Getting to grips with finding my past

Bronwen from Central Library’s Art and Design and Music team offers an insight into her first steps in family history…

“One of the great offers from the Library’s eresources over the lockdown period has been the opportunity to search the genealogy site Findmypast from outside the Library’s computer network. The site has always grabbed my attention but I’ve always been too busy… well, now’s the time and the opportunity.

With help and encouragement from the Library’s Digital Team guidance posted on Stay at home family history help, I’ve been dipping into this fantastic resource on family history. I’ve been focusing my search on one of my relatives.

Clarice Mary Watkins was my maternal grandmother. She later became Clarice Mary McGregor after she married my grandfather Michael Joseph McGregor in 1924 in Monmouthshire, Wales. Clarice died when I was 17 and for my part I knew her to be kind, softly spoken, an abstainer of alcohol and very good at making apple charlotte. After my own parents died I was passed down some of my grandmother’s writings and diaries. Married to an army school teacher she’d lived in Egypt, India and Germany at significant stages in the history of these countries and she’d written down much of her impressions of these experiences. I was fascinated to know more about this lady.

Clarice Mary Watkins

To begin with I found it quite difficult to find much information on Clarice. I was jumping in at the deep end wanting to insert a name and find records pinging back at me in a matter of seconds. It’s not as easy as that and takes a bit of patience.

Findmypast has some really good advice on how to start your family tree journey, writing down what you think you know, and asking relatives for information. There’s lots of advice on how to start creating and building a family tree should you wish to record this. For myself, I needed to go back to the basics.

I started off with the obvious – putting in the name Clarice Mary Watkins. I was fortunate to know my grandmother’s full name but you can use wildcards if you don’t know someone’s full name or the spelling, for example I could have searched for Clar* Watkins but I’d need to wade through more results. I knew she was slightly older than my grandfather who was born in 1900, so when some results came back with records dating 1896, I thought I’d struck lucky. I found a record for what was my grandmother’s birth and also a record for her in the 1911 Census but the dates of birth were out by a year. I knew the Census was a correct record because the names of her parents’ occupations and her brothers and sisters were correct. I’d learned a valuable lesson; not all dates, names, places etc are transcribed correctly in records at the time or later.

I started searching under my grandfather’s name to look for more information that might lead me back to Clarice. I was more sure of my grandfather’s birth and death dates but the only information I could find initially was an entry in the 1901 Census, and to me more interestingly, the record of his marriage to Clarice.

Findmypast includes information taken from many sources of records. This includes census returns, birth, death and marriage certificates and parish records but also some more unusual records, for example, passenger lists of people leaving the UK. Searching again under Clarice’s married name of Clarice Mary McGregor I found her bound for Port Said, Egypt in 1933: one of the clever features of Findmypast is that it lists other people with the same surname on the ship and there was my grandfather’s name Michael Joseph and my mother and her elder sister, so I knew for certain this was the right Clarice. Her date of birth on the passenger list was different to the earlier Census return and birth certificate so I now had her date of birth listed variously as 1898, 1897, and 1896 – and they say ladies don’t always tell the truth about their age!

Rather frustratingly I could never find my grandmother’s death dates nor my grandfather. I knew the dates of their deaths and also that they both died in Cupar, Fife. However, what I’ve learnt is that although Findmypast is a brilliant resources, it doesn’t have all the answers. With guidance from my library colleagues I was referred back to ScotlandsPeople where I was able to track down confirmation of Clarice’s death in 1980 and my grandfather a little later on.

I’m just on the start of my family history journey here. What I’ve learnt is this journey takes persistence but also patience and that you need to look at various sources and records. Different websites offer access to different sets of information and records from Scotland can be different from the rest of the U.K. A good starting point is to quiz relatives and stretch your own memory, gather together what you know, and be prepared to search records in different ways. But it’s addictive and I’ve discovered a brother to Clarice, a Benjamin Llewellyn Watkins, born 1895, who I’d never heard of before … he was never mentioned by the family … now that’s another story and given the timeframe I’m guessing one that didn’t end well.”

Find out more about how to gain temporary access to Find my Past from home and go to the Library’s Family Tree guide providing information on Library resources to help you trace your family tree.

History of the house: Cammo House

In 1977, a fire ripped through Cammo House and the house that had been in disrepair for many years, was sadly no more.

Built in 1693 by John Menzies of Cammo, the house had over the years built up a strange and mysterious story.

It had seen many owners through the years, each making additions to the house. One of the owners was brewer Alexander Campbell whose city residence was number 6 Charlotte Square, now Bute House, the official residence of Scotland’s First Minister.

Over the years he would go on to collect memberships to the boards of various organisations in the city including being made an ordinary director of the Commercial Bank of Scotland in 1851.

Alexander Campbell died on 12th June 1887 at Cammo House, his retreat on the edge of the city near Cramond which his beer fortune had enabled him to purchase.

In the 1900s it had been bought by the Clark family. Margaret Louisa Tennent was born in Edinburgh in 1859. She married David Bennet Clark in 1887. Their first son Robert was born in 1892 and his brother Percival in 1898. By 1900 there was trouble in the marriage and they later divorced in 1910. When Margaret’s father died in 1891 his estate was valued at £80,000 (which equates to £10 million in 2020) Her father Robert Tennent had accumulated his fortune from sheep farming in Australia. When her mother died in 1914, her will stated that the trust set up by her father was to be left to Margaret.

After separating from her husband in 1909, Mrs Clark, continued to live at Cammo with her son Percy and adopted the name Maitland-Tennent. She dismissed almost all the staff and rented a portion of the estate to Cramond Brig Golf Club, moving herself and Percy into a caravan nearby. She left behind a house full of valuable paintings and antiques.

Stories began to spread about the family, with Mrs Maitland-Tennent being called by locals the Black Widow, as she was only ever seen being driven in a black car, on regular visits to the bank in Davidson’s Mains.

In 1955, Mrs Maitland-Tennent died aged 95, and was buried under the lawn to the west side of the house. After she died, her estate was estimated to be £500,000.

Between 1955 and 1975 Percy lived in a farmhouse located near the main gate. The farmhouse was home to the tenant farmers a Mr and Mrs Little, who looked after him and cooked his meals.

Cammo Tower – 1960

Percy stayed on becoming more and more of a recluse, only being seen with his pack of dogs that were given free run of the house. Cammo House was deteriorating fast, and the furniture and floors were collapsing.

Over the next few years Cammo suffered several break-ins where paintings and silver were stolen.

Percy died in 1975 and is buried in the family plot in Dean Cemetery. The estate was passed on through his will to the National Trust for Scotland. In 1977 Cammo House was destroyed by fire and in 1980, the NTS feud the estate to the district council. By this time, it was so severely damaged that most of the house was demolished.

In 1980, Cammo Estate became the UK’s first Wilderness Park and was handed over to the public in an official ceremony involving representatives of the National Trust, the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, the local MP and local residents.

Although little remains of the house itself, one remainder of Cammo House still remains, the early 19th century fresh water tower built to supply water to the house.

If you are interested in finding out more about the Cammo Estate nowadays, visit Friends of Cammo.

Read more articles in this ‘History of the house’ series:
History of the house: King’s Wark
History of the house: Bowhead house
History of the house: Nicolson Square and Marshall Street
History of the house: White Horse Close
History of the house: 94 and 96 Grassmarket
History of the house: Stockbridge Colonies
History of the house: Milne’s Court
History of the house: Melbourne Place
History of the house: Falcon Hall
History of the house: North British Hotel

 

Local and family history enquiries with the team from the Edinburgh and Scottish Collection

Over the past few weeks, members of Central Library’s Edinburgh and Scottish Collection team have been busy trying to solve various family and local history queries that members of the public have been sending in by email.

Examples of the kind of questions asked have ranged from the straightforward to the devilishly tricky. So far, staff have fielded questions about whether the Library holds Edinburgh Electoral Rolls for the year 1845 and copies of the Evening News for 1959. (‘Yes’ was the answer to both questions). They’ve helped trace ancestors by finding birth, marriage and death certificates. And really got their thinking caps on when asked – what influenced 19th century emigrants to the US and Canada to choose one town over another in where they eventually settled! There have been some great questions about the local area too, from helping to date a school building in Leith, to finding resources on who was working as a pharmacist in Edinburgh in the early 1800s (and under what conditions).

Answering enquiries in the Edinburgh Room, 1954. Image from Capital Collections.

With only having online resources to access currently and sadly, not the full library collection there are limits to what can be answered. However, if you do have your own local or family history query, please send it to central.edsc.library@edinburgh.gov.uk and they will do the best they can to help out.

Here are some links to great history and heritage resources that may begin or continue your own research journey and assist with enquiries also.

A post from Patrick

This is the first of two blogs featuring memories from the Dean Village shared on Edinburgh Collected.

Today’s blog is written by Patrick McCole, a founder member of Dean Village Memories, a group of former villagers, who lived in the Dean Village from the late 1920s to the mid-1970s.

“I was delighted to receive an invitation to the inaugural launch of the Edinburgh Collected website in April 2015 at Central Library, to which I attended.

The Edinburgh Collected website has given our group of former Dean Villagers, a platform to record the social history of our community which includes memories, stories and photos of our past, to a worldwide audience.

Our community was 99.9% working class. Times were very hard for families struggling to bring their children up in the 1930s, 40s, 50s and 60s with poor social and economic conditions prevalent, with Village families having very little money and home comforts. It was apparently just the same, as with other Edinburgh working class communities. Some of the Dean Village housing could best be described as Dickensian, in that they housed large families, in small rented rooms, with many families having outside toilets, as experienced by my mum and dad, when they first moved to their basement Well Court house, number 52, in the mid-1930s.

The history of the Village goes back a long way. The Dean Village comes from the word dene, meaning a deep valley. It was known previously as the “Water of Leith Village”. The name appears to have been transferred around 1885 by J. R. Findlay, the developer of the Well Court. For more than 800 years the village was a Grain Milling Area with 11 working Mills driven by the strong currents of the Water of Leith producing flour (for the making of bread for the Citizens of Edinburgh.) The Mills of Dene were first mentioned in King David 1st Founding Charter of Holyrood Abbey dated around 1145 in which he granted one of his Mills of Dene to the Abbey.

Our Village was an industrial working Village housing a Tannery Factory on our doorstep which dated back to 1836-1969 and with other local businesses located in the Village.

We owe it to our children, grandchildren as our memories are part of their roots and to the community and public at large, to record this unique heritage of ours, which was tucked away on the boundary line of Central Edinburgh, an 8 minute walk from the West End.

It’s quite clear that if these memories, stories and photos (including family) of our past community, are not recorded now, they will definitely be lost forever.

A photo taken from the High Green with the Dean School to the left, 1955

I am always amazed when I meet the former Villagers, as they all share with what I would describe as a magnetism and a deep bond of where we grew up, in our cherished Dean Village. We have not forgotten our childhood and when we meet, we enjoy speaking and reminiscing about our memories and the various stories which are all unique.

It has given our group a great deal of satisfaction of re living our childhood and family memories, experiences and the characters that were about in the Village at that time, that we want to share with others.

Undoubtable, the enthusiasm of sharing stories with fellow villagers has brought us closer together. As a group it has given us a new dimension to where we were brought up and to see the stories highlighted professionally on the Edinburgh Collected website.

I have found that the Edinburgh Collected website is very easy to use. If I have any questions staff are always available to help and offer support.

As the co-ordinator for this research, it has been a great privilege for me and an honour to be able to co-ordinate these stories, and to see the pride that my former Villagers have, in wanting to share their memories to others. I am working on a few stories at the moment and in the pipeline I have a further 32 to be exact, thus creating a library within a library.

You too, can be part of a group creating Scrapbooks, or individually you can create a Scrapbook, tell your story, share your memories about the house or area that you grew up in, it’s as simple as that.

Please rest assured your story will be professionally presented when it is published on the Edinburgh Collected website, something that you will be proud off.”

Read the second blog post from the Dean Village Memories group – Gail’s story of her happy childhood memories living in the Dean Village.

Stay at home family history help

We’ve lost count of the number of times people have told us that they would love to start researching their family histories, but simply don’t have the time, well, now might be the chance.

There’s a wealth of online resources out there to help you either get started or help you in your research. We have pulled together some online resources that we hope you’ll find useful.

Findmypast – we announced a couple of weeks ago that during this period of Libraries’ closure, we’re able to offer home access to Findmypast! Findmypast is a genealogical database giving access to millions of records including UK parish records, census records, Irish records and British military records.
If you’re just getting started with Findmypast, there is some excellent guidance in their ‘Help and more’ section within the site and they also have a YouTube channel where you’ll find wide-ranging video tutorials.

Scotland’s People – Scotland’s People is the official online source for parish registers, civil registration and census data. Also wills and testaments 1512-1901 (free). You will need to buy credits which entitle you to view indexed pages or facsimiles of records.

Family Search – this website enables you to search worldwide for your ancestors. It is run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons), Salt Lake City who hold the largest genealogy collection in the world.

Edinburgh Libraries heritage resources – your Edinburgh Libraries membership gives you access to more wonderful resources from home including The Scotsman Digital Archive and Scran. There is also a helpful guide on how to start your family tree.

National Library of Scotland – have a whole section on their website dedicated to family history research and many tools to help you. Check out their superb maps section where you will be able to view thousands of maps of areas where your ancestors lived. Special mention also for the Scottish Post Office Directories online where you can search more than 700 directories from 1774-1911.

Scottish Genealogy Society – although the specialist library is closed at present their website and Facebook page has lots of tips and information.

Currently some organisations are even offering free online courses and research aids:
Strathclyde University are offering a free 6 week online course ‘Genealogy: Researching Your Family Tree’.

Who Do You Think You Are? The monthly BBC magazine (available from our libraries via Rbdigital) has 8 family history activities to do at home. RBDigital gives access to back issues of magazines so you can look back at previous editions for loads of family history searching tips!

The National Archives – loads of information available here! Check out their research guides, blogs, podcasts, learning resources, online exhibitions and ‘boredom busting’ activities.

Ashlea House in the Borders

We’d like to introduce you to a unique set of images we have in our collection, made available to view on Capital Collections.

The images are taken in the grounds of Ashlea House in Stow, in the Borders. Ashlea House was the summer home of the well-known Edinburgh bookseller, James Thin. Born in Edinburgh in 1824, he served as an apprentice to bookseller James McIntosh who had a shop at 5 North College Street. In 1848 he founded the book shop that bore his name. Situated on South Bridge, opposite the University’s Old College, Thin’s was the main academic bookshop in Edinburgh for 150 years, remaining in the same family until 2002 when it was taken over by Blackwells.

Ashlea House, Stow – c1910

In 1849 he married Catherine Traquair and they had seven sons. Catherine died in 1869 aged 47. In 1870, James Thin purchased a plot of land in Stow in the Scottish Borders, and had a house built, which was completed in 1873 and named Ashlea.
In 1885, at the age of 61 he married a farmer’s daughter Elizabeth Darling who died in 1905. James Thin died on 15th April 1915 at his Edinburgh home in Lauder Road aged 91.

James Thin in the garden of Ashlea House – c1910

The images gathered her are all autochromes, a type of early colour photography which gives the pictures a beautiful painterly quality. Autochrome was patented in 1903 by the Lumiere Brothers in France and first marketed in 1907. Before then colour photography remained in its infancy and the process was clumsy and complicated. Their new technology quickly took the world by storm to become the first viable method of creating images in colour.

Stow Parish Church and Ashlea House – c1910

Stereoscopic Autochromes were especially popular. Usually of a small size, they were most commonly viewed in a small hand-held box type stereoscope. Having made the Autochrome Lumiere technique portable the brothers’ invention meant photographers could travel all over the world capturing images of cultures never seen in colour before.

Garden of Ashlea House – c1910

We hope you enjoy the few images we have featured here, to see the complete set, visit the exhibition on Capital Collections.

Findmypast give temporary home access to library users

During this period of Libraries’ closure, Findmypast are kindly offering our library members free access to their fantastic family history resource from home.

If you’re interested in accessing Findmypast through Edinburgh Libraries whilst you stay at home, please contact informationdigital@edinburgh.gov.uk with your library card number and we can provide login instructions.

David Doull studio portrait of Daniel Gray and his children, 1866. Photograph from Capital Collections

If you’re used to accessing Findmypast in the library you’ll notice that the site looks a little different from usual but you’ll still have full access to the millions of records available via the Library’s subscription.

With access to UK parish records, census records, Irish records and British military records, Findmypast is the ideal resource for making progress with your family history research and many of us also have a bit more time on our hands to take advantage of this brilliant offer.

 

John Smith’s Houses and Streets in Edinburgh

For those of you who like looking at images of Edinburgh’s not so distant past, this volume of photographs from our Edinburgh & Scottish Collection will be of interest.

They are taken from a volume entitled ‘Origin, Nomenclature, and Location of Various Houses, Streets and Districts in Edinburgh’ by John Smith which was donated to the library in 1938 by his family.

John Smith spent his entire life in Edinburgh and dedicated most of his leisure time to the research of his home city. He was a carpenter’s son and started in his father’s business, but later pursued a career with the Royal Bank of Scotland where he remained until retirement. However, it is for his pastime that he is most remembered. He wrote the publications ‘Hammermen in Edinburgh’ and ‘Old Scottish Clockmakers‘. He researched and wrote on several Edinburgh topics including the Watson’s of Saughton, a history of the Lambs of Tollcross and produced a pictorial record of the tombstones in St Cuthbert’s Churchyard. Smith died in January 1938 aged 82 years old.

John Smith

The photographs in the volume date between 1920 and 1935, presumably taken by Smith himself, and show the varying styles of building and types of residence in Edinburgh, including notable buildings no longer in existence.

The volume was started long before the days of microfilm and computers, so every property description and detail included, has been meticulously copied by hand on to the pages. He probably spent many a long day, possibly here in Central Library, copying from the original pages of the Edinburgh Evening Courant, to whom most of the details are credited, and then re-writing them again into this volume. A true labour of love!

In one of the pages there is a description of Princes Street Gardens and its future use dated from 1832, stating that the “intention is to lay out the grounds with pleasure walks and ornamental shrubbery and throw them open to the public for a small sum annually”. In another from 1781 and describing St James Square, “the situation of this square is dry and healthy. It is sheltered by the buildings of the New Town from the west wind which is well known there to blow with uncommon violence….It is out of reach of the stench of the butchers shambles so intolerable to the neighbourhood in the summer months”.

Delve into the pages of this fascinating volume in our online exhibition John Smith’s Houses and Streets in Edinburgh, available to view in full on Capital Collections.

Mystery images from the past

In 2016, a former colleague, John, latterly Team Leader at Oxgangs Library, mentioned to us that he had ‘inherited’ some large glass negatives. They had been found in a cupboard in his flat in Claremont Crescent a few years earlier. He didn’t know anything about where the negatives had come from or even what they were of, but their size suggested they must be quite old. Some were broken and he offered us the opportunity to digitise them before they deteriorated further. We’ve brought them together in an exhibition on Capital Collections.

At first glance they didn’t give away any obvious clues. There were several images of gentlemen posing proudly with trophies, others of Army units and nondescript rows of houses.

Bowler with Steeples Trophy

When zooming in on the images small clues began to emerge. A gentleman poses proudly with a trophy, and on it you can just make out the words Musselburgh, Steeples and shield. As there were other images of bowlers, could it be a bowling trophy? Looking up bowling clubs in Musselburgh we discovered that at one time there had been four bowling clubs in Musselburgh. We took a chance and emailed Musselburgh Bowling Club to see if they could help. We received a reply from the club secretary and he confirmed that there was a Steeples Trophy competed for by clubs in the Musselburgh Local Bowling Association. Looking further there was other connections to Musselburgh. One was an image of what we’d thought was a large house or school. A colleague who knows the area saw the image and said “that’s Crolla’s!” A wee bit more digging and we found out that it had once had been Stuart’s Net Mill, situated beside the River Esk and a company which at one time, had employed over 800 people in cotton processing and rope manufacturing.

Stuart’s Net Mill, Musselburgh

There were two other images that looked like they might be of Army units. However, looking closer, you can make out the collar badge and so after a bit more investigation, we discovered that it was a Police unit, the East Lothian (Haddingtonshire) Constabulary.

East Lothian (Haddingtonshire) Constabulary.

Although some of the images have been identified, many haven’t. Some of the group images have the same background, so we assume that they were all taken in the same studio. Although, some like this one below, are taken outside.

Unidentified wedding party

This is where we need your help. You can view all the images, both identified and mystery ones, in an exhibition on Capital Collections.

Do you recognise any of the people or places in the photographs?
If so, please get in touch. You could help us fill in the missing pieces of the puzzle by contacting informationdigital@edinburgh.gov.uk

Have you had a look yet?

Today is Heritage Awareness Day, and whether you love history, are researching your own family history or a sports fan, there are resources to cover all interests in the British Newspaper Archive! The British Newspaper Archive is available to use free in all our libraries. Just click on the ‘Register’ link on the main page and create an account. Once signed in, you will have unlimited access to millions of scanned pages of newspapers.

The opening of our own Central Library’s Lending Department featured in the Sheffield Daily Telegraph of 3 July 1890, stating that crowds gathered outside and “when admission was got nine-tenths of the people rushed to the counters and demanded Stanley’s (explorer Henry Stanley) new book”.

Sheffield Daily Telegraph 3rd July 1890

A recent feature of the British Newspaper Archive is a collection of illustrated magazines. Here you can flick through the pages of the likes of The Tatler, The Illustrated War News and The Illustrated Sporting & Dramatic News, where in 1908 there was an article on racing in Scotland, featuring Musselburgh Racecourse. How many more people could you fit in the stands?

The Illustrated Sporting & Dramatic News 1908.

For those of you researching your family history the British Newspaper Archive is a great resource to use and goes hand in hand with Find my past, which is also available to use free in all our libraries. Just type in the name of a relative, and see what comes up!

The British Newspaper Archive now provides a title from all 32 counties across Ireland, so if any of your forefathers originated there, this is the place to look for local newspapers.

Derry Evening Post

There is so much more to the British Newspaper Archive, so why not have a look the next time you are in the library. Take it from us you’re sure to find something interesting.

Find my past and British Newspaper Archive

Two fantastic family and local history resources are now available for free from all Edinburgh Libraries!

Find my past is a superb resource for all family history researchers. You can search across millions of genealogy records including UK parish records, census records, Irish records and British military records. Find my past also gives unique access to the 1939 register, which recorded 41 million citizens throughout Great Britain and Northern Ireland at the outbreak of World War Two.

The British Newspaper Archive is now available from within all libraries too! The British Newspaper Archive is a fantastic resource giving access to local newspapers from across the UK and Ireland going back as far as the 1700s.

Every picture tells a story – Bill Hall’s Family Album

Many of us have photo albums at home; possibly passed on from other members of the family all packed with photographs of loved ones at various stages in their lives.

While researching the Union Canal for an Our Town Story, we contacted Bill Hall who had a fantastic photograph of a relative that we wanted to use. During our conversation, he happened to mentioned that he had many others spreading right across his family, also a photo album packed full of photographs, would we be interested in seeing them?

The images in the album, date from the early 1900s through to the 1970s covering various events along the way.

There are studio portraits, very popular in the days before most families had their own cameras, everyone posing in their ‘Sunday best’.  Informal photographs of days at the seaside and outings on steamboats down the Clyde.

Margaret and Willie McCubben

Margaret and Willie McCubben, relatives on Bill’s mother’s side

Several of the photos show one member of the family, Archie Tait, a former ploughman at Wilkie’s Basin near Ratho. Archie had joined Edinburgh City Police in 1914 before enlisting with the army in 1915. He and his two cousins became Lovat Scouts which in 1916 became the British Army’s first sniper unit, then known as sharpshooters.  All three survived the war and Archie returned to the police force as a mounted policeman.

Archie Tait with Peter and Andrew Clark his cousins

Archie Tait (Bill’s great-great-uncle) with his cousins, Peter and Andrew Clark

An historical moment was captured and put in the album – the Airship R101’s endurance trial voyage which flew over Edinburgh on 17th November 1929.  The R101 was one of a pair of British Airships that were built as part of a British government programme to develop civil airships capable of service on long-distance routes within the British Empire. The trial flight flew over the North of England to Edinburgh and Glasgow and then over the Irish Sea to Dublin.

R 101 Airship over Edinburgh rooftops

R 101 Airship over Edinburgh rooftops

Like many family albums, there are photographs of people that no one recognises. Most get thrown away for that reason, but more often than not, they are kept in the hope that someone will eventually say…”oh, that’s Aunty so and so”. Bill can’t help us with this one below, but it is a great example of the type of prop that many studio photographers used for family portraits in Edwardian times. Backdrops and objects were used to create illusions, days at the sea side, or in this case a family on a drive in the countryside.

Unidentified family

Unidentified family

In Bill’s album a few pages have the photos removed, maybe lost over the years or perhaps given to other members of the family; all that’s left are the photo corners showing where they once were.

Browse all the wonderful pictures from Bill Hall’s family album on Capital Collections.

Our search for Ethel

Part four in our ‘There’s a Long Long Trail A-Winding’ series

Janette, Library Services Officer with the Libraries’ Digital Team tells how some genealogy research enabled us to find Ethel’s family:

Back in 2012 when we were making preparations to mark the centenary of the start of World War One, and with the help of volunteers from Glasgow Women’s Library, we started transcribing diaries in our collections which had belonged to Ethel Moir, a member of the Scottish Women’s Hospitals (SWH). The two diaries together with a photo album had been gifted to us in 1968 by a ‘Miss Moir’, presumed to be, Ethel herself. The diaries, covered in purple cloth with the initials E.M. hand sewn on the cover, contained the handwritten account of her time with a SWH Unit including drawings, photos and newspaper clippings.

Title page from Ethel Moir Diary, volume 1

Title page from Ethel Moir Diary, volume 1

Moving forward to 2014, I was tasked to work on the material to add information to the records so that the diaries could be made available online.

As I started reading the diaries, I found myself getting more and more involved in what the pages held. Whilst doing some family history research of my own at the ScotlandsPeople Centre, I typed in Ethel’s name and found that she had died here in Edinburgh aged 89, in the district of Morningside where I was brought up. A swift calculation told me that she was born in 1885, I now had two solid pieces of information, and I was hooked!  I love digging away and doing a bit of detective work, and I wanted to find out more about this 32 year old middle class doctor’s daughter from Inverness, who had given up a presumably very comfortable life and joined the SWH in war-torn Serbia. Much to the amusement of my colleagues, I was becoming a bit obsessive about ‘Our Ethel’ and thought there must be a story to discover. What had started as an information inputting task had suddenly grown much bigger!

As many who have decided at some point to research their family tree, I started with what I could find online. My initial search started in the Library and with our free access to Ancestry, I found several vital pieces of information. One of the earliest entries, was a New York Passenger List from 17 April 1884, where a 3 month old Ethel was leaving her birthplace Belize, British Honduras, on board the S.S. Loch Tay, headed for Scotland via New York! The list gave me a wee bit more information about her family. I now knew that she had travelled with her mother and father (a doctor) and sister “Nellie”.

Dr John Moir, father of Ethel

Dr John Moir, father of Ethel. Reproduced by kind permission of the Calder Family.

Another passenger list, this time from 1888 has the 4 year old Ethel, travelling with her mother Jessie and siblings Helen (Nellie), twin sisters Ida and Olive and a brother John en route on the S.S. Aguan from Port Antonio, Jamaica heading for Boston, Massachusetts. They were certainly getting around!

Jessie Moir, mother of Ethel.

Jessie Moir, mother of Ethel. Reproduced by kind permission of the Calder Family.

Census returns provide us with lots of information; they are carried out on one specific day every 10 years, the first one in Scotland was 1841.Through Census returns I was able to gather more bits and pieces. In the 1891 Census I found the family, minus father John, staying with Ethel’s grandfather, a farmer in Dairsie, Fife. I now discovered that Jessie (Ethel’s mother) had been born in Forfarshire. The 1901 Census has the family staying at Ardross Terrace in Inverness. This census gives information for Douglas, a new brother for Ethel, who had been born 6 years earlier. One interesting detail in this 1891 Census, is that for some reason all the children whose previously recorded place of birth was British Honduras, now have their birth place as Dundonald, Ayrshire! (A mystery I have still to solve).

The last available Census in 1911 finds the family still at Ardross Terrace, and contains yet more information than previous years. The Census for that year asked additional questions, the number of persons in the house (8) and “particulars as to the marriage”. Included in this was the questions how many children born alive (7) and how many still living (6), we therefore know that Ethel had another sibling who died in infancy.

Douglas Moir younger brother of Ethel, killed in World War 1

Douglas Moir younger brother of Ethel, killed in World War 1. Reproduced by kind permission of the Calder Family.

At this point and with all the other information I was beginning to gather, we decided to take it a step further and see if we could find a living relative of Ethel’s. We knew the names and approximate birth dates of everyone so now the real detective work began. We knew that Ethel, her elder sister Helen and younger sister Ida had never married. Her younger brother Douglas had died in World War One aged 23, and we’d found no evidence of him marrying. That only left younger brother John Ernest and sister Olive. Now was the time to make a visit to the National Records of Scotland. In order to view any of their records you first have to join, so with a decidedly dodgy photograph, clutched in my hand I made my way up to the Historical Search Room. Membership completed and without a second glance at the aforementioned photo, I set about ordering some documents. One of them proved most helpful: Ethel’s will. Here I found confirmation that Olive was now a Mrs Calder and in handwriting that was very familiar to me, a list of bequests to a niece and nephew. This is when I roped in John one of our volunteers and while I concentrated on the Ethel trail, John was tasked with tracking down a living relative!

John takes up the story here:

Ethel’s father’s will had revealed that Olive Moir had married William Calder and their address at the time (1926) was Oxenrig, Coldstream. Ethel’s will told us that Olive and William had two children, Helen Bell and William Allan. Further searching found that William Allan had married Isobel Margaret Sturrock.

Ethel's younger twin sisters Ida and Olive Moir

Ethel’s younger twin sisters Ida and Olive Moir. Reproduced by kind permission of the Calder Family.

Ethel’s will also revealed a small legacy to an Allan and one to a Jill, but who were they?  We assumed that Allan was in fact William Allan Calder and found evidence to back this up. We’d found a death record for Isobel Margaret Calder, (Allan’s wife), but Jill, remained a mystery. That was until, a lucky online search for Jill Calder returned an obituary for someone (nee Sturrock) from Coldstream who had died in 2011. Finally we’d worked it out – Jill Calder was the name Isobel Margaret went by!

Another piece of information found in the death record for Isobel was to turn out to be the lead we were looking for. The informant of the death was a Maureen Calder, with an Edinburgh address. We decided to send her a letter…

Janette resumes the story:

By this time, I had been reading quite a lot of articles and books about the SWH, and had found a fascinating website www.scottishwomenshospitals.co.uk, that had been created by a gentleman called Alan Cumming. I decided to contact Alan to see if he could fill me in with answers to my growing list of questions. After speaking to him at some length, it seemed that my next port of call should be The Mitchell Library in Glasgow. Alan told me that they retained all the archives for the SWH and that is where he had done most of his research. He also warned me that the SWH had kept ‘everything’. I contacted the Mitchell Archives and asked if I could get some kind of idea what they held, a few days later one of their archivists, very helpfully provided me with a list… all 96 A3 pages of it. Alan hadn’t been exaggerating!

Having ordered in advance some of the documents I was interested in, I set out on the train to Glasgow. The Mitchell Library is perfectly situated, just across the road from the train station. I headed up to the Archives on the 5th floor. A quick chat with the staff at the desk and the items that I had ordered were ready for me to look at. My starting point was an item listed as “correspondence – M – Z”. Expecting the box to contain a few dozen letters, I was faced with a box containing hundreds. I ploughed through them hoping to find something with a reference to Ethel, but to no avail. I then had another look at the archive list and came across personnel records. I ordered them and this time I was in luck. I started looking through a folder containing various letters from Ethel herself, and also one from her father. He had contacting the offices of the SWH saying that he had heard from Ethel in Petrograd, and was enquiring whether she had received the £10 that he had sent. A form dated 20th July 1916, showed that Ethel had filled in an expense form claiming back 5s for an inoculation and 5s for a vaccination, both required for her first trip to Salonica (Thessaloniki, Greece?). Another two page form dated 1917, gave a detailed expenses listing for the 7 weeks she had been detained in Petrograd. She had spent 8 roubles a day on board, 20 r on cabs and 30 r on tips making a total of 487 roubles which amounted to just over £30.

It was also while I was at the Mitchell Library that we had another breakthrough. The same morning I was delving into the SWH archive at The Mitchell, my colleagues received a phone call from Maureen Calder saying that not only had she been surprised to receive such an official looking letter, but even more surprised to find out about her little known great-aunt Ethel.

Maureen, we had discovered was related to Ethel through her father William Calder, son of Ethel’s younger sister Olive. Maureen told us that she could vaguely recall her great-aunt Ethel, and was really excited to discover that her diaries had ended up here in Central Library. A meeting was arranged, and at the beginning of January this year, we were able to finally meet up. Maureen brought her niece, and cousin Dave, and we spent a couple of hours showing them the diaries and exchanging information about Ethel and the Moir family. None of them had any idea that their great-aunt had been a member of the SWH or of her work with the Elsie Inglis Unit during WW1. They were fascinated to see her handwritten pages and newspaper cuttings, together with photographs she had taken during her time with the Units.

About a week later, we got an unexpected visit from Maureen. She had something she wanted to show us. She’d told us when we met, that she thought most of the Moir Family photographs had been lost over the years. However, she’d been having another look at home and made a discovery of her own. She handed over an envelope containing photographs of the complete Moir family: mother Jessie, father John, sisters Helen, Ida and Olive and brothers Douglas and John Ernest. But there were two that interested me most – one of Ethel aged about five taken in a photo studio in Aberdeen, dressed in a sailor’s tunic and one taken many years later in South Africa, of Ethel sitting in a chair, smiling for the camera with a dog on her lap and one at her feet. After all the months spent researching the family it was really nice to finally be able to put faces to names.

Ethel Mary Moir, aged about 5

Ethel Mary Moir, aged about 5. Reproduced by kind permission of the Calder Family.

I haven’t been able to find out much more of what Ethel did after her time in the SWH, although I can’t believe that someone that had gone through all that she had, came home and simply did nothing. When Helen died in 1942, I found a notification that Ethel was the executor of her will, and the address given was Gogarburn Hospital. I knew that during World War Two, Gogarburn had been used by the Army and Air Force. Could she have been a volunteer?  I emailed the Lothian Health Services Archives requesting any information they might hold. Unfortunately, they were unable to find anything in their archives. The last known address I have for Ethel is the Skye Nursing Home, in Polwarth Terrace, Edinburgh.

Ethel Moir travelling in South Africa, 1930s

Ethel Moir travelling in South Africa, 1930s. Reproduced by kind permission of the Calder Family.

Ethel died in 1973 aged 89 in Edinburgh and is buried together with her elder sister Helen in the churchyard of their mother’s birthplace, Dairsie in Fife.

With still a few loose ends to tie up, I aim to continue researching Ethel and her family; after all, you never know what else I’ll find!

 

You can view the pictures of Ethel and her family in a special mini-exhibition on Capital Collections.

Read the other posts in this series about Ethel Moir and the Scottish Women’s Hospital:

There’s a Long Long Trail A-Winding (part 1)

There’s a Long Long Trail A-Winding (part 2)

There’s a Long Long Trail A-Winding (part 3)

Scottish Women’s Hospitals (part 5)

 

Thanks to the following for all their help in our search:

Alan Cumming of Scottish Women’s Hospital website

Lothian Health Service Archives 

The Mitchell Library 

The National Library of Scotland

The Scottish Genealogy Society

ScotlandsPeople

Edinburgh Collected makes the Digital Leaders shortlist

Users of an online history tool designed by the City of Edinburgh Council are being encouraged to vote it to the top of a list of digital leaders from the UK’s public, private and non-profit sectors.

Edinburgh Collected has been selected as one of the Digital Leaders 100, a group of projects, initiatives and organisations across ten categories, as nominated by the digital community.

edinburgh collected YL

Following the public vote, finalists will be ordered by the number of votes received, with the overall winner plus the winner in each category awarded at a ceremony in June.

Digital Champion, Councillor Frank Ross, said: “We are extremely proud of Edinburgh Collected, which allows residents and visitors to Edinburgh to build an online repository of original and fascinating memories and images.

“I would urge anyone who has used or contributed to the platform to vote for it in the Digital Leaders 100 to help it achieve the recognition it deserves.”

Launched in 2015, Edinburgh Collected facilitates the online gathering and sharing of pictures and stories of Edinburgh past and present.

Images and information about the capital are crowd-sourced by enabling users to share their personal photos and memories on a dedicated website available to the general public. The open source platform can also be re-used by any organisation or individual to create their own local digital heritage.

Working in partnership with innovation charity Nesta, the City of Edinburgh Council’s ICT and Libraries divisions aimed to develop a product to build the city’s digital heritage.

Voting for the Digital Leaders 100 closes on Friday, 27 May. Find out more and vote for Edinburgh Collected on the website.

This post originally appeared on the City of Edinburgh Council News Blog

An Edinburgh home guard mystery

When Marjory Langdon was sorting through her possessions in preparation for moving house she was not expecting to unearth a mystery hidden for over 70 years. In a spare bedroom cupboard she found a framed drawing of an exotic looking lady. She thought she’d check if there was any information about the sitter on the back of the drawing. What she found instead though, tucked behind the portrait, was an Edinburgh newspaper from 1940 which concealed a hand-drawn map of Edinburgh relating to the Second World War.
Local Defence Volunteers posts and road blocksThe map of the Mortonhall area was a detailed plan of Local Defence Volunteer (LDV) posts and road blocks. The LDV or Home Guard as they are better known had a strong presence throughout this city, but the map focussed on two platoons based at Mortonhall. It may have been felt that there was a greater need for the LDV to be based around this area as there was an army camp built here. The camp may have been a prisoner of war camp, but it is more likely that it was for displaced Europeans.

Home Guard 1940 Home Guards patrol a section of canal in Edinburgh in a motor boat armed with rifles and a mounted Lewis gun, 19 October 1940.

Home Guard 1940, patrolling the Union Canal. Image courtesy of Imperial War Museums – http://goo.gl/pXTQdr

Mrs Langdon was kind enough to donate her discoveries to Edinburgh Libraries along with some family photographs of Home Guard battalions. This sparked our imagination to find out more about Edinburgh’s own Dad’s Army. By 1940 4000 men had volunteered in Edinburgh and although often the butt of jokes i.e. that LDV stood for the Look, Duck and Vanish Brigade, they did serious work in Edinburgh such as creating the first Home Guard Anti-Aircraft rocket batteries and bringing down a German plane.

Edinburgh's 1st Battalion Home Guard, 1944

Edinburgh’s 1st Battalion Home Guard, 1944

See our Capital Collection’s Edinburgh’s Home Guard exhibition to read about what it was like to be a member of the LDV in Edinburgh and and to see the full suite of images including the mystery lady in the drawing.

Meet the conscientious objectors

This is David Turner telling his story at our “Conscientious Objectors” event at Central Library on Wednesday.

David

David Turner, conscientious objector

David’s father had volunteered to fight in the First World War, but came home from the trenches a disillusioned man, and what he told David about his experiences was to have a profound influence on the young boy’s worldview.

David’s mother’s advice to ‘follow your conscience’ was very much in David’s mind when he appeared before a tribunal as a conscientious objector after World War Two broke out.

When the tribunal ruled against David he went on the run to the Highlands, although he said that the situation conscientious objectors in the Second World War found themselves in was not as bad as that of their WW1 predecessors.

One of these was John Searson, whose granddaughter Elizabeth Allen was also at our event.

Elizabeth told us that her grandfather was a Glasgow librarian who objected to war on political grounds, as a member of the Independent Labour Party.

The war ended, but his story went on. It was ten years before he was given his old job back with Glasgow Libraries, where he was sent to catalogue books in a rat-infested basement of the Stirling Library.

Conscientious objection was a lifetime commitment, which didn’t come easy. Families like John’s –  and more famous ones like the Cadbury’s and the Pankhursts – were torn apart by conscientious objection and the scars ran deep in communities up and down the land.

Phil Lucas, a Quaker and human rights activist, gave us a fascinating presentation on the history of conscientious objectors, focusing heavily on their experiences in the First World War.

Phil

Phil Lucas

We heard about the detention camps conscientious objectors were sent to, the Friends Ambulance Unit some of them served in, and how some conscientious objectors were denied the right to vote until well into the 1920s.

Nan

Nan Stewart

This is Nan Stewart, who lived in a Dundee commune during World War Two with other COs. Nan, 97, told us about life in the commune and how her view of war had been shaped and changed by reading Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth.

We are sure we speak for everyone present at this event when we pass on our sincere thanks to all our speakers, whose stories will stay with us all for a very long time.

Panel

Nan, David, Phil and Elizabeth

For more information take a look at The #whitefeather diaries website or borrow To end all wars: how the First World War Divided Britain by Adam Hochschild.

Revealing our hidden collections

thomson scrapbookYou may have seen the big splash in Friday’s Evening News about the Thomson family scrapbooks and our successful quest to track down the living relatives of their creators.

The scrapbooks were compiled during World War One by the Thomson family who lived at Glengyle Terrace. Most of the items pasted into the scrapbooks are press cuttings, leaflets, scraps and adverts but there are some personal ephemera, such as letters and a ration book, which give personal details and an indication of the impact of war on the family.

We’ve digitized the scrapbooks so they can be viewed online but you can see the actual scrapbooks for yourself in the first of a series ‘show and tell’ sessions featuring these and other hidden treasures from our collections.

The Thomson family scrapbooks will be on show at the Edinburgh and Scottish Collection in Central Library this Wednesday (12th August) 10.30 – 11.00am.

Other ‘show and tell’ sessions are listed below:

grassmarketDiscovering Thomas Keith’s photographs

Thomas Keith was an amateur photographer whose wonderful photos of Edinburgh and other areas of Scotland were all taken between 1853 and 1856, making them some of the earliest photographs in our collection.

Wednesday 19th August, 11am – 12 noon, Central Library Boardroom

***

theatre programmesExplore 1950’s Edinburgh theatre programmes

Did you know that Sir Lawrence Olivier played at the Lyceum in 1952? Other big names included Michael Redgrave, Googie Withers, Sam Wanamaker and Joyce Grenfell. Come and have a browse for yourselves and share with us your own memories

Friday 21st August, 2.30 – 3.00pm, Edinburgh and Scottish Collection, Central Library

***

Whaur did yer Granny bide? Exploring the streets of old Edinburgh

Search out the street she lived in and actual historic O.S. Maps of Edinburgh from 70 years go. How did the Street name come about? What did Edinburgh look like then? Come and find out.

Friday 28th August, 2.30 – 3.00pm, Edinburgh and Scottish Collection, Central Library

***

ccEdinburgh’s sinister past: in the footsteps of Burke and Hare

Discover images and documents relating to Edinburgh’s most notorious murderers. Uncover the facts behind this macabre tale. As to the victims:

‘They were all destroyed by the same process, and almost in every case stupefied with liquor’ in The Official Confessions of  William Burke: executed in Edinburgh for murder …published in 1829.

Friday 4th September, 2.30 – 3.00pm, Edinburgh and Scottish Collection, Central Library

Bertram Ltd. of Sciennes

Bertram Limited, Sciennes was founded in 1821 in Edinburgh and soon developed into a major manufacturer of papermaking machinery.

Brothers George and William Bertram set up a workshop near Sciennes with a few machines and a small forge, later moving to new, larger premises around 1859 to a site which it was to occupy for over a century.

St Katherine's Works

Bertrams was a very family orientated company where you’d find several members of the same family working alongside each other. They produced The Bertrams Family Magazine where in each issue, were published photos and articles about the company’s many social activities and sports teams.

Bertram Family Magazine

Our collection has been made possible thanks to Bill Hall who followed his father and uncle into the Bertrams workplace and who shared with us many of his own personal photographs taken throughout his family’s time there.

Staff on roof of Bertrams

Bill’s father, Joe (top row centre) and Uncle Willie (top row right) with colleagues on Bertrams roof.

See the full Bertrams exhibition online at Capital Collections.

Meet the Family History Day experts

On Saturday 15th November between 10.30am and 4pm, Central Library is hosting a Family History Day as part of Previously… Scotland’s History Festival programme. Whether you’ve already made a start on your family tree, or you’re a complete beginner, this is a fantastic opportunity to quiz the professionals all under one roof!

What's your story?

Giving help and advice on the day will be:
Edinburgh & Scottish Collection and Reference Library Collection
Get to grips with maps, Post Office directories, Parish Records, Burial Records, and electoral rolls. Or simply borrow a book to help you get started!

Edinburgh City Archives
Find out about the records held by Edinburgh City Archives, and speak to the archivists about how you can access them and what they might help you uncover.

Edinburgh Libraries’ online services
Talk to us and find out how our free online resources can help you trace your family tree.

Edinburgh Museums & Galleries Outreach Service
Come and delve into the past with Edinburgh Museums & Galleries Outreach Service. Relive (or discover) a time before The Beatles, The Simpsons and the internet!

Edinburgh’s War (10.45am – 1pm)
Drop in for some expert, one to one help with your own World War One family story. Whether you’ve got memorabilia you’d like more information about, or just the name of someone who fought, we can help you find out more.

Lothian Health Services Archive
Lothian Health Services Archive collects and preserves the local records of NHS hospitals and other health-related material.  Speak to them if your research has led you into medical matters.

National Library of Scotland
The National Library of Scotland has many genealogical and historical resources to help you. Speak to Librarians to find out how to get started and what their collections can tell you about your family’s past.

ScotlandsPeople
From Scottish census records, Scottish wills, birth certificates and death certificates, ScotlandsPeople offer online access to millions of Scottish records to help you bring your Scottish ancestry to life. Experts will be on hand to offer you advice and even a couple of free searches!

SCRAN
SCRAN is an enormous database of images, audio and film clips from museums, galleries and archives. Speak to the experts and find out how to tap this resource to put the story into your family’s history.

Also, on the day, Scran will be hosting a free masterclass and Previously … Scotland’s History Festival will be hosting talks. It’ll also be the last chance to catch the Royal Blind’s WW1 exhibition, ‘Silhouettes the Fog and Guiding Lights: the foundation of Scottish War Blinded’.

And we’re also offering a free family-friendly guided walking tour exploring the history of Greyfriars Bobby! (Meet at Central Library at 12.30pm).

Finally, there’ll be the opportunity to find out about Edinburgh Scrapbook, an exciting new online tool being developed by Edinburgh Libraries. The web application will enable sharing and collecting of historical and contemporary images and memories of Edinburgh, and we’ll be looking for volunteers to give us their feedback.

Hope to see you there!

 

A new online library for Edinburgh

Introducing Your Library, a brand new online library for Edinburgh

YL screenshot

Your Library has been designed for you to find what you need as easily as possible, whether you’re looking to learn Spanish, research your family tree or download the hottest new fiction.

Most of the web sites and apps featured on Your Library are exclusive to library members, and all of them are free.

These are world class resources you won’t find on Google. Take a look round Your Library and see what it can do for you.