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.

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.

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.

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.

 

History of the House: Melbourne Place

Today the site is occupied by a bank and a hotel, but step back nearly 200 years and the corner of George IV Bridge was very different. For one thing it was called Melbourne Place, named after the 2nd Viscount Melbourne, who was Prime Minister from 1835-41.

Melbourne Place and Victoria Terrace

Searching through copies of Post Office directories, which are available from our Edinburgh and Scottish Collection within Central Library, we can see that it was home to various businesses including in 1837, Alex Ferguson, Wholesale Confectionery and Lozenge Manufactory, who had its premises at Number 1 and 2. As well as making various confections ranging from medicated lozenges and boiled sugar sweets, it was there that the famous Edinburgh Rock was manufactured. Packaged in tartan boxes and different from the normal lettered Blackpool Rock, it had a crumbly texture and came in various pastel colours.

Another well-known name appears in the 1846-47 Post Office Directory, Kennington and Jenner. One of the other resources available to library users is Findmypast. In the 1851 Census, in number 7, the head of the household is listed as a Charles Jenner, unmarried aged 40 and stating his occupation as a Draper Master employing 35 men, 28 women and 9 boys. We know that when fire destroyed the original Jenner’s Department store in 1892 there were around 120 people employed by the firm who were housed on the premises. Was this an earlier “boarding house” for employees? Listed in the Census, together at the property with Charles was a Housekeeper, a House Porter, a Chambermaid, a Table Maid, a cook and 30 Drapers Assistants!

Demolition of Melbourne Place

By 1852 The Royal Medical Society had taken over number 7 Melbourne Place. The RMS was formally constituted in 1737, providing a meeting place for medical students with the purpose of enhancing their education, and flourished in its educational and social provision. Its contribution to medicine was recognised with the awarding of a Royal Charter 1778. It remains the only student society in the United Kingdom to have attained this distinction. The Society retained its position at number 7 until 1965 when the buildings on Melbourne Place were demolished to make room for office buildings of the Midlothian County Council.

Lothian Regional Council Chambers from Victoria Terrace

In 1975 the building became Lothian Regional Council Chambers and when Lothian Region was dismantled in 1996 the building was taken over by the City of Edinburgh Council, and provided a temporary home for the Scottish Parliament from 1999 until 2004. This building was demolished in 2007 to make way for a new Missoni Hotel (now Radisson Collection Hotel) complex and the largest Bank of Scotland branch in Edinburgh together with two Royal Mile shops and a Pizza Express restaurant.

Hotel at corner of George IV bridge and Victoria Street

Are you interested in discovering the history of your home? The Edinburgh and Scottish Collection at Central Library has a vast collection of material which can help you.

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: Falcon Hall
History of the house: North British Hotel
History of the house: Cammo House

History of the house: Nicolson Square and Marshall Street

Nicolson Square is one of a collection of small garden areas on the southside of the city including St Patrick Square Garden, Hill Square, and Deaconess Garden.

Nicolson Square was built on land owned by Lady Nicolson (Elizabeth Carnegie) around 1743 as a memorial to her husband Sir James Nicolson of Lasswade Bart. The area became a sought after location attracting notable residents. In 1784, Lady Sinclair of Stevenson moved in. David, Earl of Leven and Melville, Commissioner to the General Assembly was also a resident. The Orientalist and surgeon, John Borthwick lived at number 3 for a time.

The southwest corner is occupied by the Wesleyan Methodist Church which was built in 1814. It was designed by architect Thomas Brown to replace the first octagonal chapel in Scotland. It is Scotland’s only Grade A listed Methodist Church.

Nicolson Square, Methodist Chapel c1914

In the latter part of the 19th century numbers 1-11 and 43-45 Nicolson Square began to change as properties were subdivided into flats, shops and a school. This continued into the 20th century with many buildings losing former unique architectural features.

Marshall Street is the link from Nicolson Square to Potterrow and we have focused our research on number 16. We’ve looked at census reports, valuation rolls and the Edinburgh Post Office Directories to enable us to look closer at a few of the previous inhabitants.

Nicolson Square and Marshall Street by J. R. Hamilton, 1914

In 1881 we find several tradesmen living at the property including Duncan MacDonald (57), a tailor clothier from Aberdeen, James Hayes (39), a paper cutter and bookbinder born in Edinburgh and Peter Wood (25) a fruit warehouseman from Coldstream.

Rogerson family
There is also Charles Rogerson aged 32 and a plumber who was born in London. He’s living at the property with his wife Jane and two sons Charles (4) and William (3) and his retired and widowed father, William.

Jane died in 1882 and Charles remarried in 1883 to Catherine. His family continued to live at number 16 and in the 1891 census son Charles, now 15, is a confectioner and William (6), a scholar. In addition there are three stepdaughters Elizabeth A Porter (19) working as an envelope machinist, Barbara Porter (17), a box maker and Auqusias Porter (11), a scholar.

Somerville family
Also living at number 16 was Peter Somerville, aged 32 and working as a journeyman joiner, born in Auchterarder. (Ten years earlier he was living in Auchterarder in Perthshire with his parents who were cotton weavers.) By 1881, Peter was married to Helen (28) and they had three young children Helen (7), John (5) and William (1).

The Somerville family was still living at number 16 in 1891 and the census shows daughter Helen is now a dressmaker and both sons are employed as message boys. A niece, Kate Porteous aged 21 is also listed at the address at the time of census.

By 1901, the family had moved a few streets south to Buccleuch Terrace. Daughter Helen (listed as Nellie) is still a dressmaker but John is now a joiner like his father and William is a bricklayer.

World War One zeppelin raid
During World War One, on the night of 2 April 1916, tragedy struck Marshall Street. A German Zeppelin dropped a bomb which landed outside number 16 killing 6 people, 4 of whom lived at number 16.

After the 1916 Zeppelin Raid, Marshall Street, image from The Evening Dispatch

John and William Smith
John Smith was a tinsmith married to Helen Thomson. From the 1891 Census we learn that aged 16 he lived in Marshall Street and was an apprentice tinsmith. His father William aged 50, was a plumber. John had six sisters and two brothers. One sister was a dressmaker and another a shirt maker. One brother was also an apprentice tinsmith. The other children, even down to a 3 year old, are listed as scholars.

By the time of the 1901 census, his father William has moved to 4 Melville Terrace with his wife Margaret, four daughters and one son.

John, now 26 and a qualified Tinsmith, has moved to 26 Buccleuch Place with his wife Helen and their new baby William.

By the 1911 census, John and family are living at 15 West Cross Causeway and a Victor Macfarlane is a visitor on census night.

The family move again and the valuation roll of 1915 shows them at 16 Marshall Street.

Both John and and his son, William aged 15, were victims of the bomb.

Henry Rumble
Henry Rumble was born at Roslin in 1899 when his parents were living in married quarters at Glencorse. By the 1901 census, the family had moved to 51 Drummond Street in Edinburgh. His father Alfred (49) was a tramcar driver who was born in England. His mother Mary was born in Ireland, sister Sarah (15) in Glasgow, brother William (12) in England and sisters Alice (7) and Ida (4) at Roslin. Alfred died in 1908.

The 1911 census shows his mother Mary living very near to Marshall Street at 11 Lothian Street with three children. Henry, aged 12 is by this time an inmate of the St Joseph’s Industrial School for boys at Tranent where he would have received work training in addition to classroom tuition.

The 1915 Valuation Roll lists Mary Rumble, his mother at 16 Marshall Street. Henry who may have moved back to be with her, was another victim of the bomb blast.

David T Graham
David was born in 1865 at North Sunderland. His father Alexander was carrying on the family trade as a baker and he and his wife Sarah already had three sons and three daughters. David’s occupation by the time of the 1901 census is a grocer. At that time, he was living with his mother in Northumberland but little more is known of him. His mother died in the first quarter of 1916.

David died in the bomb but we do not know how he got caught up in the blast on Marshall street. His occupation on the death certificate, verified by his brother, is Chief Cinema Attendant.

Victor Macfarlane
Victor Macfarlane was born in 1892 and was married to Jean Boyd on 29 March 1913. They lived at 16 Marshall Street and both had jobs as waiters. (Victor also had a connection with the Smith family (see above) as he appears as a visitor to their house in the 1911 Census.)

Victor was killed by the zeppelin bomb on Marshall Street.

William Ewing
William was a master hairdresser and aged 23. His usual residence was in Kirkintilloch and he must have been on a visit to Edinburgh when he was caught in the bomb blast.

 

Have you ever thought about investigating the history of your home? Edinburgh Libraries has many online resources and physical collections to help you.

Get in touch via informationdigital@edinburgh.gov.uk if you want to find out how to get started.

Read other 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: 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
History of the house: Cammo House

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.

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.

media-5

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.

joseph-hall

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

unihead

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!

 

Previously… at Central Library

Last Saturday we welcomed hundreds of visitors to our Local and Family History Open Day. They took part in a packed programme of taster sessions, talks and exhibitions, organized as part of the Previously…Scotland’s History Festival.


Experts and enthusiasts came together to discuss all aspects and avenues of historical research. Library staff were on hand to demonstrate all the online heritage resources you can access in the library and from home for free – the invaluable Ancestry Library Edition and The Scotsman Digital Archive proved particularly popular.

Special thanks goes to our professional colleagues from Edinburgh City Archives, Edinburgh’s War, Edinburgh Museums and Galleries, Living Memory Association, Lothians Family History Society, Old Edinburgh Club, ScotlandsPeople, Scran and The Scottish Genealogy Society who manned stalls, gave advice and encouragement and explained how their organizations  can support local and family history research.

Visitors were also given a sneak preview of our new website called Our Town Stories (www.ourtownstories.co.uk) which uses images and historical maps from our unique heritage collections to tell the story of Edinburgh’s past. Take a look and let us know what you think…

Local and family historians – this one’s for YOU

A top-notch lineup of local and family history professionals are joining us for Central Library’s Local and Family History Day on Saturday 17th November.

Get expert advice on how to trace your ancestors, discover the incredible hidden treasures from our collections, and take a look at some specially collated exhibitions.

Throughout the day (from 11am till 3pm) you’ll be able to talk to representatives from the following organisations who’ll be able to answer all your family history queries and questions on the history of Edinburgh:

Old Edinburgh Club

Lothians Family History Society

SCRAN

Edinburgh City Archives

The Scottish Genealogy Society

Living Memory Association

Edinburgh Museums and Galleries

Edinburgh Libraries

Edinburgh’s War

We’ve also got the following talks lined up:

Local and Family History Resources from the Edinburgh and Scottish Collection
11.00 – 11.45am and 1.00 – 1.45pm in the Edinburgh and Scottish Collection

Free online local and family history resources: drop-in sessions
12.00 – 12.30pm and 2.15 – 2.45pm in the George Washington Browne Room

Discover the treasures of Central Library (looking at our rare collections)
11.30 – 12.00 noon and 2.00 – 3.00pm in the Board Room

“The history of Burke and Hare”. A talk by John Baxter, RCAHMS
Burke and Hare expert John Baxter will delve into the world of the infamous duo to discover what Edinburgh was like at the time and to see what still exists from when they walked our city’s streets.
1.00 – 1.45pm in the Conference Room

Between times you can explore The World War One History Hub or take a look at the following exhibitions:

Travels with Robert Louis Stevenson: Stevenson’s Journey in the Cevennes

Capital Collections: Picturing the Past. Images, books and objects from the collections of Edinburgh Libraries, Museums and Galleries

If you’d like to know more email informationdigital@edinburgh.gov.uk

Who DO you think you are?

If you’ve been inspired by Previously… Scotland’s History Festival to delve into your family history, we are happy to help you continue your journey into the past! Your library is a natural place to start researching your family history, and accordingly, we have several excellent resources for you to use to unravel the mysteries of your family’s past!

Unfortunately, it’s all too common that we don’t become interested in our ancestry until after our older relatives are no longer around to help fill in the gaps.  But even if you only have a little bit of information about your ancestors, you can start searching on Ancestry!  We’re sure you’ve heard of Ancestry already but did you  know you can use it free of charge, from the computers in any of our libraries?  You can input information such as names, approximate date of birth or death, a location where your relative may have lived, and so on.  If your search does not yield accurate results, you can add more information, or adjust the results, so if you know your relative was in the military, you can refine your search accordingly.

We also offer access to two fantastic image databases: Capital Collections, and Scran.  Capital Collections is a digital gallery of images held by our city libraries and museums.  Capital Collections is excellent for searching for images by a specific area, so you can uncover historic photos from your area, or the area where your family lived.  For example, here is a photo of Leith from Calton Hill, from 1868!  Have a play about – you never know what you might find!

Finally, take a look at Scran, an incredible database that is just bursting with all sorts of exciting images to discover.  You can search for something specific, but if you don’t know what you’re looking for, there are several options to help you find your way around, including a section called “Random clickable records”.  Two of our colleagues have had great success using Scran to discover family photos.

Susan Varga found this photo of her great, great, great gran, from the mid 1840s! Susan had only previously seen a rather austere photo of her, and enjoyed seeing a twinkle in her eye, and was delighted to find such a personal photo on Scran.

Annie Bell was thrilled to find this photo from her childhood, featuring herself and her grandmother! (Her grandmother is the one with the hat and the fab leopard print handbag!)

Of course, if you’d prefer to do your research in a more traditional way, fear not!  Of course we have books to help you on your journey, too.

Collins tracing your Scottish family history

My ain folk: an easy guide to Scottish family history

Scottish genealogy

Scottish roots: the step-by-step guide to tracing your Scottish ancestors

Tracing your Scottish ancestors: a guide for family historians

If you have found any photos of your family or childhood home on Capital Collections or Scran, please share them with us!  Happy hunting, folks.

For further information, visit our Researching your family history web pages.

e-resource of the month: Ancestry!

To celebrate the first ever Previously…Scotland’s Festival of History, (more on that soon!), we have chosen Ancestry as our pick of the e-resources this month!  We’re sure you’ve seen the adverts on the telly about this excellent resource – it is a hugely comprehensive tool for finding out about your family history.  Just enter as much or as little as you know, and the site will work its hardest to find the right information for you.  If you are not satisfied with the search, you can refine the results by category.  This is especially useful if you know that your ancestor was, for example, in the navy, as you can search within their military records.  Additionally, it offers such features as the option of estimating a birth or death date.  You can access Ancestry from any branch of Edinburgh City Libraries – give it a try – it’s addictive, comprehensive and fascinating!

For previous e-resources of the month, click here.