Thursday, April 30, 2015

Berwick Films to be Shown at Bygone Borderlands

The Berwick films being shown on 2 and 3 May (see the Bygone Borderlands talks programme) are:

  • Berwick Horse Procession and May Fair, 1911.
  • Berwick Infirmary Cup and May Fair 1929
  • Visit of the Coldstream Guards to Berwick on their Tercentenary, 1950
  • Fred Stott’s amateur cine taken in the 1950s (including the Queens Visit in 1956) 

Jail Your Kids and Uncover Berwick's Horrible History at Bygone Borderlands, Berwick-upon-Tweed, This Weekend

Naughty kids ?
Take them to Berwick Jail this weekend and
  • Uncover the mystery of the Scottish spies.
  • Make a puppet of a historic Berwick character.
  • Find out about Tudor (1485 to 1603) Berwick.
All this and more (mainly for children) upstairs in Berwick Jail (accessed from Berwick Guildhall).

It's part of the popular annual Bygone Borderlands event at Berwick Guildhall and it's this weekend; from 11am to 4pm on Saturday, 2 May and Sunday, 3 May.

Would you have liked to have been a medieval knight ?
If you dare, boys (and girls), try on the replica armour at Berwick Museum and Art Gallery at the Barracks.
See more of Berwick's Horrible History in the exhibition.
It's open from 11am to 4pm on Saturday 2 May; Sunday 3 May and Monday 4 May.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Find Your Family History at Bygone Borderlands, Berwick-upon-Tweed, This Weekend

It's almost here, the event that we've all been waiting for.

The popular annual Bygone Borderlands event at Berwick Guildhall is this weekend; from 11am to 4pm on Saturday, 2 May and Sunday, 3 May.

Pose your family history question to us or Northumberland and Durham Family History Society.

Discuss those local history puzzles with Ayton Local History Society; Belford Museum Group; Border Archaeological Society; Bowsden History Group; Chirnside History Group; Coldstream History Society; Eyemouth Museum; Flodden 1513; Friends of Berwick & District Museum and Archives; Glendale Local History Society; Lowick Heritage Group; Northumberland and Durham Family History Group; Old Parish of Bamburgh Group ; Till Valley Archaeological Society (Tillvas).

There's a downloadable programme of talks - 4 each day, starting at noon.
Saturday, 2 May

Sunday, 3 May

Monday, April 20, 2015

Free credits on ScotlandsPeople till 30 April

As you're reading this, you probably have Scottish ancestry or family members in Scotland.

If you have ancestors that lived on the English side of the Border with Scotland, it's quite likely that you had family members that lived or worked in the Scottish Borders, or possibly just got married in Scotland or on one of the bridges over the River Tweed; the bridge between Cornhill and Coldstream was famous for such marriages.

My thanks to Marjorie Gavin for spotting that you can get 20 free credits on ScotlandsPeople worth £4.50 with an offer valid until 30 April.

Register at ScotlandsPeople if you are a new user, or log in, if you already have an account.

When you're logged in, click on 'Buy more credits' at the top of the page on the right.

You will be taken to a page where you should enter the promotional code.

Under 'Do you have a voucher code?', enter the promotional code:

You should then receive 20 free credits worth £4.50.

Have you a Wicked Criminal in Your Family ?

Our next talk is on Sunday, 26th April when Margaret Fox will talk about "Crimes of an Heinous Nature - Looking at some High Court Trials" and it's being held at the Corn Exchange & Ormiston Institute in Market Square, Melrose. Map.

Margaret will be looking into the darker side of life across the Scottish Borders during the 18th and 19th centuries, examining not only crimes which have long passed into oblivion but also those which are still making the headlines today. Drawing on her extensive research in the High Court of Justiciary case papers in the National Records of Scotland, her talk will range from the political to the domestic, and from the violent to the less so, showing how these records serve to illustrate changes in society and illuminate the past in a unique way.
She will also dip into Lord Cockburn’s ‘Circuit Journeys’ which gives a truly fascinating insight into 19th century crime and criminals from the perspective of a judge who was not afraid to speak his mind !

Her previous talks about the Kirk and its records, and about Traquair House were well attended so come early to get a decent seat.

I warmly invite you to attend the talk whether you are a member or not. Doors open at 2pm; the talk begins at 2.30pm.
We'll have a range of family history publications available to buy, and there’ll be light refreshments (donation expected) available after the talk.
If you have a problem with your family history, please discuss it with one of our volunteers.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Free Access to Ancestry's English Midlands Collection

To mark the Who Do You Think You Are Live show in Birmingham, England; Ancestry is providing free access to its English Midlands Collection. Don't delay, the offer ends on Saturday, 18th April !

As usual, you'll need to register or log in.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Robert Balmer - One of Berwick's Most Esteemed Ministers

Family Search lists Robert Balmer's birth on 22nd November 1787 and christening, 8 days later, at Eckford, Roxburghshire, Scotland.

According to his Academical lectures and pulpit discourses which includes a memoir of his life, his father was Thomas Balmer and his mother, Margaret Biggar and they lived at Ormiston Mains.

Thomas was probably a farmer; he had been offered a farm by the Duke of Buccleuch but he preferred to be a land-steward, first at Ormiston and later at Crailinghall. He was a member of the congregation at Morebattle, connected with the General Associate (Antiburgher) Synod.

Margaret was a granddaughter of the James Biggar mentioned in the autobiography of the venerable Boston of Ettrick. She adhered to the congregation at Jedburgh, connected with the Associate (Burgher) Synod. Family Search lists Thomas Balmer and Margaret Biggar's marriage on 6th January 1786.

They had 2 other sons, Walter (probably born 30 January 1790; later emigrated to USA) and James (probably born 14th March 1794) and a daughter, Helen, (probably born 22nd April 1796). The memoir doesn’t mention Stephen (christened 19th October 1788 in the same place as the others) or Nelly  (christened 5th August 1792 at Hobkirk).

At the age of 9, Robert went to a school at Crailing Mill, taught by Richard Scott, later one of the elders of Golden Square congregation, Berwick. Thomas died about a year later and Mrs Balmer opened a shop at Eckford-moss. Robert moved to Eckford parish school and attended Morebattle parish school to learn Latin.

At age 14, he went to Kelso Grammar School, stating during the week with his aunt at Maxwellheugh.
He went to Edinburgh University at the beginning of the session 1802-3.
In the autumn of the year 1806, after undergoing an examination by the Associate Presbytery of Selkirk, he was admitted to the study of Divinity under the Rev. Dr George Lawson, supporting himself by teaching.

He was licensed to preach the Gospel on 4th August 1812. He was offered posts by congregations in Lochwinnoch, Leslie, Ecclefechan, and Berwick, and in autumn 1813 picked Berwick (perhaps because his mother and his brother, James, lived in Berwick).

He said in a letter to a friend “My ordination took place on Wednesday, the 23rd of last month (March 1814). The person who preached first, and who ordained (presided at the ordination), was Mr Lee of Horndean, a most intimate acquaintance, and one of the best men, I believe, in the Burgher Synod. A friend and relation not less dear, Mr Paterson of Alnwick, preached after him. Mr Peddie from Edinburgh was present, and introduced me on the following Sabbath.”
He was clearly prized by his Berwick congregation; the Caledonian Mercury reported:
“on 13th July 1819, an elegant silver cup and ….. a beautiful set of table plate, value 50 guineas (£52.50) were presented by the principal members of the Burgher Associate Congregation of Berwick, ….. at the Red Lion Inn, as a token of the high esteem they entertain for him.”

On 18th July 1826, Robert married Jane Scott, daughter of Alexander Scott of Aberdeen. One of Jane’s sisters was a landlady in Slateford, Edinburgh, her brother, John wrote ‘Visits to Paris’.
No children are mentioned in the memoir.

 In 1833, he was appointed Professor of Systematic Theology to the United Secession Church.

Robert’s mother, Margaret Biggar, died in 1839.

In 1840, the University of St Andrews conferred on him the honorary degree of Doctor in Divinity. He preached in many places including London, Glasgow and Edinburgh and was an active participant in the controversy that, ultimately, led to the disruption of the churches.

He died on the morning of Monday, July 1, 1844 after several weeks with a severe and painful illness and was buried on 9th July. His death was reported in many newspapers in England and Scotland. Apart from a volume of sermons in 1819, he published little during his lifetime, except in newspapers.

There's a photograph of an imposing column and its inscription in Holy Trinity churchyard, Berwick, on the Find A Grave website.

Are you related to one of Robert Balmer's brothers or sisters ?

Friday, April 3, 2015

Free Access to Ancestry's UK and Canadian Records over Easter Weekend

To celebrate Easter, Ancestry UK and Ancestry Canada are offering free access to more than 235 million Canadian family history records and images and more than one billion UK family history records and images over the Easter weekend.

Their advert pages say the offer ends at 23.59 on 6 April in the UK and 23.59 ET on 6 April in Canada.

As with other Ancestry offers, you'll presumably need to log in, so if you haven't already done so, register free and log in.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Problems with Berwick, Tweedmouth or Spittal Ancestors ? Try Easter Family History Surgeries at Berwick-upon-Tweed

This weekend is the start of the Berwick 900 Festival that celebrates 900 years of Berwick’s history. The theme of the Easter weekend, 3rd to 6th April is “Our Christian Story” that celebrates Christian institutions, religious life and a few of the great Christian leaders in the town.

At St Andrews Church, Wallace Green, Berwick-upon-Tweed, TD15 1ED as well as the “Moments in Time” Flower Festival, inspired by the church’s history, there will be display panels about Robert Balmer, an inspirational minister at Golden Square, Dr John Cairns and Berwick’s well known physician, Philip MacLagan, a church elder.

Although all these men were born in Scotland and at times lived elsewhere, they all had strong links with Berwick.

Like them, John Hamilton Hall, a freeman, was born in Coldstream, moved to Berwick as a child where his father was a doctor, left the town to fight in India, returned when he retired from the army, aged 40, got married and then moved to Edinburgh.

Did your family move into or out of Berwick ?
Why did they do that ?
If your family is associated with Berwick, Tweedmouth or Spittal, the Berwick 900 Our Families Project would love to hear your family stories. 

Tweet them @Berwick900 or contact Linda Bankier at .

Normally you need to visit Berwick Record Office to consult the transcripts of church registers of baptisms, marriages and burials for Berwick and Tweedmouth. However, over the Easter weekend, you can look at some of the registers in the churches where the events took place – Berwick Parish, St Andrews and Berwick Roman Catholic churches and Tweedmouth Parish Church.

Look on the Berwick 900 website for opening times.

Are you wondering how to start your family history ?
Perhaps you’ve started researching your family but have hit a brick wall.
If you need some help, go along to the Family History surgeries in St Andrews Church from 12 to 2pm each day from Good Friday to Easter Monday and speak to experienced genealogists.