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.

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

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!

 

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

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.

Leith Festival @ Leith Library

It’s festival time in Leith again soon, and  here at Leith Library we’ll be hosting an exciting series of events for all ages and interests. All our events are free and unticketed, just turn up on the day (although you will have to book for the Family History Workshop):

The Big Bottom Hunt with Lari Don

Friday 18 June, 2.00pm – 2.45pm

Award-winning children’s author Lari Don will read from ‘The Big Bottom Hunt’ and share silly stories about losing, searching and finding. suitable for ages 4 – 7.

Rocking horse war with Lari Don

Fri 18 June 10 3.00 PM to  4.00 PM

Award-winning author Lari Don will read from her new novel, ‘Rocking Horse War’, an adventure set in the Scottish mountains, and tell legends which inspire her magical fiction. Suitable for age 9-12.

Leith Poetry of the Great War

Tue 15 June 10 7.00 PM to  8.00 PM

During the First World War many poems were published in the Leith Observer which were composed by local people. These include poems written by servicemen who served in the conflict. A selection of those will be read on an evening in the Leith Library. Materials relating to the Leith Roll of Honour will also be on view during this event.

Victorian recollections – 500 years of the Pentland family

Thu 17 June 10 2.30 PM to  3.30 PM

Local historian, Joyce Wallace, talks about her latest book looking at the history of the Pentland family going back to the early 16th century – an enthralling history which journeys from Leith to America to Trinity

Family history workshop – exploring online resources

Thursday June 10th   6.30pm – 8pm

With Genealogists from the Edinburgh Family History Centre

 (Telephone Leith Library 0131 529 5518 to book – places are limited at this one!)

There’s lots more going on at this year’s Leith Festival – check out the official web site for more info.

Calling all family historians

Good news! Ancestry, the world’s leading genealogy database is now available from every one of our libraries. Ancestry contains the most comprehensive genealogical information available online with more than 7 billion names in over 25,000 collections. Contains Censuses; Birth, Marriage and Death Records; Passenger Lists; and Military Records from all over the world, not just Scotland. 

Also available: The Scotsman Digital Archive. This is another fantastic source of family or local history – you can search every edition of The Scotsman newspaper published between 1817 and 1950. Use it to find significant moments in the history of Scotland, major historical world events or discover if ancestors appear in the births, marriages and deaths notices, or even in a news story.

The Scotsman Digital Archive is available in every one of our libraries but you can also log on from home using your Edinburgh City Libraries membership card.