Friday 29 March 2013

New Digitized Collections On NLS Website

The National Library of Scotland has added two new digitized collections to their website database. The first is a collection of medical documents from the British Raj. The 'Medicine - Vaccination' shows British efforts to vaccinate the Indian population against smallpox. 

The second collection is a selection of British Army, Navy and Air Force lists. These lists give details of officers who served during the First and Second World Wars. 


Sunday 24 March 2013

Were Your Ancestors Scottish Travellers?

The latest rage on those "unscripted tv" (aka reality tv) channels is following the lives and customs of "gypsies" More specifically, Romany Travellers.  

Travellers (Tinkers) have been around in Scotlandfor over 500 years. The Travellers were spread throughout lowland Scotland. A separate but similar group are the Highland Travellers. Knowing their family history and maintaining the oral stories is a large part of the Traveller culture. The lives of the Travellers has not always been easy, particularly in the 16th - 18th centuries when the Travellers were often imprisoned or hanged just for their beliefs and cultures.  

For those whose ancestors may have been Travellers, but who they themselves no longer are, here are some websites that might be of interest for finding out more about their ancestors:

Romany and Travellers FHS: 


Are You Looking for Covenanter Ancestors?

Covenanters are a unique and important group in Scottish History. The Covenanters were a group that, in the simplest of terms, signed a "Covenant" (Oath) 1683 (the National Covenant) in Greyfriars Kirkyard in Edinburgh with God that He would remain as the head of the Church of Scotland (Presbyterian), and not the reigning King.

As a result of this belief, the Covenanters were subject to persecution and often imprisonment. In fact there is a Covenanters Prison in the Greyfriars Kirkyard. Here, the Covenanters were held until they were transported to the West Indies or other ports.

Finding information specific to your Covenanter ancestor may not be an easy find. Here are some websites and databases that may assist you in your research:


Getting Closer

Six weeks today and I will be in Glasgow, just ahead of the Genealogy Research Trip in Edinburgh. With the time is getting closer, I decided to make sure my list of what I hope to accomplish is in order. Interestingly, this year's list reads very similar to last year's list! Although I managed a great deal of research last May and was able to fill in a lot of details and to gain a better understanding of the lives of my father's line, I apparently didn't give my "list" much of a glance! Perhaps this year I will do better....

So, once again, I hope to make a visit to Bent Cemetery in Hamilton to see the burial site of my 3X great grandfather and his son. They were killed together in a mining accident.

I want to read through the Kirk Session records to find out more about my gt grandmother and hopefully to ascertain what happened to her first husband.

I also want to get into the Nursing Archives in Edinburgh and the Edinburgh University Library.

I am looking forward to the SAFHS conference in Galashiels and perhaps spending time in the Borders region. 

And of course, I look forward to meeting the rest of the group and to sharing in their research excitement. 

Stay tuned to this blog for daily updates while we are in Scotland.  

Friday 15 March 2013

Thursday 7 March 2013

Upcoming Talks

March is a busy month with a number of talks on Scottish Genealogy still to come. Here's the listing for this month:
Researching in Scotland
Monday March 11
7:00 pm
Oxford Branch OGS

This presentation will focus on the annual trips to Scotland led by Genealogy Tours of Scotland. Come and learn about how we spend our time in Edinburgh, what archives we visit and what records we are able to access that we can't access online.  

Researching in Scotland
Wednesday March 20
6:00 pm
Hamilton Branch WISE Meeting 

This presentation will focus on the annual trips to Scotland led by Genealogy Tours of Scotland. Come and learn about how we spend our time in Edinburgh, what archives we visit and what records we are able to access that we can't access online.  

Scottish Genealogy Research:
Search Your Roots; Discover Your Heritage
Saturday March 23
1:00 pm
Cambridge Libraries and Galleries

Do you have Scottish ancestry but don’t know where to begin your genealogy research? Join us to learn where to start, what to consider and where to look what online to help you find your Scottish Ancestors

To book a talk, workshop or seminar contact me at:


Sunday 3 March 2013

Ask Not What Your Genealogy Society Can Do For You, Ask What You Can Do For Your Genealogy Society

I love my local genealogy society. I have no history in this area, no ancestors. My husband's parents were first generation here, and that's not that terribly long ago in genealogical terms. But I decided to see what the local society was all about. That was 6 years ago. Shortly after I joined, I noticed that the Society was in need of a newsletter editor. Hmm. Something I could not only do, but do from home. In my career, I was a regular committee-sitter (note that my personal belief that a camel is a horse put together by a committee), so I was clear when I met with the Society that while I was happy to edit their newsletter, I was not interested in being on any committees.

I still don't sit on committees. But I do attend the Executive meetings, the regular meetings when time allows, and am always in awe whenever I drop by the library. It is a beehive of activity. People working on projects: copying, cutting, pasting, entering info into a database, looking up information to satisfy a query or assisting a visitor with finding their ancestor in our vast collection. 

For the Societies I belong to that are too far for me to assist on a regular basis, I don't have the same sense of affiliation, but the awe and admiration are certainly there. And I try to help if and when I can. Sometimes it is the offer to speak, or to submit an article for their newsletter. I know in my heart I am not helping them to the same capacity, but I also know that like any donation, even small amounts of time and assistance add up.  

The genealogy community is an amazing place. It is open, friendly, helpful and caring. There is such an amazing sense of connection to people we barely know by sight, but are strongly associated with through social media, e-mails, sharing research. So why are we so reluctant to help our local societies? This one has always baffled me.  

Most of us who belong to a church community are only too happy to give of our time and talents. If we belong to a club or association, we offer to help in instrumental ways like baking for sales or dinners, selling tickets, setting up for meetings. Parents sit on committees, run phone chains, fundraise. Why is it that genealogists don't help their Genealogy Societies in the same way? 

My hope is the reason for not helping is because we don't feel we are "good enough" at genealogy. Ok, so speaking to a group ties us in knots and causes severe belly cramps. Probably not a good idea to volunteer as a speaker. But ANYone can copy newspaper pages, cut and paste obituaries, birth announcements, marriage announcements or other items of local or family history interest. ANYone can attend a meeting and perhaps leave a little smarter and more energized afterward. ANYone can buy a ticket to a raffle, a social event or some other fundraiser.  

I hear so many people say, "well, they are a clique", "they are all so set in their ways", "its an old lady society" But let's put on our genealogy hats and analyze those thoughts for a minute:  

"Its an old ladies club" Ok, so lots of us have grey hair. Trust me, we have earned it. We have raised kids and survived the constant worry of the teenage years. We have nursed sick husbands, and survived the overwhelming emptiness after we lose them. We have endured careers and are happy to be away from the daily grind, politics and, yes, grey hairs that came with those careers. Believe me when I say we weren't all grey when we started our interest in family history. In fact, most of us weren't grey when we started volunteering either. Don't let our life experience intimidate you or turn you away. We can't help that anymore than we can help our wrinkles, our belly bulge or our arthritic joints.  

"They are all so set in their ways" Maybe. But that doesn't mean we aren't open to new ideas. After all, as a Society, we have been around for years. We have gone from paper research, to microfiche/microfilm to computers and the digitized world. We have managed to change with the times and still stay afloat. What we are opposed to is a new person coming in and trying to take over.

Don't get me wrong. It's not that we don't want to pass the torch - someday. After all, genealogists are all about handing the past over to the future. But we also want to make sure that all of our years of sweat, toil, and papercuts are not going to be for nought. Like any healthy relationship, it comes down to trust. We want to work with you. Get to know you. Discover that our past will be safe in your hands in the future.  

"Well, they are a clique" This is a common one. Please don't confuse our friendship, developed over years of sharing time, stories and memories together with us being a clique.  

The definition of a clique is pretty similar to a friendship circle, with one huge difference. A clique excludes others. Like a private club. Genealogy Societies don't. We are all about membership. Our doors and our resources are open to others. Sure we support each other. We have become friends, after all. We have learned how we work as a group or as individuals. But that doesn't mean we won't do the same for you.

Come. Spend time. Offer to help. Share your research stories and brick walls with us. I guarantee you will be rewarded for your efforts. Heck, you might just want to sit on a committee or take on an executive position so that one of us can step aside, pass the torch, and feel tremendous pride knowing our Society is going to be safe and secure in the future, thanks to your help.




Ancestor Autograph Book

A couple of years ago, I wrote away to the local church in the village where my father was born and raised. I was looking for a copy of his baptismal record. As genealogical serendipity would have it, the clerk was an old flame of my dad’s from his pre–marriage days. She was delighted to have received the letter stating that it brought back many happy memories of years gone by. She spoke fondly of my dad and times spent at his family’s home. She enclosed a couple of photographs along with the copy of the baptismal record. One I had not seen before. I turned the photo over and immediately recognized my dad’s handwriting. My dad passed away at a very young age in 1987. Seeing his handwriting so unexpectedly created a flood of warm emotion.  

Since that time, I have made a special effort to really look at the signatures of my ancestors when  they have signed official documents such as marriage registers or attestation papers or when they have signed as a witness or informant on birth, marriage or death registers.  

I have long been an advocate of preserving family history in a format that will make it available for future generations. To that end, I have created Family Books for each of my lines as well as for my husbands lines so that our children and grandchildren will know their history.

I create personalized heritage calendars, scrapbooks, family newsletters and other family “ephemera” that I hope one day will be passed down as family treasures. I recently thought it might be fun to put together an autograph collection of my ancestor’s signatures. Of course, this is a much smaller collection than any of the other formats provide, but it is a piece of our family history and one that will hopefully create enough interest in future generations to make them want to hold onto the emotion they feel when they see the handwriting of their ancestors. Perhaps this will be the one thing that will spark a descendant to want to carry on the torch as family historian and preservationist.


Saturday 2 March 2013

Historical Criminal Records Available at FindMyPast

FindMyPast has added historical criminal records from 1817-1931 via The National Archives. These records include the criminal and prison details as well some include a physical description and the occasional photo may be an added bonus to the researcher. 

Unlimited searches are available to subscribers and subscribers with a world subscription. You can also search on a pay-per-view basis through the purchase of credits. Each search is 10 credits.

Database of British Slave Owners

University College, Londonhas compiled a database of British Slave Owners - people who sought financial compensation from the Crown in 1883, after the Crown outlawed slavery in the Colonies. There were about 46,000 claims made. Nearly 43,000 were from slave owners living on plantations in the Caribbean. The rest of the claims were from owners living in the UK.  The link to the database is: 

For those with Caribbean ancestry, whether with a UKconnection or not, can find additional resources at: