Monday 12 February 2018

Scottish Genealogy Network Visit to Perth Archives February 2018

We had a very healthy attendance of seventeen members of The Scottish Genealogy Network who attended the latest SGN event on Saturday, 3 February 2018 with a visit to Perth and Kinross Archives.   For anyone who has not previously visited these archives, they are located in the AK Bell Library.  

Courtesy of Michelle Leonard
Located on the main road into Perth town centre from the south-west, the AK Bell Library is a large standalone building, built in the 1830s, recognisable by its classical facade.  The building originally housed the County Infirmary but has been extensively renovated to provide modern facilities for both the Library and Archives

The good news is that there is car parking in the grounds of the building (£4 for 4 hours) as well as ample car parks nearby.  Even better is that the building not only has its own coffee shop but one large enough to accommodate all of the attending members of Scottish Genealogy Network at the start of the visit.  Where else were we going to meet?

We were welcomed to the building by Dr Nicola Cowmeadow, the Local History Officer with Perth & Kinross Council.

Courtesy of Lorna Kinnaird

Throughout the visit, Nicola demonstrated a wonderful enthusiasm for her work.  The archives section is located separately to the Local and Family History section in the Library although both are located on the first floor of the building and it was clear there is good coordination between both departments.

Courtesy of Lorna Kinnaird
The first session was led by Colin Proudfoot of the Local and Family History section in the Library.  Again members were impressed by the enthusiasm demonstrated by Colin throughout his presentation.  When considering local research it is often easy to simply go straight to the local archives carry out your research without first considering what may be available in the library.  For any genealogist researching a connection in the Perth and Kinross area that would certainly be an error.   The Local and Family History Section has a broad range of materials and collections readily available and not restricted to the Perth area.  Colin had a number on display and invited members to browse these at their leisure.

The library's approach in recent years has been to obtain a wide range of family and local history records and sources but including those not solely related to the Perth and Kinross area.  The library has available OPRs for the Perth area as well as a number covering areas out with.   In addition, they have copies of the Scotland-wide Calendar of Confirmations & Inventories from 1876 – 1936 as well as a good collection of Post Office Directories from the late 19th century which are primarily covering Perth but also other areas of Scotland.   There is also an extensive range of local newspapers and local interest books as well as published genealogies.

Courtesy of Michelle Leonard

Courtesy of Michelle Leonard

A couple of examples on show were Crieff in the Great War and A History of Blairgowrie.  Both books were rich in detail on the local history and would be of great interest to someone researching a family in these towns with many residents and local characters mentioned in the text.

The archives and library have been assisted by a number of volunteers who have helped to index small local collections which are available for consultation in the library for researchers. The library also holds a good collection of local maps, some, but not all of which are in the National Library of Scotland Collection.  Colin also reported on how the library is prioritising the purchase of Monumental Inscription collections including those from outwith the Perth area.

We then moved into the archives section which sits adjacent to the Local and Family History Section.  Nicola took us on a tour of their facilities and in particular the strong room where the bulk of the collections are held.  Nicola provided information on what records are held and it was clear to members that the archives and archivists are pro-active in engaging with other private collections in the area to support their work and the preservation of their collections.  The group even learned a little about cow genealogy!!!

Courtesy of Michelle Leonard

Back in the main archive office, we were shown examples of the Trade Incorporation and Apprentice Records.  Perth has a particularly good collection of these records with some dating back to 1300s.  The detail of information contained in these documents means that these would be a wonderful resource for someone researching an ancestor who may have been a member of these trades or an apprentice in Perth.  

Courtesy of Michelle Leonard

The Archives appear have adopted an open approach to visitor access. Whilst enquires can be made on spec it is, of course, best to contact staff in advance of any visit and they be able to assist as much as they can.  A good element of this archive is that storage of documents is on site so problems of storage off-site is not an issue at these Archives. Certainly, a number of members who had visited these archives in the past spoke of the assistance and professionalism shown by the staff members.

In the final half hour, members were able to browse the collections in both the Archives and the Local and Family History Society.  The meeting concluded with a vote of thanks to Nicola and Colin for their co-operation and informative presentation. Members were very impressed by the services being offered by Perth and Kinross Council at the Archives and Library and it was reassuring that at a time when local authority budgets cuts are having a negative impact on the availability of local history and cultural services that these services in Perth are in such good hands.

Details of the services at Perth and Kinross Council can be found HERE including access to the online catalogue although during the visit it was emphasised that not all of its collections have been catalogued and it is always best to call and speak to the archivist first.

This month's blog was written by SGN member Gary Lawrie of Heart of Scotland Ancestry - thanks Gary!