Sunday, 31 October 2010

Researching Scottish Witches

Hallowe'en is coming and the goose is getting fat,
Would you please put a penny in the auld man's hat?
If ye haven't got a penny, a ha'penny will do,
If ye haven't got a ha'penny, then God bless you
And yer auld man too!

That's how we used to Hallowe'en rhyme in my old neck of the woods in Ulster before someone decided to import 'Trick or Treat' from the US!

It's Hallowe'en and once again we are all going to die horribly from the ghosties and ghoulies etc. I'm currently reading "Scottish Witches" by Lily Seafield (Waverley Books 2009), containing lots of juicy witchcraft cases from the country as recorded in kirk session material and other sources.

Here's Mary Queen of Scots' original law to persecute witches from 1563:

The Quenis Majestie and thre Estatis in this present parliament being informit that the havy, abominabill superstitioun usit be divers of the liegis of this Realme be using of Witchcraftis, Sorsarie, and Necromancie, and credence gevin thairto in tymes bygane aganis the Law of God: and for avoyding and away putting of all sic vane superstition in tymes tocum

It is statute and ordainit be the Quenis Majestie and thre Estatis foirsaidis that na maner of persoun nor persounis of quhatsumever estate, degre, or conditioun thay be of tak upone hand in ony tumes heirafter to use ony maner of Witchcraftis, Sorsarie, or Necromaniue: nor gif thame selfis furth to have ony sic craft or knaeledge thairof, thairthrow abusand the pepill; nor that na persoun seik ony help, rsponse, or consultation at ony sic usaris (or abusaris) foirsaidis of Witchcraft, Sorcareis, or Necromancie, under the pane of dead: asweill to be execute aganis the user-abusar, as the seikar of the response or consultatioun

Mary kicked off the persecutions, but it was really under her son James VII that Scotland went all medieval against those practising witchcraft. A useful database for Scottish witchcraft research is the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft which has details of nearly 4000 people tried from 1563-1736 for witchcraft, with evidence for many gathered by local kirk sessions.

A good Hallowe'en read - but maybe keep all the lights as you do so...!

Professional genealogical problem solving and research
Researching Scottish Family History (New book)

Creative Commons new Public Domain Mark

A slightly delayed post, but of interest to those seeking copyright free imagery...


San Francisco, California, USA; The Hague, Netherlands — 12 October 2010

Today, Creative Commons announces the release of the Public Domain Mark (see right), a tool that enables works free of known copyright restrictions to be labeled in a way that clearly communicates that status to the public, and allows the works to be easily discovered over the Internet. The Public Domain Mark effectively increases the value of the public domain by making works that are already free of copyright readily accessible to the public. The Mark makes it clear to teachers and students, artists and scientists, that they are free to re-use material. Its release benefits everyone who wishes to build upon the rich and vast resources that are part of the shared public domain.

Europeana – Europe’s digital library, museum and archive ( – is the first major adopter of the Public Domain Mark. The tool will become the standard mark for works free of known copyright that are shared via the Europeana portal, playing an important infrastructural role in the EU’s efforts to ensure that all works shared online are marked with rights information. Europeana, whose partners include the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Bibliothèque nationale de France and Germany’s Bundesarchiv (Federal archives), estimates that the millions of out-of-copyright works made accessible via its searchable database will be labelled with the Public Domain Mark by Spring 2011. Europeana will announce the adoption of the Public Domain Mark at the upcoming Europeana Open Culture 2010 Conference, to be held 14-15 October in Amsterdam.

"The Public Domain Mark is a further step on the path towards making the promise of a digital public domain a reality," said Michael Carroll, a founding board member of Creative Commons and a law professor at American University. "Marking and tagging works with information about their copyright status is essential. Computers must be able to parse the public domain status of works to communicate its usefulness to the public. The metadata standard underpinning the Public Domain Mark and all of CC's licensing and legal tools are what makes this possible."

"An important part of our mandate is to ensure that digitized works made available through Europeana are properly labelled with rights information, including when a work is free of known copyright restrictions so that teachers, students and others can freely use it in their work, changing it and remixing it as they wish," noted Jill Cousins, Executive Director of Europeana. "The legal and technical rigour applied by Creative Commons throughout the development process makes the Public Domain Mark the natural choice for Europeana's infrastructure. We have also worked with Creative Commons and our content providers to develop a Usage Guide for public domain works to help users of cultural content use it responsibly – by crediting the provider, among other things."

The Public Domain Mark in its current form is intended for use with works that are free of known copyright around the world, primarily old works that are beyond the reach of copyright in all jurisdictions. Creative Commons is mapping the next phases of its public domain work, which will look at ways to identify and mark works that are in the public domain in a limited number of countries.

Creative Commons worked closely with Europeana and several of its members throughout the development of the Public Domain Mark. That process also included a public consultation period and review by CC’s worldwide affiliate network comprised of legal experts from more than 70 jurisdictions. The Public Domain Mark, to be used for marking works already free of copyright, complements Creative Commons’ CC0 public domain dedication, which provides an easy and reliable way for adding new works to the public domain prior to the expiry of copyright.

More information about the Public Domain Mark can be found on the Creative Commons website at

Professional genealogical problem solving and research
Researching Scottish Family History (New book)

Darien lists on The Original Record

Another new addition to The Original Record website (


Darien Company Subscription Lists

The Company of Scotland Trading to Africa and the Indies was established by Act of Parliament, a general subscription list being opened at Edinburgh from 26 February to 1 August 1696, and a separate one at Glasgow from 5 March to 22 April 1696. These lists were published in 1849 by the Bannatyne Club as an appendix to a volume called The Darien Papers. The lists give date, full name, sometimes an indication of address, and the amount of the subscription, in pounds Scots.

The Darien venture nearly bankrupted Scotland, and directly led to the country joining England in the Act of Union of 1707. Prior to this, Scotland had its own currency, the Scottish pound, and at this point there were twelve pounds Scots to the English sterling equivalent.

Professional genealogical problem solving and research
Researching Scottish Family History (New book)

Comann Eachdraidh Uig website

Comann Eachdraidh Uig, the historical society for Uig on the Isle of Lewis, has recently revamped its website at The new site is absolutely packed with resources, including the first two statistical accounts for the region, a description of the parish from 1749 by the Rev. Norman Morrison, old school photos, notes on religion and education, lists of old soldiers and a Roll of Honour, the names of locals who worked for the Hudson's Bay Company in Canada, a timeline, a new discussion forum, a list of shielings (plus photos), various photo galleries and much, much more. In short, direach sgoinneil - bloody brilliant...!

If you have ancestors from Uig, make sure you visit, and don't forget Hebridean Connections also at!

Also - for an irreverent 'history' of Stornoway, visit !

Professional genealogical problem solving and research
Researching Scottish Family History (New book)

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Golden Memories Charts

A quick plug for Christine Welch, a graphic designer in the English Midlands who runs a family tree design and printing service called Golden Memories ( Christine designed and printed my tree up for me a few years ago when she first started up (see below) and continues to provide the service to many other happy clients. You get to see proofs throughout the process, she is very amenable to changes, and the service is very affordable. If you are stuck for a Christmas prezzie, this could be a good option - but get in quick before the rush!

There are many other examples on her site, and blank charts can also be purchased. A great service!

Professional genealogical problem solving and research
Researching Scottish Family History (New book)

Scottish Monumental Inscriptions update

A quick update on new products from helen and the team at Scottish Monumental Inscriptions (

The New list of CDs for sale which have recently been added to the website, complete with name index are as follows.

Blair Atholl- Kilmaveonaig Churchyard - Perthshire.
Plockton Churchyard - Highlands.
Pathhead & Nether Street, Churchyards - Fife.
Clarkston Churchyard- Airdrie - Lanarkshire.
Covington & Quothquan Churchyards - Lanarkshire.
Dunkeld Churchyard- Dowally - Perthshire.
Lamington Church- Cemetery - Lanarkshire.
Kirkton Churchyard- Lochalsh - Highland.
St Serf & Barony Churchyards - Fife.
Wilsontown Churchyard Forth - Lanarkshire.

CDs due in the next week.

Auchtertool Church & Cemetery - Fife.
Wiston & Roberton Churchyards - Lanarkshire.
Libberton Chuch Cemetery - Lanarkshire.

Currently Under Transcription.

Tillicoutry Cemetery - Clackmannanshire.
Symington Church- Cemetery with St Johns Kirk - Lanarkshire.
Kingsbarnes Churchyard - Fife.
Cairneyhill Churchyard - Fife.
Cille Choirill Roy Bridge - Highlands.
Clachan Duich- Sheil Bridge- Highlands.
Kilchuiman Burial Ground - Inverness.
Kilmonivaig Spean Bridge- Highlands
Gairlochy - Highlands.

Professional genealogical problem solving and research
Researching Scottish Family History (New book)

Additions to the Original Record

The following additions to the Original record site ( may be of interest to those with Scots and Irish ancestors:

Board of Stamps Apprenticeship Books: Country Collectors’ Returns

Apprenticeship indentures and clerks' articles were subject to a 6d or 12d per pound stamp duty: the registers of the payments usually give the master's trade, address, and occupation, and the apprentice's name, as well as details of the date and length of the apprenticeship. There are central registers for collections of the stamp duty in London, as well as returns from collectors in the provinces. These collectors generally received duty just from their own county, but sometimes from further afield: in 1770 a change was made to describe many of the collectors according to their county rather than their town, but no change was made to the rule that they might stamp indentures from all the surrounding area, so these labels are deceptive. The indentures themselves can date from a year or two earlier than this return. There are returns from Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Brecknockshire, Bristol, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Cardiganshire, Cheshire, Cornwall, Denbighshire, Derbysh ire, Devonshire, Dorsetshire, Durham, Essex, Glamorganshire, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Herefordshire, Huntingdonshire, Kent, Lancashire, Leicestershire, Leominster, Lincolnshire, Liverpool, Monmouthshire, Norfolk, Northamptonshire, Northumberland, Nottinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Pembrokeshire, Scotland, Shropshire, Somersetshire, Staffordshire, Suffolk, Sussex, Westmorland, Wiltshire, Worcestershire, and Yorkshire, each of which has been indexed separately. 13 October 1776 to 20 February 1779. IR 1/60

North Tipperary Jurors

Returns of the complete panels of jurors for the Spring Assizes of 1840 to 1844 for the Northern Division of county Tipperary; of the petty juries for the General Assizes and General Gaol Delivery held at Nenagh in March and July or August, 1839 to 1844; and of the petty jury for the Special Commission of Oyer and Terminer and General Gaol Delivery held at Clonmel 28 June 1842. The petty jury lists give full name, parish or place of abode, and occupation (such as esquire, gentleman, or merchant). A little over 200 inhabitants appear on each petty jury list.

Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain

The membership list of the Pharmaceutical Society was divided into London Members; Country Members; Foreign Life Members; Associates admitted before 1 July 1842; Associates who have passed the Major Examination; and Associates who have passed the Minor Examination. In each case the lists give year of admission; number of certificate (where appropriate); name (surname first, christian name and initials); and address (house number and street name in London, merely town of residence elsewhere). An asterisk before the surname indicates a life member (except in the list of Foreign Life Members). There is also a list of registered apprentices: in this list we have year of registration, full name (surname first); master's name (in the form 'residing with Mr. Smith') and town. We have indexed each of these lists, and the names of the masters, separately.

Calcutta Marriage Notices

A compilation of marriage notices from Calcutta newspapers published in England in the Indian Mail in 1857, and covering the period 24 October 1856 to 16 November 1857. Most of the marriages recorded took place within the Bengal presidency.

Patentees of New Inventions

Index of patentees and applicants for patents of inventions in 1869: giving full name of patentee (surname first); number of patent (in bold); date (within 1869); and subject-matter. Where the patentee was acting as agent for third parties, their names are given in italics in the subject-matter column.

The site is a little awkward to use, and has an odd payment set up, but has some absolutely amazing and unique material you won't find elsewhere, so worth persevering with!

Professional genealogical problem solving and research
Researching Scottish Family History (New book)

Wallace ancestors down under?

Lords Day May 28 1721
On which day Robert Wallace, servitor to James Wauchope in East Barns, and Elspith Finlaw his spouse and living at Dryburnfoard in this parish had a son baptised David. Witnesses James Sampson, a servant in Dryburnfoard and David Deans, servant to the said James Wauchope.

If the above entry concerning the Wallace family of Innerwick rings a bell, you may be interested to note that one of their descendants, Doug Wallace has printed a book in Melbourne concerning some of their descendants. Here's the cover blurb:

This is the story of one branch of the Wallace Family. It begins with David, a blacksmith who was born in 1721 at Innerwick, Scotland, and was near Prestonpans in 1745 when Prince Charles defeated the English. His great grandson George, a baker, migrated to Australia in 1853 to find gold and was at Ballarat at the time of the Eureka stockade. It follows their descendants through two world wars to the present day.

David moved to Dunbar and married Jean Gillies in 1746 (she was born in Spott in 1721), and the couple had eight children. Their son David moved to Tranent and married Margaret Bruce in 1793, and amongst their children was William Wallace, born 1799, christened at Tranent 7 DEC, the author's great great grandfather. His son George Wallace, born Dunkeld 1830 emigrated to Oz in 1853.

Doug's book has a full history and genealogical charts, and is privately published. If interested, contact him at dwalnic @

Professional genealogical problem solving and research
Researching Scottish Family History (New book)

Some Western Australia resources

At the talks I gave in Perth WA last week I met with Tricia Fairweather and Leonie Hayes of the State Library of Western Australia. Leonie has since been in touch to provide a useful list of resources which might help with those researching Perth and other WA based ancestors. Over to Leonie...!

As promised, this is the link to our shared bookmarks for genealogy: you will find a lot of helpful Australian links here.

On our State Library website there are the digitised Post Office Directories for Western Australia 1893 – 1949:

The Police Gazette of Western Australia 1876 - 1900:

We are currently digitising a large number of other W.A. resources which should come through within the next few months.

Dead Reckoning: how to find your way through the genealogical jungle of Western Australia: This is the definitive guide to resources held in the SLWA and the State Records Office of Western Australia.

You also asked us to email you the link for Picture Australia (from the National Library of Australia):

Many thanks Leonie!

Professional genealogical problem solving and research
Researching Scottish Family History (New book)

Boer War records database on FindmyPast

From FindmyPast (


* Boer War Deaths 1899-1902 now available to search on

* Details of over 260,000 names of the men and women who served the British Empire forces

* Includes the most up to date casualty list of 59,000 casualties with more background than ever before

Leading family history website has published online the Register of the Second Anglo-Boer War 1899-1902, recording individual servicemen, nurses and civilians who served with the British Imperial Forces during the Second Anglo-Boer War.

This register includes very rare and out of print documents, creating a single record for each participant in the war, making it the most unique database of its kind for amateur genealogists, military historians and medal collectors to research. The database includes 260,000 entries, including the casualty roll with details of over 59,000 individuals.

This is the first time that these records have come together in one place, making it easy to find ancestors who took part, with only a surname needed to begin the search. The published casualty records that previously existed were often imprecise, due to lack of familiarity with the Afrikaans language, use of names that have passed out of usage and the location of the records. For example, many of the casualties of the Battle of Biddulsphberg are shown in the casualty roll as Senekal; this is the place where the troops retired to and where the casualty roll was prepared rather than where they actually fought.

This new online version can help you:

. Find the unit with which your ancestor served
. Quickly research a medal before you buy or bid for it
. Find the many units with which a soldier served
. Learn about the place they became a casualty
. Find the medal roll reference and for some records the clasp entitlement
. Locate which war memorial they appear on
. Learn about a mention in a book
. Find what honours and awards they received

In the course of consulting various sources to compile this new register, many errors and conflicting information were discovered, demonstrating the need for a comprehensive database such as this Register. The database has a huge advantage over the printed source, as the information can be refined, corrected and represented to the researcher instantly.

About The Register

Boer War research can be confusing as there were two Boer Wars. The First Boer War was fought from 1880 to 1881, whereas the Second Boer War lasted longer, from 1899 to 1902*. The Register released today focuses on the second Boer War and brings together information from over 330 sources.

The main sources used to build the Register are the Official Casualty Rolls**, A Gazetteer of the Second Anglo-Boer War 1899-1902, Medal Rolls, Anglo-Boer War Memorials Project, Winifred Scott's Anglo-Boer War Index and Kevin Asplin's rolls for the British cavalry, Imperial Yeomanry, Imperial Yeomanry Hospital, and the Lovat's Scouts and Scottish Horse records.

The Gazetteer is the biggest innovation in regard to the documents used. The location of many casualties is linked to the gazetteer entry that provides information on the geographical location and the military context to that casualty. The work on the revised casualty roll has introduced a further 300 entries and this now makes the gazetteer contained within this database the most comprehensive ever for the Anglo-Boer War.

Debra Chatfield, Marketing Manager at, said: "By hosting this unique Register of the Second Anglo-Boer War, is the only place where people can come and easily search these records online. A great amount of work has been put into creating this Register, by people who live and breathe the Boer War, so we are very pleased that they want to share it with us and our members, making it easier than ever before to find those who took part."

Meurig Jones, creator of The Register commented: "The Register adds real value to research by using powerful technology. For the researcher The Register will save time by combining information from many varied sources at the click of a button."

(With thanks to Debra Chatfield)

Professional genealogical problem solving and research
Researching Scottish Family History (New book)

National Library goes to Dunfermline

From the National Library of Scotland:

The NLS roadshow's next stop is Dunfermline. The programme of events includes a talk on Fife local hero "Queen of Science" Mary Somerville. We'll also be running school workshops and providing information on family history resources, remote access to NLS collections, and the history of Fife through its maps. The roadshow will be rounded off with an evening film screening of footage from the Scottish Screen Archive. Want to find out how to access NLS from Fife? Come to the Dunfermline roadshow.

The show will be based at Dunfermline Carnegie Library - further details are at

Professional genealogical problem solving and research
Researching Scottish Family History (New book)

ScotlandsPeople Centre blog

The ScotlandsPeople Centre in Edinburgh has a new blog at

The blog was in fact launched mid-September, but having been away for most of the last month I've only just come across it. To date it has eight posts covering Shirley Manson's visit to the centre last year, the recent Doors Open Day, anniversary posts such as the death of James VII and the birth of Professor James Beattie in 1735, and other items of interest.

Professional genealogical problem solving and research
Researching Scottish Family History (New book)

Leith WW1 Roll of Honour online

Lothian Health Services Archive has just placed a First World War Roll of Honour online at There are 5 volumes, created by a resolution of Leith Town Council in 1920, and listing the 2206 officers and men who were killed in the Great War of 1914-1918, as well as the 350 who earned special honours.

(With thanks to David McNay at the Scottish Military Research Group)

Professional genealogical problem solving and research
Researching Scottish Family History (New book)

Friday, 29 October 2010

Scottish directories online

Again thanks to Alan at Talking Scot for pointing out that over 500 Scottish trade directories are now online at the Internet Archive - see

This would appear to be the result of the current digitisation project at the National Library of Scotland, which also ties in with the EDINA/NLS Addressing History project. At present there are three Internet Archive hosted Edinburgh directories fully searchable on the project's beta site at, where the results can also be plotted on contemporary maps. The team have recently stated that if the beta is judged successful, the project will be extended to cover over 400 trade directories from across the country.

Professional genealogical problem solving and research
Researching Scottish Family History (New book)

Glasgow Herald 1806-1990 online at Google

Google has extended its archive coverage of the Glasgow Herald to now cover the period from 1806-1990 at The collection is not complete, and appears to be a work in progress. Whilst the British Library 19th Century Newspaper Collection has issues from 1820-1900 (mainly from 1844 onwards), this collection on Google has substantial coverage for the pre-1844 period, though according to Alan of the Talking Scot forum is not quite so good when it comes to searching. Nevertheless, it is free, and can certainly be browsed as well as searched.

Google also has the Glasgow Advertiser from 1789-1801 on the site at

(With thanks to Alan at Talking Scot)

Professional genealogical problem solving and research
Researching Scottish Family History (New book)

Interview with Edwina Shooter at WAGS

On Tuesday 19th October I visited the Western Australian Genealogy Society library at Perth, en route to the airport, where I caught up with Liana Fitzpatrick, the society president, and Edwina Shooter, the librarian. Edwina kindly agreed to a short interview to describe the library's holdings, including its Scottish records, which included printed abridgements to Registers of Deeds and pre-1781 Registers of Sasines, as well as a whole host of other records. The following is the chat with Edwina, to whom thanks are given - and congratulations on winning the best website award from the Federation of Family History Societies in England!

For more on WAGS, visit

Professional genealogical problem solving and research
Researching Scottish Family History (New book)

Welsh records to go online

From FindmyPast (

* 8,000,000 records to be indexed in two years
* Records date back to the 16th century

Family history website is making available online for the very first time fully searchable indexes and images of the parish registers of Wales. The project is taking place with the permission of the Church in Wales and Welsh Archive Services and is working with FamilySearch International, the world's largest repository of genealogical records, to digitise the records.

Around 893,000 images containing 8,000,000 baptisms, marriages and burials from across Wales will be filmed by FamilySearch and transcribed by Some of the records date back to the sixteenth century, making it possible to find Welsh ancestors as far back as the 1500s. The records contain entries in English and Latin.

The records will be made available over the next two years at with an index search available on Free access to the images on will be made available through all Archive Services in Wales*.

Debra Chatfield, Marketing Manager at, said: "It is fantastic that we will be able to make these records available to search online for the very first time. By making these records available family history researchers, old and new, can discover more about their ancestors and where they lived. We are looking forward to working with Welsh Archive Services and FamilySearch on such an important project for Welsh ancestry research."

David Rencher, FamilySearch Chief Genealogical Officer, added "Genealogical research in Wales has been very difficult for years and the opening of this amount of data for baptisms, marriages and burials will be a tremendous resource for those with Welsh ancestry. We commend all of those who have worked so diligently to make this happen and in such a dramatic fashion."

Catherine Richards, the County Archivist at Powys and Chair of the Welsh County Archivists' Group commented: "We are very excited to work with and FamilySearch to make our parish registers available online. Making our records accessible to as wide an audience as possible is one of the main objectives of Archive Services across Wales. Records of baptisms, marriages and burials are a major resource for family historians and can reveal fascinating and surprising secrets back through the generations."

(* If they are not accessed through Welsh Archive Services, i.e at home, a cost will be incurred to access the records.)

With thanks to Debra Chatfield at FindmyPast

Professional genealogical problem solving and research
Researching Scottish Family History (New book)

Talks tour of Australia - the report!

Well I'm now back in Scotland after a fantastic 12 days away in Australia, where I was invited to do a short talks tour of four major cities, Perth, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. The major event on the itinerary was the Sydney Expo, where I gave four Scottish based talks over two days. The whole thing was arranged by Alan Phillips of Gould Genealogy and Unlock the Past, a relatively new venture currently underway headed by Gould Genealogy and genealogist Shauna Hicks, as well as a wonderful team of helpers across the country, including Mike Murray, Susie Zada, Rosemary Kopittke, the wonderful quartet of Anthea, Aimee, Sharon (mad about Sooty!) and Alona, and others, who made the entire venture run smoothly and professionally. Further thanks in particular must also go to my wonderful family down under - my nephew Luke in Connolly, WA, and his parents Anita and Declan; my uncle Bill and aunt Beth in Keysborough, Melbourne; my noble cousins Aly and Roslyn (and her new twin bubs!); and finally my cousin Brad and family in Eagleby, Queensland, all of whom put me up and ferried me around without a single complaint, going well and truly above and beyond the call of family duty!

In this post I will give a brief overview of where I visited and some initial observations, but over the next few days I will add further posts including video interviews, product reviews and brief observations on my time there, and specifically with reference to Scottish genealogy.

The pattern for the talks in Perth, Melbourne and Brisbane was to do an initial one hour talk on basic Scottish resources, with the majority of that based on the new look ScotlandsPeople site (including forthcoming developments), as well as other key basic resources that can be found online. Following a half hour break the second session then took a more detailed introductory look at two key areas - church records and land records - where things differ substantially to how research is done elsewhere in the British Isles. By its very definition this second talk was packed with information, but was essentially designed to introduce people to the unique challenges that face them when looking at the Scottish situation. The sessions ended with a final fifteen minutes where people could buy my book, ask questions, and in one lady's case, introduce herself as a distant cousin! At each venue I was absolutely mobbed by people in the breaks with questions, and there's nothing more exciting than having to think on your feet and provide answers machine gun style! I thoroughly enjoyed it, meeting many archivists and librarians for the first time, several ex-Pharos students and ordinary members of the public, and hopefully managing to provide some satisfactory answers along the way!

Beyond the talks I also managed to fit in a few other stops - in Perth I visited the Western Australia Genealogy Society Library (on my way to get a flight to Melbourne); I managed to visit my brainy boffin cousin Aly (pictured right) at work in the Melbourne Children's Hospital, where she gave me a tour of her fully functioning DNA lab (she sequences DNA as an assistant there) and to join many dots in my knowledge of DNA; Alan Phillips of Gould Genealogy gave me a very welcome tour of a very rainy Sydney Harbour, meaning that I got to see key sites such as the bridge, the opera house, but also buildngs such as the Society of Australian Genealogists premises and more; and in Brisbane, I managed at long last to visit Paton Street and Bell Street at Kangaroo Point (see below), named after members of my family who emigrated there on board the Chasely in 1849, perhaps the real highlight of the whole trip for me personally. I had one 'tourist' day off at the end, and managed to see many other sites around Brisbane and Queensland, the most notable of which was perhaps a tiny chip shop in Surfers Paradise with some of the best food ever! :) It was a PACKED schedule, but being so hit and run across the country it had a brilliant way of focussing the mind!

The Sydney Expo was the biggest event of the trip. This was a two day genealogy fair in Parramatta, on the scale of a show the size of the Newcastle based National Family History Fair, in the wonderful Parramatta Retired Services League Club (a sort of British Legion equivalent for Australia). There was a packed programme of talks there from genealogists and archivists from across Australia, and I managed to have conversations over coffees and drinks with Megan Gibson, one of the genealogists working on the Oz version of Who Do You Think You Are, who like me also has a TV production background (at last, I'm not alone! lol); Shauna Hicks, who is perhaps the best known gene genie in Oz; the brilliant Mike Murray of Time Trackers, who produces interview DVDs and does client research in WA, and whose father was from Shawbost on Lewis; and the team from, led by Debra Chesterton, with whom I had lunch on the Friday and who gave me a fantastic overview of the market that they deal with down under. Along the way I also shared converations with Susie Zada (who knows a thing or two about the genealogical potential of sewage maps!), Liz Doyle of Customised Heritage Tours, Cassie Mercer of Inside History, and many other great folk. (A short interview with me produced by Mike Murray and a review of the event from blogger Geniaus can be found at

It is probably worth giving a quick impression of the state of Ozzie genealogy as I perceived it on this visit, as a complete outsider. In Britain, there has been a lot of misguided talk about how the TV show Who Do You Think You Are brought genealogy to the masses here. In fact it didn't - the series was commissioned because of the rapid development of online resources affecting and promoting family history research, and hence the BBC sat up and took notice. The show has however since provided a conduit for many to join the hobby who may not have before. In Australia, the show is shown on one of the lesser channels, called SBS, and has less of a budget per series. There are 6 editions per each run, with a fourth series due to start soon, and each programme has to add to the channel's core remit of providing an insight into ethnic and cultural diversity. The series, although as well made as the UK equivalent, therefore has a lower profile, and was described to me as being the show watched by those who are already in on the whole genealogy thing, rather than the populist celebrity fest that it has become here. As such, there is no WDYTYA Live type show, meaning that the Unlock the Past Expo is perhaps the closest thing to it, a decent and well planned affair that concentrates on the task at hand, as with most other British type shows, and very welcome for that.

I was particularly surprised to note some of the barriers that have prevented growth of online resources in Australia. The bottom line is that many institutions have not been allowed by law to make money commercially from the digitisation of their resources, in the way that the National Archives at Kew or the General Register Office for Scotland have here. This is slowly being addressed, with Ancestry in particular trying to secure changes in the law, which recently led to the upload of Ozzie BMD indexes, for example. This is an institutional and cultural change that the country is still slowly embracing, though the National Library of Australia and others have been making some impressive inroads on getting free content online (with TROVE, Australian newspapers, etc).

I was also amazed at how focussed a lot of Scottish enquiries were from many of those doing their research, and came across a few surprises, not least of which was to discover from genealogist Sylvia Murphy that the Families in British India Society (FIBIS) has a substantial presence in Oz, and makes a significant contribution to the site's various transcription projects. The set up at the WAGS Library in Perth (see pic right, Liane Fitzpatrick, WAGS president) also blew me away, with some great Scottish resources as gathered by members over the last 30 years or so, and from conversations I had with other equivalent groups in Victoria and Queensland I can imagine their libraries are equally well stocked.

Overall I was seriously impressed with everything I saw, and am extremely grateful for the opportunity to attend. To Alan and all those at Unlock the Past reponsible, a sincere thank you! O
n the back of the trip I have now agreed to put together a short book on how to research Scottish church records for Unlock the Past - more details soon, but hoping to get it produced by Christmas and available early next year!

Professional genealogical problem solving and research
Researching Scottish Family History (New book)

Discover my Past Scotland 25 now on sale

The latest issue of Discover my Past Scotland (November, issue 25) is now on sale at - here's the blurb!

This 40-page A4 issue is packed with special features and how-to guides to connect you with your Scottish Heritage, including:

Scotland the Brave – Our ancestors’ military history
Latter-day Saints – An invaluable genealogy resource (by yours truly)
Lumber Jills – Unsung heroines of war
Collectors for the Crown – Customs & Excise records
The generation game – A first-time foray into family history
Spotlight on Peebles
Expert Q&A
Family history newsround, library and events

Plus: High quality photographs for you to order and website resources to help your family research

All for a stonking £2.50 only, and fully downloadable in PDF format.

Professional genealogical problem solving and research
Researching Scottish Family History (New book)

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Interviewed by Unlock the Past

Proof, if ever I needed it, that I talk too much...! Unlock the Past's Susie Zada interviewed me at Parramatta a couple of days ago, with Mike Murray of Time Trackers (and from Shawbost on Lewis!) the man behind the lens.

Professional genealogical problem solving and research
Researching Scottish Family History (New book)

Scottish DNA Project blog launch

A quick plug for a new blog by a friend - the Scottish DNA Project blog at is being run by Alisadair MacDonald at the University of Strathclyde to tie in with his work there. The first post deals with the project's history.

Professional genealogical problem solving and research
Researching Scottish Family History (New book)

Monday, 25 October 2010

Normal service again soon!

Hi folks, I'm still in Australia, currently in Brisbane finishing off the talks tour that Unlock the Past very kindly organised to tie in with the Sydney Expo. I'm having an absolute ball, and have a couple of video interviews, product reviews, and general thoughts to upload soon, before getting back to the main point of the blog! Stay tuned...! :)

Professional genealogical problem solving and research
Researching Scottish Family History (New book)

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Ancestry launches new Labs site


We have just announced a new “Labs” area on Labs is a separate site where we can give you a sneak preview of new ideas and concepts for helping family history research (but that are not yet ready for prime time). Most importantly for us, it gives us a chance to hear feedback directly from our most passionate users.

Right now, Ancestry Labs will be linked only from relevant blog posts, but in the future, it’s possible we may introduce a permanent link from the site, and perhaps from

The projects we will place in this area may be in beta (like Ancestry Wiki) or they may be early prototypes. Some of these may make their way into the site and perhaps, others may not. Much depends on your feedback.

The new lab site is very much a work in progress but Ancestry is launching it with a Person View facility - for more details see the Ancestry blog at

Professional genealogical problem solving and research
Researching Scottish Family History (New book)

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

New army lists on the

From The has added over 20 new Army and Navy lists making our set the largest collection of Army and Navy lists available online at

Access to these military records is available for all Personal Plus and Premium subscribers. currently has over 40 Army Lists ranging from 1661-1940 and over 20 Navy Lists ranging from 1822-1944.

Army Lists can contain rank and regiment of officers, details of those stationed abroad and recipients of the Victoria Cross.

These records are searchable by surname and forename or you can browse through the pages using our bookmarked images and add to our

A detailed list of the Army and Navy Lists available is available at

These Lists add to the Military Collection available at which also includes records for; Roll of Honour, National Roll of the Great War, Bond of Sacrifice, Chatham, Plymouth and Portsmouth Memorial Register 1914-1921, The Victoria Cross and Distinguished Service Order records 1857-1923, WW1 and WW2 Death Indexes, Overseas & Military BMDs.

(With thanks to Emma at The Genealogist)

Professional genealogical problem solving and research
Researching Scottish Family History (New book)

Friday, 15 October 2010

Poor law talk at Alloway

From Alloway and Southern Ayrshire FHS:

Alloway & Southern Ayrshire Family History Society are holding a meeting in The Alloway Church Halls on Tuesday 19th October 2010 at 7.45pm

The speaker is Dr. Irene O'Brien who is the Senior Archivist at The Mitchell Library. Her subject is "The Poor Laws from 1845".

Visitors are most welcome. Charge is £1.50 which includes a light refreshment.

Professional genealogical problem solving and research
Researching Scottish Family History (New book)

Heading for Australia for Scottish genealogy presentations!

Hi folks, sorry for the lack of posts in the last few days, I deliberately switched off to have a well earned rest with my family on the Isle of Skye, to get over the HORROR of having turned 40...! (Well not really horror, but I like to inject a bit of drama in from time to time!). My feet are back on the earth again (Skye is heaven), but tomorrow I am off yet again, this time to Australia to do a series of talks at the Sydney Expo, and at other venues in Perth, Melbourne and Brisbane. Here's the blurb on the Sydney event:

Adelaide, South Australia, 12 October 2010 - Unlock the Past with the support of the Society of Australian Genealogists announces the History & Genealogy Expo Sydney 2010. This will be a fascinating 2 day exhibition and conference on 22-23 October 2010 at Parramatta RSL, Corner Macquarie and O’Connell Streets, Parramatta, NSW.

The Expo is a unique opportunity to see many societies, libraries and commercial product and service suppliers in one place and to learn from many expert presenters.

The exhibition will feature 50 exhibitors covering a wide range of history and genealogy interests. These will include major archives, libraries, societies and commercial exhibitors, including the announcement of an exciting new magazine ‘Inside History’.

The conference includes 40 talks by 23 presenters headed by Chris Paton, leading Scottish author, speaker and professional researcher, plus a great team of other experts from several states - many new to Sydney.

Other highlights of the History & Genealogy Expo Sydney 2010 include:

National and state archives, libraries, and societies, including many regional societies
consultations with experts and research clinics
books, software, data CDs for sale
special offers, vouchers and prizes ... and much more
Entrance to the Exhibition is a mere $10 pre-booked or $20 pay when you arrive for both days. Talks are a modest extra cost.

‘I am very excited, and I look forward to seeing you all down under!’ – Chris Paton Scottish author, speaker and professional researcher.

For more information including speakers, exhibitors and program visit the Unlock the Past website:

Come along to the first Unlock the Past History & Genealogy

As mentioned, I am also doing talks in three other cities - Perth on Monday 18th, Melbourne on Wednesday 20th, and Brisbane on Monday 25th. Full details are available at

See you soon! :)

Professional genealogical problem solving and research
Researching Scottish Family History (New book)

Thursday, 14 October 2010

More Chelsea Pension records

Missing some Chelsea Pensioners? FindmyPast has posted a quick update on Facebook:

We’ve just published over 7,000 extra Chelsea Pensioner records 1801-1912! There’s a good chance that if you couldn’t find your ancestors in these records before, you’ll be able to now. Read our blog to find out more:

Professional genealogical problem solving and research
Researching Scottish Family History (New book)

Friday, 8 October 2010

Edinburgh's War

A new project, designed to get Edinburgh and Lothians folk to share their stories and family memories of the First World War, has been launched by the University of Edinburgh and the City of Edinburgh Council Libraries Department.

Entitled Edinburgh's War, the project utilised a great deal of expertise and manpower from volunteer members of the Scottish Military Research Group. The official launch was held at the University’s Playfair Library and attended by representatives of many of the local businesses and organisations which have supplied information to the project. Good news was also added at the launch with the announcement that funding for the project will continue until 2014 at least, the hundredth anniversary of the war's outbreak.

The project can be viewed at - further coverage is available at the Scottish Military Research Group blog at

(With thanks to David McNay)

Professional genealogical problem solving and research
Researching Scottish Family History (New book)

New Bill to allow historical abuse records access

The National Archives of Scotland has announced that a new parliamentary bill to improve record keeping and to help vulnerable people trace their records more easily has just been published by the Scottish Government.

The Public Records (Scotland) Bill aims to strengthen the transparency and accountability of record keeping across the public sector. It will also fulfil one of the main recommendations of the Historical Abuse Systemic Review (the Shaw Report of 2007).

For more information, visit

Professional genealogical problem solving and research
Researching Scottish Family History (New book)

1926 Irish census bill ready for the Seanad

The Statistics (Heritage Amendment) Bill, 2010 has been published and is awaiting to be introduced at Second Stage in Seanad Éireann, the Irish Government's upper house. The Bill is designed to secure the release of the 1926 Census of Ireland, and is sponsored by Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú (Fianna Fáil) and has the support of many senators on both sides of the House. The Bill can be consulted online at

The 1926 census in Ireland was the first to be carried out in the Irish Free State (Eire) following Partition of the island. Due to the Troubles of 1921, no decennial census was carried out anywhere in Ireland. If successful, the counties released will be those from the 26 counties of the modern Irish Republic, but not the six counties of Northern Ireland.

The moral weight behind the potential release of the 1926 documents lies in the fact that a good half of all censuses from 1821-1891 (they started earlier in Ireland, in 1821, and with genealogical info from the outset) were destroyed by fire during the Irish Civil War in Dublin, 1922 - the rest were previously pulped by the British Government in the First World War to produce paper.

(With thanks to Roger Lewry of the Federation of Family History Societies)

Professional genealogical problem solving and research
Researching Scottish Family History (New book)

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Hudson Bay Company records

The archive for the Canadian based Hudson Bay Company, which employed many Scots, has placed online a series of bibliographical sheets detailing their employment history. The link is at

(With thanks to the Anglo-Celtic Connections

Professional genealogical problem solving and research
Researching Scottish Family History (New book)

Guest Post - Jewish Roots in Scotland

You know that situation when you wait for a bus then three come along at once?! Well Scottish GENES is getting in on that act! Following Evelyn McCulloch's brilliant blog post earlier in the week on Scottish infanticide, I am pleased to be able to bring another guest post, this time from Harvey Kaplan of the Scottish Jewish Archive Centre. If you had Jewish ancestors in Scotland, where can you turn for help? Well Harvey's a good start!

Jewish Roots in Scotland

Scottish Jewish roots do not run very deep, compared with the ancient Jewish communities elsewhere in Europe. The first Jewish community was established in Edinburgh in 1816, then Glasgow in 1823. Later in the 19th century, communities were also set up in Aberdeen and Dundee. There are five places which once had a Jewish community, but no longer: Ayr, Dunfermline, Falkirk, Greenock and Inverness. Jews in Scotland have generally lived in an atmosphere of tolerance, respected by the Presbyterian Scots as the ‘People of the Book’. Scotland is one of the few countries with no noticeable record of antisemitism.

A wide variety of source material awaits those researching Scottish Jewish family history. Obviously, Jews appear in the indexes of births, marriages and deaths in Scotland since 1855. Because Scottish birth certificates give the date and place of marriage of the parents, the certificates of children born here to parents who were married in Europe often provide a clue to town/country of origin. Another clue might be provided by census records - especially for 1881, 1891 and 1901.

Other useful public records include naturalisation records (available in the National Archives in Kew and indexed at ), city directories, valuation rolls, electoral registers, school admission records and passenger lists of ships carrying emigrants from Glasgow to North America and beyond (available at .

A common problem with Jewish records is that immigrant names were often mis-spelt by officials, and immigrant families often used varying spellings of their names.

The Scottish Jewish Archives Centre, established in Garnethill Synagogue in Glasgow (Scotland's oldest) collects and preserves material related to the history of the Jews in Scotland, documents and exhibits the collections for the benefit of the general public, and makes them available for researchers. It also contains a small museum.

The collections include synagogue registers, records of 99% of Scottish Jewish burials, charity subscription records, organisational records, membership lists, newspapers, photographs, artefacts, immigration and other personal papers.

The Centre is open on most Thursday and Friday mornings by appointment (phone 0141 332 4911), and once a month on a Sunday afternoon (other times by arrangement). Its website is at (email:

Visitors may consult the Historical Database of Scottish Jewry, a computerised database which collates records on over 34,600 Jews in Scotland.

The Archives Centre has a small Family History Network – details from:

The main international website for Jewish genealogy is at This contains a huge amount of information, such as databases of East European records and of Jewish genealogists around the world, listing their research interests.

Harvey L. Kaplan is the director of the Scottish Jewish Archive Centre in Glasgow, and author of The Gorbals Jewish Community in 1901, an illustrated snapshot of the vibrant Jewish community in the Gorbals area of Glasgow in 1901, based on a detailed analysis of the 1901 Census (with some 800 heads of households listed), but drawing also on a wide range of contemporary sources. (£5 +p&p, available from the Scottish Jewish Archives Centre at 129 Hill Street, Glasgow G3 6UB /

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Thanks to West Lothian FHS

Thanks to Karen Marr and the team at West Lothian FHS for their hospitality last night. I was there to do a presentation on online Irish resources, and they told me it was the biggest attendance they'd ever had at a talk, so clearly a demand! I hope that that was fulfilled, and that my waffling can help a few members to break through their brick walls!

For more on West Lothian FHS, visit

Professional genealogical problem solving and research
Researching Scottish Family History (New book)

Northern Health Services Archives day event

Many thanks to Alison Smith of Gene Genie Scotland for the following:

Northern Health Services Archives Drop-in Day
Monday 18th October, 9.30am - 3.30pm
Victoria Pavilion, Woolmanhill Hospital, Aberdeen

Resources include:

· Exhibition of records for family historians
· Display of historical hospital photographs
· General information & ‘How to’ leaflets
· Catalogues, indexes & reference works
· Expert advice on individual queries

For more about Northern Health Services Archives, which holds the historic records of almost 100 Grampian hospitals and health organisations, visit;jsessionid=602330E7A15602617427EA520E67917F?pContentID=5420&p_applic=CCC&

Professional genealogical problem solving and research
Researching Scottish Family History (New book)

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Antrim teachers from 1826

New database on The Original Record (

Teachers in Antrim Deserving of Encouragement (1826)

The Society for Promoting the Education of the Poor of Ireland awarded gratuities to 'Teachers, appearing, from the Inspectors' Reports of their Schools, to be deserving of encouragement'. 98 such teachers were identified in county Antrim in 1826, and are listed in the society's report for the following year, with their full name and the name of their school.

Professional genealogical problem solving and research
Researching Scottish Family History (New book)

Glasgow sick kids records

Brilliant news from the Historic Hospital Admission Records Project (

Welcome to HHARP, the home of 19th century children’s hospital records

We are very pleased to announce the addition of a new database of admission records to the HHARP website: the Royal Glasgow Sick Children’s Hospital. Covering the period 1883 (when the hospital first opened) to 1903, the database offers insight into the health of the poor child in the Scottish city of Glasgow, complementing databases already available for three London hospitals: the Hospital for Sick Children at Great Ormond Street, the Evelina Hospital and the Alexandra Hospital for Children with Hip Disease. In HHARP family historians can find patients by name, medical historians can study childhood diseases and investigate pioneering medical staff, while demographers can analyse incidence of disease in Victorian and Edwardian London. It provides access to nearly 120,000 individual admission records between 1852 and 1914; and a collection of articles on the early history of the hospitals, pen-portraits of personalities who inhabited them and a gallery of images.

With thanks to Sheena Tait

Professional genealogical problem solving and research
Researching Scottish Family History (New book)

Monday, 4 October 2010

Toronto workshop - details of talks

I blogged recently that I will be giving a series of three talks in Toronto on Saturday June 18th 2011. A description of these talks is now available online via the website of the Toronto Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society at

The society is also looking for other speakers to provide talks on Scottish based themes - the deadline is November 1st, further information at

Hopefully I'll see some of you there! :)

Professional genealogical problem solving and research
Researching Scottish Family History (New book)

Update on NLS e-registration

I mentioned in a post a couple of days ago that you can now register with the National Library of Scotland, to which many have responded that this has been available for some time. I called Veronica Denholm at the NLS this morning to clarify what is actually new.

The changes centre around the fact that in the past you had to go to the NLS in Edinburgh to register and then receive separate passwords for many databases. Now you can simply register from home, hence why they will now post out a validation letter which needs to be dealt with in three weeks, to confirm that you actually do indeed live in Scotland. Also, more databases have been made accessible, and more will be added in future, making it a truly exciting development.

In the past, with many national resources being based in Edinburgh, this created many privileges for those based in Edinburgh who could gain easy access. Thankfully these advantages are slowy being whittled away for the benefit of all Scots, whether in Stornoway, Castlebay, Kirkwall, Perth, Dumfries or Montrose.

Hopefully the plans to extend the ScotlandsPeople Centre computer system via regional centres across the country will also help to further democratise access to Edinburgh based national resources in a likewise manner in the very near future!

Professional genealogical problem solving and research
Researching Scottish Family History (New book)

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Guest Post - Scottish Infanticide

Time for another guest post, and this time it is from the wonderful Evelyn McCulloch. Evelyn is a moderator on the ScotFamTree forum, and at the recent ScotFamTree forum AGM in Dumbarton, gave a talk on infanticide in Scotland, which was so impressive I asked if she wouldn't mind doing a guest post - and bless her cotton socks, she did!

If you can't find that elusive child, read on, but be warned - it isn't going to be pleasant...!


Many Scottish children who should be playing a part in our history were neither seen nor heard.

Infanticide is a gruesome subject, but one which cannot be ignored. Today's modern woman will be horrified at the mere thought, but, it was actually often interpreted as a primitive form of birth control - but who are we to judge? Many of these women were in desperate circumstances with nowhere else to turn. In Scotland, particularly in the 19th Century, there were more Scots mothers convicted of killing their children, than there were people convicted of murder.

Illegitimacy and infanticide - these subjects appear to go hand in hand with each other. That's not to say it didn't happen within a marriage, it did but to a much lesser extent. Unmarried women who got pregnant were socially excluded(but never the man who got them pregnant in the first place) abortion was illegal, backstreet abortions were dangerous, but it was either that or abandon your child - or worse...

There were many infanticide cases written about in the local rags. The Edinburgh Observer reported such a case in 1822 entitled 'HUMAN ATROCITY'. A young woman from Sunnybrae, Parish of Saline, had recently given birth to an illegitimate child. The newspaper reported that an old woman who lived through the wall from the young woman "was surprised on finding a very disagreeable smell issuing from the fire, and after repeatedly interrogating the sick female, without obtaining any satisfactory answer, turned up the coals, and to her unspeakable horror, found in the midst of them, the half-consumed remains of the unnatural parent's inhumanity."

The newspaper goes on to report that the young woman made good her escape, and "every exertion had been made to discover her, but as yet without success. Her parents are alive and respectable". The last sentence perhaps says it all.

The onset of motherhood without a source of regular financial support, must have been crippling for most of these women, but it was thought better for the parish to support the family, than incur the expense of prosecuting the parent who deserts his offspring, i.e. the father!

These women were mostly offered the poorhouse, but many refused to enter, or remain, which meant they were depriving themselves of all formal support. It was pointed out however, in 1877, by a Sheriff-substitute in Aberdeen, that putative fathers were enabled with impunity to neglect their children because Parochial Boards would not now prosecute them in terms of the poor law act. I say - GIVE THAT MAN A MEDAL FOR POINTING OUT THE OBVIOUS!

Evelyn McCulloch is a moderator on the ScotFamTree discussion forum at, and maintains her own family tree at

Many thanks Evelyn!