Friday 24 March 2023

 We are meeting online after the SAFHS Conference on 22 April 2023 - check here for details.

Wednesday 15 February 2023

 Details of our informal meet-up on 4 March 2023 are on the Meetings page  NB venue changed (28 Feb)

Wednesday 1 February 2023

 Great news! We're re-starting in person meetings on 11 February 2023! Details are here

Friday 10 April 2020

Visit to the Archives of Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire

Aberdeen Town House
Genealogists often find themselves in unusual places but our visit to Aberdeen on 10th March 2020 (before social distancing) found us in the clock tower of one of the most iconic buildings in Scotland – Aberdeen Town House on Union Street! The tower houses the compact but fascinating Charter Room, built in the 1870s as one of the first archival repositories in the country.

The entrance to the Charter Room
The room is square, built over two floors and houses a number of archives related to Aberdeen City. 
 We discovered that ‘Old Aberdeen’ was a completely different city and therefore administrative body from ‘Aberdeen’ until 1891 which is useful to know as the records are kept separately. Since 1996 Aberdeen City Archives has also kept the historic documents of Aberdeenshire which include the former counties of Aberdeen, Kincardine and Banff as well as Grampian Region. A list of records held can be searched here.

Our thanks to Archivist Martin Hall for presenting a range of fascinating records including the oldest document in the Aberdeen archives – a confession from the 1597 Witch Trials made by Andrew Mann admitting to a 30 year affair with the Queen of the Elves and stating he was able to summon a sex demon called ‘Christ Sunday’. The confession includes the words used to summon the said demon and the question is – if the court truly believed this confession then these words would never have been written down for fear they would work! Despite this poor Andrew Mann would have been strangled and burned.

An unusual collection was the 1855 ‘Return on Prostitution’ which recorded the names of both women and men who plied the trade in Aberdeen. Over 400 names with ages were included and the census was repeated regularly as a safeguarding mechanism. The book also contained the names of Licensed Houses used and the names of known brothels - interestingly many of these properties were owned by the University! For privacy purposes all these census records have been destroyed and only the 1855 one remains.

A 1798 Militia Muster Book was very useful for recording the names, occupations, farms and parishes of men enlisting – you could however pay £10 not be enlisted, another person could volunteer to serve in your place or you could send a servant! There are 3 books in this series covering mainly rural areas.

If your ancestor was a policeman then the Long Roll Books of the Aberdeen Constabulary were a mine of genealogical information recording the entire career of an officer on one page including punishments for not towing the line!

Poor Relief Record
The Municipal Electoral Registers for Aberdeen City run from 1870 to the early 1900s and contain names, addresses, qualifications and occupations which are of interest to genealogists.

Poor relief records for the Chapel of Garioch parish revealed that a woman had had her allowance reduced as a result of giving birth to an illegitimate child – unfortunately a common occurrence! (Jane’s picture)

We also saw the very detailed Ashley Road School Admissions records which listed the name, year of admission, exact date of birth and the name and address of the parent or guardian - always a bonus for genealogists! The ‘gold dust’ column revealed the leaving date and where each pupil had gone – examples included South Africa, Canada, the Americas, London and Yorkshire as well as other schools or types of institution. On a more amusing note some children are recorded as having left the school to go to ‘Mars’ - which
was actually the name of a ship used as an industrial school at that time and not ‘another planet’!

The archives website has an interactive map – when you click on any Aberdeenshire parish it will show you what educational records are held. Pictures of records published with kind permission from Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire Archives

SGN Members outside Trinity Hall

The Seven Incorporated Trades of Aberdeen

Trinity Hall’s Stained glass windows

After a long lunch with lots of ‘congenial’ banter we were ready for our afternoon visit. The Seven Incorporated Trades of Aberdeen is housed in a 20th Century building which reveals a more historic interior comprising several meeting rooms with collections of antique chairs from the 17th and 18th centuries, including the oldest mahogany chair in Europe made in 1661! There is a grand hall with imposing stained glass windows each representing one of the seven trades of Aberdeen which are Hammermen, Bakers, Wrights, Tailors, Shoemakers, Weavers and Fleshers.

Looking at the Burgess of Trade Records 
Craft Guilds are recorded as far back as the 12th Century but it wasn’t until 1527 that these seven trades decided to come together to protect their interests under an elected Deacon Convener. David Parkinson, one of the former Deacon Conveners and a ‘Tailor’, gave us a tour of the building and a fascinating history of the Trades.

The Tailors for instance are represented by a stained glass window depicting St Paul who was a tent maker. Tailors used to set up tents outside their client’s residences and sew the required garments there.

Essay -  Intricate wood carving
In order to be accepted as a member, each craftsman was, and still is, required to produce an ‘essay piece’ as decided by the organisation – this could for instance be a wood carving or a piece of silverware and if a baker, a variety of different breads and cakes. If your essay piece is considered to be ‘sufficient’ you will be granted membership!

Named photographs of previous members of the organisation through the decades are displayed in the corridors so if any of your ancestors plied one of these seven trades then it is very likely that you would find them here. Of most interest to genealogists however is a room full of secure safes which hold the records – books of names, trades, addresses and other information going back to the 16th century. Until 1881 there was also a Trades School with educational records available. The organisation also ran a Master of Trades hospital for old and infirm craftsmen and the Trinity Cemetery belonged to the Bakers who made money by selling the plots!

Essays -  Shoe Art & Miniature Weaving Loom
A catalogue of records held by the Seven Incorporated Trades is being developed and will eventually be held by the National Archives.

More about the organisation can be found on their website: which is a mine of information on the organisation past and present. There is also an excellent official history, published in 1887, available at comprising 26 chapters in three parts, and seven appendices, of which Appendix V is a list of those who made donations and bequests (1633–1823). The chapters include various lists of names which may be of use to genealogists. [With thanks to Ivor Normand and the Aberdeen and North-East Scotland Family History Society (ANESFHS)]. Click here for report on SGN visit to ANESFHS in 2013.

Pictures published with kind permission of The Seven Incorporated Trades of Aberdeen
Many thanks to our fellow genealogist Lorraine Stewart for organising this visit to these two wonderful facilities on behalf of the SGN!

By Valerie Stewart

Saturday 11 May 2019

On the Right Side CPD Day

The Scottish Genealogy Network's CPD day took place in Edinburgh at the Quaker Meeting House on 27 March 2019.

Quaker Meeting House (Courtesy of Kate Keter)

Here is a short blog post with information on the day written by new member Susan Paterson:

Tim Musson from Computer Law Training Ltd attended and instructed us on a session regarding General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) & Genealogy. He provided a hard copy of the slides alongside.  GDPR applies to anything you do with Data including storage relating to an identified or identifiable natural person. Natural being ‘living’.

Some key points; precise information is still very unclear and where it’s not clear how to interpret the regulation, make a documented decision using a 360° view. As long as a reasonable effort is made its unlikely to find yourself in trouble.  Tim strongly recommended downloading an app and uses ‘DLA Piper’ and ‘Fieldfisher’(both legal firms) himself where all articles the law is divided into can be accessed.  In order to process personal data, you must have one of;  a legal basis where consent is given, necessary of the performance of a contract or compliance with a legal obligation and necessary to protect the vital interest of the data subject. There are others which can be read in full on the app in articles 6 and 7.

If working with live people on your research, you should register with ICO as £40 annually. Possibility of being fined if you do not.

Gmail is not considered GDPR compliant and free email services are generally not secure - use other means to secure information being sent too such as encryption. 

Recommend to do (and record) data audit and review any contracts.

Privacy policy on your website must have a reference to GDPR/data protection and keep a folder with documents showing compliance.  Training can be found at:

Tim’s’ general advice on managing live persons - do not pass information of living persons to a client, you may pass the client's data to the person, using legitimate interest as the legal basis for processing the person's data as it is clearly a legitimate interest of yours to make this contact as it is part of your job.  As it is you contacting, and not the client, any risk to the rights and freedoms of the person is minimal, so legitimate interest wins. Must be noted in the contract.

In the afternoon we discussed several ethical issues such as the use of images from Ancestry etc; re-using research with a later client, DNA testing and membership of professional groups. Heritage tourism also came up as two group members were attending a meeting at parliament in the evening.

Thursday 13 December 2018

Kilmarnock visit

On 14 November 2018 we headed to Kilmarnock to find out more about genealogical resources available there. Our thanks go to Helen, Linda, Heather, Clare, and Joy at the Burns Monument Centre, and Bruce at the Dick Institute, for providing us with such an interesting and informative day.


Our visit started at the Burns Monument Centre in Kay Park which opened about ten years ago and, in addition to providing Registration Services and a Ceremony Room, houses a Family History Research Area, Local History Area, and East Ayrshire Archives.


Helen Watt and Linda Miller introduced us to this area which contained a number of computers with access to the Scotland’s People Records. The area is open Monday to Friday with a charge of £15 for a day ticket, however bookings are required, and it can be closed at short notice if too few people are booked in or not enough staff available to man it.

Workshops are held on Wednesdays (mornings and afternoons) when staff are available to assist with research at a charge of £10 for two hours.

Family Tree Packages are available for those who do not wish to do their own research. Staff will carry out the research and produce charts and / or booklets containing copies of all the relevant records. Bronze, Silver and Gold Packages are available depending on the extent of family history requested. In addition searches can be made of the local history resources and included if wished (e.g.: relevant newspaper articles), and Gold Package booklets can also include the client’s own family photos.


Heather Dunlop gave us a tour of the local history area and then allowed us to browse the resources there. The area is open daily and there is no need to make an appointment. Items held in this area are mainly published items where more than one copy exists as opposed to the Archives who hold the records where no other copies exist. Some of the items are listed in the online East Ayrshire Library Catalogue, but others are not.

Resources available included:
·         Microfilm:
o   Local Newspapers from 1842 onwards (no newspapers have been digitised)
o   Poor Relief Registers for all Ayrshire – some have indexes. An index to Ayrshire Poor Relief Records can be found on the Ayrshire Roots website www.ayrshireroots
o   Old Parish Registers & Census Records

·         Maps including an old map of Kilmarnock dated 1819 with names of the residents

Well-used pre 1855 MIs (photo Michelle Leonard)

  • Valuation Rolls for Kyle, Carrick & Cunningham
  • Statistical Accounts for the whole of Scotland
  • Trade Directories from 1833 
  •   Local History Books for Ayrshire & Scotland – Parish histories, Pictorial histories of towns
  • Books about occupations in the area – Mining, Poetry, Glasgow & South Scotland Railway
·         Box Files (Information and articles filed under topics with content indexes in each box).
  •  Box file titles include Place Names, Family Names, Military, Industry, Mining etc. For my own family history I was particularly interested in the Box titled: “Guthries of Ochiltree”, and an article on the Irvine Valley Lace Industry in “Industry Box 2”.
·         Family History Section including:
  •  Monumental Inscriptions (Burial records are held by the Bereavement Services)
  •   Information about specific families & family trees which had been gathered from research done  (this is not included in the online catalogue)
  • Information about public war memorials
  • Lists of WW 1 Dead – with details of where they enlisted which is not found in other records


Clare (Assistant Archivist) and Joy (Graduate Trainee) showed us round their purpose built storage area which is shared with local history & registration services, and described the types of records they held, then allowed us time to have a look at some items they had put out on display especially for us.
Introduction to the Archives (photo Michelle Leonard)

Ayrshire Archives was founded in 1996 by Ayrshire Council with the aim of preserving and providing access to local authority records. The earliest record held is Ayr Burgh Charter dated 1205. Their main store and headquarters is at Auchincruive, a few miles east of Ayr which is also the access point for South Ayrshire Archives and is open to the public on Tuesdays (by appointment). East Ayrshire Archives is open on Wednesdays at the Burn’s Monument Centre, and Irvine Townhouse is due to open soon (one day a week) housing records from North Ayrshire. In each case viewing of records is by appointment only as the items requested may have to be brought from Auchencruive. 

Records held include
·         NRS Records – Records belonging to the National Records of Scotland but stored in Ayrshire for ease of access by local researchers. Access and copyright guidelines are set by the NRS. These records include:
o   Church Records (e.g.: Papal Bull dated 1322-1323)
o   Customs & Excise Records (e.g.: Fishing / Shipping Registers for Ayrshire)
o   Justice of Peace Records
·         Maps
·         Local authority records for East Ayrshire, and also some records for Strathclyde Region:
o   Council Minutes
o   School Records
o   Electoral Registers, Valuation Rolls
o   Poor House Records
o   Ayrshire & Arran Health Board Records
·         Private Deposits:
o   Societies and Clubs
o   Estate Records
o   Business Records
o   Family Records

Records on display
A number of items were put out on display for us including:
·         Council Minutes
·         Plans for the Burns Monument Centre (example of a modern record)
·         Kilmarnock Academy Register - showing admission and leaving dates and where pupils went when they left school
·         Diaries, with notes & drawings belonging to Margaret & Effie Kennedy, daughters of Thomas Kennedy of Glenfield & Kennedy
·         Kirk Session Minutes showing an interesting case brought before the Kirk Session over several meetings

Online Catalogue
There is no one online catalogue but separate catalogues for each collection, details of which can be found on the website.
·         Kilmarnock Burgh Catalogue has recently come online.
·         Kilmarnock Academy Catalogue 1896-2008 is currently being compiled, and will go online at the beginning of next year. This collection includes lots of school records, some with photos.

Recent Records
Most items have 100 year closure but if records are provided to show that person is deceased it may be possible to see some items, and someone wanting to see their own records may do so if they provide proof of identity.

Further information about Ayrshire Archives and their online catalogues can be found at:


After lunch we made our way to the Dick Institute where Bruce Morgan showed us round the Museum and shared with us the history of the building and some of its exhibits.

The finance to create the Dick Institute came from James Dick who was born into a poor family in Kilmarnock in 1823 but became a businessman of worldwide importance and, although living in Australia, wanted to give something back to the town of his birth. The museum was opened in 1901 and features the largest museum and exhibition space in Ayrshire.

The ground floor houses Ayrshire Central Library and a café, while the upper floor holds displays of some of the collections cared for by East Ayrshire Council.

(Photo Michelle Leonard)
Since our visit coincided with the 100th anniversary of the WW1 Armistice we were met with drapes of knitted poppies in the entrance hall and stairs and on the upper hallway was a display of WW1 photos including photographs taken in and around the building when it was an auxiliary hospital during WW1.
From the upper hallway doorways lead to the North and South Museums.

North Museum
The North Museum houses a display of old musical instruments, and arms and armour, as well as objects from their natural history sciences and archaeology collections.

South Museum
The South Museum contains displays linked to the local and social history of the area, including a display of items and manuscripts relating to Robert Burns.

Kilmarnock History
Over the nineteenth century Kilmarnock was transformed from a country town to an industrial town, and many of the displays provide information about the industries in the area and key people involved in those industries:
·         Mining
·         Railways
·         Engineering firms such as Glenfield and Kennedy
·         Printing – John Wilson, an early printer in the town printed the first edition of “Burns Poetry”, and the museum has a working model of the Benjamin Franklin press.
(Photo Michelle Leonard)
·         Johnnie Walker – the whisky company which was first set up in the town in 1865 and continued in production until only a few years ago when it was taken over by Diageo.

The Loom Room
The Loom Room is dominated by an industrial weaving loom, and devoted to displays about the textile industry - in particular lace making in the Irvine Valley which took off when Alexander Morton brought a machine from England and set up in competition to the Nottingham lace factories. By the late nineteenth century lace and madras (a muslin type fabric) were produced in dozens of factories in the Irvine Valley of which only a couple are still in production. The growth in machine lace led to the demise of the hand loom weaver, and a portrait of Matthew Faulds of Fenwick who was the last hand loom weaver in the locality hangs on one wall. Information about carpet manufacture and shoemaking, and a display of Ayrshire needlework can also be found in this room.

Paper Records
The Institute holds some paper records particularly in relation to its collections (e.g.: the Boyd Records), however some have been lost over time, and some items are held by archives and museums elsewhere. After the 1909 fire appeals were made for items from other museums to replace items that had been lost, and recently some items were identified in Doncaster Museum which had been donated to them by the Dick Institute after a fire there.  Any documents they do have are accessible to the public by appointment, and Dean of Guild Records are held by East Ayrshire Archives.

The Dick Institute is open Tuesday to Saturday and more information about their collections, and others in East Ayrshire can be found at

Author: Lorraine Stewart, Kincardineshire Ancestors 

Dundee archives - everything from Robert the Bruce to a scone!

The new V&A drew many people to Dundee from 14th September; Scottish Genealogy Network members ploughed their own furrow and headed there on the 20th to visit Dundee City Archives and Dundee University Archives. The thirteen of us had a great day and it was good to meet some new faces too. Many thanks to staff in both archives for their time and enthusiasm in hosting our visit. Commiserations to SGN members who had to miss the event at the last minute for various reasons.

Dundee City Archives

This archive is, like a few others, in a basement. It’s the basement of Dundee’s Caird Hall, on City Square in the centre of Dundee. Full marks for a very easy to reach location. The City has had an archivist since 1969.

Ship plans in the strong rooms (photo Ali Murray)
Inquisitiveness is a characteristic of genealogists so we were delighted to start our visit with a tour of the archive stores or strong rooms and a good nose around. The same number did emerge as went in, though there were many temptations to linger. A run of Council minutes from 1533 onwards may not sound the most interesting but just think what could be waiting there.

1327 charter ( photo Merle Palmer)

Archives handle a huge variety of documents and Dundee is no exception: from council house sales through teachers’ mark books to a 1327 charter from Robert the Bruce, the oldest document in its care. 

As a port city, it’s no surprise that there are several series of records relating broadly to the sea. They include shipyard records, such as the Caledon Yard, with plans of ships at different stages of construction.  Once complete, the Shipping Registers, 

part of the Customs and Excise records, provide details of a boat’s specification (length, type of rigging etc) and ownership, with updates as the 64 shares changed hands or, unfortunately, if the boat was lost at sea. To access these registers you need a fairly accurate idea of the year of completion but there is an A-Z index in each volume.
Details of boat share owners (photo Merle Palmer)

Though most of the records of jute companies are at the University, the City has those of the Victoria Spinning Works including wages information the late 1800s to the 1970s (job title, name and wages). 

As is usual on these visits, the staff had a set of more unusual documents out for us to view. Among them were:

  • A 1776 map of Dundee naming individual buildings;
  • Working copies of valuation rolls for Dundee (just think how useful the changes could be for family history);
  • A Register of Inebriates (following the Licensing (Scotland) Act 1903) complete with photographs, physical and character description. This was bought at auction.

Access the archives: 

There is no online catalogue, yet; information on some classes of documents is on the City Archives website (click on Related links). It is best to phone before a visit as space is limited.  
Opening Hours: Monday to Friday: 9.30am to 1pm and 2pm to 4.30pm.

Dundee University Archives

Matriculation records, with student signatures (photo Merle Palmer)
How handy to be able to visit two archives with complementary collections in one day, especially with only a short walk between them. As you would expect, these archives are at the University. In a basement once more. Established in 1976. 

Public engagement and promotion are key aspect of the University Archives work and I was particularly struck by the range of University programmes engaging with their resources. On the other hand, housing student projects throws up some particular challenges like conserving a scone baked in the 1980s, part of an art project. 

Key collections, apart from the University’s own records, include: 

  • Jute and other textile companies, relating to both Dundee and India. The University has one of the largest collections in Europe.
  • NHS Tayside (custodial rather than ownership) including Strathmartine and Sunnyside (Montrose) asylums. It was interesting to see an example of an asylum record which included a good family tree and to be reminded of how humane these institutions could be, bringing in fiddlers to entertain patients, for example. 
  • Brechin Diocese of the Scottish Episcopal Church. There is a database of names for Arbroath and Stonehaven church registers.
  • The Glasite church, Scotland and Connecticut.
  • The photographs of Michael Peto.
  • Records and library of the Grampian Club (hillwalking, ski-ing and mountaineering). 

It was good to be reminded of the sheer diversity of records that are potentially of use for family history. For example:

  • Railway companies who had to pass through people’s land – possible information on those people, any opposition raised and so on;
  • Solicitors’ firms archives – some contain private family papers;
  • Factories – though full staff records are fairly rare, don’t forget accident books and “half-time” school registers;
  • Hospital papers – who recommended a patient? Often charitable trusts.
Maternity hospital records - quite a spike in 1919! (photo Valerie Stewart)

And the oldest record in the Archives? A papyrus from AD99 relating to the sale of a slave. 

Access the archives

There is an online catalogue. There is also a very long-term project to index the hospital registers in their care, including parish of origin.  
Opening hours vary between semester and vacations; closed Thursdays.