Bill Hall’s family story

Bill Hall is a keen family historian. Born in 1946, Bill has lived most of his life in Edinburgh. Over the past couple of years, he has shared with us, many photographs and material regarding his family and we’ve now compiled a lovely exhibition depicting his family story on Capital Collections.

Bill’s mother Mary was the custodian of the family archive and shared her memories with Bill. Born 1911, she lived in Albion Road, attending Albion Road School. During the summer she visited relatives in Ratho, Tranent and Cockenzie.

mary-clark-welsh

Mary Clark Welsh

In our exhibition we meet several of Bill’s family. There’s Alexander Clark, Bill’s great-great-grandfather, who was born c1813 in Linlithgow and worked as a carter carrying stone. He gave this up to become a canal banksman moving to Wilkie’s Basin, near Ratho. A banksman’s job was to maintain the canal ensuring it was kept in good order. They dredged the canal and kept it clear of weeds and debris for the traffic that travelled along the canal.

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Banksmen at Ratho

Bill’s great-uncle Alexander Henderson, born in 1890, was employed by St Cuthbert’s Co-operative as an assistant grocer and played in their football team. It’s possible he joined a “pals battalion”, a group of men from the same workplace or football team who enlisted together. He joined the Seaforth Highlanders and after training landed in Boulogne in May 1915. He died at the Battle of Loos on 12th October 1915 aged 25.

st-cuthberts-athletic-fc

St Cuthbert’s Athletic FC

Bill’s father Joseph was born in 1911. A postcard shows Joseph aged about 3, taken on Christmas Eve 1914. A gift for his father William, who was off to the front, the message on the back reads, “Love to Daddy from Joe“. William died of wounds on 8th April 1916.

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Joseph Hall, Bill’s father

Another of Bill’s great uncles, Archie Tait had been a ploughman at Wilkie’s Basin in Ratho before joining Edinburgh City Police in 1914. He served with The Lovat Scouts Mounted Division during WW1. They saw service on the Western Front, at Gallipoli and in Egypt and Macedonia. Archie returned to Edinburgh City Police in 1919 as a mounted policeman and on his retirement from the police in 1945, worked as a doorman at Register House.

archie-tait

Archie Tait

View the full exhibition of Bill Hall’s family story on Capital Collections.

WW1 family history roadshows

soldier and mule photoLots of us have diaries, photographs, medals and other artefacts from World War One which were passed down through our family, and which we know very little about. These items can be really important in helping to build a picture of the contributions and sacrifices made by local people whether on the front line or the home front.

That’s why experts from the Scotland’s War Project will be coming along to Newington, Colinton and Piershill libraries to help you identify what you’ve got, and to show you how to find free information online.

No need to book – just drop in:

Newington Library, Sat 17th Sept 10.30am – 12.30pm
Tel 0131 529 5536 – newington.library@edinburgh.gov.uk

Colinton Library. Sat 24th Sept 10.30am – 12.30pm
Tel 0131 529 5603 colinton.library@edinburgh.gov.uk

Piershill Library.Sat 8th Oct 10.30am – 12.30pm
Tel 031 529 5685 piershill.library@edinburgh.gov.uk

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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

Seven uses for your library card besides borrowing books

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Could you be getting more from your library card?

Here are seven things that magic little piece of plastic entitles you to – and they are all wonderfully FREE:

1. Download free emagazines and newspapers with PressReader and Zinio

2. Read scholarly journals with Access to Research

3. Get help setting up a new business using the COBRA database

4. Trace your family tree with Ancestry

5. Get book recommendations from a real life librarian

6. Stream music with Naxos

7. Take a mock driving theory test with Theory Test Pro

How do you use yours?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beyond Google’ s reach: ten web sites only library members can see

wifi ladyWhether it’s history, literature, art, music, business or science – if you’re serious about learning you’ll know that there are corners of the internet Google can’t reach.That’s where we come in. Your library card gives you free access to dozens of web sites that are otherwise out of reach. Here are ten of the best:

International Newsstand – a sophisticated archive of the world’s press.

Access to Research – Free online access to 1.5 million academic and research journal articles.

Ancestry – you can pay for this if you like, but why bother when you can use it for free at the library?

Cobra – thousands of detailed and up-to-date fact sheets on setting up and running a business or other type of organisation. Invaluable.

Oxford English Dictionary – does so much more than any other dictionary.

Scotsman Digital Archive – Every page of every issue of the paper published between 1817 and 1950.

Oxford Reference Online – With bitesize facts and longer essays taken from over 200 books published by the Oxford University Press, this site is an ideal starting point for anyone who’s serious about learning and research – whether it’s for work, study or personal interest. Written and checked by the experts, world leaders in their chosen fields.

Life in Great Britain – essential for anyone who needs to prepare for the British Citizenship Test.

John Johnson – this archive of printed ephemera gives a unique insight into life in eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth century Britain

Issues Online – for younger library members (ages 14 and above) this resource is brilliant for English, social studies, religious and moral philosophy investigations.

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!