Tuesday 10 November 2015

A Visit to the NLS Map Department

It has been wet and wild in Scotland this week but a hardy group of Scottish genealogists received a warm welcome in the reading room of the National Library of Scotland maps department.

Located at Causewayside in Edinburgh the building holds over two million items. They have gazetteers and a massive collection of Ordnance Survey maps of Scotland but also have maps created by the British Army as they trekked the globe as well as a variety of other unique maps. Together with their Ordnance Survey maps of England, Wales and Ireland their collections are worth a look whichever part of the world you are researching in.

As well as holding a vast collection of topographic masterpieces they have catalogued their collection and have digitised a huge part of it. These digitised maps are available to view online and are a wonderful asset to anyone researching the history of their family or a specific place.

Amongst the collections are some real gems. One that was shown to us today was a street plan of central Glasgow made for insurance companies. It shows the materials the buildings were made from, which had skylights and which businesses where in which building. If your ancestors worked, lived or ran businesses in Glasgow these maps could give you a real insight into the city at the time.

Before the first series of Ordnance Survey maps were made in Scotland between 1840 and 1880 there is no national coverage at large scales, but there are some wonderful maps covering certain towns and areas. For some country towns in particular there are maps showing who owned certain portions of land and what type of land it is; a wonderful resource for the family historian.

The National Library of Scotland is a very forward-looking organization. As has been mentioned, they are digitising their collection and making it available online. On their website we find a huge variety of tools such as side-by-side mapping and overlays so that we can compare modern and historical maps in their collection. If you are planning a trip to visit your ancestors home you will find this an invaluable resource.

There is of course some ongoing work. One specific record set that is waiting to be catalogued are the estate plans. They hold around 2000 such plans so if you are researching a house or village which was part of the estate it may be worth contacting them to ask if they hold any that would be relevant. They do not hold all Scottish estate plans, just a small portion (some are still in private collections and many are held by the National Records of Scotland),but it’s interesting to know that the NLS do have some and that they are not all listed on their electronic catalogue.

All in all the SGN had a fascinating visit to the map department of the NLS and would recommend all to make full use of this resource. To keep up-to-date with the NLS Map department here are some useful link:

NLS Maps Department on Twitter: www.twitter.com/natlibscotmaps 

Access high-resolution zoomable images of over 130,000 maps of Scotland, England, Wales and beyond on the NLS website: www.nls.uk/maps

Keep up-to-date with their recent additions' page where you can also sign up to the Cairt newsletter.

Wednesday 28 October 2015

The SGN's Continuing Professional Development Day - Part Two

After a lovely finger buffet lunch of quiche, pork pies and mini wraps followed by bite sized  cakes and fruit we gathered again to discuss plans for our next CPD Day where we hope to have some training in the use of social media. The discussion then moved to the development of an SGN website, and what we would want on it. No final conclusions were reached and these discussions are likely to continue on the Linked forum.

Carol McKinven then introduced us to an Estonian couple that she had been researching and guided us through the process of discovering that in some cases such research may be easier than we would think. We learnt that many Estonian records are freely available online and the indexes are in English! One very useful resource being the website of the National Archives of Estonia www.arhiiv.ee/en/national-archives.

Andrew Armstrong then gave a talk on Ag. Labs. found in the Victorian Census Returns for south east Scotland giving examples of some of the more unusual occupations such as the “Woman Steward” (the man who looked after the women working in the fields), and the “Hind” and “Bondager” – an arrangement whereby a man would only be hired as a “Hind” (ploughman) if he had a “Bondager” (someone who could do extra farm work when required). The Hind had responsibility for providing bed and board for the Bondager, which worked well if it was a member of his family but was rather inconvenient when his family had to share their single room with a stranger. This system was widely practiced in the 17th centuary but was being phased out by the 1860s.

After a break for coffee our final talk on “The Weavers of Perth” was given by Chris Paton who shared from his research into the history of the handloom weaving industry in Perth. The Records of the Weavers Incorporation of Perth (now held by Perth and Kinross Archives) contain many records which would be of interest to family historians and give an insight into the lives the weaving community there, such as Chris’s own ancestors who were weavers in the Perthshire Parish of Dunbarney two hundred years ago.

Report by Lorraine Stewart, genealogist at Kincardineshire Ancestors.

Tuesday 27 October 2015

The SGN's Continuing Professional Development Day - Part One

Around 30 members of the Scottish Genealogy Network gathered at Heriot Watt University on 24 October 2015 for our CPD day. The SGN was set up a few years ago by just a few genealogists who wanted to get to know their fellow genealogists better and have a forum to network.

We now have over 40 members, all of whom are based in Scotland and work in the genealogy field. Some research for individual clients, some are involved in publishing genealogy records, some teach others to research their own family history and others write for genealogy publications; some do a mixture of everything!

On Saturday we began the day with a talk and discussion by Anne Slater of the National Records of Scotland. Anne was able to answer some questions that members had about records and give some insight into the future of the NRS. The group was left with confidence that the NRS are moving in a direction which will lead to greater and easier access to the records.

Next on the agenda was genealogist Judith Russell who led an interesting workshop on  ‘Home Children’. Looking at one family's case to begin with, Judith showed how two boys from Scotland were sent to Canada in the early part of the twentieth century as it was deemed that their family could not care for them. She demonstrated how these stories could be researched using traditional sources and the records of the charities who arranged for their passage. The personal files of the children can only be accessed by family members but we as genealogists can help families access them.

After a restorative coffee our secretary Emma Maxwell led the workshop on Business Questions. This section was designed to assist members who run a business. Some of the topics covered focussed on the challenges of advertising and getting repeat business. Most of the group agreed that advertising in printed publications often has very little return. We discussed ways to help each other as a group.

After the business questions it was a pleasure to invite a new member to the floor, George MacKenzie, former Keeper of the Records of Scotland. George is the chairman of the Scottish Ancestral Tourism Group. Recent research has shown that Ancestral Tourism could be a huge boost to the Scottish economy. George highlighted the need to build local networks so that accommodation providers, tour operators, archives and genealogists can work together to give a wonderful welcome to ancestral tourists.

After this exciting programme of morning events it was time to break for lunch and talk to our fellow genealogists. SGN member Lorraine Stewart will blog on the afternoon’s programme.

Wednesday 30 September 2015

The National Trust for Scotland's Archive

The Scottish Genealogy Network were warmly welcomed at the Edinburgh headquarters of the National Trust for Scotland on Monday. When you think about the National Trust for Scotland you may think first about some of the beautiful and historically important properties they manage such as Haddo House and New Hailes. As well as these wonderful buildings the trust owns and manages land including islands such as St. Kilda off the far North West of Scotland. Besides these treasures the Trust has a vast archive.

On our visit to the archive on Monday the archivist, Ian Riches, explained that archive material held by the Trust falls into two categories: historic papers they have received along with a property, and more modern records that have been created by the Trust itself.

Around 45 NTS properties have some historic archive material. These records vary from estate papers to family papers and personal papers.

Amongst the material the Trust has created are records of the running of their properties, which can include information on previous employees.

Work is ongoing to deliver greater access to this material, hopefully this will include an online catalogue. For the time being a basic catalogue is available through the Scottish Archive Network Catalogue.

If you believe the NTS hold documents which could be useful to you get in touch with the archivist who will help you access the documents you need.

Huge thanks to the National Trust for Scotland for allowing us to peer into their amazing archive. If you would like to read more about the NTS archive see the archives section on their website.

Monday 24 August 2015

Report on the Lanarkshire Family History Fair

Many Scottish Genealogy Network members were busy at the Lanarkshire Family History Society Local & Family History Show last Saturday and I’m glad to report it was a great success!

The fair was well supported by family history societies from across Scotland, local archives, genealogy companies and of course Scottish Genealogy Network members.

Scottish Genealogy Network members were working hard throughout the day in the ‘Ask the Experts’ area where the public could pop along and receive help with their family tree. We had some great entertainment from a group of local school children and the face-painting area and other exhibitions meant there was something for all the family, not just the genealogy enthusiasts!

Two of the four talks, which were given in the auditorium of the concert hall, were given by SGN members. Chris Paton spoke on using newspapers to help trace our family tree and gain an understanding of the community our ancestors lived in. The last talk of the day was given by Graham Maxwell who spoke about using Sheriff Court records to trace your illegitimate ancestors.

Tristram Clarke, the family history specialist from the National Records of Scotland, gave a talk on soldiers’ wills. These are a wonderful resource if you are tracing twentieth century ancestors in Scotland. Chris Fleet, the senior map curator at the National Library of Scotland, gave an interesting talk on the maps that the NLS hold and how to access them online.

The Lanarkshire FHS will be hosting the SAFHS fair next year and I believe it will be at New Lanark. Keep an eye on the Lanarkshire FHS website for up-to-date information.

You can see our full photo album from the day on Facebook.

Monday 8 June 2015

CPD Event - Our First Webinar

Screenshot from our Webinar
The Scottish Genealogy Network was formed to give a framework for genealogists across Scotland to meet together and learn from each other. We learn genealogy skills from one another and it is a good environment to discuss different business strategies and pick up tips on social media.

The aim is to exchange experience and develop as genealogists who can provide a better service to our clients.

Last month we took a brave step of hosting our first webinar. This event was for SGN members only, but hopefully the experience will enable individual SGN members to host these for the public at some point in the future.

This first webinar looked at the basics of social media, encouraging members to write blogs, tweet more and create business facebook pages. This CPD event was a prelude to a social media training day which will hopefully be held by the SGN early next year.

If you are working as a professional genealogist (or in a related field) we encourage you to join our group. Email our secretary (Emma Maxwell) who will be happy to provide details for you: secretary@scottishgenealogynetwork.co.uk

Friday 3 April 2015

Sex, rock and roll and maybe we just missed the drugs!

Stirling University Archives Premises
Actually, such a ‘red top’ title is not needed. Archives are wonderful places as this visit to the University of Stirling Archives and Stirling Council Archives on 27 March proved. For all eleven of us, it was great to have the chance to find out more about the breadth of an archive’s collection rather than to consult a specific set of records.
Stirling University is fairly new as far as Scottish universities go, founded in 1967, but recent acquisitions have put it firmly on the genealogy trail. The key interest is the records of the Stirling District Asylum, from 1869, and the Royal Scottish National Hospital (RSNH), from 1862, both formerly in Larbert. The Asylum
Stirling University Archives
Checking RSNH Registers
catered for people from central Scotland mainly but the RSNH cared for children with learning difficulties from the whole country and beyond. Admissions registers and case records make for fascinating reading with many of the Asylum records also containing photographs. The Victorian language is rather shocking in places: at one time the RSNH was ‘for the education of imbeciles’. Children’s records are closed for 100 years and those of adults for 75 years. Unlike those two NHS collections, the records of the Musicians Union, starting in the 1890s, are still being added to on a regular basis. They include branch membership records, local and national minutes and newsletters which detail new members, changes of address and members removed for not paying their dues. Karl Magee, University archivist, highlighted sets of minutes and journals detailing the impact of the new-fangled ‘talkies’ on musicians’ employment: the view was that they wouldn’t last!
Stirling Council Archives
Slum Housing Replacement Plans
Stirling Council Archives
1360 charter & Kings Seal
Stirling Council Archives were established in 1975 as Central Region Archives but the collections go back much further, almost to the establishment of Stirling as a burgh with the earliest charter dated 1360. We were shown a letter from Charles, Prince of Wales, to the town council of Stirling. Not one of those covered by the very recent Freedom of Information request, this one was dated January 1746 and basically said give me the key to the town or you will suffer for it! Council records of many sorts (town, police burgh, county, Central Region) form the core of the collection but there are also militia records, church records, mainly Church of Scotland (Stirlingshire and Clackmannanshire) but also some Episcopal, Methodist and Baptist, estate records with rich collection of letters and a range of other personal deposits. Bear in mind that that coverage is generally the current Stirling Council area so places like Dunblane and Doune, in Perthshire, are included. Pam McNicol, Council Archivist, had a very wide range of very interesting documents on show for us including some beautiful hand drawn estate plans and a set of records from Whinwell Children’s Home, following a child through to emigration to Canada.
Our title? A rather explicit description of a visit by the Devil in a witchcraft trial of 1658 (Stirling Presbytery Minutes) provided the sex. And who joined the Musicians Union on 1 August 1962? Paul McCartney, George Harrison, John Lennon and Peter Best (Ringo was later) of course. That’s the rock and roll. Drugs? Probably listed in the very detailed stores inventories in the Asylum annual reports.
Many thanks to Karl and Pam for hosting us and for your enthusiasm for and knowledge of the collections in your care. We had a great day!

Sunday 8 March 2015

SGN visit to Glasgow

On Friday 27th February the Scottish Genealogy Network visited two very different facilities in the west end of Glasgow, the Glasgow and West of Scotland Family History Society (http://gwsfhs.org.uk/) and the Glasgow University Archives service (http://www.gla.ac.uk/services/archives/).

We started our visit at the family history society, based in Partick, at 11.30am, and spent well over an hour talking to Sheila Duffy, Elizabeth Smith and John McCreadie about the many resources that the society has on offer for the family historian. The premises are located in the basement at 32 Mansfield Street in Partick, with usual opening hours being every Tuesday from 2 pm until 4.30 pm, every Thursday from 10 am until 8.30 pm, and then on Saturdays from 2 pm until 4.30 pm (exceptions for holidays are noted on the society's website). The society is one of the longest running in Scotland, and we started by hearing an overview from Sheila of its impressive resources and its activities - not least of which its important role in helping to save the city's poor law records (some of the best in existence in the country) which it later helped to index. After this we were allowed a chance to browse the library's many holdings, as well as the databases accessible on site.

After a quick lunch in Partick we made for the archives service, where we were greeted by archivist Claire Daniel. Claire first showed us an overview of the archive's facilities via a short introductory film - this can be viewed on the institution's website at http://www.gla.ac.uk/services/archives/about/behind-the-scenestour/, and is also presented here:

Claire then described the various holdings at the institution, including the Scottish Business Archive, and how they are catalogued. Most are described at collection level via the Archives Hub website at www.archiveshub.ac.uk, with the main exception being the holdings of the House of Fraser collection, which has a separate cataloguing system that was developed in Australia, and which can be found on a dedicated platform at www.housefraserarchive.ac.uk.

Claire describe some of the complexities of the business collections, for example locating records at various periods when the company might have gone by a different name or before it was acquired by a larger corporate body. She also gave examples of how useful they can be, for example some excellent apprenticeship records survive for various shipbuilding forms on the Clyde, as well as for permanent staff.

Useful examples from student records were also produced including matriculation and exam papers, and some humorous descriptions of students in medical students final year dinner books, which were also illustrated with photos of each student. In terms of online holdings the university's student newspaper, the Glasgow Guardian, has been digitised from 1932-1935 and 1955-2007, and can be accessed at the main website.

If you wish to use the facility you need to make an appointment prior to your visit (see www.gla.ac.uk/services/archives/contact/). To keep up to date with the archives developments you can also follow it on Twitter at @GUArchive and via the university library's blog at https://universityofglasgowlibrary.wordpress.com/category/archive-services-guas/.

A huge thanks to all at both the family history society and the university archive, and also to SGN member Judith Russell for arranging the visits!