Tuesday 13 May 2014

Third Scottish Genealogy Network CPD Day

On Saturday 10 May 2014 around 25 genealogists met at the Highland Archive Centre in Inverness for the Scottish Genealogy Network’s Continual Professional Development (CPD) day. The Archive Centre was a perfect venue and the hospitality shown by the Highland Archive Centre was the icing (literally!) on the cake.

Built just a few years ago, this state of the art archive is a mere dream for most archivists. We were invited to tour the building on Friday and had a behind the scenes look at the extensive storage facilities and the excellent conservation room.

The CPD day began with an interesting talk by Michael Tobias of JewishGen, who explained to us how we can optimise genealogy searches and collate and organise our data. If we can learn to do this more efficiently we can more quickly and clearly identify individuals we are looking for, especially in larger projects such as one-name studies. Michael demonstrated how we can minimise loss of search results due to indexing errors, reminding us the useful ‘fuzzy search’ feature on the Scotland’s People website. It is a shame that for some reason that the ‘fuzzy search’ feature is not currently available in the Scotland’s People centre.

The next talk, ‘Making the Best Use of Sheriff Court Records’, was given by Graham Maxwell of Maxwell Ancestry, who spoke about one particular type of case useful to genealogists: ‘affiliation and aliment’ actions in cases of illegitimacy. He explained how to locate both extracted decrees and court processes which could hold vital genealogical information as well as give an insight into the lives of ancestors. Initial research has shown that around 10% of illegitimate births in the 1850s may have resulted in an extracted decree, and an additional 5% of such births resulted in other cases which can be found among the processes of the Sheriff Courts.

After a short break (which involved some more cupcakes), we enjoyed listening to Kirsty Wilkinson of My Ain Folk’s talk ‘Edinburgh Army Attestation Registers’. This exciting resource, held by Edinburgh City Archives, does not just contain records of men from Edinburgh. Kirsty’s detailed research has revealed that men from all over Scotland are recorded as attesting, and even more surprisingly, men from across Ireland, England and Wales also appear. The regiments they joined were also unexpectedly diverse. Not only did the talk help us to understand this valuable resource, it also reminded us of the importance of not neglecting local records when we’re researching. The details held within these registers could provide the vital piece of information we need to get over our ‘brick wall’ and continue with our research. 

The last talk before lunch was given by Lorna Kinnaird, of DunEdin Links Genealogy. Lorna has been working hard as a volunteer in her local school over the last few months, teaching Primary 7 pupils about the First World War in a manner that they could easily engage with. She has  arranged for historians to come into the school with WWI artefacts (which the children really enjoyed) and also arranged a trip to the National Records of Scotland (NRS). Lorna is really passionate about history, especially genealogy, and wanted the children to have the opportunity to visit the NRS themselves and be able to do some of their own research. Many of the children were able to research someone connected to their family and some were able to trace their tree back a number of generations in that one visit. Hopefully this taster will encourage the children to continue learning about history. 

After lunch we eagerly took our seats to listen to Ali Macdonald, of Family Tree DNA, talk about some current Scottish DNA projects and help us better understand the rapidly developing subject of DNA testing for genealogy purposes. The talk was fascinating as DNA research has become such an important tool for genealogists. Ali reminded us how important it is to understand how to interpret the results correctly, making the most of the possibilities of DNA testing in conjunction with evidence from written sources. Exciting discoveries are being made frequently as the Clans, Families and Surnames of Scotland are being unraveled. Despite having the same modern-day surname, DNA analysis has shown that we can separate those with the same surname into different families with different migration patterns. Ali gave us a handout which included some very useful Scottish DNA websites:

Next up was Jean Dickson, who spoke about social bookmarking and Excel tips. It’s all too easy to read a blog or visit a website, finding a great resource but promptly forgetting about it when we continue browsing! Jean uses Delicious to store and tag websites she wants to come back to later. One of the great advantages of this is that she can access these from any computer and share them with fellow researchers. A helpful tip Jean gave us was to be consistent in tagging. For example, if you were to tag one website ‘prison’, but another similar site ‘prisoner’, when you search your links a year later using the term ‘prison’, the site with ‘prisoner’ tag will not appear. This talk reminded us of the importance of being an organised genealogist.

After a short break, we had the final talk of the day, which was given by Judith Russell, a genealogist based in Glasgow. The title was entitled ‘Glasgow Families in WWI: Lord Provosts and Red Clydesiders’. Judith has carefully researched some of the key characters in this important and dramatic period of Glasgow’s history, using a wide variety of sources, and brought the subject to life in an informative and well-illustrated talk. I believe Judith will be giving a similar talk to this in August at Who Do You Think You Are? Live in Glasgow: tickets should be on sale for that event in a day or two!

All in all, it was a great day where everybody benefited from the talks and conversations throughout the programme. If you are a professional genealogist working in Scotland and would like to be at our next CPD day, or come to one of our monthly meetings, please contact the group's secretary, Emma Maxwell, for further details at scotsgenenet @ gmail.com