Oral history

Posted August 25, 2014 8:38 am by Hazel Stewart | Permalink

One of the first things you need to do when starting your family research is to speak to your relatives, especially the older generation, to find out what they can tell you. This is also true for those doing research into local history who might need to interview members of the community. Knowing how to get the best from these interviews can make a difference to the quality of information that you obtain. Before starting your research there are a number of publications that you might benefit from reading first. These include:

  • ‘Doing oral history: a practical guide’ by Donald A. Ritchie, Oxford, 2003
  • ‘Oral evidence and the family historian: a short guide’ by Lawrence Taylor, Plymouth, 1984
  • ‘Sounding boards: oral testimony and the local historian’ by David Marcombe, Nottingham, 1995
  • ‘Oral history and the local historian’ by Stephen Caunce, London, 1994
  • ‘The handbook of oral history: recording life stories’ by Stephen Humphries, London, 1984
  • ‘Oral history: a handbook’ by Ken Howarth, Stroud, 1998

These books discuss different types of oral history project as well as giving advice on how to organise the research, what questions to ask and how to record the information provided by the interviewee.

Further information on the subject can also be found on the website of the Oral History Society, while details of UK and worldwide based oral history projects can be found on the East Midlands Oral History Archive website.

NLS at Who Do You Think You Are? Live, Glasgow 2014

Posted July 30, 2014 8:45 am by Hazel Stewart | Permalink

Staff from the National Library of Scotland will be in attendance at Who Do You Think You Are? Live, which is on at the S.E.C.C. in Glasgow from 29-31 August 2014. We will be at stall E18 in Hall 5 and will have staff from the Reference Services, General Collections, Maps, Manuscripts and Scottish Screen Archive departments on hand to answer your questions about the library collections. If you are visiting the show why not come along and say hello?

New World War I digital resources available

Posted July 7, 2014 11:54 am by Hazel Stewart | Permalink

The library has just made available two new World War I online resources in our Digital Gallery. The first of these is the British First World War Trench Maps 1915-1918. These 307 maps show the British and German trenches on the Western Front and record the names that soldiers gave the trenches, as well as the names of nearby farms, villages, woods, and other landmarks.

The second resource is Rolls of Honour from Scotland, containing listings of casualties and those who died while on active service. It  includes rolls for organisations, such as schools, universities, clans, businesses and churches, as well as for places all over Scotland.

Women and the First World War

Posted July 1, 2014 2:52 pm by Hazel Stewart | Permalink

2014-07-01_143351Women played a significant role in World War I, both at home and abroad, and there are a number of publications that provide further details on their contribution. Neil R. Storey and Molly Housego have co-authored ‘Women in the First World War’, Oxford, 2011, which includes chapters on their jobs in the military, in the medical services and on the land, with plenty of photographs and war posters. Susan R. Grayzel has also published the similarly titled ‘Women and the First World War’, London, 2002, but this book has a more academic bias and also discusses anti-war activity, sexuality and morality and the post-war effects on women.

‘Women Workers in the First World War’ by Gail Braybon, London, 1989, is another academic study that analyses the role women had in the workforce before, during and after the war. A more colourful volume is Diana Condell and Jean Liddiard’s ‘Working for Victory? Images of Women in the First World War 1914-18′, London, 1987, which consists mainly of black and white photographs of women working in different jobs during wartime.

For those interested in women in the medical services, Anne Powell’s ‘Women in the War Zone: Hospital Service in the First World War’, Stroud, 2009 focusses on personal recollections of female doctors, nurses and ambulance drivers who served overseas. A more secretive job for women is discussed in Tammy M. Proctor’s ‘Female Intelligence: Women and Espionage in the First World War’, London, 2003, which uses personal accounts and diaries, official publications and newspaper reports to throw some light on this most unusual job.

Finally, the library holds the manuscript archive, including the photograph albums, of the Scottish nurse, Mairi Chisholm, who served in Belgium during 1914-18. You can find more information on her on the library’s Experiences of the Great War website.

Scottish historical clubs & societies

Posted June 25, 2014 1:28 pm by Hazel Stewart | Permalink

In the nineteenth century many different historical clubs and societies were set up in different locations in Scotland. One of their aims was to publish manuscript collections of material pertaining to Scotland which was held in private and public collections. The library has recently digitised a large volume of titles which were published by various clubs and they can be viewed for free on our Digital Gallery on the Scottish clubs publications page.

NLS at the Dunbar Coastword Festival

Posted June 2, 2014 8:45 am by Hazel Stewart | Permalink

Dunbar in East Lothian is hosting the Coastword festival of words on 20-22 June 2014. The National Library of Scotland is participating by giving a talk on family and local history resources that are available in the library and remotely via our website. The talk takes place at Dunbar Library on Saturday 21 June, 2-3pm. Tickets are free but need to be booked online through the Coastword website.

Quakers in Scotland

Posted May 14, 2014 10:09 am by Hazel Stewart | Permalink

The Society of Friends or Quakers came to Scotland in the mid seventeenth century, and while never numerous, did form some small communities in the central lowlands and north-eastern counties of the country. Paul F  Burton has written a comprehensive study of the social history and development of Quakerism in Scotland in ‘A Social History of Quakers in Scotland, 1800-2000 (2007). The Reverend John Torrance has also written two smaller pamphlets on the history of Quakerism: ‘The Early Quakers in North-East Scotland’ (1937) and ‘The Quaker Movement in Scotland’ (1927).

Due to persecution in the late seventeenth century, many Quakers left Scotland from the ports at Leith, Montrose and Aberdeen for the East New Jersey area in America. David Dobson has compiled a list of known Quaker emigrants in his book ‘Scottish Quakers and Early America 1650-1700′ (1998).

There are also a number of publications in the library that provide records of birth, marriage, death and burial. These include ‘Scottish Quaker Records (Society of Friends): Births, Marriages and Deaths, also Proposals of Marriages 17th-19th Centuries’ by A Strath Maxwell (1960) and ‘Edinburgh Monumental Inscriptions (Pre 1855): Volume 3…Quaker Burial Ground’ compiled by John F Mitchell (2003).

Finally, chapter 42 in volume 2 of David M Butler’s ‘The Quaker Meeting Houses of Britain’ (1999) discusses the various Scottish meeting houses, including their dates, history, locations and some architectural drawings. There is also a brief summary of their burial grounds in Scotland.

Working clothes

Posted May 1, 2014 1:55 pm by Hazel Stewart | Permalink

74491720-three-men-196My last post discussed resources to research the occupations of your ancestors. However, do you know what kind of clothes they would have worn? The library has several books, which include illustrations and photographs, to help with your enquiries. These are ‘Dressed for the job: the story of occupational costume’ by Christabel Williams-Mitchell (1982), ‘Working dress: a history of occupational clothing’ by Diana de Marly (1986), ‘Costumes of everyday life: an illustrated history of working clothes from 900 to 1910′ (1972), ‘British working dress: occupational clothing 1750-1950′ by Jayne Shrimpton (2012) and ‘Occupational costume and clothes, 1776-1976′ by Avril Lansdell (1990).


Posted April 14, 2014 8:28 am by Hazel Stewart | Permalink

2014-04-09_082131Do you know what a gunnyman, contrapuntist or platcher did for a living? Do you have someone with a strange occupation in your family? If you would like to find out more then there are a number of books that can help with your research.

One of the most comprehensive lists of occupations is Colin Waters book ‘A Dictionary of Old Trades, Titles and Occupations’ (2002). Another useful source is ‘An introduction to – occupations: a preliminary list’ by Joyce Culling (1999). Both of these books provide alphabetical lists of jobs as well as a brief description of each of them.

If you are looking for more information on a specific occupation then there are a couple of publications that list books, articles, directories, dictionaries and archive collections that discuss individual jobs in more detail. These are ‘Occupational sources for genealogists: a bibliography’ by Stuart A Raymond (2006) and ‘Scottish trades, professions, vital records and directories: a selected bibliography’ by D R Torrance (1998).

 And if you want to know what the occupations were above then the answers are: gunnyman – dealer in sacks and sacking; contrapuntist – maker or embroiderer of bed coverings; platcher – hedge maker.

War Office casualty lists

Posted April 3, 2014 10:13 am by Hazel Stewart | Permalink

During the First World War the War Office started to publish daily and weekly casualty lists. The National Library of Scotland holds a collection of the weekly casualty lists from 7 August 1917 until 4 March 1919. The issues published between 9 July 1918 and 4 March 1919 also include the casualties reported by the Air Ministry. The lists include individuals of all ranks who were reported killed, injured, missing or taken prisoner. They also include the surname and intitials of the individual, their rank and number and details of their home town or place of enlistment.

These casualty lists were later used to compile a six volume ‘Soldiers died in the Great War, 1914-1919′ (1921). The volumes are split into 80 parts and are arranged by regiment. Within each regimental listing, the entries are arranged alphabetically by surname and provide the same details found in the casualty lists.