Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Who Do You Think You Are? Live - see you there!

It's that time of year again, when I stop typing, and start wandering in a sort of vague London direction. The blizzards we've been experiencing in the south west of Scotland today (and scheduled for tomorrow) aside, I should hopefully be flying down tomorrow in preparation for the event on Friday. On Ryanair no less - this shuggy is pulling out all the stops!

For most of the time I'll be working on the Robert Blatchford Publishing stall (number 811), selling the latest Family and Local History Handbook (12). If you don't have a copy, your life, in a research sense, may not be complete! Packed with articles, goodies, and a comprehensive 'yellow pages' of the major archives, societies, organisations and all round good eggs who can help with your research, it's a book that will leave you genealogically naked if you haven't yet got one. (OK, could be overdoing it here, but it is a very good read!).

For a short time on Sunday I will also be on the Pharos Teaching and Tutoring Ltd stall (number 75), helping to promote the online genealogy courses provided, including my Scottish Research Online course, which next starts on April 14th.

If you have a Scottish research query, I'll be happy to give my two cents worth wherever I am, and I'll of course write up a summary of some of the big or interesting developments I may come across whilst there when I get back. As such, this blog is now being mothballed for the next four days, but if you want to keep up to date, I'm going to tweet like a bird throughout, so do keep an eye out on my Twitter account for any interesting news! :)

I've included a pic of my ugly mug top right of this post, so you know who to vent at when you see me. Don't forget also that my new book should hopefully be on sale there too (see link above).

Yikes - I'd better get an early night! Chi mi gu luath sibh...

Scotland's Greatest Story

1832 electoral roll for Callendar online

Colin Mayall continues his excellent coverage of 1832 electoral rolls for Perthshire with the addition to his site of entries from Callendar. To view the records, visit

Update 1 MAR: Apologies for spelling Callendar wrong in the original post - I can only plead insanity as the cause! lol :)


Scotland's Greatest Story

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Gordon Brown to make Child Migrants apology

The Prime Minister Gordon Brown is to make a formal apology on behalf of the British Government tomorrow (Wednesday) with regards to the Child Migrants Scheme, which saw thousands of children sent to Canada and Australia between the 1920s and 1967. Many were abused, treated as slave labour and sexually abused. In addition, an announcement on how those still alive will be supported in the future is also expected in the statement, to be given in Parliament.

For more see the Daily Telegraph story
Gordon Brown to apologise to British child migrants.

Scotland's Greatest Story

Deceased Online update

From Deceased Online (

Approximately 32,000 burial records and 142,000 cremation records for the English City of Cambridge have now been published on Register scans are available for burials at Newmarket Road Cemetery between 1903 and 2005, and cremations at Cambridge City Crematorium between 1938 and 1996, with computerised records for both after these dates. You can read about the data in more depth at

Over the next few months, a wealth of burial and cremation data from towns in the English counties of Northamptonshire, Lincolnshire, Warwickshire, Shropshire and Devon, and at least one Scottish county, will be uploaded to Deceased Online.

And the UK's biggest cemetery (by burials) is coming to very soon. We can't tell you any more now, but make sure you and your friends are registered on the website to receive emails, then you'll know the moment any new data is published on Deceased Online. We hope to have all the records, scans and maps for this cemetery online by the end of the summer.

The Deceased Online team are doing a great job, and keep an eye out for Discover my Past England issue 5, where I interview Richard Gray, its Head of Marketing. I have some idea of what is to come, particularly on the Scottish front, but all I'll say for now is - it will be worth the wait!

To find out more about the site, visit the website or meet the team at this weekend's Who Do You Think You Are? Live event on stand 813.

Scotland's Greatest Story

Scottish Suffragettes - a Guid Cause

The National Library of Scotland has unveiled a new website entitled A Guid Cause: The Women's Suffrage Movement in Scotland, which is designed to act as a teaching resource.

The site, accessible at, contains some online sources, particularly from Shetland and Edinburgh, which can be used by students for various suggested projects.

Another great offering from the NLS.

Scotland's Greatest Story

The National Archives needs your help

From Simon Fowler's Ancestry magazine blog:

The National Archives at Kew is looking for Ancestors readers to help with some market research into the effectiveness of websites. If you are interested in participating please contact Paul Lamey at Kew ( Thanks very much.

Go get 'em!

(Thanks to Simon)

Scotland's Greatest Story

Monday, 22 February 2010

Thank You America! SGNE is one of the Top Forty Blogs...

Readers of the American based Family Tree Magazine have voted for Scottish Genealogy News and Events as one of the top forty genealogy blogs currently around. The blog was nominated within the Heritage section which aimed to 'identify the best blogs to get research advice for particular national or ethnic backgrounds from those who’ve been there, done that'.

In the article in this May's edition of the magazine, the author writes:

Chris Paton’s focus may be Scottish genealogy, but his frequent updates on research news have broad application. “I think this is the best British genealogy blog I’ve found,” a voter said. “The articles have a Scottish bias, but it also covers important information from the whole of the British Isles. It’s updated regularly with well-written articles that have relevance to genealogists worldwide.”

As for having been there and done that - I like to think of myself as still in training! :) But a HUGE thank you to all readers who nominated my humble wee effort here, and I hope you stick with the blog in the months and years to come. Congratulations also to the other winners, but also to all the blogs nominated!

And to any new readers - I am always happy to promote any news or events to do with Scottish genealogy, just drop me a line at If you live in the great Scottish diaspora around the world, I'd love to hear about meetings in your vicinity, products releases, anything that you might wish to share with fellow Scots and to those of Scots descent around the world.

We're all Jock Tamson's bairns...! :)

Scotland's Greatest Story

Now an Ulster Historical Foundation website security breach

Last Monday, the Irish Family History Foundation announced that it has experienced a major security breach. Guess what? The Ulster Historical Foundation ( has just announced the same thing - a week later. I won't reproduce the e-mail, as it is almost word for word the same as that of the IFHF - see URGENT - Irish Family History Foundation website security breached. The bottom line, once again, is that you need to change your login details.

Which is the problem really. The two sites are hosted by the same platform, BRS Genealogy Ltd, but whilst the IFHF sought to alert its customers straight away, is it the case that the Ulster Historical Foundation has waited an entire week to let its customers know? If so, is their customer security not worth acting on urgently? And what does that say about its respect for its customer base? Or is this in fact a second breach? If so, is it ever worth using the sites hosted by BRS Genealogy Ltd again if they cannot guarantee customer security of information. Truly shocking either way.

I won't swear. I promise I will not swear... but trust me, I'm close to it. I am now assuming that all sites accessed via BRS Genealogy Ltd (i.e. the regional sites you go to from the IFHF site) are similarly compromised.

UPDATE - I emailed the UHF this morning with the following: Dear Sir/Madam, Can I ask if this is a second security breach on a BRS genealogy site in a week, or did the UHF wait a week after the IFHF announced the same thing to let us know? Chris Paton

Response: Hi Chris, It is the same security breach. As we share servers with BRS Genealogy further investigation was required to determine whether our databases were also affected. Regards, David Graham, Web Administrator, Ulster Historical Foundation

So it does indeed seem that they did not feel it was important to alert members anyway as a cautionary measure, even though the IFHF site (on which the UHF also hosts records) was already known to have been compromised.

Scotland's Greatest Story

Sunday, 21 February 2010

An old but useful Scottish genealogy book

For anybody wishing to get to grips with the whole Scottish church thing (i.e. who's at war with whom, when, why, who's splitting, who's reuniting, who's splitting then reuniting, the Calvinist war cry "Neverrr!", and much more), I can recommend a very old book that I was able to obtain second hand through, but which has taught me a lot of very new things.

The National Index of Parish Registers Volume XII: Sources for Scottish Genealogy and Family History by D. J. Steel was produced in 1970 for the English based Society of Genealogists, and published by Phillimore & Co. Ltd. For its time it is surprisingly easy to digest, and whilst parts are extremely out of date, other parts are invaluable, most notably the considerable section of the book dealing with the nightmare that can be Scottish nonconformity, with such brilliant gems as lists of Scottish episcopalian records known to exist (in 1970!) and more, a detailed account of Scottish Quakerism and Judaism, and more.

I'd recommend checking out your local library for a copy - I don't think you'll be disappointed! :)

Professional genealogical problem solving and research

Who Do You Think You Are? - USA book tie in

A book has been produced by Megan Smolenyak,'s genealogy adviser, to tie in with the new forthcoming NBC series of Who Do You Think You Are?

For more on the book see the descriptions at

The book is for tracing American ancestry - but I'm sure a few of us have some form of American connection somewhere along the line!

(With thanks to Megan Smolenyak via Twitter)

Professional genealogical problem solving and research

WW1 Wishaw soldier commemorated

Thanks to the work of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, a soldier believed to have been missing after the Battle of the Somme in 1916 has been discovered to have been buried in a North Lanarkshire cemetery after dying on his way back home to the UK. Now Private Dennis Doyle's three nephews have visited his grave for the first time, not knowing that their uncle had been buried virtually on their doorstep all along.

The full story is at

(With thanks to the Scottish Military Research Group

Professional genealogical problem solving and research

Slater's Directory of Ireland 1870 online

Slater's Royal National and Commerical Directory of Ireland, 1870, has gone online at the subscription based

For more see

(With thanks to Alan Stewart's Grow Your Own Family Tree

Professional genealogical problem solving and research

Friday, 19 February 2010

From UKBMD - the new UKMFH site


UKBMD was set up several years ago as a means of making it easy to find all the web sites that were placing original registrars' BMD indexes online. It soon became apparent that there were many other web sites out there that have online data for baptisms, births, marriages, burials, deaths and censuses. So over the years UKBMD has grown and now has over 1,400 links to web sites with online data.

One year ago UKGDL was introduced as a companion web site to UKBMD. The aim of UKGDL is to fill the gaps between the dates collected on UKBMD by helping you find out more of the family history. Linking you to web sites with all manner of online data relating to tax lists, trade directories, electoral rolls, passenger lists, old photographs etc. There are now over 1,000 links to web sites with online data on the UKGDL web site.

The latest web site from the UKBMD & UKGDL team is UKMFH and it opens to the public from 26th February. The initials UKMFH stand for UK Military Family History. The web site offers the same easy to use menus as UKBMD and UKGDL but this time the speciality is aiding your research for many military aspects of your family tree.

Service Records, Photographs, War Diaries, Militia Rolls, Muster Rolls, Medals, Memorials etc. : these are just a few of the categories available as links.

However, as Military Family History is such a huge topic UKMFH has a new advanced keyword search page helping you fine tune your research, such as "Battle of Mons", "HMS Hood", "Battle of Britain", "603 Squadron" and "Leicester Regiment".

As with UKBMD and UKGDL, UKMFH is free to use -- although some of the web sites that we link to will charge or are subscription based.

We do the searching, so you don't have to. All three sites are regularly updated to add more links.


UKBMD, UKGDL and UKMFH will be on show at the Who Do You Think You Are? Live show at Olympia from 26th to 28th February 2010.

(With thanks to Ian Hartas)

Professional genealogical problem solving and research

1939 National Register - Northern Ireland request update

I had a phone call earlier from someone at the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) who called me for more info regarding my Freedom of Information Act request for information concerning an address in Belfast in the 1939 National Register, which is apparently the first they have received (see 1939 National Register - Northern Ireland request). It was confirmed, however, that they have received several more since - so many that I was told "we are going to have to do something about this"!

PRONI has now found the info for the address I am interested in. There are 794 registers, two to a box, all completely unindexed and stored in an out storage facility. By a sheer fluke, I was told that my address was found in the very first box they looked at - I've long suspected my Northern Irish brethren have Jedi skills! However, finding the information is one thing, providing it to me is quite another, and various conversations now need to take place with the GRO in Belfast and within PRONI itself, which is completely understandable, and I was advised it may be a wee while yet before I get an answer - again, fair enough.

To help contextualise the NI situation in relationship to the situation in the rest of the UK, I e-mailed through a summary of exactly all the developments to have happened so far in Britain, the various systems now in place here in Scotland and down south, and additional info such as proof of death for my grandparents (for whom I am seeking info).

In summary - I think this is a big deal for PRONI, but I also think they are extremely sincere about dealing with it. I've been asked to leave it with them for a short while, as various internal negotiations now have to take place. At present it is looking promising, but I'm not there yet.

I should add that I am sympathetic to PRONI's situation - clearly the records are not as easy to access as their mainland British equivalents, and there is a move imminent to new premises. But I also believe that so long as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland contains the word 'United' in its title, the citizens of the UK have an equal right to the material in all four of its constituent countries, where the same resources exist equally for those four countries - particularly for a 'National' Register. So fingers crossed...!

Professional genealogical problem solving and research

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Lumberjills exhibition in Edinburgh

The role of the Women's Land Army in World War 2 goes under the spotlight in a new exhibition at Edinburgh Castle's National War Museum from Friday 26th February.

For more information see

(With thanks to Sheena Tait via

Scotland's Greatest Story

Researching Scottish Family History - coming very soon!

I've just received word that my book Researching Scottish Family History is now at the printers, and should hopefully be ready in time to go on sale at Who Do You Think You Are? Live event next weekend in London.

Published by the Family History Partnership, which aims to provide family history books at an affordable price, the book will cost £7.95 - yes only £7.95! - and provides an introduction to all areas of Scottish research, with information both on traditional and internet based resources.

So what exactly does it cover? Well here's a quick summary:

Chapter 1 – Working from the known to the unknown
Getting started, talking to the family, recording the information, including the best tools for the job, whether on paper, through software or via an online family tree programme.

Chapter 2 – Knowing where to look
A guide to all the major institutions where you may find yourself researching, including a detailed guide to the ScotlandsPeople Centre, the National Archives of Scotland, the National Library of Scotland, regional archives, family history societies, Scottish Genealogy Society, LDS centres, the London based Society of Genealogists, TNA, and more.

Chapter 3 – Scottish Statutory records
A detailed guide to the contents of Scottish statutory records, including BMDs, and more recent sources such as civil partnerships registers, the Book of Scottish Connections, overseas records and more.

Chapter 4 – Scottish Parish Records
The established OPRs, dissenting/nonconformist records and Roman Catholic research, and kirk session records. Also Scottish Judaism, Sikhism and Islamic research.

Chapter 5 – The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
How the Mormons can help (and short background to the theology driving their fantastic efforts), searching the IGI (using different websites and techniques for Scottish research), local family history centres, the Record Search Pilot site and more.

Chapter 6 – Scottish Censuses and Substitutes
Detailed guide on census listings (including the 1939 National Register), online and offline sources, census substitutes such as electoral rolls, directories and more.

Chapter 7 – Scottish wills, inventories and confirmations
Scottish probate - unleashed! Nothing like the English system...!

Chapter 8 – Where we Lived
Place research - maps, gazetters, Statistical Accounts, land transfers, charters, sasines, estate records, taxes, Registers of Scotland, the works.

Chapter 9 – Earning a Crust
Military research, the Church, occupations, burgh records, crofters, miners, police sources, and lots more.

Chapter 10 – DNA
The basics of the science, but more importantly how it can help with your research - and just as importantly, where it cannot.

Chapter 11 – Heraldry and Tartans
The work of the Court of the Lord Lyon, the basics of heraldry, and the tartan industry.

Chapter 12 – Other Sources
Where to begin?! Newspapers, books, photos, emigration sources, locating and using poor relief records, hospital records, genograms, discussion forums, and much more.

The book also has appendices listing county archive contact details and Scottish family history societies. Throughout there are also tips and special subject 'box-outs' on key areas of Scottish history that impact on family history research (the history of the Kirk, the Jacobites, etc).

I had a lot of help pulling it all together, and there are many people to acknowledge for their kind help. I've explained how they have contributed in the book, but here's a quick roll call to say a very public thank you - Terry Walsh, Bob Boyd, Pete Wadley, Audrey Wyper, Dee Williams, Ashley Beamer, Robin Urquhart, Bruce Gorie, Elizabeth A. Roads (Carrick Pursuivant of Arms), Alison Spring, Debbie Kennett and Alasdair MacDonald. And also my wife Claire and kids Calum and Jamie! Sincere thanks to all, and also to those who helped with permissions for images used.

Once the book is officially on sale, I'll come back with further details on how to obtain it! In the meantime, do check out the other publications from Family History Partnership at - those Gibson guides are worth their weight in gold!

Scotland's Greatest Story

Brightsolid can complete purchase of Friends Reunited

Brightsolid has been given a provisional OK to go ahead with the purchase of the Friends Reunited platform, which includes the Genes Reunited website at

Sky News:

Laura Carstensen, who chaired the Competition Commission inquiry into the sale, said it (the sale) was unlikely to adversely affect internet consumers.

She said there was little overlap between the activities of the two companies, while the merged entity would still not match the size of the market leader.

Ms Carstensen said: "After the merger another website,, will remain the largest supplier in this market and its presence, along with potential entry by new suppliers and the alternatives provided by free sites, will ensure that the merged company faces strong competition - preventing it from raising prices or worsening the service it provides.

"In fact, the merger could potentially benefit amateur family historians as the merged company will be better equipped to compete directly with, leading to more innovation and improvements in the market."

The full commission report into its findings can be found
here. The summary states the following:

An inquiry group of CC members (the Group) was appointed to consider this reference and has made the following provisional findings on the statutory questions it has to decide pursuant to section 36(1) of the Act:

(a) arrangements are in progress or contemplation which, if carried into effect, will result in the creation of a relevant merger situation; and

(b) the creation of that situation may not be expected to result in a substantial lessening of competition within any market or markets in the UK for online genealogical services.

Congratulations to Brightsolid.

UPDATE: Further coverage from the BBC at (thanks to genealogynews at Twitter)

Scotland's Greatest Story

Glasgow's Museum of Transport to close in April

Glasgow's Museum of Transport, located at Kelvin Hall for the last 22 years, is to close on April 18th, a year before its replacement is due to open in spring 2011. Prior to its closure there will be a fortnight of free events, and then a closing ceremony.

For more on the story visit

Scotland's Greatest Story

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

New Berwickshire parishes page

Borders FHS has created a new web page about Berwickshire's many parishes and resources that can help your research within them.

For more information visit

Scotland's Greatest Story

Family Tree DNA launches genealogical autosomal test

Family Tree DNA has announced the pre-launch of a new DNA test type for genealogical purposes which it has dubbed the 'Family Finder' test. Rather than concentrating on Y-chromosome DNA for the surname line, or the incredibly slow mutating mitochondrial DNA from the maternal line, this form of DNA is sourced from both parents and can be taken by both men and women, allowing you to 'discover connections to descendants of all sixteen of your great-great-grandparents'.

For more on the story visit, whilst for the potential of the new test, a useful blog post at may help to decode it all a little!

A list of frequently asked questions from FamilyTree DNA also provides some useful context at

(With thanks to both Debbie Kennett and genealogynews via Twitter)

Scotland's Greatest Story

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

ScotlandsPeople Centre update - OPR deaths and burials

I've just received word from the ScotlandsPeople Centre that it is hoping to update its system in April to include OPR deaths and burials collection pre-1855, which is currently only available on the externally based website at

The note also mentions that it is hoped that searches using two names for marriages, as was possible on the old fashioned DIGROS system, will also be available in the next couple of months.

(With thanks to the ScotlandsPeople Centre)

Scotland's Greatest Story

URGENT - Irish Family History Foundation website security breached

The following e-mail was sent to me by the Irish Family History Foundation:

Dear Mr C Paton,

Please change your password

A breach of security has recently occurred on BRS Genealogy / Roots Ireland which hosts the IFHF site (, in response to which all necessary defensive measures have been taken. In the breach part of the database which includes our member’s usernames, email addresses and passwords was accessed. This triggered a series of steps that has resulted in us sending you this warning email.

No data relating to your online payment transactions (credit or debit card details) was on these servers. Please be assured that we do NOT store credit card details or any payment details. Nothing of that nature is held on our site and as a result such data is not at risk. All payments are handled by a secure payment gateway Realex (

What you need to do:

We strongly recommend that all users take steps to change their passwords.
Click here for more information on how to change your password.

You will be required to change your password at your next login, (unless you have recently done so).

We recommend that users choose a non-dictionary word that is hard to guess containing both upper and lower case letters and numerals, and use different passwords for different websites.

We also recommend that if you use the same email and password on other sites that you change your password on those sites also.

Since the breach a full review of security has taken place. Further security measures have been implemented to minimise the risk of such a breach happening again.

We apologise for this inconvenience.

I should add that I thought this was spam initially, and on searching several family history forums found similar thoughts. I therefore e-mailed the IFHF, and received confirmation that this was in fact legitimate.

I should also add that I had little enough respect for the IFHF as it was over its outrageous pricing policy, but this has left me seriously unimpressed. You'd think with what we are paying that they could at least have enough security to protect our information. It also does not help in that I initially thought off the top of my head that the site was and not - both in fact work, but it did at first confuse the hell out of me and make me think that the first one was a cloned site set up with an intent to defraud.

UPDATE (Wed): The IFHF has finally put up a security announcement at - it's not on the main homepage (no mention of it as yet there or in their news pages), but on the first search screen.

Scotland's Greatest Story

Monday, 15 February 2010

ScotlandsPeople centre - births and OPR marriages searches

The ScotlandsPeople Centre has uploaded details of changes to the births and OPR marriages search screens on its computer system at

Scotland's Greatest Story

Collections Trust to catalogue Scottish university museum holdings

The Collections Trust has announced a new partnership agreement with Scottish university museums. The following is the press release:

The Collections Trust and Scottish university museums have announced a new partnership to make collections available online using the Culture Grid.

The partnership will support University Museums in Scotland (UMIS) in a £318,000 project led by the University of Aberdeen to electronically record their holdings through collection-level descriptions, item records, and photography of select objects. Funded by the Scottish Funding Council, Revealing the Hidden Collections will record the collections of the universities of Dundee, St Andrews, Stirling, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Heriot-Watt, Robert Gordon, and the Glasgow School of Art.

The collections data will be uploaded to the Culture Grid, a service run by the Collections Trust which pulls together information from museum, archive and library websites and databases and serves it up to media partners such as Google and the BBC.

Amy Miller, Project Officer for Revealing the Hidden Collections, commented, 'The internet is now an important research tool, for school children, academics and those with an interest in a particular subject but currently they have few ways of discovering what we hold, or viewing it. This partnership means that the world class collections held by Scottish university museums will now be accessible for use and enjoyment by everyone.'

Nick Poole, Collections Trust Chief Executive, commented, 'UK museums, libraries and archives are treasure-houses of rich digital content about our shared heritage. Projects like Revealing the Hidden Collections really show the power of opening up these resources for the public to share, enjoy and learn from. The Culture Grid provides a fast, simple and sustainable way of connecting people to these unparalleled resources. We're delighted to be part of this important initiative.'

The Revealing the Hidden Collections project is one of many contributors to the Culture Grid. The system currently holds over 730,000 item records from over 50 different collections of national, regional and local scope from museums, libraries and archives, with many thousands more due to be added in the coming months.

Further information about the Culture Grid, including details of how to get involved, is available on the Collections Trust website at

Scotland's Greatest Story

Discover my Past England issue 4

For your English research - Discover my Past England 4 is now on sale...

Discover My Past England - Issue 4 Feb 2010

This 42-page A4 issue is packed with special features and how-to guides to connect you with your English Heritage, including:

•A date with history - How to date your family photographs
•Prisoners in your past - Investigate criminal records
•In Search of Missionaries - Ancestors who spread the word
•Sleeping in Victorian Splendour - Bradford's Undercliffe Cemetery
•Chester's ancient rows - A Roman legacy
•Spotlight on - Dudley
•Expert Q&A & Family history newsround

Available at, where you will also find Discover my Past Scotland issue 6!

Scotland's Greatest Story

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Smoochy smoochy - it's Valentine's Day!

If you want to find out more about the origins of Valentine's Day, genealogist Sheena Tait has a new blog post at exploring its background.

Scotland's Greatest Story

Stirling Castle replica heads on display

A set of 37 replica 16th century head plaques produced by Livingston based John Donaldson, due to be installed on the ceiling of Stirling Castle's Great Hall as part of its current restoration, have been put on display in a temporary exhibition at the castle.

To see the images, visit A story on the exhibition is also available at

Scotland's Greatest Story

Fancy digging up St. Kilda?

The National Trust for Scotland is looking to employ a professional archaeologist to be based in Inverness and St. Kilda. The closing date for applications is February 26th 2010. For more information, visit the Comann Eachdraidh Uig blog at

Incidentally, they are also looking for a volunteer mousecatcher on the island...!

Scotland's Greatest Story

2011 - the last UK Census?

400,000 Jedi Knights may be disappointed to learn that the 2011 census in the UK may be the last ever to be carried out. For more on the story visit the Times story at

It is not known how many of the Jedi are Scottish...

(With thanks to Debbie Kennett via Twitter)

Scotland's Greatest Story

Friday, 12 February 2010

Find a Grave in Scotland website

A new website called Find a Grave in Scotland is attempting to photograph all surviving cemeteries in Scotland and place the images online, free of charge, at

Set up by a Glaswegian, Tom McPherson, the site has so far completed seventeen cemeteries in Ayrshire, East Renfrewshire and the Isle of Lewis. From the site:

Are you looking for your loved ones final resting place or are you trying to find ancestors to add to the family tree? Then you are on the right site. Find a Grave in Scotland has been designed to help people in their search for information with a picture of the grave marker made available for you to print.

It may be that you are unsure of the cemetery location but as long as you have a surname then the search can begin. Just type into the search data box on the top right-hand corner and click on search.

Scotland has over 1000 cemeteries sited between the mainland and the many islands dotted around. This process will take some time to complete and over the coming weeks and months new cemeteries will be added as quickly as possible.

Definitely one to keep an eye on!

(With thanks to Helen Osborn)

Scotland's Greatest Story

Lost Cousins adds 1911 Irish census network

From Lost Cousins:

Last autumn the 1911 Census of Ireland was published on the National Archives of Ireland website, the first complete Irish census ever to be made available online. Now LostCousins is offering anyone whose relatives were recorded on that census 99 years ago the chance to find their living relatives - and it's a completely free service!

Whether you're related to one of the 3 Molly Malones, the 3,316 Patrick Murphys, or to any of the 4.4 million other men, women, and children recorded on that census, you can use that information to find people who share your Irish ancestry.

All this is achieved with a very simple system that utilises census data as a 'key' to open the door to new contacts, new information, and new opportunities. Once you've registered at the LostCousins site you can enter details of relatives you've found on the 1911 Census of Ireland (or any of 5 other censuses from different countries) and search for living relatives simply by clicking a button.

Because the LostCousins system is fully automatic there's no need for anyone else to see the information you enter - the LostCousins system is designed to protect members' privacy.

The LostCousins site can be found at:

* It's always free to search for living relatives at the LostCousins site, but there's normally a small charge if you want to contact someone you find. However, until Molly Malone day (13th June 2010) you'll be able to contact relatives you're linked with through the Irish census completely free of charge.

Great news for those trying to establish connections with Irish descended cousins. I have to say though, as a County Antrim man married to a 'Kilkenny Cat', neither of us have ever heard of a Molly Malone Day, though that could be due to the length of the hangover from St. Patrick's Day!

There's a statue of Molly Malone in Dublin's Trinity area, pushing a barrow, and known locally as the 'tart with the cart'. Not to be confused of course with the statues of the two ladies shopping ('the hags with the bags') or the water feature based statue of the goddess of the River Liffy in O'Connell Street ('the floozy in the Jacuzzi')!

Scotland's Greatest Story

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Early Yosemite image found in University of Glasgow Special Collections

An early photographic image of the Half Dome Mountain at Yosemite National Park, California, taken by the pioneering American landscape photographer Carleton Watkins (1829-1916) in about 1860, has been found in the University of Glasgow's Special Collections Department. To see the image visit Early photograph of the “Wild West” discovered in Special Collections.

Yosemite is of course famous for its association with Scottish born naturalist John Muir (see, and in 1999 I filmed his story there as part of documentary series for Scottish Television (and RTE/S4C) called Celtic America. This is our ponsey crew shot! That's me third from right acting like I own the place, but I was only a mere mortal assistant producer - the guvnor was the guy on my left!

Bizarrely, when we arrived there it was about a month after a serial killer had apparently been on the loose, decapitating people and burying their remains in the hills in the park. Gives the phrase "having a head for heights" a new meaning really...

Anyway, more to the point, that's the Half Dome behind us on the left of frame! If you ever want to recognise how little we really are in a big wide world, I recommend standing under it for a bit. Life changing...!

Scotland's Greatest Story

NAS at Who Do You Think You Are Live

The National Archives of Scotland is going to the Who Do You Think You Are Live show in London on February 26th-28th - and there are free tickets on offer.

From the NAS site:

FREE TICKET OFFER. We have two pairs of tickets and 5 single tickets to give away. They are valid for any of the three days. To claim please e-mail, and we will post them first class. First come, first served, maximum of one pair of tickets per household, please.

Stand 407, Olympia, London, Friday 26 February – Sunday 28 February 2010.

An 'in like Flynn' strategy might be usefully adopted here...! :)

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Pharos Tutors at Who Do You Think You Are? Live

Hey - I'm in a press release! :) From Pharos Teaching and Tutoring Limited...

Who Do You Think You Are? Live at Olympia, London

Who Do You Think You Are? Live is fast approaching, it runs from 26th to 28th February and at Pharos we are getting ourselves organised. Come and visit us within the Society of Genealogists area on stand No 75.

On Friday 26th, we will be joined by Gill Blanchard, whose Pharos courses include those on marriage, wills & administrations, and poor law with a new course on burials being listed soon. Gill runs a research and teaching business in East Anglia and has researched her own family in the north of England and the Republic of Ireland. See below for more information about Gill and her courses. Gill will also be presenting a talk at the show: Your Norfolk Ancestry: An Insiders Guide. (Friday, between 12.45 to 1.30 pm).

Saturday sees Hannah Baker, our newest recruit, helping out. Hannah specialises in getting the whole family involved in genealogy, so for those with children in tow she will be giving pointers on how to get them interested in generations gone by.

Guy Grannum has spent much of his time establishing how to trace ancestors from the West Indies and teaches Pharos courses on the subject. Guy will be at the Pharos stand on Sunday. Joining us briefly on the same day, will be Chris Paton, an experienced film maker and author who specializes in researching Scottish records.

Everyone at Pharos has a broad grounding in genealogy and family history, so even if you do not need to draw on their specialist knowledge, they will have a lot to say on all aspects of tracing your ancestors.

Each day of the show will feature one of the guests from the television show. On Friday the 26th, Rory Bremner will be explaining how he uncovered the military stories of his father and grandfather. Kate Humble appears on Saturday, speaking about her grandfathers role as a wartime pilot and an ancestors heroic role in the aftermath of a mining accident.

Revealing an intriguing story of murder, fraud and a meteoric rise through the ranks of society, Esther Rantzen will tell the story of her family history on Sunday the 28th.

Tickets for WDYTYA Live are still available, it costs £20 for a day ticket, or you can double up and have two days admission for a mere £22. Tickets are available online.

Looking forward to it! As well as the Pharos stall, I'll also be helping out on the Robert Blatchford Publishing stall from Friday to Sunday, which is responsible for the production of the Local and Family History Handbook. Now if you ask me, a useful strategy if you're at a loose end at the event is to buy a copy of the latest handbook from Bob's stall, think to yourself, "Crikey, this family history lark looks brilliant", and then immediately run to the Pharos stall and sign up onto one of the many courses to help you learn how to get cracking on your tree, or to improve your research skills.
If you ask me...!

Scotland's Greatest Story

Who Do You Think You Are? - from the beginning

From the WDYTYA? Live team...

Who Do You Think You Are? LIVE is coming to London’s Olympia this month, and to get you in the mood, Blighty is showing the series from the beginning, weeknights at 8pm from Monday 15th February. Watch the moment when Boris Johnson discovered he was related to royalty, and when Moira Stewart discovered her family had been slaves – and the incredibly moving episode when Jerry Springer found out what happened to his family in Germany during World War Two. There's also an exclusive chance to win tickets to the event, so be sure to tune in, and don't miss out!

You can find Blighty on Sky channel 534 and Virgin Media 206.

Scotland's Greatest Story

WW2 map coordinate translator

X marks the spot - but how do you know where X is if you have several maps which don't speak the same language as each other?

During World War 2, the British employed a mapping standard called the Modified British System. The problem today is that this is incompatible with the standard used on modern OS and other maps. If you want to translate the historic map reference to a modern GPS longitude/latitude based reference, visit for a handy coordinate translator.

(Thanks to Paul Reed via

Scotland's Greatest Story

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Academics only - family historians not welcome?

I used to work for the BBC a few years back, but never did I think I would ever need to consult the organisation's archives for my own personal research. It is probably as well - they wouldn't have let me.

My grandfather's first cousin was the Reverend William Paton, Secretary of the International Missionary Society, who I have been doing a considerable amount of research into over the last year. Through several newspaper cuttings and two biographies written about his life I have discovered that just prior to and during the Second World War he made several religious broadcasts on the BBC's radio service. The chances of being able to access a recording of one of these would have been slim even when I did work at the BBC, as the transfer costs and the format would have made life difficult, assuming anything had even survived from those days in the first place.

However, the BBC does have a written archive, and I had hoped to be able to write to them to ask how research could be carried out into which programmes he had worked on, as well as to source any other material on his broadcasting career. Imagine my surprise then when I found this on the BBC website at

The Written Archives are a uniquely invaluable resource if you are an academic in higher education undertaking accredited research, a writer commissioned to write a book or article on BBC history, or undertaking research for a commercial project.


Because of the demand for places, we regret that we are not able to accept researchers pursuing school projects or personal interests.

I should add that this is the same BBC that broadcasts Who Do You Think You Are! Clearly our license fee doesn't allow us to join the party...

The night got better. Bill had several children who did exceedingly well, definitely the achievers in my family! The Reverend David MacDonald Paton became an honorary Canon of Canterbury Cathedral, and the Queen's chaplain from 1972-1983; the Venerable Michael Paton became Archdeacon of Sheffield and Rotherham (and a lovely man I should add, still fighting the good fight in Sheffield!), and Sir William Drummond MacDonald Paton CBE became a Professor of Pharmacology at Oxford, with so many chairs and letters after his name they could construct a classroom for him! So imagine the delight I had when on the British Library Sound Archive website ( I discovered that there was a digitised half hour recording of Sir Bill Paton on the site discussing drug dependency, one of his major areas of study - a chance to hear the great man at last!

Errr, no. Access for academical institutions only. Bugger.

I mentioned also in a recent post that the British Library 19th Century newspaper collection has just had a major update, with 100,000 new pages of content, and a million to be added this spring (see British Library 19th century newspapers update). Except, once again, only for academical institution access.

I'm beginning to sense a conspiracy...!

Scotland's Greatest Story

Perthshire databases - progress

The Perthshire material digitised by almost three years ago is slowly making progress towards being published.

The following collections have now been transcribed as part of the content supplier's World Archives Project:

Perth, Scotland, Survey of Inhabitants, 1766, 1773
Perthshire, Scotland, Militia Survey, 1802
Perthshire, Scotland, School Registers of Admission and Withdrawals, 1869-1901

The surveys of inhabitants are essentially early census listings, whilst the Militia Survey from 1802 was to create a list from which a ballot would be drawn for people to serve in the militia - the following is the instructions at the top of each ballot page:

TAKE Notice that you are hereby required within Fourteen Days from the Date hereof, to prepare or produce a Lift in Writing, to the best of your Belief, of the Christian and Surname of each and every Man resident in your Dwelling House, from and after the age of Eighteen Years complete, and not exceeding the Age of Forty-five years complete, distinguishing every Person in your Dwelling House of such age as aforesaid, claiming to be exempt from serving in the Militia, together with the Ground of every such Claim delivered to my house at South Street Perth.

Needless to say, these will be fantastic when they eventually go online. At present, the collections are on the 'In Processing' list which is defined on the site as "projects that have completed keying and arbitration by the community. These projects are now being worked on by the Ancestry team to prepare the indexes and images to go live on the site as searchable, indexed databases."

It is worth noting that these collections form just a small part of the vast amount of material that was digitised in both Perth and Cupar some three years ago. To date, the only records to have gone online at Ancestry from the exercise have been the newspaper indexes to both Perth and Fife newspapers.

Scotland's Greatest Story

Their Past Your Future Scotland website

I've just come across a Lottery funded website project entitled Their Past Your Future Scotland, which seeks to preserve the stories of past sacrifices in war for future generations. From the site:

Building on the success of previous years, TPYF Scotland will bring young people and older generations in the local community together to capture unique oral histories that will concentrate on the Second World War and all subsequent conflicts.

The results from these oral history projects will form a series of some 300 on-line mini exhibitions or ‘vignettes’ – oral histories and associated illustrative exhibits from local and national collections. They may include diary extracts, newspaper articles, old photographs, archive film, all manner of old documents and paintings. Together they will create a vivid story of a person, event or place.

Their Past Your Future Scotland will culminate with the launch of a website in 2010. The vignettes and related historic objects will be available as a classroom teaching aid via Learning and Teaching Scotland’s new Scottish schools’ intranet, Glow. This ensures these projects become a rich educational resource for teachers and a global legacy for young people and the wider community involved.

This is a fantastic opportunity to ensure that the memories and first-hand knowledge of war is never forgotten, enabling generations within communities to discover personal stories which have affected or involved their local area.

The project has in fact been going on a UK wide basis since the 60th anniversary of the end of World War 2 in 2005, but has now entered a second phase, with the website a part of that. Included is a new online exhibition on the Clydebank blitz.

Worth exploring at

Scotland's Greatest Story

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

British Library 19th century newspapers update

OK, a further update on the recently announced update to the British Library 19th Century Newspapers Collection.

The 100,000 pages announced as having been uploaded in December 2009 have been placed online via the institutional subscription version of the 19th centry newspapers site, but only in the UK at present. This is the first batch of a total 1 million pages to be uploaded to the site in the spring, when the whole lot will also be made available to worldwide higher and further education institutions in one release.

Unfortunately, here's the bummer bit - there is currently no timescale for putting the additional 1 million pages onto the public site at this stage. The public site will therefore continue with 49 titles and around 2 million pages for the foreseeable future.

This basically means that if you are waiting for the Dundee Courier and other new titles, it may still be a long wait before they appear at Time to start making friends with some friendly students...!

Scotland's Greatest Story

Ancestry scanning service at WDYTYA Live

From the Who Do You Think You Are? Live website:

New for 2010, are providing a free scanning service. Why not bring along your documents and photographs to be scanned, and book a 20 minute scanning slot at the event? will then save them onto a memory stick for you to take away, meaning you can access them on your computer at any time, and helping to preserve the delicate originals.

Slots are limited, so be sure to visit the scanning service on stand 903 to book your timeslot. This is the first time the service has been run in the UK, so don't miss out on this great opportunity!

Scotland's Greatest Story

New monthly family history meetings in Portsoy

The first monthly family history session was held on Saturday 6th for a new family history group for the Moray Firth at Portsoy’s old salmon bothy community venue.

The event, which was held at 2.00pm, was the first of a planned series of events to be held on the first Saturday of every month, and was addressed by genealogy consultant Alison Smith, who talked about sources for Banffshire family history research.

For further details on forthcoming activities at the bothy, visit

Scotland's Greatest Story

Monday, 8 February 2010

FamilyRelatives - Dunblane records

Records provider has just provided an update on its parish register holdings. Although almost entirely English, amongst the records are some from Perthshire, in the form of a Register of the Diocesan Synod of Dunblane 1662-1688.

The search screen is available at, but you will need a subscription or pay-per-view credits to access fully.

Scotland's Greatest Story

ScotlandsPeople Centre computer system - births and library update

More from the Scotlands People Centre!

The centre's computer system, which was built to replace the old DIGROS system, has been given some enhancements on the births search screens for both statutory and OPR images.

For starters the blue column on the left of screen has been given a deeper blue shade to make the white lettering stand out some more.

For year searches, if you wish to search one year only, you only need to fill in the first year field.

The bottom of the search results page can be instantly reached by pressing “End”.

Results can be sorted on any column and on multiple columns by holding down the shift key while selecting columns.

Rather brilliantly, new buttons at the bottom of the screen will now allow you to step through a range of years one at a time, replicating a useful feature on the old DIGROS system (see pic below).

On a birth search, the code has also been amended to bring back the name supplied in addition to all those with blanks if the mother's maiden name is entered for searches before 1929, where such information is stored infrequently.

More generally, saving to and printing from favourites is now working properly on the system.

All changes to the system will be in operation from this Wednesday 10th.

It is also worth noting that the centre's library catalogue ( has been updated again and now contains some 85% of the material available at the centre, which can be ordered up for consultation. The books currently available in the Dundas Room will soon be re-ordered to provide a better repesentative sample of material held by the GROS, and coming soon to the collection will be a new fourth Statistical Account for East Lothian.

(With thanks again to the ScotlandsPeople Centre)

Scotland's Greatest Story

Sunday, 7 February 2010

ScotlandsPeople Centre update

Some developments at the ScotlandsPeople Centre in Edinburgh...

a) The stair well leading up to the Court of the Lord Lyon (inside New Register House) is being painted over the next two-three weeks, meaning that access to the Dundas Room will be through the garden entrance for this period.

b) The removal of access to the statutory BMD fiche will be introduced to the Dundas Room on Monday 15th February.

c) The centre has also discovered that some of the 1851 census images and indexes are missing from the main ScotlandsPeople computer system and also from DIGROS in the Dundas Room. The missing pages will be scanned over the next couple of weeks. The affected districts are as follows:

Missing images
277 Careston
278 Cortachy and Clova
279 Coupar Angus
280 Coupar Angus
280 Craig
281 Dun

Missing Images and Indexes
34 Bower
35 Canisbay
36 Dunnet (estimate)
37 Halkirk
37A Keiss (estimate)
37A Keiss (Partially missing)
268 Strachan
374 Logie

Whilst the images will be sorted imminently, the indexing may take a wee while longer, though the centre is looking at options to try to make access available as soon as possible.

(With thanks to the ScotlandsPeople Centre)

Scotland's Greatest Story

Scottish clock from 1797 sells for £8800

A rare 'Act of Parliament' clock from 1797 has sold for £8800 at auction in Edinburgh.

Made in response to the unpopular 1797 act which imposed a tax on all clocks, it hung on an unknown tavern wall in the landlord's hope that people would pop in to check the time and grab a quick drink before they again went on their way. The clock has been in the possession of an Aberdeenshire based family for generations.

For more on the story, and for an image of the clock, see

Scotland's Greatest Story

1939 National Registration - Northern Ireland request

Following the recent release of the 1939 National Identity Register census details for England, Scotland and Wales by the National Health Information Centre and the General Register Office for Scotland, I decided a couple of weeks ago to make a Freedom of Information application to the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland to see if equivalent records could be released in the last part of the United Kingdom still to make provision, in this case for an entry concerning my grandparents, who resided at Greencastle in Belfast. I made the application online, as directed on the PRONI Freedom of Information details page at

I have since had the following response:

Thank you for your enquiry requesting information on residents at [address].

The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland will be responding to this request under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Due to the sensitive nature of the information contained within these records, they are closed. Although PRONI does possess the National Identity Registers for Northern Ireland, we have a duty under the FOI Act to consult with the functionally responsible authority before any information can be released.

This search may take longer than usual as the archive in question is extremely large, is completely uncatalogued and is stored in our offsite storage facility. As the hundreds of volumes do not have an index, a manual search will have to be conducted on a page by page basis for the information requested. Consequently, this request will take considerably longer to process than normal routine queries, so we ask for your patience. However, a search of the archive is due to begin and I shall be in touch with you in due course.

With the same law successfully providing access to records on mainland Britain, this is a potentially promising response. Further details as they come!

Scotland's Greatest Story

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Encyclopaedia Britannica screw up on Irish history

According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, the 1922 Irish Civil War was fought between Protestants in Northern Ireland and Catholics in the south. For more see

It is not yet known what the Encyclopaedia Britannica's definition of a numbty is...!

Scotland's Greatest Story

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

WDYTYA? USA - new website

The forthcoming American version of the Who Do You Think You Are? television series now has its own dedicated website online at

The celebrities to be featured in the first series are Sarah Jessica Parker, Susan Sarandan, Spike Lee, Matthew Broderick, Brooke Shields, Emmitt Smith and Lisa Kudrow.

Scotland's Greatest Story

Borders Family History Society magazine sale

Borders Family History Society is having a spring clean, and has decided to sell various magazine collections.

The magazines available include three Cleveland FHS journals, the bulletin of Saskatchewan Genealogical Society March 1998 to Dec 2007 (36 volumes plus members directory), the journal of Kamloops Family History Society, British Columbia, Canada May 2000 to May 2007 (13 volumes), and 46 volumes of Ancestral Searcher, the journal of The Heraldry & Genealogy Society of Canberra, Australia.

For further details visit the following Borders FHS blog post:
Genealogical Items for Sale

Scotland's Greatest Story

St Kilda Centre Development Group launches in Uig

A press release by Buidheann Leasachaidh Ionad Hiort (The St Kilda Centre Development Group), issued following the group's first meeting today in Uig, Isle of Lewis, is now available on the Comann Eachdraidh Uig blog at the following link: St Kilda Centre group launched in Uig.

The new St. Kilda Centre/Ionad Hiort, when up and running, will be located at a cliff-top site at Mangurstadh, Uig. At the meeting, Iain Buchanan was appointed chairman of the group, and a twelve-strong committee established with Sarah Egan as secretary and Catriona MacLean as treasurer.

(With thanks to Comann Eachdraidh Uig)

Scotland's Greatest Story

Emerald Ancestors site updated

The following records have been added to the Emerald Ancestors website at

Newtownards Fourth Presbyterian, County Down. Baptisms 1854 - 1864

Baptismal records for Newtownards Fourth Presbyterian Church in the parish of Newtownards, County Down have now been added to the birth database. This church was originally located at Court Street and later moved to its present location in South Street.

These entries cover the period 1855 to 1864 inclusive, and include the Child’s name, Father’s name, Mother’s maiden name, date of Baptism and date of Birth.

(Microfilm copies of the registers are held in the Public Records Office (PRONI) under MIC 1P/389, Newtownards Fourth Presbyterian Church, County Down.)

Strabane First Presbyterian, Tyrone. Baptisms 1845 - 1863

Baptismal records for Strabane First Presbyterian Church in the parish of Camus-Juxta-Mourne, County Tyrone have now been added to the birth database.

These entries cover the period 1845 to 1863 inclusive, and include the Child’s name, Father’s name, Mother’s maiden name, Residence, date of Baptism and date of Birth.

(Microfilm copies of the registers are held in the Public Records Office (PRONI) under MIC 1P/10, Strabane First Presbyterian, Camus Parish, Co Tyrone.)

Linenhall (University Road) Presbyterian, Belfast, Co Antrim. Marriages 1871 - 1886

Civil Marriage records from the Linenhall Presbyterian Church, otherwise known as the University Road Presbyterian Church in Belfast, Co Antrim have been added to the marriage index database covering the period 1871 to 1886. Marriages from 1887 are recorded under the Crescent Presbyterian Church.

Scotland's Greatest Story

Has anyone in Derry seen a missing Spitfire?

Two aviation experts are trying to find out what became of a Spitfire which crashed near the modern Cty of Derry airport in 1941.

For more, see

Scotland's Greatest Story

Monday, 1 February 2010

Delay for Chelsea Pension records?

John Reid has blogged a report on the recent Bracknell Family History Fair down in England, in which he notes that the release of the Chelsea Pension military records (held by TNA) and due to be published by "may well be delayed owing to a publicity embargo in connection with the forthcoming UK election". I'm not sure how the release can be caught up with politics, unless the concern is in not getting enough coverage due to the election, but worth noting!

John also caught up with Chris Pomeroy, author of DNA and Family History, who has stated that the second edition has almost sold out, and that "any future version will not be published by TNA which has exited the publishing business".

The full post is available at

(With thanks to John Reid)

Scotland's Greatest Story

1939 England and Wales: new service at £42 per look up

The National Health Service Information centre has just contacted me to let me know about its new policy for searches in the 1939 National Register (see 1939 NHS 'census' to be made available in England and Wales) - and it is going to be expensive, at a cost of £42 per look up. If a search is unsuccessful, there will be no refund given.

For full details of terms and condition, where to send your cheque, who to pay it to, and for an application form, visit

UPDATE: There's been some speculation about whether this is an interim service prior to a database launch, or the real deal. I've sought to clarify this with the press officer at the NHSIC - this is his comment:

As far as I am aware this is the definitive method (i.e. of access). I am not aware of any plans to work with a commercial partner to make the data accessible by other means.

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