Thursday 30 June 2016

Free Online Course from University of Strathclyde

The University of Strathclyde is running another free online course. This is a basic course in genealogy. The last course proved to be hugely popular. Here is the release from Strathclyde:

Genealogy: Researching Your Family Tree

This free online course offered by the University of Strathclyde and FutureLearn will help you develop an understanding of basic genealogy techniques and how to communicate your family history. Starts the 18th of July and runs for 6 weeks. The first course run attracted 26,000 students from around the world! Learn more and sign up at:

Tuesday 28 June 2016

Second Tour Added for 2017!

Second Tour Added for 2017!

Due to the overwhelming popularity of the genealogy research tours, a second tour has been added for 2017.

This year's participants had an amazing genealogy journey. Finding court records detailing the lives of their ancestors. Reading Kirk Session records admonishing the sinful living of their ancestors. Seeing maps with the names of their ancestors on the buildings, plans of the places they worked. Finding articles in the newspapers telling about achievements or accidental deaths. Reading the removal lists of the estates from which their ancestors were cleared. 

I can tell you first hand that your Scottish ancestors are waiting for you to find them in the Scottish records, but in order to do that, you NEED to step AWAY from the computer. In addition to the information you will find in the archives or libraries, being in the places where your ancestors lived, walking the same streets, worshiping in the churches they worshiped in, were baptized in or were married in, and visiting their graves will give you a sense of connection to them and to your ancestral homeland that will be deeper than you can ever imagine. You will feel more rooted, more Scottish, more whole.

Take the plunge. Travel to YOUR ancestral homeland. Find your ancestors. Discover your Scottish roots.


Findmypast celebrates 
Canada Day and
4thof July 
with free access to more than 1 billion records

·         From June 29th until July 6th 2016, over 1 billion UK, US and Irish records will be completely free to search and explore on Findmypast
·         This includes all 118 million “Travel and Migration” records, 116 million US marriages, and all UK, Irish and US censuses
·         Over 7 million new US Naturalisation records and over 1.7 million US Passport Applications have also  been released, marking the first phase of two brand new collections ideal for uncovering early immigrant ancestors

Salt Lake City, Utah, June 27th 2016
Leading family history website, Findmypast, has just announced that they will be granting 8 days of free access to over 1 billion records as part of a new campaign designed to help US family historians learn more about their family's path to red white and blue. This will include free access to their  entire collection of Travel and Migration records, all US, UK and Irish censuses and all US marriage records.
The campaign has been launched to coincide with this year’s 4th of July celebrations and will provide customers with exciting new opportunities to uncover the pioneering immigrant ancestors who started their family’s American story.
Researchers will be provided with daily getting started guides, expert insights and useful how to videos designed to help them trace their family’s roots back to their earliest American ancestors and beyond. A special webinar will be hosted by expert genealogist, Jen Baldwin, at 11:00 MDT, July 1st, in which she will be sharing essential tips and tricks for getting the most out of Naturalisation records.
The campaign also coincides with the release of two new record sets that will prove incredibly useful to those looking to explore their family’s pre-American roots. Over 2 million US Passport Applications & Indexes (1795-1925), and over 7 million US Naturalisation Petitions have just been released in the initial phases of two brand new collections that will allow family historians to learn more about the first members of their family to become US citizens.
Over 1.1 billion records  will be free to search and explore on Findmypast from June 29thuntil July 6th 2016. This will include free access to:

  • ·         Over 106,000 US passenger list records
  • ·         Over 116,000,000 US marriage records
  • ·         Over 690,000,000 US & Canada census records
  • ·         Over 265,000,000 UK & Irish census records
  • ·         Over 10 million new and existing Naturalisation records
  • ·         Over 1.7 million brand new US Passport applications
  • ·         Passenger Lists Leaving UK 1890-1960
  • ·         Over 827,000 convict transportation records
This vast collection of travel and migration records coupled with unique UK, Irish and US data, makes Findmypast the best place for tracing ancestors back across the Atlantic and uncovering their English, Welsh, Irish or Scottish roots. Findmypast is home to more than 78 million exclusive UK parish baptisms, banns, marriages and burials, the largest collection of Irish records available online (totalling more than 110 million), and over 100 million United States marriages including millions of records that can’t be found anywhere else online.

Sunday 19 June 2016

The Argyle Patent 1738-1740

The Provincial Governor of New York Colony offered 1000 acres of land to every adult Scot, and five hundred acres to every child Scot who paid passage to emigrate to the new world. Between 1738 & 1740, 472 Scottish Presbyterians from Argyll emigrated based on this promise. Upon their arrival, they realized that the promise had not been kept. Undaunted, they petitioned the government and managed to successfully secure 47,450 acres. This became known as the Argyle Patent. A map of the settlement, complete with names of the landowners can be found at:

Scottish Highlanders to Georgia

In 1735, instructions were sent to Lieutenant Hugh MacKay of Sutherland to procure men for settlement in the colony of Georgia. 

300 Highland Scots (150 men along with wives and children) were rounded up and shipped to Georgia. Here are the letters regarding the orders to have the men shipped out as well as the list of some of the men who were transported by Hugh MacKay:

For those whose Scottish ancestors first settled in Georgia, the ship's list for the Prince of Wales, which brought the first group of highland military men from Inverness, has been transcribed and is available online:…/1700…/princeofwales17341228.html

Sunday 12 June 2016

Do You Have Orcadian Ancestors?

Ahead of this spring's Genealogy Tour of Scotland, I spent a few days in Orkney. What an incredible place! Phenomenal history, right back to Neolithic times. Of course, being a series of islands, much of Orkney's history is associated with the sea: Navy, whaling, fishing, ferrying, mastering the harbours. And of course there is the darker side to the sea: shipwrecks, piracy and drownings. 

Luckily for those of you with ancestral roots in Orkney, there are some amazing records to assist you with your research. 

Perhaps the best gem was finding the records that are available in the Stromness Museum. The archival information is amazing. They have records for men who were recruited to work in the HBC's inland factory at York, lists of men who were pressed into service with Peter's Navy during the Napoleonic Wars, lists of ferries, dingys and lifeboats and their workers and fate, men who served and fell in service for both world wars, the records of the Stromness Hearse Company, donated private collections, Orkney Shipwrecks, Pentland Firth Crossings that ran into trouble. 

Not to be outdone, the Orkney Library & Archive in Kirkwall also has a fantastic collection of archival records. Here you can find shipping registers, valuation and voters rolls, school records, police registers, newspapers, magazines, and a raft of personal papers left on deposit. You can view the whole listing here:

Best of luck tracing your Orcadian ancestors!

And That's A Wrap!

The May 2017 Genealogy Tour to Scotland is officially SOLD OUT! 

If you would like to be placed on a waiting list for the May 2017 tour, or for any subsequent tours that may be added to the schedule (I will schedule a fall 2017 tour if there is enough interest), you can use the contact form on the website. 

In the meantime, I wish you great success in your quest to learn as much as you can about your Scottish ancestors and about your own Scottish heritage. 

Friday 10 June 2016

Going....Going....Almost GONE!

After another very successful Genealogy Tour of Scotland, the 2017 tour is filling up quickly. So quickly, in fact, that only 3 spaces remain! This will be your last chance to travel to your ancestral homeland to do genealogy research onsite in the archives in Scotland. You won't believe the information your ancestors have left for you to find!

Don't wait or you may lose out for 2017. Book now at:

Wednesday 8 June 2016

Another Very Successful Genealogy Tour to Scotland Comes to An End

After 10 very busy days the May 2016 Genealogy Research Tour to Scotland has come to an end. This has been an amazing journey with participants being able to access court records, school records, voters rolls, maps and plans, estate rent rolls, estate clearance lists and so very much more. 

Everyone has managed to find something of value and access dozens of statutory and old parish registers. Other have reams of documents to take back with them. Participants were able to visit their ancestral villages, towns and cities. They visited cemeteries and graves of their ancestors. All of them have a much deeper sense of connection to their Scottish ancestors and to their ancestral homeland.

Participants particularly enjoyed the evening historic tours of Greyfriars kirkyard and the Old Town. They were in awe at how much of Scotland's history took place on the very streets they were standing on. 

Our time together wound up last night with a dinner and show at historic Prestonfield stables. This is always such a great way to end the tours as participants get to indulge in their Scottish-ness, taste haggis, enjoy bagpipes, see Scottish dancers and sing along with some old favourites. 

I am looking forward to sharing the journey with September's tour participants. September is sold out. Glasgow 2017 is sold out and May 2017 is very close to selling out. If you are interested in joining a genealogy research tour to Scotland, you can claim one of the three remaining spaces by booking here:

Tuesday 7 June 2016

Rosslyn Chapel, South Queensferry and Lallybroch

On Monday, some tour participants continued with their research. others went sight seeing and a group of us joined Ian Walker of Borders Journeys to take a bespoke tour. 

Our first stop was historic Rosslyn Chapel. Ian gave the group a guided tour of the outside of the Chapel while an on-site guide gave a tour of the inside of the Chapel. 

From Rosslyn, we headed down to South Queensferry for lunch in the historic Hawes Inn. This was followed by a wee wander along the shore to see the bridges. 

From South Queensferry, Ian drove us to Hopetoun Estate, owned by the Marquis of Linlithgow, where we were able to get access to the private grounds where MidHope Castle stands. MidHope was used as the setting for Lallybroch in the tv series Outlander. Lallybroch was the family home of Jamie Fraser. 

After leaving MidHope, we took a wee jaunt to Abercorn Cemetery, also on the Hopetoun Estate. Here we had a lovely time wandering around the old cemetery. Of course, no one had any connection to the cemetery or anyone interred within, but that never matters to genealogists!

Greyfriar's Kirk

On Saturday morning, I had the opportunity to meet up with a couple of genealogy colleagues and take a wander around Greyfriar's Kirk. 

The Kirk plays an important role in the history of Edinburgh and in the history of Scotland. It was here, in 1638, that the National Covenant was signed. A copy of the covenant is on display on the inside of the Kirk's museum. The museum also has covenanting swords used by minister Robert Traill and James Graham, the Marquis of Montrose. The museum also has the New Testament that Robert Traill used to preach from and a bible belonging to Covenanter Alexander Peden. Other items of interest on display are communion tokens and a King James bible from 1637.

 1637 King James Version Bible

 Bible of Alexander Peden, Covenanter

 New Testament belonging to Robert Traill

Covenanting Swords

Within the Kirk proper are beautiful stained glass windows, a wonderful organ and a replica of the repentance stool that would have been used frequently in the time of our ancestors. 

replica of the repentance stool

Tantallon Castle and Bass Rock

The weekend of the Genealogy Tour allows for some down time for the tour participants. It also allows them the opportunity to travel to the area of Scotland where their ancestor(s) lived. 

Several participants went to their ancestral village, town or city over the weekend. Others continued to research at the National Library and a few went to a fantastic talk by Bruce Bishop on pre-1841 census research. 

I took a drive down toward Dunbar to see Tantallon Castle and the Bass Rock. The castle was built in the mid 1300s by William Douglas, First Earl of Douglas. In spite of a few sieges and damage in battles, the castle remained in the family of William's descendants (the RED Douglases) until 1699 when it was sold to the Lord North Berwick. The ruins are now in the trust of Historic Scotland. 

My primary reason for visiting the castle was to get a good view of the Bass Rock. The Rock is a volcanic rock about two miles off the coast of North Berwick. It is now a bird sanctuary but in it's day was a retreat for Baldred, a christian hermit. Later the castle built on the rock was used as a safe house for James I until he could safely be transported to France.

the remnants of the castle/prison wall can be seen below the lighthouse

In the mid 1600s, the remains of the castle were converted to a prison for the Covenanters who were arrested and imprisoned for preaching their religious beliefs. Their imprisonment was anywhere from a six month sentence up to a six year sentence. 

Many of the prisoners starved to death in the prison. There was no sanitation. They had no access to clean water and in the winter or stormy months, boats were unable to land in order to offload supplies of food. 

In 1691, four Jacobites imprisoned on the Rock managed to escape their cells and took possession of the prison. They held this siege against the government for a period of three years!

Monday 6 June 2016

A Week of Research Successes!

After my week in the north I arrived in Edinburgh, ready to meet this year's tour participants. The day of arrival was also a bank holiday, so I was able to meet with colleague Ian Walker of Borders Journeys for a blether and catch-up. Ian and I are continuing to collaborate on projects and there is always lots of excitement in the air when we meet and plan. Ian treated me to a glorious lunch at Contini's in the Scottish National Gallery

Then it was time for our meet and greet. Introductions were made, the research time was reviewed and questions were answered. 

On Tuesday morning, after a wonderful breakfast at the hotel, we piled into taxis and made our way to the ScotlandsPeople Centre where we were met by Iain Ferguson. Iain gave us a wonderful overview of both family history research and of the records we could find while at Register House. 

Lots of successes were realized today with everyone managing to access documents that furthered their research, and gave them ideas for looking at other record sets. At the end of the first day, tour participants were looking forward to finding out as much as they could about their Scottish ancestors.

On Wednesday, we were off to the National Library. Again, the group was given a 90 minute talk by Hazel which gave them a very clear sense of the records withing the NLS which could assist with their family history research. 

One participant was able to access the Rent Rolls and List of Those Cleared from the Sutherland Estate where her ancestors were from. Another participant was able to consult with the Court of the Lord Lyon regarding a heraldry query. Other participants were able to access directories, newspapers and manuscripts to further their research. One participant walked over to the Scottish Genealogy Society and spent a couple of hours over there gaining information about their ancestor. 

In the evening, the group walked over to Greyfriar's Cemetery where they enjoyed a very informative, very entertaining historic tour of the graveyard. The participants raved about Robert's storytelling ability, his knowledge of Edinburgh's history and his passion for his city and the people who shaped it. 

On Day three, we taxied over to the Causeway Side building of the NLS where we were able to access maps. Craig gave us an hour talk on the maps available as well as an overview on using the fantastic website for the NLS maps 

Participants had a terrific day being able to visualize the area where their ancestors came from. They were able to consult estate maps, town plans and one participant was able to not only see the map of Rhodesia where an ancestor went to work, but also the plans for the gold mine in which he worked!

In the evening, we were back to Greyfriar's Cemetery where the group embarked on a walking tour of the Old Town and learned about the history of the city as well as the history that shaped Scotland, with Edinburgh being not only the capital city but also the royal seat. 

On Friday, we were back to the ScotlandsPeople Centre where another full day of research was on the agenda. Participants had an incredibly successful week of research, had learned an amazing amount of information about the records that are available for Scottish research, and where to access those records. After our full, rich and exhausting week of research, it was time to make plans for the weekend. But first, we were treated to a bit of street entertainment outside the ScotlandsPeople Centre:

If traveling to Scotland to research your Scottish ancestors is something you would like to do, there are three spaces left for the 2017 Genealogy Tour to Scotland. You can register on the website: