Thursday 13 December 2018

Kilmarnock visit

On 14 November 2018 we headed to Kilmarnock to find out more about genealogical resources available there. Our thanks go to Helen, Linda, Heather, Clare, and Joy at the Burns Monument Centre, and Bruce at the Dick Institute, for providing us with such an interesting and informative day.


Our visit started at the Burns Monument Centre in Kay Park which opened about ten years ago and, in addition to providing Registration Services and a Ceremony Room, houses a Family History Research Area, Local History Area, and East Ayrshire Archives.


Helen Watt and Linda Miller introduced us to this area which contained a number of computers with access to the Scotland’s People Records. The area is open Monday to Friday with a charge of £15 for a day ticket, however bookings are required, and it can be closed at short notice if too few people are booked in or not enough staff available to man it.

Workshops are held on Wednesdays (mornings and afternoons) when staff are available to assist with research at a charge of £10 for two hours.

Family Tree Packages are available for those who do not wish to do their own research. Staff will carry out the research and produce charts and / or booklets containing copies of all the relevant records. Bronze, Silver and Gold Packages are available depending on the extent of family history requested. In addition searches can be made of the local history resources and included if wished (e.g.: relevant newspaper articles), and Gold Package booklets can also include the client’s own family photos.


Heather Dunlop gave us a tour of the local history area and then allowed us to browse the resources there. The area is open daily and there is no need to make an appointment. Items held in this area are mainly published items where more than one copy exists as opposed to the Archives who hold the records where no other copies exist. Some of the items are listed in the online East Ayrshire Library Catalogue, but others are not.

Resources available included:
·         Microfilm:
o   Local Newspapers from 1842 onwards (no newspapers have been digitised)
o   Poor Relief Registers for all Ayrshire – some have indexes. An index to Ayrshire Poor Relief Records can be found on the Ayrshire Roots website www.ayrshireroots
o   Old Parish Registers & Census Records

·         Maps including an old map of Kilmarnock dated 1819 with names of the residents

Well-used pre 1855 MIs (photo Michelle Leonard)

  • Valuation Rolls for Kyle, Carrick & Cunningham
  • Statistical Accounts for the whole of Scotland
  • Trade Directories from 1833 
  •   Local History Books for Ayrshire & Scotland – Parish histories, Pictorial histories of towns
  • Books about occupations in the area – Mining, Poetry, Glasgow & South Scotland Railway
·         Box Files (Information and articles filed under topics with content indexes in each box).
  •  Box file titles include Place Names, Family Names, Military, Industry, Mining etc. For my own family history I was particularly interested in the Box titled: “Guthries of Ochiltree”, and an article on the Irvine Valley Lace Industry in “Industry Box 2”.
·         Family History Section including:
  •  Monumental Inscriptions (Burial records are held by the Bereavement Services)
  •   Information about specific families & family trees which had been gathered from research done  (this is not included in the online catalogue)
  • Information about public war memorials
  • Lists of WW 1 Dead – with details of where they enlisted which is not found in other records


Clare (Assistant Archivist) and Joy (Graduate Trainee) showed us round their purpose built storage area which is shared with local history & registration services, and described the types of records they held, then allowed us time to have a look at some items they had put out on display especially for us.
Introduction to the Archives (photo Michelle Leonard)

Ayrshire Archives was founded in 1996 by Ayrshire Council with the aim of preserving and providing access to local authority records. The earliest record held is Ayr Burgh Charter dated 1205. Their main store and headquarters is at Auchincruive, a few miles east of Ayr which is also the access point for South Ayrshire Archives and is open to the public on Tuesdays (by appointment). East Ayrshire Archives is open on Wednesdays at the Burn’s Monument Centre, and Irvine Townhouse is due to open soon (one day a week) housing records from North Ayrshire. In each case viewing of records is by appointment only as the items requested may have to be brought from Auchencruive. 

Records held include
·         NRS Records – Records belonging to the National Records of Scotland but stored in Ayrshire for ease of access by local researchers. Access and copyright guidelines are set by the NRS. These records include:
o   Church Records (e.g.: Papal Bull dated 1322-1323)
o   Customs & Excise Records (e.g.: Fishing / Shipping Registers for Ayrshire)
o   Justice of Peace Records
·         Maps
·         Local authority records for East Ayrshire, and also some records for Strathclyde Region:
o   Council Minutes
o   School Records
o   Electoral Registers, Valuation Rolls
o   Poor House Records
o   Ayrshire & Arran Health Board Records
·         Private Deposits:
o   Societies and Clubs
o   Estate Records
o   Business Records
o   Family Records

Records on display
A number of items were put out on display for us including:
·         Council Minutes
·         Plans for the Burns Monument Centre (example of a modern record)
·         Kilmarnock Academy Register - showing admission and leaving dates and where pupils went when they left school
·         Diaries, with notes & drawings belonging to Margaret & Effie Kennedy, daughters of Thomas Kennedy of Glenfield & Kennedy
·         Kirk Session Minutes showing an interesting case brought before the Kirk Session over several meetings

Online Catalogue
There is no one online catalogue but separate catalogues for each collection, details of which can be found on the website.
·         Kilmarnock Burgh Catalogue has recently come online.
·         Kilmarnock Academy Catalogue 1896-2008 is currently being compiled, and will go online at the beginning of next year. This collection includes lots of school records, some with photos.

Recent Records
Most items have 100 year closure but if records are provided to show that person is deceased it may be possible to see some items, and someone wanting to see their own records may do so if they provide proof of identity.

Further information about Ayrshire Archives and their online catalogues can be found at:


After lunch we made our way to the Dick Institute where Bruce Morgan showed us round the Museum and shared with us the history of the building and some of its exhibits.

The finance to create the Dick Institute came from James Dick who was born into a poor family in Kilmarnock in 1823 but became a businessman of worldwide importance and, although living in Australia, wanted to give something back to the town of his birth. The museum was opened in 1901 and features the largest museum and exhibition space in Ayrshire.

The ground floor houses Ayrshire Central Library and a café, while the upper floor holds displays of some of the collections cared for by East Ayrshire Council.

(Photo Michelle Leonard)
Since our visit coincided with the 100th anniversary of the WW1 Armistice we were met with drapes of knitted poppies in the entrance hall and stairs and on the upper hallway was a display of WW1 photos including photographs taken in and around the building when it was an auxiliary hospital during WW1.
From the upper hallway doorways lead to the North and South Museums.

North Museum
The North Museum houses a display of old musical instruments, and arms and armour, as well as objects from their natural history sciences and archaeology collections.

South Museum
The South Museum contains displays linked to the local and social history of the area, including a display of items and manuscripts relating to Robert Burns.

Kilmarnock History
Over the nineteenth century Kilmarnock was transformed from a country town to an industrial town, and many of the displays provide information about the industries in the area and key people involved in those industries:
·         Mining
·         Railways
·         Engineering firms such as Glenfield and Kennedy
·         Printing – John Wilson, an early printer in the town printed the first edition of “Burns Poetry”, and the museum has a working model of the Benjamin Franklin press.
(Photo Michelle Leonard)
·         Johnnie Walker – the whisky company which was first set up in the town in 1865 and continued in production until only a few years ago when it was taken over by Diageo.

The Loom Room
The Loom Room is dominated by an industrial weaving loom, and devoted to displays about the textile industry - in particular lace making in the Irvine Valley which took off when Alexander Morton brought a machine from England and set up in competition to the Nottingham lace factories. By the late nineteenth century lace and madras (a muslin type fabric) were produced in dozens of factories in the Irvine Valley of which only a couple are still in production. The growth in machine lace led to the demise of the hand loom weaver, and a portrait of Matthew Faulds of Fenwick who was the last hand loom weaver in the locality hangs on one wall. Information about carpet manufacture and shoemaking, and a display of Ayrshire needlework can also be found in this room.

Paper Records
The Institute holds some paper records particularly in relation to its collections (e.g.: the Boyd Records), however some have been lost over time, and some items are held by archives and museums elsewhere. After the 1909 fire appeals were made for items from other museums to replace items that had been lost, and recently some items were identified in Doncaster Museum which had been donated to them by the Dick Institute after a fire there.  Any documents they do have are accessible to the public by appointment, and Dean of Guild Records are held by East Ayrshire Archives.

The Dick Institute is open Tuesday to Saturday and more information about their collections, and others in East Ayrshire can be found at

Author: Lorraine Stewart, Kincardineshire Ancestors 

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