Thursday, May 27, 2010

Closing Date for Business Archives Scotland's Draft Strategy Consultation

Just a reminder that tomorrow, 28th May 2010, is the closing Date for Business Archives Scotland's draft strategy consultation.

The draft strategy can be downloaded from Business Archives Scotland, and you can comment by email, online, or by downloading a Word document.

Our response, already sent to Business Archives Scotland, is that the strategy is generally very sound.
However, I wanted to make the following points:

When businesses are taken over by non-Scottish companies or owners, there should be protection to stop their records disappearing from Scotland. The strategy needs to embrace means of providing that protection.

Data protection legislation requires businesses to destroy personal data when it is no longer required operationally. While this protects privacy, it also destroys the historical context. If such legislation had been in place for paper records 150 years, almost everything we know about social and economic history of the Victorian age would be lost to us or very obscure.

6.2 Goal 1 says that misinterpretation of the Data Protection Act leads to many records of historical value being destroyed. I've no doubt this is true, so I'm surprised that the strategy makes no provision for a remedy. Additionally, when I rang the Information Commissioner's office for guidance on this, the person to whom I spoke was certain that personal data could not be retained beyond statutory periods unless a business could demonstrate a particular purpose for keeping historical information. I think the strategy needs to commit to working with the Information Commissioner's office, Government bodies dealing with business matters, the CBI, LECs, Chambers of Trade, to provide guidance notes, case studies and provide training to correct this (mis-)understanding of the Data Protection Act.

8.1.7 As well as developing partnerships with user groups, including academics and amateur researchers, to understand and support research interests and exploit researcher knowledge, the strategy needs to understand and refer explicitly to the role played by family history societies, history societies, community and heritage associations in exploiting archives for community benefit and education.

8.2.6 As well as promoting the use of business archives across the spectrum of users (schools, academics, private researchers, businesses), I'd like the strategy to refer explicitly to family history societies, history societies, community and heritage associations because they are usually not businesses but charities, social enterprises, or voluntary associations and people implementing the strategy need to understand their motivations, needs and constraints.

If the strategy were really successful, there would never be enough archivists to record and catalogue all the business collections, therefore the strategy needs to affirm the value of volunteers in implementing the strategy, and to gain acceptance by archives in using volunteers to catalogue collections, and get archives to understand and support volunteers' motivations. That support might include providing training free of charge, providing toilets, parking, refreshments, travel expenses, or allowing record digitisation or digital photography.

The strategy needs to recognise the role that family history societies, history societies, community and heritage associations play in identifying collections available for archival and in exploiting the archives for research, and work in partnership with them to provide additional resources for archival.

I don't doubt that Business Archives Scotland is aware of all this but I do think they have underestimated the importance of family history societies, history societies, community and heritage associations and that's why they're not mentioned in the strategy.

It's not clear whether Business Archives Scotland understand the huge impact of computerised document management systems within business and the associated destruction of "non-essential" paper documents; or the associated risks with related business and information technology strategies though they do recognise the risks pertaining to electronic storage.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Silver Jubilee Family and Local History Fair and Conference - Melrose, Scotland - 9th October 2010

We have a new page on our website for our Silver Jubilee Family and Local History Fair and Conference in Melrose, Scotland on 9th October 2010.

There will be 4 lectures, and a lot of exhibitors.

So far the exhibitors are ourselves, Dumfries & Galloway Family History Society, Dunse History Society, Glasgow and West of Scotland Family History Society, the Hawick Heritage Hub, Lanarkshire Family History Society, Lothians Family History Society, Melrose Historical Association, Northumberland & Durham Family History Society, Tay Valley Family History Society, The Scottish Association of Family History Societies, The Scottish Genealogy Society and West Lothian Family History Society.

Admission is free.

More info on our Conference page.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Sir Walter Scott's House to get £2.45m of Funding

Abbotsford House, near Galashiels, Scotland,  the home of the famous Sir Walter Scott, one of Scotland's greatest writers and one of the most influential Scots that ever lived, is to receive funds to pay for essential and urgent repairs to the building and help create a new visitor centre. 

With the death in 2004 of Dame Jean Maxwell-Scott, the last direct descendant of Sir Walter to live in Abbotsford, its future was put in doubt.
In January 2007, responsibility for the house and gardens passed from Dame Jean's executors to The Abbotsford Trust, a new charity.

The trustees will be getting £2.45m, but that's a lot less than the £10m they were seeking, which they say is needed to preserve the 19th century mansion and secure the house as a major tourist attraction, in part by creating luxury letting accommodation to generate an income.

The designs for the new visitor centre show it to be a most unattractive building, but its trustees don't accept that, and also say that it's been designed to be unobtrusive and have low running costs.

More details in a BBC article.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Recording Gravestone Inscriptions at Stobo Kirk

A small team met at Stobo Kirk on Saturday 8th May to record the Monumental Inscriptions in the churchyard.  It was a very cold day but we managed to record all of the older stones in front of the kirk.  We met again on Sunday afternoon, a much warmer and very beautiful Spring day. Recording of the newer stones behind the church was completed and all stones were photographed. 
There are several very interesting  symbolic stones which are still in excellent condition, a testament to the skills of the 18th century stonemasons.  Stones include those of William Hogg, brother of James Hogg, the Ettrick shepherd.
The church is one of the oldest in the Borders, sitting in the Tweed valley to the west of Peebles.  Interesting features in the church include the jougs, still hanging at the front door, the most public of places for public repentance, or civil punishment.  There are grooves cut into the stone walls at the front door, reputedly carved by archers, sharpening their arrows in readiness for their archery practice following the battle of Flodden.
Stobo kirk is situated in the village of Stobo on the B712 off the A92 (signposted Broughton) approximately 6 miles south west of Peebles. See this map for directions.
If you are in the area, Stobo kirk is worth a visit.

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Sunday, May 9, 2010

Facades of the Fifties

Berwick Record Office has organised an exhibition of photographs and films of Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland, England in the 1950s and it will be held in the Guildhall at Berwick, TD15 1 BN on
Saturday 15th May from 10am-4pm and Sunday 16th May 11am-4pm.

Everyone welcome.

Free admission.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Restoration of a 3-Dimensional Map of Scotland

Here's a worthwhile project that deserves support.

General Stanislaw Maczek (1892–1994) was a World War 2 Polish tank commander, born in Lwów (then in Austria-Hungary), of Croation ancestry.  After the fall of France, Maczek and many of his men made their way through Africa and Portugal to London, and formed the nucleus of a Polish armoured unit based in Scotland for four years. 

General Maczek’s Great Polish Map of Scotland stands in the grounds of Barony Castle, Eddleston, Peeblesshire, later the Black Barony Hotel, now the Barony Castle hotel.
Scotland's Places says the property came into the hands of the Murrays of Blackbarony, cadets of the Murrays of Falahill, early in the 16th century, and in 1771 passed to the Murrays of Elibank.
During the war, the castle was in use by Polish forces, and there is speculation that an outdoor outline map was one of the features used to help plan the defence of the Scottish coastline.

In this setting, General Maczek and his friends had the idea of a map of Scotland as a permanent three-dimensional reminder of Scotland’s hospitality to his compatriots.  The map was laid out in 1975 by Kazimierz Trafas, a young Polish student.

I remember seeing photos of the completed work and it was awe-inspiring then.

More detail and stunning photographs in a BBC article, and in the Restoration Committee's site, from which much of the text is taken.

General Maczek deserves to be remembered not only as a war hero, but for this map, which is an icon of sculptural art and also a poignant reminder of the threats that Scotland faced during the War.

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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Learn a New Skill - Recording Gravestone Inscriptions

In May last year, a group of volunteers from the Society met to record the gravestone inscriptions at Minto church, near Denholm.

This was a training event for volunteers new to recording gravestones, and something of an experiment for the Society. There were 11 of us working on Saturday, and 8 on Sunday.  There are 214 gravestones in the churchyard, and we divided ourselves into 5 pairs to record stones. One person entered inscriptions straight into our recording database on a laptop set up next to the church.

It was an unusually hot and very sunny day, which proved slightly difficult for those trying to read faded inscriptions.  Reading inscriptions on the older stones was harder than I expected. We spent a lot of time gently rubbing the weathered lichen converting inscriptions to uncover them, and almost as much time trying to puzzle out the inscriptions. It is greatly tempting to guess what the inscription is, and a huge mistake. One stone took us nearly an hour, as we tried to decipher the text.

Here's an example of one of the inscriptions:
In loving memory of ELIZABETH NORMAN wife of THOS INGLIS who died Teviotbank Cottages 8?.7.18?? aged 68 years. Also the above THOMAS INGLIS who died at Denholm 15.7.18?? Aged 60 years.

Having entered all the inscriptions, they were printed out for us to check, most of which was done on the Sunday. We found a few mistakes, which we corrected.  Apart from several people adding to their skills, we also managed to record most of the inscriptions and check some of them, we had a picnic at lunch-time, and we all found it a fun day out. There is other work to be done, like taking photographs of the stones, compiling historical notes, and transcribing the militia list, hearth tax list, and the list of ministers, however, we hope to publish the results soon.

We are going to repeat these training and recording days at Stobo Church, Peeblesshire, this coming weekend (8th and 9th May), from 10am to 3.30 pm on Saturday, and on Sunday from 1pm to 3.30 pm.

Stobo Church is situated in the village of Stobo on the B712 off the A92 (signposted Broughton) approximately 6 miles south west of Peebles. See this map for directions.

The Church is about two miles from the recently refurbished award winning Dawyck Botanic Garden Visitor Centre with its own Tea Room – unfortunately also the site of the nearest toilet. Even if you have not been involved in transcribing stones before, do consider joining us, as training will be given. Please also bring along a notebook and a pencil and also it can be helpful if you have a soft brush, chalk, water spray and a kneeling mat.

If you would like to take part at Stobo on one or both days, even for a few hours on either day, please contact our organiser, Ronald Morrison either on 01361 882166, or via our Contacts page and send us a message, choosing the contact type Gravestone Recording. This will allow us to coordinate the work, confirm to you more precisely what is involved and advise in the event of any change in the arrangements.

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Monday, May 3, 2010

300 Million New Names Online

Family Search have announced that over 300 million new names have been added, creating or updating more than 150 new collections of records.

Can that be right ? It seems unbelievably large. Even 300,000 would be a lot.

The records can be found at FamilySearch’s Record Search pilot.

Whatever it is, it's good news for all of us.

The collections updated include
  • Australia Deaths and Burials, 1816—1980
  • Canada Births and Baptisms, 1661—1959
  • Canada Deaths and Burials, 1664—1955
  • Canada Marriages, 1661—1949
  • British Columbia Death Registrations, 1872—1986
  • British Columbia Marriage Registrations, 1859—1932
  • New Brunswick Births, 1819—1899
  • Nova Scotia Births, 1702—1896
  • Nova Scotia Marriages, 1711—1909
  • Ontario Births, 1779—1899
  • Ontario Marriages, 1800—1910
  • Quebec  Births, 1662—1898
  • Gibraltar Marriages, 1879—1918
  • Gibraltar Births and Baptisms, 1704—1876
  • Great Britain Deaths and Burials, 1778—1988
  • Great Britain Marriages, 1797—1988
  • Channel Islands Births and Baptisms, 1820—1907
  • Isle of Man Births and Baptisms, 1821—1911
  • Isle of Man Deaths and Burials, 1844—1911
  • Isle of Man Marriages, 1849—1911
  • Wales, Births and Baptisms, 1586—1907
  • Wales, Deaths and Burials, 1586—1885
  • Wales, Marriages, 1541—1900
  • Ireland Deaths, 1864—1870
  • India Births and Baptisms, 1800—1945
  • India Deaths and Burials, 1800—1945
  • India Marriages, 1800—1945
as well as lots of records from south and central America, the Caribbean, Europe, Russia, and the USA.

Happy searching !

If you want to volunteer to help Family Search, you can do that at If you would rather help closer to home, please go to our Contacts page and send us a message, choosing the contact type Offers of Help.

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Sunday, May 2, 2010

An Interesting and Useful Photo Site

I found this very nice photo site yesterday, while looking for a photo of Dingleton Asylum to use in the volumes of Melrose Poor Law Records being researched now and in preparation for a talk I'm giving in October, and I saw a reference to their postcard index.

Although the bulk of the photos are based in and around Edinburgh, there are others from further afield including some in the Borders: a Texaco petrol pump at Peebles, a postcard of Coldingham,  and as we've recently published our Monumental Inscriptions volume for Longformacus, Berwickshire, I'm showing with Peter Stubbs' kind permission, a photo of Longformacus village well.

There's also a nice selection of railway pictures including Jedburgh Railway Station and Selkirk Railway Station,  maps and a host of links to other sites.

I didn't find a picture of Dingleton Asylum, so if you've got one, and would be happy for me to use it, please let me know. I'd also like a picture of Millholme Asylum, Musselburgh, as that's where many people went before Dingleton was opened.

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Saturday, May 1, 2010

World War 2 Anniversaries

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission newsletter has advised that there are a number of events in commemoration of the liberation of the Netherlands in 1945, taking place from 3rd May to 9th May in Apeldoorn, Bergen op Zoom, Groesbeek, Holten, Voorthuizen, Wageningen. More details on the events.

There are also events from 27th to 30th May to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of Operation Dynamo - the rescue of service men and women from Dunkirk during the Second World War. More information.

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