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.

Scottish photographers

Posted March 21, 2014 6:03 pm by Hazel Stewart | Permalink

family-groupPrevious posts have touched on photographic collections in the library, as well as highlighting books on how to date photographs. But what about the photographers themselves? One of the most useful series of books for identifying photographers throughout Scotland are those written by D. Richard Torrance. He has compiled lists of photographers, their known addresses and dates of business up to 1914. The volumes cover Edinburgh & the Lothians, Lanarkshire, Central Scotland, Southern Scotland, Northern Scotland, Western Scotland and Northern Eastern Scotland. There are also two volumes which focus specifically on Scottish studio photographers and workers in the Scottish photographic industry.

If you are interested in the history of photography in Scotland then Tom Normand’s ‘Scottish Photography: a history’ (2007) should provide some insight into the topic.

Clock and watchmakers in Scotland

Posted March 4, 2014 9:49 am by Hazel Stewart | Permalink

Scotland had a thriving industry in clock and watchmaking and the library has some books that can explain the history of this profession, as well as biographical information on those who were involved in it. Some titles in our collection cover the whole of Scotland, including John Smith’s ‘Old Scottish Clockmakers, from 1453 to 1850′ (1975), Donald Whyte’s ‘Clockmakers and watchmakers of Scotland, 1453-1900′ (2005) and Felix Hudson’s ‘Scottish Clockmakers (A Brief History – up to 1900)’, (1984).

Other publications concentrate on specific areas of Scotland, including ‘Old Stirling Clockmakers (including those in St Ninians) up to 1900′ by Charles Allan (1990) and ‘Dunfermline clockmakers up to 1900′ by Jean & Martin Norgate & Felix Hudson (1982). Donald Whyte has also produced a series of pamphlets of clock and watchmakers for different areas of Scotland: these include South West Scotland (1576-1900), the Scottish Highlands (1780-1900), the Scottish Borders (1556-1900), Edinburgh and the Lothians (1539-1900), Tay Valley (1554-1900), Central Scotland (1537-1900), Glasgow and the West of Scotland (1603-1900) and Aberdeen and North East Scotland (1453-1900).

Many of these books include photographs of examples of different craftsmen’s work. One title that focusses on a specific type of clock is Felix Hudson’s ‘Scottish Longcase Clocks 178-1870′ (1981). This pamphlet has chapters on painted and engraved dials, with photographs, as well as providing a history of the Scottish longcase or grandfather clock.

Dating photographs

Posted February 20, 2014 9:58 am by Hazel Stewart | Permalink

74425563.2Do you have old family photographs that you would like to date? If so, the library has several books that can help with this research. These include Audrey Linkman’s ‘The expert guide to dating Victorian family photographs’ (2000), Maureen Taylor’s ‘Family photo detective: learn how to find genealogy clues in old photos and solve family photo mysteries’ (2013) and two books by Robert Pols: ‘Family photographs 1860-1945′ (2002) and ‘Dating twentieth century photographs’ (2005).

If you are trying to date military photographs then there are a few titles that can help. These are ‘Dating old army photographs’ by Robert Pols (2011), ‘Military photographs and how to date them’ by Neil Storey (2009) and ‘Identifying your World War 1 soldier from badges and photographs’ by Iain Swinnerton (2001). This last book includes information on cap, collar, regimental arm, trade and proficiency badges, as well as medals.

Valentine’s Day

Posted February 5, 2014 12:06 pm by Hazel Stewart | Permalink

87715657.2What type of valentine’s card did our ancestors send to one another? The answer can be found in several books on the subject, including Judith Holder’s ‘Sweethearts & Valentines’ (1980), Emma Bradford’s ‘Roses are Red: Love and Scorn in Victorian Valentines’ (1986) and Sonnie O’Reilly’s ‘The Victorian Book of Love’ (1995). These books shed light on the history of valentines’ cards as well as traditional verses and rhymes that were used.

The largest public collection of valentine cards is held by Manchester Metropolitan University Library. There is a detailed catalogue of the 450 cards, including colour photographs, in ‘Victorian Valentines’ by Laura Seddon (1996).

School registers

Posted January 15, 2014 9:06 am by Hazel Stewart | Permalink

2013-11-27_110205Some Scottish schools have published registers, which can include histories of the school, biographical entries for former staff and pupils, prize lists and memorials of individuals from the school who did military service. These can provide valuable information on an ancestor’s schooling and educational achievements or career if they were a teacher. A few examples of this type of publication include:

‘The Fettes College Register 1870 to 1953′ (1954).
‘The Loretto Register 1825 to 2000′ (2000).
‘Aberdeen Grammar School Roll of Pupils 1795-1919′ (1923).
‘The Glenalmond Register recording those who entered Trinity College, Glenalmond 1950-1985 and supplement 1900-1949′ (1986).
‘Cargilfield Register 1873-1927 and list of Directors, Headmasters, and Assistant Masters’ (1928).
‘The Edinburgh Academy Register: a record of all those who have entered the school since its foundation in 1824′ (1914)
‘The Edinburgh Academy Register war supplement: of those who served in His Majesty’s forces during the War, and those who have entered the school since 1914′ (1921)
‘Merchiston Castle School Register 1833 to 1974′ (1975) and ‘1927 to 2008′ (2009).

Scottish shale oil industry

Posted January 6, 2014 2:27 pm by Hazel Stewart | Permalink

The production of shale oil was an important industry in Scotland from the mid-18th to mid-19th centuries. It employed over 10,000 people in the Lothians and supported entire communities. Its effect on some of these villages is related in several books in the library. These include ‘Pumpherston: the story of a shale oil village’ by Sybil Cavanagh (2002), ‘Tarbrax: a shale-oil industry village – facts, news & memories’ by David Kerr (2002) and ‘Hail Philpstoun’s Queen and other tales from the shale’ by Barbara & Marie Pattullo (2004). Some photographs of the communities and oil works can be found in Guthrie Hutton’s ‘Shale oil: a history of the industry in the Lothians’ (2010), while personal memories of those involved in the industry can be read in ‘Shale Voices’ by Alistair Findlay (1999).

More general histories of this industry can be found in John McKay’s ‘Scotland’s first oil boom: the Scottish shale-oil industry, 1851-1914′ (2012) and David Kerr’s ‘Shale oil: Scotland the world’s pioneering oil industry’ (1999). For those interested in this subject or trying to find out more about an ancestor who worked in the industry, the website of the Museum of the Scottish Shale Oil Industry is the place to visit. It includes a database of surviving employment records as well as information on individual companies and local communities.

Christmas during wartime

Posted December 17, 2013 4:45 pm by Hazel Stewart | Permalink

74411378_3What was it like celebrating Christmas during the two World Wars? There are a number of books in the library that provide some insight into how people coped, both at home and on the Western Front. One of the most famous instances of Christmas spirit during the First World War was the temporary truce in December 1914. The British, French and German soldiers decided on a temporary cessation in hostilities during the Christmas period which resulted in exchanges of food and gifts, communal carol singing and a game of football. Several publications have discussed this event in detail including ‘Silent Night: the remarkable 1914 Christmas truce’ by Stanley Weintraub (2001), ‘Christmas Truce: the Western Front, December 1914′ by Malcolm Bruce & Shirley Seaton (1999) and ‘Meet at Dawn Unarmed: Captain Robert Hamilton’s account of trench warfare and the Christmas truce in 1914′ by Andrew Hamilton & Alan Reed (2009).

More details of Christmas during the First World War can be found in Alan Wakefield’s ‘Christmas in the Trenches’ (2010), while ‘A Wartime Christmas’ by Maria & Andrew Hubert (1995) explores personal memoirs from World War 2. The Christmas 1917-1918 issues of the First World War magagazine Blighty have been digitised by the library and can be viewed on our website. They include pictures, stories, poems and humour and were sent to soldiers on the front.

For those who remained at home Christmas needed a bit of ingenuity. Mike Brown has written an informative book called ‘Christmas on the Home Front’ (2004), which explains how those at home in Britain enjoyed Christmas. It includes recipes for ‘Mock Turkey’ and a Christmas cake in the shape of an Anderson shelter.

Old Scottish maps

Posted December 2, 2013 11:28 am by Hazel Stewart | Permalink

Guest post by Trevor Thomson

Researching ancestors in Scotland throws up all sorts of strange place names – especially in censuses – and they can be a little ‘obscure’. For instance, I was recently researching family in Fife and found the name ‘Castleheggie’ – what on earth is that? Such little-known place names can appear in gazetteers and so on, or in an online resource such as ScotlandsPlaces A-Z list. Sometimes they don’t even appear there.

A useful means of searching for a place name is to refer to old maps – and what is even better is consulting old maps that have been digitised. A significant selection of the National Library of Scotland’s Scottish maps can be found online in the website and provide a rich quantity of information about places throughout Scotland and at different time periods. Some maps are medieval, some are views of towns, such as John Slezer’s engravings, while others are detailed town plans and Ordnance Survey maps.

Pinpointing a locality on an old map can provide an insight into the places that ancestors lived, if they were particularly rural, if they were in villages or towns and so on. The proximity of features such as quarries, mines or manufacturing can reflect why a family may have lived in a specific place if their occupation was relevant to one of the local industries. Comparing the same place on maps of different dates can show the development or changes over time, and very often that means introduction of new buildings, roads, railways and industries.

A great feature of the Library’s digitised maps is that an old map can be superimposed on a contemporary Google Street plan or satellite image, among other options – this means that users can identify features present at a particular place at different times in the past. This is often most useful when viewing city or town maps, where whole streets that once existed have been wiped out by the vagaries of urban planners – or because they represented the worst of inner city life.

Old urban maps can also give reasons why street or neighbourhood names exist. A good example of this is John Ainslie’s Old and New Town of Edinburgh and Leith with the proposed docks dated 1804. This shows owners of property which frequently reflect the yet to be built street names of modern Edinburgh.

Incidentally, I couldn’t find ‘Castleheggie’ in ScotlandsPlaces or in any place name books or gazetteers – but it exists on a ‘Fifeshire’ Ordnance Survey map from the 1890s. And John Thomson’s Atlas of Scotland for 1832. It’s a row of houses, but worthy of record by census takers, and map makers.