Sunday 28 July 2013

Enjoy An Ancestral Holiday in Scotland

What better way to truly understand your ancestors than to visit their homeland?

If you are of Scottish descent, no trip to your ancestral homeland would be complete without a visit to the location where your ancestors actually lived. The beauty of Scotland is its compact size. Nothing is terribly far away, at least not for those of us from North America. This makes visiting your ancestor’s home area, and carrying out genealogy research, all possible in one vacation.  

From Glasgow, it is a 1 hour ride to Ayr, home of Robbie Burns, or just a 2 hour ride to Oban and then onward to any island in the West. Also from Glasgow it is a 3 1/2 hour ride to Inverness and the highlands. From Edinburgh, you can be in St Andrews or the Borders Region (Jedburgh, Peebles, Moffat) in just over an hour. In less than three you can be in Aberdeen, the Granite City 

While in the area of your ancestors, it is always a good idea to try to pop into the local family history society. The local societies will have local resources on hand (census reports, parish records, newspapers) and may also have school records, photographs of schools or school/church groups. They can give you a bit of the social history that you might be lacking especially in regards to where your ancestors worked or the specific village that they lived in. A list of the local genealogy societies can be found at: Click on the tab on the left side of the screen entitled “membership” for a full listing of the genealogy societies in Scotland.

If you are nervous about travelling on your own, why not join an organized tour? At Genealogy Tours of Scotland we offer 10 day research tours that include time at Scotland's People Centre, the Scottish Genealogy Society and the National Library.  Round the trip off with a night at The Scottish Experience Dinner Show.

We provide free time which will allow you to get to the area where your ancestor lived so that you can walk in his or her footsteps. We look forward to assisting you not just in making progress with your genealogy research, but also in gaining a better insight into your own Scottish heritage.

Book now for the May 2014 Tour:

Monday 22 July 2013

Couple Discount for Genealogy Research Trip to Scotland

Do you want to go to Scotland to do some family history research? Are you looking to travel to Scotland with a partner but finding that cost is getting in the way? Why not take advantage of our couples discounts:

For one genealogy researcher and one non-genealogy researcher: This is a BOGO offer (Buy One Get One). Pay full fees for the researcher and then receive a 50% discount for the non-researcher. This applies to two people sharing a room. The fees for the non-researcher include breakfast daily, the Ceilidh, and some transportation fees. No research fees, lecture fees or other fees will be covered.

For two genealogy researchers, save the registration fees for one person. This again applies to two people sharing a room. Once both people have paid their fees in full, you will receive a refund for the second registration fee ($450).

These are equal opportunity discounts. The second person can be a spouse, partner, sibling, cousin, family member, partner or friend but must be willing to share the hotel room with you.

Book your trip now at:

Come to Scotland. Do your research onsite. Search your roots and discover YOUR heritage.

Saturday 20 July 2013

500,000 Photographs of Barnardos Children Up For Grabs

One of the oldest, most significant photographic collections in the shaping of Canada is up for grabs - those of the children who came to Canada as Dr Barnados Little Immigrants.  

Barnardo began photographing the children that came into his care at his first home in Stepney in 1875. 

Over half a million photographs are being digitized in Manchester. Once the digitization process has been completed, the original images are to be destroyed, all in the name of freeing up storage space.  

Not only were the British Home Children dispensable as people, now their images are also apparently dispensable.  Barnardos is willing to hand the collection of originals over to an interested organization, archive or group of individuals. Ideally, in Canada, this would be to Library and Archives Canada, however, we already know the state that organization is in and it is highly unlikely that they will do anything to pursue these precious memories of some of our early nation builders. The importance of these photographs to the national memory and social history of Canadacannot be underestimated.

If you know of an organization that would be willing to protect and preserve these images, you are asked to contact the head archivist at:

Friday 19 July 2013

Window Tax Rolls Now Available

The latest release of  18th century tax rolls available to family history researchers is the infamous Window Tax which has been added to the ScotlandsPlaces website: 

The Window tax was levied against the wealthy and when the tax was first introduced in 1748, the exemption was that anyone with less than ten windows did not have to pay. This number was later reduced to seven windows.  

While some may have thought to block some of their windows in an effort to reduce the amount of tax owed, there were specific rules about such blocking, the primary one being that a window "only counted as blocked up if it was done in the same material as the walls and plastered on the inside." There was also a fine levied if the window was blocked for the assessment and then later unblocked for use.  

The levy was set at two pence per window if you had seven windows but two shillings if you had 25 or more. The window tax was finally abolished in 1851.

ScotlandsPlaces is a pay-per-view site and an initial three month subscription is £15 ($24). However, there is a wealth of information available through the various tax rolls:  

•Carriage Tax, 1785-1798
•Cart Tax, 1785-1798
•Clock and Watch Tax, 1797-1798
•Dog Tax, 1797-1798
•Farm Horse Tax, 1797-1798
•Female Servant Tax, 1785-1792
•Hearth Tax, 1691-1695
•Horse Tax, 1785-1798
•Land Tax, 1645-1831
•Male Servant Tax, 1777-1798
Shop Tax, 1785-1789
•Window Tax, 1748-1798

Happy Birthday Granny Crawford

Today would have been my granny's 105th birthday. She was a true legend. She mothered 20 children and countless other strays who couldn't resist spending time at the Crawfords. Granny loved her "bairns" and "grandbairns" and was lucky enough to have been a "greaty" (great granny) as well.


She played cards, sang songs, held the end of a jump rope. Granny loved being surrounded by her family. And tried to give them equal time and attention. There are the legendary stories of her "going to do her messages" and not returning for several days, having hopped a bus to Carlisle to see her daughter or catching a train to Warwick to spend a week with her son.
And she loved to come to Canada. First for three weeks, then for six., and eventually for three months and then for six. When she came, she stayed with my aunt. But after about three days, once the visitors settled down and my aunt and uncle returned to work, there would be a knock in my mum's door, and Granny would be, with her suitcase in tow. "I cannae stay there"

Some said she and my aunt didn't get along, but in reality, the house was too lonely for Gran. Mum was home. And on the days she wasn't my dad was around. He came home for lunch every day and although he stayed less than 30 minutes, it was company for Gran and gave her something to look forward to. She fussed all morning making sure Tam had a pot of fresh soup for his dinner.

He was no sooner back to work and the house cleaned up and we were home from school. To a lovely we pudding to tie us over till tea time.

I was so fortunate that even though my granny lived in a different country, many many miles away, she was a huge fixture in my growing up life. I miss her wee face, her humour, her laughter, her playfulness but most of all, I miss her stories. I would love to sit at her knee and listen to her repeat those stories just one more time.

Happy Birthday Auld Yin!

Monday 15 July 2013

Scottish Marriages

Traditionally, in Scotland, a man and woman over the age of sixteen could be married by declaring themselves husband and wife in front of witnesses. Laws in Englandwere much more strict following an Act of Parliament in 1745. This then resulted in many young couples fleeing north of the border to Scotlandin order to get married. Gretna Green was the first stagecoach changing post north of the Scottish Border on the main route between Londonand Edinburgh. This then became a very popular spot to marry. The marriage ceremonies were carried out over the Smithy’s anvil with the "Blacksmith Priest" officiating. In fact, this was a marriage of declaration and not a civil marriage, but legal nonetheless.  

Another Act of Parliament in 1857 (100 years later) imposed residential qualifications for those who married. They needed, by the new law, to live 21 days in the area before they could marry. This, too, became popular and couples would happily take up residence in Gretna or another Scottish Border town for the necessary 3 weeks and then would be married, as planned, at Gretna Green by the "Blacksmith Priest". In 1940, Parliament outlawed the "Blacksmiths Priests" and their anvil marriages. Marriages could only be conducted by a member of the clergy or a civil registrar. Today, there are no residency requirements and no parental consent is required in Scotlandfor people over the age of 16 who wish to marry. All that is required is for the couple to serve notice to the Registrar. Many continue to marry at Gretna Green even today. They are not running away so much as enjoying the rich history of Gretna Greenas a place to marry. Gretna Green marriages “over the anvil” are as popular today as castle weddings. Scotlandattracts visitors from all over the world as a place to be married. 

If you can’t find your ancestor anywhere in the marriage registers or parish registers for the “calling of the banns” they may have had an “irregular” marriage. Naturally, the church disliked irregular marriages for a variety of reasons (morality and finances being the major two). Often, the church would “catch up” with the couple, who would then be summoned before the Kirk session to take their penance, pay their fine, marry legally and be on their merry way. Kirk session records have been digitized but at the moment they are only available at Scotland's People Centre in Edinburgh.

Here is an interesting website for Stray Marriages:

Scroll down. The stray marriages are about half way down on the page. The records are in PDF format, showing surname, first name, birth date, birth place, parents, spouse, marriage place/county, marriage date and source number. Wonderful information! 

You will also find that a lot of marriages took place on December 31 or January 1. This was not for tax-break purposes, but rather because for 400 years, the Church of Scotland forbid the celebration of Christmas. Instead, “Hogmanay” or New Year’s Eve was the holiday to be celebrated and New Year’s Day was a holiday from work. Knowing this, couples often planned their weddings accordingly so that family could attend without worry of having to work. 




Illegitimate Births

In Scottish Law, it was the mother's responsibility to declare the child illegitimate. She could not name the father of the baby unless he accompanied her to the Registrar in person and stated that the child was his. If he was not present and no father was listed, the birth record will clearly state "Illegitimate"  

Under Scottish Law, unlike English Law, a birth became legitimate if the parents subsequently married one another. In this instance, you should find a Record of Corrected Entry (RCE) or a re-registration for the birth. The exception here is if the baby was born as a result of an adulterous relationship. The birth would not then be legitimized even if the parents subsequently married.  

Up until the late 1800s illegitimacy was often a matter of course. It was not until the late 1800s, early 1900s that illegitimacy was seen as a social stigma.

Saturday 13 July 2013

You Can't Do All of Your Research Online

You will get to a point in your Scottish research where you can no longer get the information you seek online. You will either be looking for records that are too new to be published online, or that are too old to be readily found online. That is when it becomes necessary to either travel to Scotland or to hire a genealogist in Scotland to do the work for you. 

At the Scotland’s People Centre, you can view documents right up to the present day. These can not be copied or downloaded, but you can transcribe to your hearts content.

At the National Library, you can access national and regional newspapers, old maps, historical clubs and society records, emigration lists, trades directories, post office directories and a great deal more.
 At the Scottish Genealogy Society, you can view burial records, monumental inscriptions, some trades directories, voters rolls and more.

At the National Archives, you can access Kirk Session records, Court records, Fatal Accident Reports, Tax records and a host of other information to assist you in really knowing who your ancestors were.

Since this is likely to be a once in a lifetime trip, do yourself a favour and know what it is you hope to accomplish and where you can accomplish it. The worst thing you can do is just show up in Scotland and hope for the best. Traveling to the home of your ancestors takes planning. It is not enough to show up in the village, head to the local pub and start asking questions. You need to do some research ahead of time. Learn about what repositories are available, what archival materials they hold, who can access them and what is required to access them (do you need a “readers ticket” or special card? Do you need photo i.d? Do you need to provide passport photos so an i.d. card can be created for you?). Learn the hours that the repositories are open, whether an appointment or booking time is required and whether there are fees involved. 

Many archival institutions have their holdings off-site and so it is important that you know this and order ahead so that your time can be well spent and disappointment kept to a minimum. Read up on whether you are allowed to photograph the images, scan the images, download or copy the images. Take your laptop or tablet as well as a USB stick. 

A trip to your ancestral homeland is both awe-inspiring and humbling. It provides you with such a deep seated feeling of reverence knowing you stand in the same place where your ancestors walked. The sights, some of the landmarks and the sounds may have changed, but the deep emotion of knowing your great-great anything once stood in the same spot you are now standing in, or worshipped in the same church you are visiting, is incomparable. It helps you put the dates, names and places into perspective. It breathes life into the documents.


Friday 12 July 2013

It's Not Too Soon to Book Up for the 2014 Tour

2014 has been designated as the Year of the Homecoming by the Scottish Government. The last homecoming, in 2009, was a rousing success for the Diaspora and clans from all over the world, but ran a major deficit financially for the hosting country, and particularly for the host city. As a result, there has been reluctance by City councils to take on hosting the event. However, June 2014 is also the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn. Clans from all over the world, but primarily Canada, the US and Australia have determined that they will have gatherings of their own during the year of the Homecoming. These events will not be a mass gathering as has taken place in the past, but rather clans will gather on their own at various venues throughout the country and throughout the year. This means that tourism will be busy all year. Many clans have had their facilities and events booked since 2012. That said, hotel availability will be at a premium. As well, there is a large push by the Scottish Government to promote Ancestral Tourism during these events since the Diaspora will be returning to their ancestral homeland. This means that the archives will also be busier than usual. Genealogy Tours of Scotland is already booked for the 2014 Genealogy Research Trip, including hotel space. It will be difficult to secure further rooms at a later date, so all spaces in the 2014 tour will be on a first come, first serve basis and will only be considered confirmed once full fees have been received. Spots can be reserved on a temporary basis (pending full payment) by paying your deposit today at:


Wednesday 10 July 2013

Moidart Ancestry?

If your ancestors hail from Moidart, the website of the Moidart Local History Group may be of interest to you. It is packed full of tidbits of information, including newspaper articles.

Monday 8 July 2013

yDNA Results Are In

The yDNA results for my maternal line are in. I had never really been all that interested given I know I am Scottish. And, truthfully, I was always a wee bit fearful that our DNA would come back as being the recipe for single malt scotch! However, after learning a bit more about genetic DNA, I decided maybe it was worth looking into. I started with the male yDNA tests. This follows the male DNA back through men of the same surname. So, Harry’s sons will share some of Harry’s DNA. Harry will have shared some of Hugh’s DNA. Hugh would have shared some of Thomas’ DNA etc. back as far as likely Adam and Eve if we had Adam’s DNA. This doesn’t work for Harry’s daughters who have sons as they will trace their father’s side of the yDNA patterns.

Part of my interest is in migration patterns. Where did we come from to arrive in Scotland? Given Scotland’s history, one would expect, perhaps, to see Roman, Norse or even French origins. But in our case, that isn’t so. Our ancestral origins can be traced, through DNA, to the Baltics. And in particular to Kosovo. It is quite likely, however, that the early Crawfords (who obviously weren’t known as Crawford) migrated through Italy and that we would be part of the Roman heritage of Scotland. More research to be done to gain a fuller understanding, but certainly the ancestral geography wasn’t what I had anticipated!