Wednesday, December 29, 2010

New Selkirkshire Parish Pages

We've created new web pages about parishes in Selkirkshire.

These pages show information about the parish location, coverage of old parish records, relevant publications for sale from Borders Family History Society, specific volumes in our archive at Old Gala House (in addition to the items for sale), articles in our magazine, other sources of information including some of the Hawick Heritage Hub's records, items in the National Archives of Scotland, and in the LDS Family History Library.

There are also links to useful websites, place and farm names appearing in the 1841-1861 census records, and population figures.

From the Scottish Borders Counties Map you can drill down to the Selkirkshire (Parish) Map page by clicking on the Selkirkshire area, and from that page you can access the individual parish pages either by clicking the relevant parish area or by clicking the parish name.

We've deliberately tried to include information that is not easily available online elsewhere, and these pages are not intended to be a substitute or in competition with pages on other websites, for example, GENUKI.

We hope that you will find these useful, and we'll update them as resources permit.

If you know of other resources relating to any of these parishes or if you find a mistake, please let us know, using the form on our Contacts page and selecting contact type Unlisted Questions.

We're working on pages for the remaining Borders county of Roxburghshire.

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

Friday, December 24, 2010

Exchange Family Recipes as Part of Your Oral History

My blog, New Game for Christmas Day ?, which also appeared in our Kith and Kin column in the Border Telegraph newspaper has sparked responses from several people.

One of our American members suggested that this might be a good time to ask for family recipes, and if you want others to delight in your recipes, you might like to add them here as a comment or to the Forum (under Scottish, Local, and Social History) . While I was thinking about that, I saw a newsletter from Familyrelatives  mentioning that culinary delight, Christmas Pudding.

They show 2 recipes from Mrs Beeton, that doyen of household management, from whose book I learned to cook, though not admittedly to her standard or complexity.

One recipe is a pudding for wealthier households costing 1 shilling 10 pence (£0.09) in 1910 serving 8 or 9 persons, the other is for a poorer family at 1 shilling and 3 pence (£0.06), sufficient for 1 large or 2 small puddings.

The more expensive pudding seems better value, however, even 1 shilling and 3 pence would have been a significant outlay in 1910.

This cost is before putting the silver threepences in the pudding for lucky recipients to find, and perhaps on which unlucky recipients would break their teeth.

The silver threepence (£0.01) was the smallest silver coin circulating in Victorian times in Britain. There was a silver three halfpence issued between 1834 and 1862 for use in Ceylon and the West Indies, but this never (officially) circulated in Britain, and thus wasn't available for puddings. I can remember christmas puddings made by grandmother with silver threepences in the 1950s and 1960s; though as we lucky kids didn't hand them back, after a while, she used sixpences. I can remember too, my grandfather swallowing one, and our guest, a local kirk minister buckling one - he had enormously strong teeth that could crack (unopened) brazil nuts and walnuts too. Some families put in tiny silver trinkets instead of coins.

Thursday, December 23, 2010


I was particularly interested when I saw Patrick Daniel's blog Volunteer- what’s in a word? about the historical usage of the word volunteer. It seems that it had a purely military connotation until World War I, though it was also used in World War II, and he cites 3 cases from records from the Old Bailey in London, whereas the word volunteering has a more recent context, and has now partly been replaced by community service.

We've been very lucky with volunteers this year.

Our trustees (including me), all members of our managing Council, are all volunteers; as also are many of their wives, husbands and friends; we had a lot of extra and hard-working hands at the conference we held in October to celebrate our Silver Jubilee, as well as a lot of people helping record gravestone inscriptions, drawing plans, photographing the stones, helping with transcribing poor law records, police records, and criminal records, checking transcriptions, researching and writing historical notes, we've had volunteers from iT4Communities helping us with IT problems, and others helping at our meetings, our stand at events at the Hawick Heritage Hub,  and there are others, largely unsung, that help out when we need it.

Thanks very much to all of you.

If you haven't yet volunteered to help us, and want to, or you think there's another way in which we could use volunteers, or indeed, ways in which Borders Family History Society could provide a better or more comprehensive service, please let us know.

New Game for Christmas Day ?

Christmas is a time when many of us communicate with family members we haven’t seen for ages or we get together with them. This year instead of the trivia quiz, charades, or party games that often end in arguments, get out the tape recorder or video camera, get each member of the older generation to tell a story about the family, or their job, and record them.

Even if it’s old great-uncle Angus telling the same old story about how he lost his watch at a dance, it’s worth having.

  1. You’ll have their stories told in their own words and voice, and that’s something that will be treasured by later generations.
  2. The very fact that you’re recording (and you need to be open about this) will interest them and may even evoke a different story. Make it clear that others in later years will hear their voices and remember them.
  3. Let them talk as they wish, whether in broad Hawick, Geordie, or standard English.

The point of this is not to gather information, but for your family to enjoy each other’s stories, and find out that they don’t mind being recorded. Some people, particularly older people, feel uncomfortable talking about themselves, and particularly when being recorded, so be ready to ask a question: 'How did you get to work in the snow when you were young?', 'Who were your best friends at school?', 'What did you do on Saturdays?'.

The last question asked of my grandfather, elicited some tales we had never heard before.  It appeared that at the age of 17, he was a clerk in an office, he worked from 7.30am to 2pm on a Saturday, and then came home and in the early evening went out with other youths from his village to fight another village’s young men midway between the villages. This was from a man that deplored the rowdiness, aggression and the indiscipline of today’s youth. We could never have guessed that.

It’s good practice to ask people to say their full name near the start of their tale, and sometimes this can bring surprises. Do play the recordings back at the time or soon after, if the speaker wishes, because sometimes interesting facts will turn up, or the questions will generate another story.

If you have time, transcribe recordings; tapes and disks won’t last for ever, or may not be playable in 20 years time, for example, many of us used 8 inch floppy disks in the 80s, but I don’t know of anyone who has a drive on which to read them. Also, transcribing the recordings will generate additional questions to ask the speaker and they’ll be interested when you refer to the recording.  Hopefully many of your relatives will have got used to being recorded in this casual setting, and will be interested or even eager to be recorded again, and you should follow that up enthusiastically.

Please let me know how you get on.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Battlefields of National Importance

n 2009, Historic Scotland decided that they would prepare an inventory of nationally important battlefields in Scotland to identify and provide information on the sites to raise awareness of their significance and assist in their protection and management for the future.  It is a major resource for promoting education, stimulating further research, and for enhancing their potential as attractions for the public. As part of the inventory, they'll maintain reports to combine all the research undertaken and show why the  battlefield is so important, and they'll include a map showing the key elements of the battlefield.  Clearly, that may take into account eyewitness accounts, archaeological evidence, and the maps may include areas of fighting, key movements of troops and other important locations, such as the position of camps or vantage points.

They've produced two lists, those that are deemed of national importance, and those that may be added.
On the list of national importance are the ones we all know like Bannockburn 1314, Ancrum Moor 1545, Pinkie Cleuch 1547, Philiphaugh 1645, Sheriffmuir 1715, Prestonpans 1745, and Culloden  1746.
Ancrum Moor and Philiphaugh are the only two on the list from the Borders, and I admit, that I didn't realise they were so important.

Usefully, their reports on each battlefield can be downloaded.

On the list of those that may be added are Aberdeen 1644, Athelstaneford 832,
Barra 1308 (Aberdeenshire), Carberry Hill 1567, Carbisdale 1650, Cromdale 1690, Dunbar 1296, Fyvie 1644, Glen Livet 1594, Inverkeithing 1651, Inverlochy 1431
Inverlochy 1645, Linlithgow Bridge 1526, Louden Hill 1307, Mulroy 1688, Solway Moss 1542. I'm a bit surprised at this list as I would have thought Athelstaneford and Louden Hill would have made it onto the first list.
Historic Scotland are seeking our (and your) views. Are there battlefields missed out (like Skirmish Hill, Darnick) that should be considered, are there any on the list that aren't significant ?

Historic Scotland's consultation runs until 11 February 2011.

More information including the downloadable reports on the consultation page.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Visualising Urban Geography Workshop at National Library of Scotland

Poor Relief Recipients (with identifiable Edinburgh addresses) from Jedburgh and Melrose parishes Poor Law Records volumes 1852-1930
At the AddressingHistory Launch Event, Professor Richard Rodger mentioned a workshop on 6th December at the Maps Reading Room, National Library of Scotland, to explore their new web-based resources, based on the work they've done for Edinburgh; and in spite of the snowy conditions, I attended this. Although they advertised the workshop for a general audience, it contained a lot of discussion about the technologies involved in the website, as well as a hands-on opportunity to show a set of data on a map.

Chris Fleet began by showing us a variety of maps, prospect views, plans, aerial photos, and digital maps of Edinburgh, all part of the 20,000 items digitised over the last 15 years. Key to this is their collection of geo-referenced maps, maps that can be perfectly positioned in relation to another map by using lots of co-ordinates, and it’s these maps that allow data about locations of people and objects to be combined with maps. Chris demonstrated how new geo-referenced maps could be produced using free technology and said he would be delighted to hear from anyone interested in volunteering to produce new maps.

Professor Richard Rodger then demonstrated the Visualising Urban Geography project with some exciting tools bringing together sets of historical geo-referenced maps, social and demographic information to analyse and present data in more detail than at the AddressingHistory launch in November. He showed Edinburgh as a collection of registration districts, the growth of Edinburgh since medieval times, as a comparison of sanitary districts and property rents, as a comparison of advocates and solicitors homes over time, the occupations of Edinburgh’s colony residents and discussed the historical reasons for the changes we saw on the maps.
He showed too, how they could accurately measure distances and areas of land, which could be useful to a lot of professions.

Stuart Nicol discussed the technologies involved which was rather complicated, and I think most of us were glad that this was followed by a coffee break.

After the break we had a go at using one of their tools, ExtMap (now Map Builder), to plot a set of trades-people on a map of Edinburgh, using spreadsheet sets of data that Professor Rodger’s team had extracted from a 1911 post office directory. There were coal merchants, cycle repairers, dairymen, egg-producers, and many other trades. Using their instructions, I managed to plot the egg- producers, who surprisingly were concentrated in northeast Edinburgh and on the road to Leith. Professor Rodger explained that often it’s difficult to guess, when looking at a mass of data, what plotting locations on a map will show, but the resulting map often presents new insights.

Since the workshop I’ve used the data from our publications of Poor Law Records for Melrose and Jedburgh to plot recipients of poor relief (see the yellow circles), who lived in Edinburgh, and that's in the picture. I'd like to be able to show this as an interactive web page, and a future intention is to show recipients in Jedburgh on a map, and those recipients that lived in the bit of Galashiels that was in Melrose parish on a map of Galashiels.

Friday, December 10, 2010

AddressingHistory Launch Event Videos

On 17th November, I blogged about the AddressingHistory launch event at the National Library of Scotland. The videos of the event can now be accessed on the AddressingHistory channel of YouTube. This comprises the talks given by Peter Burnhill, Stuart Macdonald, Professor Robert Morris, Cate Newton, Nicola Osborne and Professor Richard Rodger.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Abandoned Visit to Edinburgh Castle

On Saturday, 27th November, I went with a friend to Edinburgh Castle to take advantage of the weekend of free access to many Historic Scotland properties to celebrate St Andrews Day on 30th November.

It was a bitterly cold day, and as you can see in these videos, there was a lot of ice and snow on the ground.

I was really surprised that Historic Scotland hadn't gritted the public access areas of the grounds, and the sloping path up to the main bit of the castle was so slippery that we abandoned our intention and went home. I really hope that Historic Scotland will do better next time.

Still I hope you like the skyline views of snowy Edinburgh.