Sunday, 25 September 2016

A Busy Week of Research

It is amazing how quickly the week passes when the group is immersed in research. We have attended a talk at the Scottish Genealogy Society on the Poor Law Records in East Lothian. We have had two full days at the ScotlandsPeople Centre and two full days at the National Library of Scotland. 

Some of the participants have gone to the Scottish Genealogy Society to do research. Others have gone to local archives, family history societies or libraries in the area where their ancestors lived. 

Most of the participants have gone to visit the streets where their ancestors walked, the churches where their ancestors worshipped and the graveyards where their ancestors are buried. 

We have taken part in historic walking tours of both Greyfriar's Cemetery and of the Old Town of Edinburgh. Many participants have visited the Castle, the National Museum, Edinburgh Cemeteries and the Royal Museum. Others have visited the highlands and islands. We have made connections, gained a deeper understanding of the lives of our ancestors and felt at home in our ancestral homeland of this bonnie, bonnie country. 

We have two full days left. And we plan to pack in as much as we can. 

Edinburgh Museum of Fire

The last complete Victorian Fire Station, the Central Fire Brigade Station at Lauriston Place (Lauriston) which is home to the Museum of Fire. This was also the FIRST fire brigade in Edinburgh. Hundreds of Property Developers have visited the Museum to see how many flats or hotel rooms they can squeeze into the building.

The many requests by Friends of the Museum to the Scottish Government to save Lauriston from the developers, so that it can remain as the home of the Museum of Fire, have been dismissed. Please help to make saving Lauriston from the developers a PRIORITY of the Scottish Government.

Please take the time to ensure that this important piece of Edinburgh's history is preserved. Please lodge, or support, a motion calling on the Scottish Government to halt the sale of the former Central Fire Brigade Station at Lauriston Place, Edinburgh and subsequently develop therein a Scottish National Museum of Fire.

email your concern to and

Doors Open Edinburgh

What a great day it was to be out and about in Edinburgh on Saturday! I started my day visiting the Anatomical Museum at the University of Edinburgh. Sadly this museum is only open one Saturday per month. 

This photo shows the dissection theatre where students can watch dissections taking place. 

The museum has a collection of skulls, including the skulls of Robert Burns and William Burke. Burke's skull was in an area where photography was not allowed. 

The main museum was upstairs and photos were not allowed. It was fascinating to see the collection of death masks and the skeleton of William Burke. He really was a short little man. 

From the University, I headed over to the Museum of Fire. It was wonderful to see the kids taking and interest in the old trucks, speaking to the retired firemen, dressing up and climbing on the displays. 

There is a replica of the close where the Great Fire of Edinburgh started in 1824. The fire destroyed 50 buildings and left 300 people homeless. There is a definite sadness that this jewel of Edinburgh's history is at risk of closing. The museum is the site of Edinburgh's first fire brigade and the history that goes with that should be preserved for the future. Please take the time to sign the petition to save this precious piece of history. 

After the Fire Museum I was off to Leith to visit Trinity House. This is the home for the headquarters of the Incorporation of Masters and Mariners. This started out providing benevolence to poor retired seamen, but was quickly sanctioned by the Queen, who then made it a governing body for qualifying mariners. 

 Trinity House

 Part of the original building 

 The Dolphin was a training ship

 Memorial window pays tribute to those who lost their lives to the sea

Model of the Cutty Sark

 Model of a gun ship

Mail room

After leaving Trinity House I walked to the shore. The plan was to visit Custom House. 

 Dazzle Ship

 Merchant Navy Memorial

Custom House was a disappointment. The advertising for Doors Open was that this was the first time the building was to be open after a generation. However, the gimmick was simply advertising for fundraising for Historic Scotland. There were some market stalls and loads of big airy empty rooms. Absolutely nothing about the history of the building - which might have actually led to people understanding WHY they should donate to save the building. 

After walking my feet to the bone, I enjoyed a scrumptious lunch at Fishers. 

Then it was back to the hotel to sit with my feet up and read through all of the leaflets I had picked up along the way. 

Friday, 23 September 2016

Historic Edinburgh Tours

The past two nights have been spent in the wonderful company of Robert from Historic Edinburgh Tours. 

Wednesday night started with a slight drizzle which quickly turned to a downpour. Although it let up after about an hour, it was still a damp night. The tour was an historic tour of Greyfriar's Cemetery and the rainy, gloomy night added atmosphere to the tour. 

Thursday night was the Old Town Tour. Thanks to the onset of fall and the drawing in of the nights, we were able to experience the projector during the tour. The tour provided an up-close and personal tour of Edinburgh's (and indeed, Scotland's) history. Standing in the very place where the events occurred brought the entire drama to life.


As always, Robert was engaging, entertaining and exceptionally knowledgeable. 

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Maps Marvelous Maps

Maps anchor us in time and place. Maps show us where we are going. Maps teach us about the world in which we live. 

From a genealogy perspective, maps help us to pinpoint where our ancestors lived. We can get a sense of the terrain as well as how rural or urban the area might have been. We can use maps to track how far our ancestors moved throughout their lives. Often we find that even thought they might have moved several times to get employment, they rarely left a small radius of 5 or 10 miles. 

The National Library of Scotland has over 2.5 million maps in their collections. And they have the best online collection of digital maps bar none. Their collections include estate maps, town plans and maps, military maps, county and country maps. 

Estate maps can show the farms your ancestors lived and worked on. We can see quarries, coal mines, forests, lochs, farm fields and location of the buildings belonging to the estate.

Town plans and maps show us how densely populated the town or village was and often will have labels on the buildings. These labels may determine the type of building, or they may be the name of the building's owner or proprietor. Military maps can show us the early roads leading to the area where your ancestor lived. 

Currently, the National Library of Scotland has an exhibit about Maps. It is a wonderful exhibit. 

Here is a preview:  

1580 map of Scotland (Scotiae tabula) by Abraham Ortelius

 1780 map of the City of Edinburgh by John Ainslie

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

East Lothian Poor Records Project

Monday night we had the opportunity to attend the meeting of the Scottish Genealogy Society. The speaker was Fran Woodrow, archivist at the John Gray Centre in East Lothian. Fran spoke about East Lothian's Poor.

Jim McQueen, president Abbotsford Genealogical Society, 
Fran Woodrow, Archivist, John Gray Centre,
Gregory Lauder-Frost, Chairman SGS

The purpose of poor relief was to suppress the nuisance of idle beggars in the parishes. Pre-1845 poor relief was the responsibility of the Kirk and the Heritors. There were different types of relief. These could include:
  • Coal
  • Food
  • Money
  • Clothing
  • Medicine
  • Poor House
The monies used for poor relief were raised through the Heritors, Endowments, Legacies, Fines and Fees, Mort Cloth Rentals

Post 1845, the responsibility for the poor was transferred to the Burghs and Councils through the passing of the Poor Law Act. The Act established parochial boards in the parishes and towns, and ensured a central Board o Supervision (based in Edinburgh) which had the ability to raise taxes in order to cover the poor relief payments.

From a genealogical perspective, information can be found in a variety of sources, such as:
  • Parochial Board Minutes
  • Poor Relief Rolls 
  • Reports of Inspectors of the Poor -- list of paupers, soup kitchen rolls
  • Burgh Accounts
  • Friendly Societies
  • Newspapers
  • Kirk Session Records
East Lothian is in the process of digitizing their Poor Law Records. They have a bank of 20 very dedicated volunteers. The rolls are being digitized for viewing onsite in the John Gray Centre. They are also being transcribed for offsite research inquiries and there is an in-house team that are indexing the minute books.

If you have ancestors from East Lothian and are wondering if they might have been involved with a poor law application, you can contact Fran.

The staff at the John Gray Centre, can do a free 15 minute search to let you know whether there are records relating to your ancestor which might be worth accessing. Any further research will be at a rate of £25.25 per hour.

Best of luck with your East Lothian genealogy research!

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Driving Through My Family History

On Monday morning, I left Peebles to head to Edinburgh. I had a couple of stops in Glasgow before making my way to the hotel in Edinburgh where I was to meet up with this Tour's participants. 

After leaving Glasgow, I ended up taking the 'Scenic' route, or the route through the countryside, rather than driving the M8. This was such a fascinating drive as it took me through the places where my ancestors had lived. 

I drove past the exit for Coatbridge where my aunty lived (and my cousin still does!), past the exit for Shotts, where my mum's family lived for three generations and where several are buried, through Carluke where my dad's ancestor was a land overseer. I passed through Carnwath (a much larger place than I had imagined) where my maternal line had lived and where children had been born. 

As I drove past each exit to an ancestral town or village, or as I drove through an ancestral town or village, I was able to conjure up the names of the people who had lived there, wondering what their lives had been like at the time. It was a lovely drive between Scotland's two largest cities, and a terrific way to connect with the people whose lives I have been researching the past 15 years.