Monday 20 November 2017

Scottish Genealogy Network November 2017 Meeting

New Register House - Edinburgh
On Friday 17 November we held our CPD day in Edinburgh. The background and experience of our members varies greatly: some work in archives, while others lecture at university. Some members have been helping clients research their family tree for many years and others are planning to start their business soon. This diversity made for a great day and wonderful networking opportunities.

Our meeting on Friday was held in the Dome Room of New Register House. This impressive space was created to house the birth, marriage and death records of the Scottish people. You can see the volumes in the photographs; red for births, green for marriages and black for deaths.

For many years now, users have accessed digital images of the records. That is certainly a lot more convenient and preserves the books, but as a group of genealogists, there was something special about sitting in a room surrounded by such a wealth of history.

Our secretary, Emma Maxwell, introduced our first speaker, Jack Davis. Jack spoke to us on the intriguing theme, “Hidden Hospitals”. He was not referring to camouflaged buildings but rather the policy of substituting the name of institutions on certificates with a simple street address. Jack gave us a list of Glasgow hospital addresses, such as 2154 Gartloch Road and 253 Duke Street. When researching it’s a good tip to research the address given on a birth or death certificate.
The Dome - New Register House

Michelle Leonard continued the morning session by answering questions related to using DNA in family history research. This fascinating quick-fire session covered a lot of topics. An interesting point that stood out was the need to think through ‘cousin matching’. This useful tool can aid family history research but as DNA does reveal the truth, you could discover something unexpected. Most genealogists may be excited about that prospect, but it’s always best to think it through before you take the plunge.

Jane Barton rounded off the first part of the day with a report from the Cumbrian Family History Society conference which she had attended recently. Cumbria has a border with the counties of Dumfriesshire and Roxburghshire in Scotland and there has always been a lot of movement of people across the Border. Jane gave a helpful overview of the administrative history of what is now called Cumbria, where to find records and why people may have moved to places like Carlisle.

A large part of the day was now given over to a treasure hunt. Rather than simply sitting and listening to talks it was time to get the grey matter working. We split into teams and tried to solve genealogy puzzles based on real client enquires. The most successful teams drew on the knowledge of the group and researched well using the catalogue of the National Records of Scotland (NRS).

Getting Ready for ‘Two Minute Mayhem' 
After lunch genealogists Graham and Emma Maxwell, from Scottish Indexes, presented the answers, demonstrating the importance of using the excellent NRS catalogue well and not giving up when something is not in an index. For example, not all surviving Scottish wills are to be found on the ScotlandsPeople indexes. If you think the person would have had a will, remember to use other sources such as the Register of Deeds and local Sheriff Court Registers of Deeds.

Next Emma Maxwell revealed the results of the SGN survey. Only 11% of those surveyed want a genealogist to present the results in the format of a report or a chart. Over 30% want help to access specific records.

When asked, “If you were to hire a genealogist, what would you look for?”, only 11% said “Someone who has studied genealogy at university”, while over 50% said “I would want to discuss my needs with them and judge for myself if they are the person I need.”

After looking at the results of the survey in detail we split into workshops to discuss how we can best provide the services clients want. To finish the day we had a ‘Two Minute Mayhem' session where members spoke on a subject of their choice for two minutes!

If you feel like you have missed out, and want to join the SGN and take part future meetings get in touch with our secretary for details of joining.

Monday 10 April 2017

Lunatics, Imbeciles and Idiots

Murray Asylum Perth group of  male Patients 1860
John Burt is a Scottish Genealogy Network member and we are very pleased to see the release of his new book: Lunatics, Imbeciles and Idiots: A History of Insanity in Nineteenth-Century Britain and Ireland.

The book provides details of the development and expansion of 19C asylums, with analysis of how they were established, run, and what they were like to live and work in.

This handy guide explores what asylum records are available and how to use them so that you can truly understand the lives your ancestors led. John's medical background gives this book a unique perspective.

Staff outing from the Montrose  Royal Asylum 
Many people who were admitted to a lunatic asylum were paupers, that is the treatment was paid for by their Parochial Board of Settlement. To get a really rounded out picture of your ancestor's life you can also trace their poor law application which would likely have been made around the same time.

Records like these help us learn more than dry facts, they help us get to know our ancestors and find out how they lived.

The book is available from in hardcover and digital formats.

Curling at Royal Edinburgh  Asylum

Friday 17 February 2017

Under the Knife

A Visit to the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow

Scattered through the archives of Scotland are documents and memories that our ancestors left behind. When we start tracing our family tree we begin with birth, marriage, death and census records but then we need more! We need to look at a variety of records to really find out what our ancestors were like, what they did and how they lived.

The Scottish Genealogy Network (SGN) encourages its members to keep learning, keep advancing as genealogists so that they can provide a higher standard of service to their clients. Today around 20 SGN members met at the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow (RCPSG) to tour the building and delve into their collections.

It may be an historic building but
in front of their ancient portraits
they are teaching the physicians
of tomorrow!
The RCPSG has existed as an institution for over 400 years! It is little wonder then that the records they hold are extensive and unique. As a forward-looking organisation they are also working to make some of their valuable material available online (for free) and their library is open to the public. If you are planning to visit, it is wise to contact them beforehand so that they can ensure everything you would like to consult is available.

Our visit began with a tour of the prestigious building. The first room we were shown was the David Livingstone Room. In that room there is a cast of one of the Doctor’s bones! As we moved through the college, hanging on the walls are portraits of presidents past as well as other notable physicians and surgeons. You may wonder then, with all these illustrious individuals so obviously connected to the college, is there any reason for me to visit? Yes, there is!

The Crush Hall
There are three main reasons a genealogist (amateur or professional) should visit the college. Firstly, you may want to research one of the past members. The records they hold on past members will help with your research. The photographs show some examples of what the college holds. The second reason is that not only does the college hold records of those treating the ill but also they hold some records of those being treated! Amongst the records, for example, is a “Register of Inoculations, Glasgow 1832-1854”, if your family was living in Glasgow they may well appear in the records. The third reason is this, even if there is no direct reference to your ancestor it is good to build up your knowledge of social history. Understanding our ancestors means imagining the circumstances in which they lived so that we can research their lives and walk in their footsteps.

The Lock Room - Named after the Lock Hospital 

Visit our Facebook page to see more photos

If you cannot visit in person, take advantage of their online collections which are free to access. If you find an entry which relates to your family come and tell us about it on our Facebook page.

By Emma Maxwell

Genealogist at Scottish Indexes