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.