Sunday, September 27, 2009

A Busy Weekend

For possibly the first time the Borders Family History Society had a presence at two events on the same day. Both events were associated with the celebrations for Homecoming 2009. In the west, we had a stand at the Muster at Bowhill House near Selkirk
whilst at Coldingham on the east coast, we were present at Coldingham History Weekend. The team will be back at Coldingham today.

The Bowhill Muster started as the Scott Clan Gathering but grew to encompass a slew of other clans. It was held in a field below Bowhill House on a really beautiful September day. The clan associations, the Heritage Hub and we were in a marquee devoted to genealogy and family history - the Family History Tent.
There was a whole range of events going on in the arena outside and at one point during the afternoon two vapour trails from passing jets left a perfect saltire in the blue sky. Does the Duke of Buccleuch have that kind of pull or was it merely good fortune ?

Coldingham History Weekend was held in the village hall next to the priory, and over 150 people came. There was a lot of interest in our publications, and we talked to several people about their family history research; one of whom returned to show us his family tree and he allowed us to copy it. On other stands there were archaeological finds, local photographs, old maps, and historical accounts. We were blessed with a beautiful day, with lots of sunshine, though it was cold in the wind. A highlight of the day was access to the inside of the priory, and Julia Carter, Friends of Coldingham Priory, gave me a guided tour of the priory.

Many people enquired about the gravestone inscriptions for Coldingham, and unfortunately these haven’t yet been recorded and transcribed, but that’s intended for next year. If you would like to help, please let us know.

As is normal for this type of events we spoke to a number of people with an interest in family history and hopefully were able to point some of them in the right direction. We sold a few of our publications and may recruit one or two members as a result. Overall it was an interesting and satisfying day.

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Business Archives for Family History

The Business Archives Council of Scotland, along with the Ballast Trust
are running a free training course on using business archives for family
and local history. Archivists will take you through some of the common
records that can be of use in finding out more about family members,
their lives and the communities in which they lived.

This free event will take place in the Stirling Room at the Mitchell
Library, Glasgow from 5.45pm-745pm on 29th September 2009.

As well as offering you the chance to learn more about records that may
help your research, we will also be taking this opportunity to find out
what archivists can do for researchers in helping them access and use
these records more effectively and to find out about your own
experiences of using business archives.

To book a place at this event, please email David Powell at or telephone 0141 330 4159.

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Border Clans Day, Langholm

We had a stall at the Border Clans Day, at the Buccleuch Centre, Langholm on Sunday, 6th September 2009.

The Armstrong, Elliot, Johnston and Moffat clans were all present, and Lady Fiona Armstrong came round and talked to us.

As well as ourselves, Dumfries and Galloway FHS were there, as was Dumfries and Galloway Council Archives, Cumbria Council Archives, and Liddesdale Heritage Centre. There was an ITV Border News team as well.

We don't often attend events outside our area, the 4 Border counties (Berwickshire, Peeblesshire, Roxburghshire and Selkirkshire) of Scotland, however, many people who lived in these counties, also lived, worked, or married someone in the adjacent Scottish county of Dumfriesshire, or in the adjacent English counties of Northumberland and Cumberland, so attending these events, is a way of making the Society known to people who would not normally see us, and it was interesting to meet new people.

I had several discussions with American and Canadian Armstrongs who had come for Homecoming 2009, and stayed on a bit, all of them just beginning their family history.

Another discussion was with Frank Rutherford of Liddesdale Heritage Centre about Newcastleton, which is in Liddesdale. Newcastleton is about 10 miles from Langholm and the road that joins the two is very scenic. Frank thinks that the Casual Sick House probably was used temporarily to house paupers.

We showed various people our new Borders Poor Law Records publications, Jedburgh Parish (1852-1874) and Jedburgh Parish (1875-1893), and were heartened by their praise and by the number of sales we made.

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Thursday, September 3, 2009

Where are the Newcastleton Poor Registers ?

Back in February 2009, one of the Poor Law Records volunteers told me that
she would really like to transcribe the Castleton parish Poor Law Records,
as she had many family members who might be in those records.
The parishes for which records have been digitised are Bowden, Broughton,
Drumelzier, Eckford, Eddleston, Eyemouth, Glenholm, Hounam, Kilbucho,
Jedburgh, Kelso, Lilliesleaf, Linton, Makerstoun, Manor, Maxton, Morebattle,
Oxnam, Peebles, Skirling, Smailholm, St Boswells, Stichill, Stobo, Traquair,
Tweedsmuir, Yetholm; and Castleton is missing.
When I next went to Hawick Heritage Hub I discovered that the only records
they had relating to Castleton and the Parochial Board was the McKinley Fund
minute book which contained only a few summary minutes and was not relevant.
I wondered where the Poor Law records were and whether they have been lost,
are in another archive, or even in somebody's attic.
The ministry began in 1574 with Martin Elliot, the rector, parson and vicar.
Initially the session was within the jurisdiction of Langholm Presbytery,
and the synod of Dumfries. On 9 December 1604, the session united with
Wheelkirk, Ettleton and Belkirk. By the early twentieth century the session
was within the jurisdiction of Hawick Presbytery, so I thought that if the
records were not in the Scottish Borders Archives, they might have been in
Langholm, and found their way into Dumfries and Galloway Archives.
Alas, that hope was soon dashed, and another idea that they might be lurking
in Newcastleton Heritage Centre was also in vain.
The poor registers aren't listed in the National Archives catalogue, either.
This is clearly something that needs more investigation.
My colleague, Davina Smart, discovered in the Valuation Roll for
Roxburghshire, from Whitsunday 1924 to Whitsunday 1925, the following
Casual Sick House, South Hermitage Street, Castleton; Proprietor Parish
Council of Langholm; Inhabitant Occupier: Lancelot Graham, Caretaker.
She thought this might be the poorhouse, and it is next to the church
building now used as the heritage centre.
This isn't as unlikely as it might seem.
Most poor houses (officially all) closed by 1930, but some a great deal
earlier; Jedburgh poor house was closed in 1921, but the Shelter was used for
vagrants until 1930. There was some discussion about using it for the casual
sick, or as an overflow for Jedburgh Cottage Hospital.
In Linton, a building attached to the poor house was built as a pauper
hospital for the casual sick in 1857, and was still in use in 1916.
By 1952 it had become a wash house for the school which had taken over the
poor house.
However, although Castleton was sending its paupers to Jedburgh poor house by
1884, it's not impossible for the Casual Sick House to have been the
poor house initially.

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