser captured the natural phenomena of the Maple leaves turning from summer into autumn. The green is the early colour of the foliage. Gold appears at the turn of autumn. Red shows up at the coming of the first frost. The two tones of brown find their way throughout the leaf creating a  prolific profusion of colour." Its International Tartan Index number is 2034.

Tartan Day originated in the late 1980s in Nova Scotia, where it was declared an official day by the provincial government. It then spread across the country, with many provinces joining in. This marks the first time the Day has been recognized by the federal government. "By officially recognizing this Day, we encourage Canadians all across the country to celebrate the contributions that over four million Canadians of Scottish heritage continue to make to the foundation of our country," said Senator John Wallace.  

So, Canadians of Scots descent, wear your tartan today and wear it proudly. Show your true colours. Show off your heritage.

Sunday 3 April 2011

Scottish Genealogy Resources

I had the great good fortune to attend a workshop on Scottish Genealogy at the University of Guelph on Friday. The event was hosted by the Scottish Studies Foundation and the workshop leader was Dr Bruce Durie from Starthclyde University in Glasgow. Dr Durie runs a post graduate program of studies in genealogy at the university. His workshop was brilliant and there was so much to learn.
First off, there are so many new and exciting things coming soon to Scotland's People. While we are all eagerly awaiting the release of the 1911 census this coming Tuesday at 11 am, many more resources have been digitised and will be made available on the Scotland's People website in the next 12 - 18 months. These include:  Valuation Rolls and Kirk Session records.

I also learned of a website belonging to Scotland's People called Scotlandsplaces. This is a free resource and includes old maps, gazetteers. The trick here is to search by PLACE, not by person.

Other great sites to assist in our quest to hunt down our Scottish Ancestors are: (National Library of Scotland)

Happy Hunting!!