Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Family History Workshop at the Hawick Heritage Hub

Interested in tracing your family history . . . but don't know where to start ?  Then come along to a Family History Workshop at the Heritage Hub, Hawick on Tuesday October 12th, 7pm-9pm.  

They will show you how the resources at the Heritage Hub can help you in your search.  As well as the usual census returns, old parish records, and monumental inscriptions, you will have the opportunity to view a range of records including, business records, council records, family papers, militia lists and poor law records.

The setting is friendly and informal and you will go away with hints, tips and handouts.

Rachel Hosker, Archive Manager says "Family history is much more than being a collector of names and dates.  We hold fascinating and unique evidence covering the whole of the Scottish Borders to help people gain a picture on how their ancestors lived and worked and build up the story of their own family."  

Places are limited - so do please book early to avoid disappointment – the charge of £5 will include handouts and a family history chart.   
Phone 01450 360688 or 01450 360699 to book a place.

If you need help before October 12th, come along to our free talk, Local Families of Ancient Origin in Foulden, Berwickshire  on Sunday, 26th September or get free advice from us, the Hawick Heritage Hub and others at our Family and Local History Fair and Conference in Melrose on 9th October.

Paxton Before the House Community Research Project

This is a new community interest project that has been set up to investigate the history and archaeology of Paxton and the surrounding landscape.

It aims to investigate the landscape to locate some of the early settlements that existed in the parish of Hutton.  Archaeologists from Bamburgh Research Project and Edinburgh University will be working with local organisations and volunteers to uncover new evidence of this important historical setting. Members of the community are invited to participate in various aspects of the work including 'hands on archaeology', digging a variety of sites from prehistoric promontory forts to traces of the early origins of 'Fermtouns'. They hope to be able to show continuity between the prehistoric landscape and the present farmland.

A public meeting will be held at Paxton House at the Hayloft on Monday 27th September at 7.30 pm. All welcome !

They are looking for volunteers to get involved in every aspect of the archaeological research at Paxton. If you would like to take part please contact them on 01289 386291 or via the Paxton House website.

Having taken part in archaeological digs before, my experience was that this is often a very exciting way to spend a few days. Not only does one learn about the generalities of archaeology, there's usually lots of opportunity to learn about the objects found. It's very exciting to unearth historic artefacts, and wonder whether your ancestors made, dropped or sold them.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Oliver y-DNA Project

From David Rudram.
Recently I was contacted by Richard Oliver who is part of a y-DNA project that to establish links between different Oliver lines.  If you want to know more about using DNA profiling in general read DNA testing for Genealogy and for a description of a project in the Borders have a look at Elliott (and Border Reivers) DNA Project .

Richard says that the participants in this project are mainly from Northern Ireland but some have links to the Borders in the Jedburgh Area.  The most recent development has established a link between two groups of Olivers whose common ancestor lived in Northern Ireland or Scotland.  Some men in the group have links to either Scotland or Northern Ireland.  If you would like to know more about this project either look at their Oliver y-DNA Project web page or send an email to the address on My FamilyTree DNA Project Website.

Gaelic Place-Names of Scotland - Ainmean-Àite na h-Alba (AÀA)

There's a great new website developed by the Ainmean-Àite na h-Alba, which is apparently a national advisory partnership for Gaelic place-names in Scotland, whose purpose is to agree correct forms of Gaelic place-names for maps, signs and general use.

You can search for a place name in English or in Gaelic, or by other criteria, location, type of name, local authority, parish post 1891, county post 1891
old admin area, topographical feature type, post town, OS sheet number, OS grid reference, nearest main road, post code.

So search for Melrose, and you find out that the Gaelic name is Maolros, and that it means bald moor. It tells you that it's in the Scottish Borders, too, and there's a link to the OS map.

For some names, it discusses the etymology of the name, and the forms shown in various dictionaries and reference books, and for some (though not for Melrose) there's an audio file giving the Gaelic pronunciation.

Using the advanced search, you can type in the name of a local authority, and get a list of all the places there; at the moment, the only place in the Scottish Borders listed with a Gaelic name is Melrose.  I was surprised not to see Kelso/Cealso or St Boswells/Naomh Boisil, but perhaps they'll get on there.  There are a number of other places in the Borders that have place names that could have Gaelic origins, and many more with Brythonic origins.

There's an A to Z of English place names only which is a bit odd, I think there should be an A to Z of Gaelic place names, too.

At present there are only 1,000 entries covering places throughout Scotland, but they say that work will continue to add further research and sound files to assist with pronunciation, and to expand the number of entries, and you can also write in with suggestions and queries There's also a page where you can apply for a number of leaflets and maps, most of which are free, and post free in the UK. They have a blog, too, and people have put suggestions on the blog too.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

More Seats Available at our Family and Local History Fair and Conference in Melrose, Scotland on 9th October 2010

We underestimated the demand for the talks at our forthcoming family and local history fair and conference, so we've moved the talks into a bigger room and allocated more seats to the seat booking site.

We will hold some seats back so that those who don't have internet access can still go to the talks, and I expect there will be some people who don't turn up on the day.

However, admission to the fair and conference is free, the seats are free, there is no booking fee, and there'll be people from the Hawick Heritage Hub as well as others in our research room waiting to help you with your research.

You don't need to bring lunch or drinks with you as we're providing light refreshments at very low prices.

  • 10.30 am - Welcome and Brief History of Borders Family History Society
  • 11.00 am Keynote Lecture - Haunted Borders - noted local author, Norrie McLeish
  • 1.00 pm Borders Police Records - Juline Baird and Sarah Chapman, Hawick Heritage Hub
  • 2.00 pm My Life in Textiles - Ellis Macgregor
  • 3.00 pm Poor Relief in Melrose 1871-1890 - Peter Munro
  • Borders Family History Society
  • Clan Johnston
  • Clan Moffat
  • Dumfries & Galloway Family History Society
  • Dunse History Society
  • Glasgow and West of Scotland Family History Society
  • Hawick Heritage Hub
  • John Smith - Jedburgh's Wartime Sacrifice
  • Lanarkshire Family History Society
  • Lothians Family History Society
  • Melrose Historical Association
  • Northumberland & Durham Family History Society
  • Recording Angels
  • Scottish Genealogy Research
  • Tay Valley Family History Society
  • The Scottish Association of Family History Societies
  • The Scottish Genealogy Society
  • West Lothian Family History Society
Most of these exhibitors have new publications for sale including monumental inscriptions, local history, and social history.

We hope to see you there.

If you've joined recently, please do come and speak to us.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A Black Sheep in the Family ?

(With thanks to Chris Paton's blog Edinburgh born WDYTYA man's Nazi grandfather and The Herald, Scotland.)

Reported in the Herald, Martin Davidson, the BBC’s commissioning editor for history, which includes a favourite genealogy programme Who Do You Think You Are?, discovered that his German grandfather, Bruno Langbehn, had been one of the first members of the Nazi party, a high-ranking SS officer, and colleague of the architects of the Holocaust.

That's a good pretext for asking genealogists whether we're scared to research our family history deeply in case we unearth something we don't like, whether it's ancestors who did something bad, held ideas that we find repugnant, failed
in business, deserted the family.

Should we be scared ?

Generally, we can't be held responsible for what our ancestors thought or did, but perhaps we are responsible for what our children do.
If genealogy or family history consisted only of creating family tree charts and getting back as many generations as possible, I doubt there would be much of a following; and I think it's finding out more about our ancestors and the times in which they lived that makes family history so interesting.

That's why Borders Family History Society has always been keen on researching social history as well as transcribing monumental inscriptions and publishing.
Past publications have included foreign births, marriages, deaths reported in local newspapers, Days of Our Youth - Memories of Melrose, Dunse Barony Records (transcription of Court Records), Full of Egotism, the Diary of Rev John Hastie, Edrom, Jedburgh Parish Poor Law Records (1852-1874), Jedburgh Parish Poor Law Records (1875-1893), Kelso Poor Law and Ragged School Records, Melrose War Memorial, The Kirk Yetholm Gypsies.

We're working on other publications, Criminal Records, Lunatic Records, Melrose Parish Poor Law Records, Police Records too.

However many of these show our ancestors in a very poor light.

Recently, I helped a friend research a lady on her family tree who had been committed to a lunatic asylum for striking pictures in her house with a walking stick, however, she wonders whether that lady's descendants fear people knowing that their ancestor had mental health problems.

Another record was about a man who had suicidal tendencies, deeply depressed because he was ashamed of deeds done when he was younger. I shied away from mentioning the nature of his deeds and identifying him other than by his forename in my article for the Border Telegraph because it is a family newspaper - I would not want his descendants, some of whom might be school children, bullied, ostracised, traumatised because of what their ancestor did.

However, was that the correct decision ?

Is it worse to have an ancestor that was transported to Australia for stealing a purse, than to have one that was jailed for poaching or assault ?

Lastly, there are also a lot of websites that list people with criminal or lunatic pasts, for example, Black Sheep Ancestors and London Lives 1690-1820. Should such sites be allowed ?

I would be interested in your comments.

If you have any comments, please let me know by clicking the 'comments' link below.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Monumental Inscriptions Recording at Stow and Coldingham Priory

We had planned another weekend recording gravestone inscriptions in the new graveyard at Stow (near Galashiels) on 11th and 12th September. Already, though, tremendous progress has been made with this project. Gwen Stein has photographed all the stones and this being a very modern graveyard it has been possible to transcribe about 95 % of them from the photographs.

All that is now required is final checking for which we have enough people.

Accordingly, unless anyone is particularly interested in being involved and no offer of help is ever spurned, you are all excused and we hope nobody is too disappointed.

However, transcription work at Coldingham Priory is far from complete with much still to be done and we have arranged for a further session for  the following Saturday 18th September from 10am to 4pm. We have received a lot of assistance from The Friends of Coldingham Priory who are anxious to push on. We hope as many as possibly of you, refreshed from your week-end off, will be able to join us then. Anyone who would wish to join us, do please come along (even for a couple of hours).
Further details from Ronald Morrison via our Contacts page, using the contact type Gravestone Recording.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

New Legislation Website from the English National Archives

The English National Archives recently launched a new Legislation website,

Their news page says it gives "clearer, faster and easier access to legislation, from Magna Carta to the latest statutory instruments. ... you can find details of everything on the statute book, in one place and free of charge."

It goes on to say that "Containing a massive 6.5 million PDF documents, the new website shows both the original version of any piece of UK legislation covering all jurisdictions (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) and details of any amendments, so that those accessing it can see how laws have evolved."

That would be a marvellous achievement, but the reality falls a bit shy of the mark.

There is a lot of historical legislation, including many Acts of the Scottish Parliament, on the site, but I found some gaps, and I'm sure there are other missing acts too.

For example, I couldn't find the Scottish Parliament's Act of 1579 'An Act For Punischment of Strang and Idle Beggars, and Reliefe of the Pure and Impotent' or a related act of 1597, or the very important 'An Act for the Amendment and better Administration of the Laws relating to the Relief of the Poor in Scotland' of 1845, or indeed the Savings Bank act of 1835. There other acts I would like to see, but I can't find them without knowing the titles.

Dawn Dean, the Contracts Delivery Manager, in response to my email enquiry, said that the website carries all legislation from 1988 onwards.    It also has a selection of earlier, Primary Legislation (i.e. Acts) where such legislation was available in a web-publishable format, however the site is not a comprehensive source of every Statute ever enacted. She also said that they are monitoring demand for legislation they don't hold on the site with a view to including some of the most requested Acts at a later date.

However, what there is, is still very useful. A notable lack is a keyword search in the content of the acts, however this can be done by Google.
To search for the word poorhouse, I entered into Google

and found that there were 4 items of interest to me.

To comment on this article, please click the 'comments' link below.