News and Blog

The latest news and information from the Achievements team.

  1. A Scottish merk explained . . .

    The 1707 Act of Union, amongst other things, unified currency across England and Scotland.  But while Scottish currency was officially abolished in that year, it still remained as a concept in many aspects of society.

    Thus a will of 1762 found by one of our researches today refers to a bond recorded in “merks”, or silver marks, being one of the old Scottish coins.  A merk was the equivalent of 13 Scottish shillings, and 4 pence, or in sterling, 13 pence.  Although it was not technically in use at this time, land and other items were sometimes valued in merks, although paid in sterling.



  2. Scottish genealogy at a glance

    Scottish research can be similar to tracing families in England and Wales, with General Registration records of birth, marriage and death, together with census returns creating the basis for nineteenth and early twentieth century research.

    As in England and Wales, the latest census available to genealogists with Scottish ancestry is the 1911 census.  Later enumerations are governed by one hundred year confidentiality rulings.  Once a family has been found here, they can be tracked back using earlier decennial census returns.

    Alongside census records, General Registration birth, marriage and death certificates are also available for Scottish research. Unlike England and Wales, Scottish General Registration only began in 1855, rather than 1837.  However, this is somewhat made up for in the level of detail given within Scottish certificates.

    In England and Wales, only the father’s name is given on a marriage certificate, whilst Scottish marriage records also include the mother’s forename and maiden surname.  Likewise, with Scottish death records both parents names are given for the deceased.  This is particularly useful, as English and Welsh records do not include this information on a death certificate, which can make the death of one John Jones hard to distinguish from another John Jones living in the same place.

    Prior to General Registration and the first census of 1841, Old Parish Registers, or OPRs, are the next genealogical resource to consider in Scotland.  These are records of the Established Church, and the particularly useful aspect of OPRs is that they have most been indexed and digitised.  Thus relatively comprehensive searches can be made for the whole country of surviving Church of Scotland records, whereas in England and Wales indexing of Anglican parish registers can be patchy.

    New to genealogy?  Why not contact us for assistance on your Scottish ancestry.

  3. Who Do You Think You Are gets started.

    The new series of Who Do You Think You Are was kicked off last week with Paul Hollywood’s episode, tracing his grandfather’s military service in World Ward Two, as well as his family history in Scotland.

    Interesting tidbits which emerged during the programme, included the information that the city of Glasgow had the first police force, established in 1800.  It was also fascinating to learn that during the eighteenth century the post was literally run across Scotland, by “post runners”!

    We are looking forward to this week’s episode, looking at Jane Seymour’s Polish ancestry.

  4. General Registration around the world

    General Registration is where most people start when tracing their family tree.  English, Welsh and Irish records provide both parents names, including mothers’ maiden surnames, on birth certificates, as well as address and occupation of father (or sometimes mother is she is unmarried).  Marriage records give the age of parties, occupation, address and the father’s name and his occupation.  Death certificates provide an age, occupation and residence.

    Apart from additional information gleaned from witnesses or informants names, this tends to be the limit of information provided.  But when looking into General Registration, or vital records, of other countries, extra information can be given.

    In terms of the UK, Scottish General Registration is particularly useful, for marriage certificates also provide the mother’s name and maiden surname, and death certificates (should) give both parents’ full names.  This can be particularly useful if dealing with a death in the 1850s for example, of an elderly person perhaps in their 80s: if known, their parents names should be stated.

    When considering General Registration from further afield, again additional information is often given when compared to English records.  Australian and New Zealand certificates include place of birth on marriage and death certificates, as well as place of birth of the parents on birth certificates.  This information is invaluable, particularly due to the large number of incomers to these countries in the nineteenth century.

    Other countries with particularly good civil registration records, include Holland.  So if you find links to other countries, investigate their records of civil registration and see what additional information can be found.

  5. Potato famine in Scotland

    The Irish Potato Famine began in 1845, and soon spread to Scotland.  In 1846 after the failure of the potato crop, destitution boards were set up to raise money for people in the Highlands and Islands who were faced with starvation.

    The records of these boards are held in The National Records of Scotland [series HD] and date from 1847 to 1852 and name those given food, financial aid or were found work. The records can include details such as name, age and occupation of each family and may also include the number of children or names and ages of the whole family.

    The progress of the destitution boards, and minutes of their meetings, were also recorded in newspapers at the time.

    For example, a report of October 1847 stated that there was still “hope for an early and plentiful harvest”, but that “a few weeks of boisterous weather, and the appearance of the blight in the potatoes, gave some cause for apprehension”.  It then followed that “the continuance of rain and wind in that district throughout the whole month of September has materially injured the grain crop”.

    Together these records document a very difficult period in the history of the Highlands and Islands, which eventually led to a large amount of emigration from the area.

  6. Missing birth records?

    There can be all sorts of reasons why a birth certificate cannot be found within records of General Registration.  The GRO was set up in 1837, and was the first time all births, marriages and deaths were systematically recorded by a non-religious body.

    But sometimes entries, particularly births, may not be forthcoming despite careful searches.  It could be that a birth was not registered, which is more likely in the earlier years of civil registration.  However, before concluding that this is the case, it is important to make sure that all possible scenarios are covered.

    Was the birth registered with a variant spelling, of the forename or surname?  For example the name Smith could be rendered Smyth or Smythe.  And Ann could be Anna, Annie or Anne.  Using the wildcard option within search engines can help find spelling variants.

    Did the birth take place prior to the parents marriage?  In this case, it would probably be recorded under the mother’s maiden surname.

    Check the dates searched – was your ancestor a little older, or younger, than later records suggest?

    Was your ancestor born outside of England or Wales, such as in Scotland, Ireland or even farther afield?

    Using these tips, searches of civil registration can be made a comprehensive as possible.



December 2018
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