Saturday, January 30, 2010

Burials of Fromelles Dead Begin

About 7,000 British and Australian soldiers were killed, wounded or taken prisoner in the July 1916 Battle of Fromelles, near Lille in northern France.

The BBC reported today that the remains of 250 World War I British and Australian soldiers, including several Scots, who were killed, and buried by German forces, have been recovered by archaeologists.

They will be reburied with full military honours at Pheasant Wood, a new cemetery built by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission close to the battlefield.

The burial begins tomorrow, 30th January and is expected to go on into February.

A special dedication ceremony will be held on 19th July 2010, the anniversary of the battle.

More information on the BBC and Commonwealth War Graves Commission websites.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Burke and Hare Murders

The BBC have a picture of the Lawnmarket, Edinburgh around the time of the Burke and Hare murders.

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Criminal Ancestors

Last Sunday's programme, the fourth episode of the new 'Digging up Your Roots', which is broadcast on 92-95 FM every Sunday at midday until 21 February was about criminal ancestors.

If you have a question to ask, write to: Digging Up Your Roots, BBC Radio Scotland, Beechgrove Terrace, Aberdeen, AB15 5ZT or email them at .

If you missed this, it is available as a podcast.

In 1827 and 1828, the notorious William Burke and William Hare carried out a series of murders and sold the bodies to a medical school. Helen MacDougal, Burke's bidie-in, claimed she knew nothing about the murders. When the case came to court on Christmas eve 1828, Burke was convicted, but Helen's verdict was Not Proven.
Later on, Helen was possibly killed by millworkers at Deanston, after she was unmasked as Burke's accomplice.
Lots more detail about them which you can hear in the podcast.

Jane Stark was a one woman crimewave in the late 19th century, housebreaking, affairs, drunkenness. She died in 1899. The information from NHS records was that she was a hawker and had been run over by a lorry and died an hour and a half after admission. The local press reported that she had been run over by a North British railway truck after stepping out in front of it while she was drunk. Poor Relief records came into play when Jane went to prison and her children went first to a shelter and later to an industrial school.

The National Archives of Scotland has prison records from 1657. Most useful are the admission registers which show name, age, height (in feet and inches for men; low, middle, or tall for women), birthplace, residence, marital status, occupation, crime, the court, sentence, dates admitted and released, and photos (mostly of criminal lunatics) from the 1880s. There are also records of prison staff, and governors' journals.
Apparently any child born in North prison, Glasgow was entitled to a farthing (a quarter of an old penny) for life from Glasgow Council. A year's farthings (365) would be 7 shillings and 7 pence farthing (£0.38).
They also mentioned a book by William Seivwright, a preacher reader in Perth prison, which details prison life.
Also see Black Sheep Ancestors, which has details of insane asylums, executions, and prisons in Britain, Canada, and the USA.
British Library Online can be used to view newspapers. It is a subscription site, but many universities provide free access to staff and students.

One listener wanted to know more about a her great uncle in Canada, who she thought had killed his wife's lover, and they found some information in Library and Archives Canada.

Another listener wanted to know about Huguenot ancestors - there are records at the Huguenot Library in London.

There was a quite a lot on Kirk Session records too.

Next Sunday's programme will be about military matters, including a prisoner of war, a daring Battle of Britain pilot, and a unique tribute to a Black Watch soldier.

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Edinburgh Register of Aliens

A few days ago, Strath from New Zealand alerted readers of our forum to a potentially very interesting source of information.

It is a transcription, I imagine, of core information in Edinburgh Registers of Aliens recorded between 1794 and 1825.

It lists first names and surname, age, place of birth, residence, residence - pre-arrival, residence in Scotland, occupation, port of arrival, date of arrival, date registered, notes.

The first page of the PDF says
"....The first is a handwritten volume of declarations given in by foreigners before the Magistrates as to their origins, occupation, length of time in the Country and the intended duration of their stay in Edinburgh. Most declarations were made in 1794.....
The Registers in the second series are bound volumes of pro-formas of questions to be asked and answered before Magistrates regarding the name, origins, status, occupation, age and intentions of foreign visitors. Also given in these volumes, are the current addresses of the respondents as well as the names of the British ports through which they first entered the Country. They cover the period 1798-1825."

These were troubling times, and clearly the authorities needed to know more about resident foreigners. France declared war on Britain on 1st February 1793, in early September, the French National Convention began the 'Reign of Terror' measures to uphold the principles of the French Revolution.

In 1795, Napoleon had his first success in invading Italy, by capturing Milan; and other cities and areas were captured subsequently. The war between Britain and France ended in May 1802 with the the treaty of Amiens, though it began a year later when Britain declared war on France. In May 1804, Napoleon Bonaparte was proclaimed Emperor of France, though he wasn't crowned until December; and in 1805 he was crowned King of Italy.

Most of these foreigners were from France, Italy and the USA, but others came from Austria, Brazil, Denmark, Switzerland, Finland, Germany, Holland, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland.

There were a lot of medical students, almost all from the USA, and some people had quite unusual occupations, though there none listed as spies.

Not surprisingly, all their addresses were in or around Edinburgh; but their ports of arrival were all over Britain.

Clearly, this resource is full of interest.

I suggest you download the Register of Aliens for yourself.

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Book Review - Tracing Your Criminal Ancestors - A Guide for Family Historians

Tracing Your Criminal Ancestors - A Guide for Family Historians
by Stephen Wade
176 pp. Glossy card covers. Illustrations. ISBN 978 1 84884 057 7 : Pen & Sword Books : £12.99
Available from Pen & Sword Books Ltd, 47 Church St, Barnsley, South Yorkshire, England, S20 2AS

If you had criminal ancestors in England, Wales, or Ireland, or people that were involved in court cases (as witnesses or victims) and want to find more about them, then this is the book for you.

The conditions in which they lived, crimes they committed, and the criminal justice system are all described in this very readable book, and there are a number of interesting illustrations.

The author begins with a look at the sources, different types of document, the different courts, with suggestions of the research process that should be followed.
Subsequent chapters deal in detail with the different types of offences: homicide, other crimes against the person, social protest, theft and robbery, rural crime, fraud and deception, sexual offences, and treason.

Each chapter describes the offences in detail, gives examples of punishments, suggests where you should look for records and sometimes provides references to records. As well as this research process there is a detailed review of one or more cases in the Case Studies section at the end of each chapter. Some of the cases are rather gruesome.

Chapter 9 deals with the destinations of the convicted criminal; prisons, asylums, hulks and transportation.

The last chapter is a survey of the relevant sources; however there is also a bibliography, a list of websites, a short glossary, and an index.

Very oddly, the author almost totally ignores Scotland, and does not make it clear whether his text includes conditions, offences, courts, processes, or records in Scotland. Apart from a few references to Glasgow, it's only on page 156 that he mentions the Scottish Legal System, and that it has different terms, functions, and processes to that of England.

This seems a strange omission in an otherwise comprehensive and easy to read book.

The only other gripe I have is that there are a number of typos in the text, as if it hadn't been properly proof-read.

All in all, if your ancestors were criminals, debtors, or drunks, or otherwise involved in a court case in England or Wales, then I strongly recommend this book.

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Saturday, January 23, 2010

One man's 67 illegitimate children, deaths and Guyana

The third 'Digging up Your Roots' programme started with the account of Gilbert Innes of Stow who lived in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, who rose to become deputy governor of the Royal Bank of Scotland. He had an amazing 67 illegitimate children, with many different women. He never married, and died aged 81.

His colossal estate included £750,000 in foreign stocks and bonds, and £140,000 in Scottish property, including the barony of Stow. Jane, his sister, inherited his fortune. Actually, I've assumed they meant pounds sterling, but even 890,000 pounds Scots would be a lot. (Scots money wasn't used for spending after 1820, and there was an exchange rate of £12 Scots to £1 sterling. In spite of its having being withdrawn in 1820, some Scots coins continued in circulation in rural Scotland even till the 1890s.)

They mentioned the difference between moveable property (cash, stocks, and anything that could be moved) and heritable property (land and buildings).
Moveable property is mentioned in wills (till 1901 on Scotland's People and after 1901 in the National Archives of Scotland). Bruce Durie suggested checking the Register of Deeds at the National Archives of Scotland.

Heritable property is mentioned in transfers of ownership in the Register of Sasines and the heir proving the right to inherit in the Retours, both in the National Archives of Scotland.

The next article that interested me was about Humphrey Ewing Crum Ewing Junior who died in Demerara in 1878. Demerara (after which brown sugar is named) was in British Guiana (now the Republic of Guyana) in South America.
His body was put into a lead-lined coffin, which was then filled with rum, and transported back to Glasgow. Humphrey's father was the owner of a sugar plantation in Jamaica, and an MP for Paisley.

There's a Guyana Genealogical Society.

(I visited Guyana in 1993. A lot of Scots went to Guyana, many as overseers, managers, or owners of plantations but others as labourers; and it's remarkable how many estates and some villages are named after Scottish (mostly Highlands) towns and villages, for example Alness, Tain, Fearn, Nigg. There were two small estates named Glasgow, and Edinburgh, though when I was there, they seemed to be long abandoned. There seem to be a lot of Gaelic words in the spoken English language).

An article about military deaths mentioned good sources - the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Pension records in the National Archives at Kew, England, Soldiers' Wills at the National Archives of Scotland, and the Scottish War Memorial at Edinburgh Castle to almost every Scots soldier. apparently regardless of whether they were in a Scottish regiment.

Poor law records helped one lady discover that her great grandmother's brother was killed in Huelva, Spain. There are lots of interesting facts to be discovered in our volumes of Poor Law records - see our blog article, Borders Poor Law Records - Jedburgh (1852-1874), and index to Borders Poor Law Records.

An interesting anecdote about a death mentioned other useful sources. Margaret Halcrow died, was put in her coffin, and left in the church overnight. During the evening, the beadle went in to try and steal a valuable diamond ring, was in the process of cutting her finger, when she sat up in the coffin.
Her husband, Henry Erskine, was at home being consoled by a friend when there was a knock on the door. Henry told his friend that it sounded like Margaret's knock. They opened the door and found it was her. This demonstrates the need to look at the Register of Corrected Entries. Those two useful sites are Deceased Online and

Next Sunday's programme, like the others, will be broadcast on 92-95 FM at midday, will cover criminal ancestors, Burke's accomplice and a prison governor.

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Saturday, January 16, 2010

Internet Surname Database

I found an interesting and useful website today, as usual, it happens when looking for something else, and in a way it ties up with last Sunday's 'Digging up Your Roots' programme - see the blog Immigrants and Emigrants.

The site is the Internet Surname Database which is a lot handier than going to my bookshelves.

I was just looking at some of the surnames I know, to see if either there's something I can add, or a glaring error, when I searched for Munro.

Part of the entry refers to "....James Monroe was the fifth president of the United States of America in 1823. He was a descendant of Andrew Monroe, who was captured at the battle of Preston in 1648....", which is interesting to me because my granny claimed that James Monroe was a distant cousin of some sort.

She knew a lot about the family history however as we weren't interested when we were young, so much of what she knew was never written down - of course, I'm kicking myself now.

The battle of Preston in 1648, was during the English Civil War, and was won by the roundheads against the royalists.

I'd love to see President James Monroe's family tree, particularly about the descent of Andrew Monroe, who Wikipedia's article implies, was "...2nd great-grandfather immigrated to America from Scotland in the mid-17th century. In 1650, Major Andrew Monroe (16-1688), son of David Munro of Katewell... ", though it doesn't mention that he "was captured at the battle of Preston".

There's contradictory text in Scottish Emigration to Colonial America, 1607-1785
by David Dobson
, where it says that David Munro of Katewell was captured after the Battle of Preston in 1648.

There's a bit more of the family tree on the Presidential Avenue entry for James Monroe, and Fasti Ecclesiae Scoticanae says that David Munro of Katewell was the husband of Agnes, daughter of Alexander Munro and Janet Cumming, and that Alexander, born about 1605, was the son of Hector M. of Milntown of Katewell, dyer, Inverness.

That's rather a lot to check, so if you know of any other record of President James Monroe's family tree, please let me know.

A knot in my handkerchief to get David Dobson's book.

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Friday, January 15, 2010

Immigrants and Emigrants

Last Sunday's programme, the second of the new episodes of 'Digging up Your Roots', which is broadcast on 92-95 FM every Sunday at midday until 21 February was of wide ranging interest about both emigrants and immigrants.

If you missed this, it will also be available as a podcast.

The first article concerned Ludovic Grant, son of William Grant of Creichie (near Fyvie, in Aberdeenshire), who as a Jacobite soldier in 1715 was captured at the Battle of Preston and sent to America, like many other Jacobite prisoners in 1715 (and in 1745). He served 7 years indenture there, became a trader with the Cherokee providing tools, cloth and beads, married a Cherokee and they had a daughter. There were interesting notes on Cherokee marriage customs. However, Ludovic had married in 1710, and his first wife, Margaret, sued in court in 1736 for a process of adherence.

In spite of his father being a laird, he was bankrupt, so Ludovic had no estate to come back to.

Other Scots married into native American Indian tribes.

The next article was about Adam Marr who emigrated to Australia from Leith, sailing in December 1841, as a bounty immigrant, working initially as a servant, becoming a bookseller later.
Apparently, from 1828 onwards, fewer convicts were being transported, so there was a strong need for labour in Australia. If I've understood them correctly, private settlers in Australia sponsored immigrants' passages, and the Government eventually refunded the settlers. 70,000 bounty immigrants left between 1828 and 1842.

Useful sites mentioned were,,, the Scottish Emigration Database containing 21,000 passengers, and the ubiquitous which has a list of bounty immigrants.

Other articles were about the surname Florence, with the recommendation that if you are interested in a single surname, you should look at the Guild of One-Name Studies, and also at clan sites - there's a list at

Marjory Harper mentioned a report that half the ranch-hands in Montana, USA, in the 1930s were of Scottish descent, and on Saturdays in the bars they talked in Gaelic.

Write to: Digging Up Your Roots, BBC Radio Scotland, Beechgrove Terrace, Aberdeen, AB15 5ZT or email them at , or phone them on 0500 92 95 00, for help with your family history.

Next Sunday's talk is on deaths, and a deputy bank governor with 67 illegitimate children. I wonder whether they all got Christmas presents from him ?

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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Access to the Scottish National Identity Register, 1939

Family historians have been given access for the first time to information from the National Identity Register drawn up at the outbreak of the Second World War.

In 1939, the National Registration Act ordered a register of everybody living in the UK - for the purpose of issuing identity cards, ration books and call-up papers.
The register was compiled by the Registrar General of the time, James Kyd, and his successor still preserves the original register.
It records personal information of great interest to family historians - name, address in 1939, marital status, age and occupation.

Up till now the register has been kept secret because the 1939 Act prohibited publication of the information but thanks to an application under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002, that restriction has been reviewed and details about people who have since died are now being made available.

Welcoming the new release of information, Jim Mather MSP, Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism in the Scottish Government said:-

"Scotland has an unrivalled reputation for making information available to family historians. This release of information from the 1939 register will give a starting point for people who do not have a record of their recent family history. It is a good example of the way that the Scottish freedom of information legislation is unlocking records which have up to now been secret."

So how do you make an application? Simple - send a request to the following address:

Extract Services
General Register Office for Scotland
New Register House
3 West Register Street

You will need to enclose a fee of £13 (cheque payable to the General Register Office of Scotland) and evidence of the death of the person who is the subject of the enquiry. For those who have died in Britain, a simple date of death will suffice as the GROS can easily corroborate that from its records, but if it is for a Scot who has died overseas,
you should enclose proof of death from overseas. In return, an official extract from the register with the GROS seal will be despatched, including all the details on that individual as recorded in 1939.

It should be noted that this was not an official census, but a register drawn up for the purpose of issuing identity cards. Therefore a record supplied by the GROS will not show a household, just information for the individual in question.

It's thought that the following details will likely be on the extracts - address, surname and other names, male or female, birth (day, month and year), whether the person was single, married, widowed or divorced, personal occupation.

Some of this came from Scottish Genealogy News and Events' excellent blog, where there is more information, and a mocked up sample certificate.
The blog author, Chris Paton, says he will be posting an update in due course, so keep an eye on his blog.

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Thursday, January 7, 2010

New Book - Days of Our Youth - Memories of Melrose

Our latest publication, Days of Our Youth - Memories of Melrose, is a snapshot of childhood in Melrose, Scotland, before the First World War.

John Dick, born 1888, was the son of the local ironmonger and had the sort of happy childhood that was the lot of the children of prosperous families in country areas. The text in this memoir is exactly as John Dick wrote it in 1950, and was supplied by his nephew, Ian Dick of Auckland, New Zealand.

The 52 page book discusses life in Melrose, the shops, excursions, church antics, local characters, celebrations, holidays, and school. It's all a fascinating read about Melrose in the late 19th and early 20th century. It's well illustrated by photos, some in colour, many of which even our older citizens won't have seen for years.
Price £3.75 excluding postage. Weight 100g.

You can get a copy at our archive at 52 Overhaugh St, Galashiels, TD1 1DP, or by choosing the appropriate delivery option and pressing the Buy now button below. Please note: World Zone 2 includes Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Oceania. Europe includes Eire and Russia. World Zone 1 comprises all other countries.
Delivery Options
If there are other publications you want to buy at the same time, please contact Mary Thomson on our Contacts page using the contact type Order for Publications.

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Monday, January 4, 2010

19th Century Ancestors

Yesterday's programme, the first of the new episodes of 'Digging up Your Roots', which is broadcast on 92-95 FM every Sunday at midday until 21 February was very interesting.

You can also listen to it on BBC iPlayer .

If you miss this, it will also be available as a podcast .

It covered weaving, canal work, iron works, Paisley, Robert Tannahill the 'Weaver Poet', why people went to the Transvaal in the 19th century (a lot of work in building and civil engineering as in much of the rest of the British Empire, and better living and working conditions, especially for skilled workers, than available in Scotland).

They also identified archives to help people move further with their research.

I learned that master weavers in the early 19th century were very well paid, which surprised me.

Next week's programme is on migration - and they're looking for questions from people whose ancestors came to Scotland or left Scotland.
Write to: Digging Up Your Roots, BBC Radio Scotland, Beechgrove Terrace, Aberdeen, AB15 5ZT or email them at .
They'll also talk about a Jacobite soldier who married a Cherokee woman.

Later programmes will cover women, eastern Europe, and unusual ancestors.

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