Sunday, 28 September 2014

A History of Working-Class Marriage


When I began tracing my family tree, I was surprised to discover the high rate of children born outside marriage, particularly in the Victorian era. I was also confused by the fact that many marriages didn’t take place in a church but in the manse or the bride's parent’s home. As I researched further it became clear that my view of how my Victorian ancestors lived was nowhere near the reality.
Our Traditional View of Family Life

Having now been researching for over ten years, and having looked into so many different families, a better picture has built up in my mind of what life was really like. There are still many questions, though, that I have not yet found an answer to. This is why I was delighted to hear that a team at Glasgow University have undertaken the project ‘A History of Working-Class Marriage’. The project looks across Scotland from 1855 to 1976. The results of this project will be useful and interesting to anybody tracing their Scottish family, which is why the Scottish Genealogy Network attended their workshop in Dumfries yesterday.

Poor Mary died in childbirth only two years
into her marriage. Death remains the main reason for
the end of a marriage.

The project


In the words of their website, “we want to get beyond public discourses and official policy to understand what people are actually thinking and experiencing of marriage and cohabitation; and how that experience relates to broader social and political understandings. To do this, we are asking for your help!" As a group of professional genealogists, the Scottish Genealogy Network took this on board and headed down to Dumfries to meet the team and hear a talk on the subject.

Specifics of the project


The team are gathering information throughout Scotland, and want to hear from you wherever you are. They are looking at different family forms: regular marriages, irregular marriages, marriage by declaration and marriage by habit and repute. They are interested in different cultural backgrounds. They are examining all types of families, not just families in their traditional form. The project is broken into the following sections: Life course of a marriage Love and courtship Expectations and experience of a marriage End of a marriage: divorce, death informal separation and divorce Parenting, influence of having children
William Beattie and Christina Scott Heatlie
on their wedding day
19 Febuary 1875

Findings so far

Dr Jeff Meek, a member of the team, has been looking at five diverse geographic areas of Scotland and has sampled 1000 families in each area for the census years 1861, 1881 and 1901. Looking at the samples in all all five areas across Scotland, the team has discovered that around 50% of families were traditional or nuclear families; parents and children. There are regional variations. An example is Perthshire, where in the 1881 census 43% of families we ‘traditional families’ and 33% were single parent families. I found it really interesting to learn that the statistic of 50% of families being traditional or nuclear families is much the same as it is today. In the 1960s and 1970s however, the figure was much higher. This perhaps explains why we may have preconceived ideas about the family structures of our ancestors.

Jim Maxwell and Isobel Sommerville
on their wedding day in 1941


The team needs your help

The team are now almost half way through their four year project and they really need your help. They are looking to hear from anyone with experience of family (that’s everyone) prior to 1976. This means that the baby boomers of the post war generation are perfect, and also anybody older than that. Even if, like me, you’re a little too young to give your experiences you can help by submitting ephemera. Do you have pre-1976 wedding photos, love letters and stories? If you’re not sure that what you have would be valuable to the team, why not contact them and let them decide? This is just a brief overview of what the team are doing, visit their website and follow them on twitter to learn more and follow their progress.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

The SGN at Who Do You Think You Are Live in Glasgow

Many of the members of the Scottish Genealogy Network are looking forward to the Who Do You Think You Are? Live event in Glasgow on August 29th and 30th.

Some members will be working on stalls, others will be helping out in the ‘Ask The Experts’ area or are giving talks. Wherever we are though, you’ll be able spot us because we’ll be wearing our new badges. Feel free to come up and ask a question and we’ll do our best to help, we do so love a challenge!



If you don’t have your tickets yet there are some good offers around. It’s probably worth buying them ahead of time as tickets are usually more expensive on the day.

Ask the Experts


You will find a lot of SGN members in this area, ready and waiting to help you with your genealogy research. How does it work, I hear you ask? As the WDYTYA website says, ‘Twenty minute appointments can be booked on the day by simply visiting the reception desk in the Ask the Experts area. You will be asked to fill in a pre-booking form so that you can be matched to the appropriate expert . . . Ask the Expert sessions are not bookable in advance unless you purchase a beginner ticket to the show.’ Click here to find out more.

The Keynote Workshop


Scottish Genealogy Network member Marie Dougan will be outlining different developments in technology in these extended workshops. Tickets for these workshops are just £3, click here to learn more about the event and book your tickets.

SGN members

Society of Genealogists' Workshop Programme

The Society of Genealogist have arranged a great programme of talks and workshops. Some talks are ideal for beginners some for the more experienced genealogist. Take a look at their programme and book the workshops you don’t want to miss! As the Sunday of the show has been cancelled some of the talks are already well booked so again don’t leave it until the day, visit the WDYTYA Live website and book the talks you want.

Exhibitors

The show brings together the large companies, family history societies and other small genealogy businesses all under one roof. With a huge variety of exhibitors there will be something for everyone! Take a look at the WDYTYA website for a full list.

Here's a tip though, you may think you’ll have plenty of time but if you are only attending one day and you are listening to talks you may run out of time. Read over the list of exhibitors and mark the ones you don’t want to miss!


Monday, 28 July 2014

The Scottish Genealogy Network's Visit to the Hawick Heritage Hub


On Saturday 26 July the Hawick Heritage Hub opened up its doors to the Scottish Genealogy Network. Juline Baird, assistant archivist, began by telling us about the Heart of Hawick, the regeneration project for Hawick. The Heart of Hawick includes the Heritage Hub (which we visited), Borders Textile Towerhouse, Tower Mill Café Bar and the open air Civic Space.

The Heritage Hub is the main archive for the Scottish Borders, although it should also be noted that some local museums also hold documents for their area so it’s worth getting to know what each museum has.

Opened in 2007, the Hub is certainly a modern, bright and comfortable place to work. There are large desks ideal for research, a number of computer desks and some more comfortable chairs around the windows which look like an ideal place to sit and read one of the archive’s excellent collection of reference books.

Juline explained to us that whilst there is now an online catalogue it is still being updated so sometimes it may still be necessary to consult the paper catalogue in the archive. If you are researching from a distance you can of course email the archive and ask for assistance.

Juline then showed to us a most fascinating volume from within the archive’s collection, concerning accidents and unexplained deaths in Roxburghshire, created by the Roxburghshire County Police in the late 19th century. This is of those records that allows us to peel back the layers and look into people’s private lives at some of their darkest moments. There is no denying this is a heart touching volume.

Here is an entry which touched me, and without this volume we may never have learnt about:

August 1886
Cart Accident - Not Fatal
Charles Blyth

This boy aged 5 years son of and residing with Alice Blyth a Hawker Kirk Yetholm got his left leg broken in two places above the knee and sustained other bruises by hanging on to the hind board of a cart which was being driven though Kirk Yetholm by James Martin son of James Martin Farmer residing there and throwing up his leg trying to get into the cart, in so doing his leg was caught in the wheel & he was carried twice round before the cart stopped.

Dr Forbes Yetholm attended this boy and set his leg & states that it is impossible at present to estimate the extent of injury sustained but says that he seems to be very badly hurt. Robert Service Pig dealer and William Stenhouse Farmer both residing in Kirk Yetholm saw the accident.

After looking at this very interesting volume we were taken on a tour of the archive, including behind the scenes. We even climbed to the very top of the building to see the inside of the turret!


First we were shown the small room used as a library. This is not self service: staff will bring the books you need directly to you. They have a large collection of printed genealogies and various local reference books which are invaluable when researching. What they also have is a collection of envelopes, organised by parish which hold some basic information for that parish. If you are unfamiliar with an area I would definitely recommend these as a starting point as they give you an overview of that parish.



Upstairs Juline showed us into one of the archive’s main storage rooms: there are 1.5 miles of modern shelving. This is excellent for a local archive, as it means everything they hold is on-site, meaning that if your research takes you in a new direction on the day you can look at whatever you need on site.

Another way this archive excels is that it not only has access to the Scotland’s People Centre for just £15 a day, but also access to much of the ‘Virtual Volumes’ system generally only available at the National Records of Scotland in Edinburgh. When you add to this the fact that this innovative archive has been gradually digitising their own records, you come to the conclusion that by sitting down at a computer in the Hawick Heritage Hub you would certainly be able to do a lot of your family tree!

All in all this is a five star archive, possibly one of the best in Scotland and well worth a visit by any genealogist, professional or amateur!









Visit to St. Andrews

It was a glorious day when a group of enthusiastic genealogists met in St. Andrews on June 27th. First we visited the Parish Church, which has an item of particular interest to a group of genealogists. You may have heard of the Kirk Session records, almost always packed with minutes of the church’s enquiries into cases of fornication and adultery. The Session would question the woman, trying to discover the name of the child’s father. Once guilt was established the offenders would be disciplined by sitting on a stool placed at the front of the church, and rebuked in the presence the congregation. The specific discipline practices varied from place to place but below you can see a photograph of the stool once used in St. Andrews.



After this we went for some lunch and a catch-up followed by a walk around the beautiful streets, stopping at the Cathedral for a group photo.


Members of the SGN in St. Andrews
We then made our way to the University Archive which is in a refurbished church. The University have created this modern facility, suitable for use as a study space and a research centre. It not only performs these functions admirably but also looks beautiful! It was a real privilege to be shown round this amazing space.



We were then taken through to a room with a great array of treasures from the Archive which had been selected by archivist Norman Reid. Norman explained some of the history of the University and outlined what type of records they hold. Because it is such a long-established university people have been depositing records and books with them for centuries, this has enabled them to build up a truly unique collection.

For the family historian some of the key records they hold are local Kirk Session and council records as well as family papers, such as those of the Playfair and Anstruther families. If you are researching a family from the St. Andrews area I would definitely recommend finding out what the University has in its collection.

You can search their catalogue here, but one thing to note is that due to space constraints, items are held off site. This means they at least a day’s notice is required so that items can be brought in for you to view, so good planning is essential. Let the archive know what you would like to see and when, so that it will be available when you arrive.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Third Scottish Genealogy Network CPD Day

On Saturday 10 May 2014 around 25 genealogists met at the Highland Archive Centre in Inverness for the Scottish Genealogy Network’s Continual Professional Development (CPD) day. The Archive Centre was a perfect venue and the hospitality shown by the Highland Archive Centre was the icing (literally!) on the cake.


Built just a few years ago, this state of the art archive is a mere dream for most archivists. We were invited to tour the building on Friday and had a behind the scenes look at the extensive storage facilities and the excellent conservation room.

The CPD day began with an interesting talk by Michael Tobias of JewishGen, who explained to us how we can optimise genealogy searches and collate and organise our data. If we can learn to do this more efficiently we can more quickly and clearly identify individuals we are looking for, especially in larger projects such as one-name studies. Michael demonstrated how we can minimise loss of search results due to indexing errors, reminding us the useful ‘fuzzy search’ feature on the Scotland’s People website. It is a shame that for some reason that the ‘fuzzy search’ feature is not currently available in the Scotland’s People centre.

The next talk, ‘Making the Best Use of Sheriff Court Records’, was given by Graham Maxwell of Maxwell Ancestry, who spoke about one particular type of case useful to genealogists: ‘affiliation and aliment’ actions in cases of illegitimacy. He explained how to locate both extracted decrees and court processes which could hold vital genealogical information as well as give an insight into the lives of ancestors. Initial research has shown that around 10% of illegitimate births in the 1850s may have resulted in an extracted decree, and an additional 5% of such births resulted in other cases which can be found among the processes of the Sheriff Courts.

After a short break (which involved some more cupcakes), we enjoyed listening to Kirsty Wilkinson of My Ain Folk’s talk ‘Edinburgh Army Attestation Registers’. This exciting resource, held by Edinburgh City Archives, does not just contain records of men from Edinburgh. Kirsty’s detailed research has revealed that men from all over Scotland are recorded as attesting, and even more surprisingly, men from across Ireland, England and Wales also appear. The regiments they joined were also unexpectedly diverse. Not only did the talk help us to understand this valuable resource, it also reminded us of the importance of not neglecting local records when we’re researching. The details held within these registers could provide the vital piece of information we need to get over our ‘brick wall’ and continue with our research. 


The last talk before lunch was given by Lorna Kinnaird, of DunEdin Links Genealogy. Lorna has been working hard as a volunteer in her local school over the last few months, teaching Primary 7 pupils about the First World War in a manner that they could easily engage with. She has  arranged for historians to come into the school with WWI artefacts (which the children really enjoyed) and also arranged a trip to the National Records of Scotland (NRS). Lorna is really passionate about history, especially genealogy, and wanted the children to have the opportunity to visit the NRS themselves and be able to do some of their own research. Many of the children were able to research someone connected to their family and some were able to trace their tree back a number of generations in that one visit. Hopefully this taster will encourage the children to continue learning about history. 


After lunch we eagerly took our seats to listen to Ali Macdonald, of Family Tree DNA, talk about some current Scottish DNA projects and help us better understand the rapidly developing subject of DNA testing for genealogy purposes. The talk was fascinating as DNA research has become such an important tool for genealogists. Ali reminded us how important it is to understand how to interpret the results correctly, making the most of the possibilities of DNA testing in conjunction with evidence from written sources. Exciting discoveries are being made frequently as the Clans, Families and Surnames of Scotland are being unraveled. Despite having the same modern-day surname, DNA analysis has shown that we can separate those with the same surname into different families with different migration patterns. Ali gave us a handout which included some very useful Scottish DNA websites:

Next up was Jean Dickson, who spoke about social bookmarking and Excel tips. It’s all too easy to read a blog or visit a website, finding a great resource but promptly forgetting about it when we continue browsing! Jean uses Delicious to store and tag websites she wants to come back to later. One of the great advantages of this is that she can access these from any computer and share them with fellow researchers. A helpful tip Jean gave us was to be consistent in tagging. For example, if you were to tag one website ‘prison’, but another similar site ‘prisoner’, when you search your links a year later using the term ‘prison’, the site with ‘prisoner’ tag will not appear. This talk reminded us of the importance of being an organised genealogist.

After a short break, we had the final talk of the day, which was given by Judith Russell, a genealogist based in Glasgow. The title was entitled ‘Glasgow Families in WWI: Lord Provosts and Red Clydesiders’. Judith has carefully researched some of the key characters in this important and dramatic period of Glasgow’s history, using a wide variety of sources, and brought the subject to life in an informative and well-illustrated talk. I believe Judith will be giving a similar talk to this in August at Who Do You Think You Are? Live in Glasgow: tickets should be on sale for that event in a day or two!

All in all, it was a great day where everybody benefited from the talks and conversations throughout the programme. If you are a professional genealogist working in Scotland and would like to be at our next CPD day, or come to one of our monthly meetings, please contact the group's secretary, Emma Maxwell, for further details at scotsgenenet @ gmail.com



Saturday, 29 March 2014

Visit to the John Gray Centre in Haddington

Today the Scottish Genealogy Network visited the John Gray Centre (www.johngraycentre.org) in Haddington, a library, museum and archive for East Lothian located at the very heart of the town, and which was opened just a couple of years ago.

Eleven fearless souls were welcomed by the staff and given a tour of the facilities. We were split into two groups, led by Hanita Ritchie and Ruth Fyfe, with both of them alternately showing us the facilities of the main family history library, and the archive in an adjoining room. In the main genealogy library we were shown how the facilities within the room were organised, with various resources such as an index for the Haddington Courier, the monumental inscriptions shelves, the maps cabinet, and the computer terminals providing access to one of the best archive platforms available online, which hosts a detailed catalogue for many of the centre's facilities.

Amongst some of the treasures we were shown in the archive were a copy of a Charter of Confirmation from 1318 reconfirming Haddington's royal burgh status (with its original wax seal), criminal registers, a letter written and signed by Mary Queen of Scots, poor law records, and much more. We were also extremely privileged to be given behind the scenes access to the archive's storage facility on an upper floor, where it was explained to us that most of the archive's collections were kept, bar some of the more recent council records which are stored offsite at another facility.

Ruth also explained the role of the recently established Friends of the John Gray Centre (www.johngraycentre.org/about/the-friends-of-the-john-gray-centre), whose members (including one of our party!) are currently indexing poor law records as part of a major digitisation project by the centre.

The centre has an active online presence in addition to its main website, you can find it on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/JohnGrayCentre, on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JohnGrayCentre, on Flickr at http://www.flickr.com/photos/eastlothian/ and there is even a YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/user/DigitalMages - the following is a video for its current exhibition, The King, the Queen, and the Vicious Strumpet (we had a lot of fun trying to establish who the vicious strumpet was!), which continues at the centre until April 22nd:



A huge thanks to all who facilitated our visit, which was much appreciated by our members, and to Lorna Kinnaird and Emma Maxwell for arranging things from the SGN end.

The next meeting of the SGN will tie in with the SAFHS conference in Dunfermline on April 26th, and then we're heading north on May 9th and 10th to Highland Archives in Inverness for both a visit of the facility and for our third CPD event. If you work as a professional genealogist in Scotland, or professionally within an industry associated with genealogical research (universities, archives, libraries, etc) and wish to join our group, please e-mail our secretary, Emma Maxwell, for more information at scotsgenenet @ gmail.com. In the meantime, a few more pics from today!





Tuesday, 4 February 2014

A visit to the Scottish Genealogy Society

On Friday, 31 January 2014, the Scottish Genealogy Network (SGN) visited the Scottish Genealogy Society (SGS) in Victoria Terrace, Edinburgh. Their premises are centrally located, not far from the railway station, the National Library of Scotland and Edinburgh Central Library. We were all made very welcome in their warm, newly refurbished building.

The visit began with us seated around their study tables where we were given a short history of the Society and told a little about their library. The Society was founded in 1953, which was before other local Family History Societies got going in Scotland. The SGS has therefore always had the goal of helping people trace their family tree all over Scotland, not just in the Edinburgh area.

The SGS has 3 public computers where you can access subscription websites such as ancestry.co.uk and findmypast.co.uk for free. These computers are also where you can access other internet sites of genealogical interest and digital resources such as some monument transcriptions (MIs).

Today we may automatically turn to Scotland’s People to look for an OPR birth, but as it is a pay-per-view website most of us are on the lookout for ways to reduce our costs. The SGS has two ways to help. Firstly you can buy reduced cost credits for them which you can either use on the premises or take home. Secondly, you can view the records for free in their building, by looking at the OPRs on microfilm. They have a  complete set covering every parish in Scotland! This could be particularly useful if you are working on a common name within one parish.

The SGS also has a vast collection of MIs, covering not just Scotland but also some for Cumbria which I thought was very useful. They have handy reference folders, known as the “Black Book”, so you can easily see what they have for the area you are interested in. The SGS has also made the “Black Book” available online. The Black Book contains details of all the Scottish Genealogy Society's holdings relating to Scottish deaths and burials.

After our initial introduction we split into two groups and took a tour of the library, eager eyes looking at the labels on filing cabinets to see what we could use in our own research. Every now and again a member of the group would say, “oh, that’s useful!”.

We were taken up a few steps and round into an aladdin's cave of history books and genealogical resources. In rolls stacked up to the ceiling they have a collection of family histories donated by current and past members, who having carefully researched their family history have now donated a copy to help others of the family who follow. Again an index to these is available in the library and online.

I could go on and on about the amount of resources they have but perhaps the best thing is to stop now and let you look at their website or visit in person if you are able to.

Take a look at their membership page to see member benefits and join online, membership starts from just £20!

The next meeting of the SGN will be in London as many of us will be attending the Who Do You Think You Are? Live event. In March we are looking forward to visiting the John Gray Centre, Haddington. If you work as a professional genealogist in Scotland and wish to join our group, e-mail our secretary, Emma Maxwell, for more information: scotsgenenet @gmail.com