Welcome to Scottish Genealogy Tips And Tidbits

A wee bit of info to help you in your journey to discover your Scottish Ancestors and maybe even crack a brick wall or two!

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Meet Scottish ViC Vendor Scottishindexes

If you are not using Scottishindexes, you should be! This site has a wealth of information about records that are not available online. Indexes for paternity cases, prison registers, mental health records. And best of all, if your ancestor isn't listed, the Maxwells will do the search for you, in person, to get you what you need to help you over your brick wall.

Scottishindexes is offering a special discount specifically for people attending the Scottish ViC! 

To register for the virtual conference (being held January 27th, 2018) simply click:

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Meet Scottish ViC Vendor Shop the Hound

Meet Scottish ViC Vendor Shop the Hound

Shop the Hound is offering a discount code for orders placed during the ViC. As well, they are giving away a Vivid-Pix RESTORE to one lucky person attending the virtual conference. 

Do you have a product or offer a service that will support genealogy researchers? Are you interested in being a vendor or exhibitor in the virtual marketplace? Register HERE

Friday, 8 December 2017

Meet Scottish ViC Vendor Global Genealogy

Global Genealogy is offering a 20% discount on any or all of their books authored by Chris Paton which are purchased during the Virtual Conference. Chris is one of the presenters at the ViC and will be helping us to find ancestors in various records prior to civil registration, which began in 1855. 

If  you are looking for Scottish ancestors who left Scotland prior to 1855, this presentation will be helpful to you. Register for the conference HERE

Do you have a product or offer a service that will assist the family history researcher? Consider registering to be a vendor or exhibitor in our Virtual Marketplace. Register HERE

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Scottish ViC a Full Day of Learning

Chris Paton will be sharing the resources available for people looking for their ancestors who may have left Scotland prior to civil registration in 1855. Even ancestors who may have still been in Scotland but where you are seeking more information prior to what is available from 1855. Church records, court records, poor records, land records and so much more.

Margaret Fox will be sharing her vast knowledge of the Kirk's archives. Not just Kirk Session records but all of the various records held by the Kirk. Communion rolls, pew rents and everything in between.

Craig Statham will be showing us the incredible resources available from the National Library's vast maps collection. These date back to the 1500s

Chris Halliday and I will be helping you to learn more about the mass exodus from the Highlands of Scotland over several decades. Chris will be sharing his knowledge of the records that are available for researching your highland ancestors. He discusses the areas in Scotland where various surnames originated, clans and clan resources, local archives and online collections.

I will be helping you to see where your Highland ancestors may have come from prior to arriving in Canada. We look at various resources including ships, ports of departure, ports of entry, land grants and more.

Apart from listening to me, you get to be immersed in Scottish accents all day while learning!

Both Chris', Margaret and I will be available to answer questions. I can assist with questions on the maps and if I am stumped can get your questions to Craig for an answer.

Handouts will be emailed to registrants ahead of the conference so you can formulate your questions.  

Meet Scottish ViC Vendor Strathclyde University

Strathclyde University is offering a code to allow Virtual Conference attendees to get a 10% discount on the genealogy short courses. These are 8 week courses offered online. The courses start in April, 2018. 

Do you have a product or offer a service that will support genealogy researchers? Are you interested in being a vendor or exhibitor in the virtual marketplace? Register HERE

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Halifax Explosion 100 Years Later

Few events in history have scarred the psyche. The Halifax Explosion was one of those events. Even a century later, the Explosion marks a time when innocence was lost, families were ripped asunder and the face of a city, and indeed a country, were forever changed. 

Early on the morning of 6 December 1917, a cargo ship laden with high explosives collided with another ship in the “Narrows” The Narrows is, essentially, a strait which connects Halifax Harbour to Bedford Basin.  

A fire on board the cargo ship ignited the explosives on board causing an explosion that devastated the Richmond district of Halifax. It is estimated that 2,000 people were killed by the blast, the debris, the fires or the buildings that collapsed. Another 9,000 victims were injured. People were blinded, lost limbs, suffered burns.

The blast of the Halifax Explosion was the largest man-made explosion prior to the development of nuclear weapons. Nearly all structures within half-mile of the Narrows were obliterated, including the heart of the industrial area of Halifax. A tsunami created by the blast wiped out the community of Mi'kmaq First Nations people who had lived in the Tufts Cove area for generations.

As genealogists are wont to do, a wander around the cemeteries is a sobering experience. Fairview Lawn Cemetery, more famous for its Titanic Grave Site has a large area of seemingly untouched ground where remains of unknown victims of the Explosion are buried.

Mt Olivet, a Catholic Cemetery, has yellow surveyor sticks marking the graves of victims of the Explosion. Where no grave marker exists, the sticks stand in rows. Names are marked on the sticks marking the victims.

There is a permanent exhibit in the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic commemorating the devastation.

A full century later, the scars are still evident and the shock and pain still raw. The Explosion forever changed the face and the history of Halifax. 

Monday, 4 December 2017

Meet the Scottish ViC Presenters!

Chris Paton

Ayrshire based genealogist Chris Paton is the author of several Scottish based research guide books, including Discover Scottish Land Records and Discover Scottish Church Records, available in North America from Global Genealogy www.globalgenealogy.com/authors/paton-chris/chris-paton.htm Global is offering a 20% discount on Chris' books during the Scottish ViC!

Chris currently carries out research in Scotland (www.scotlandsgreateststory.co.uk) and writes the daily British GENES blog

Margaret Fox

Margaret Fox graduated with an M.A. (Hons.) degree in History from Edinburgh University in 1975. From 1999 - 2011 she was an archivist in the National Archives of Scotland, working on wills and testaments, and the records of the Church of Scotland and High Court of Justiciary. In her 'retirement' Margaret's mission is to promote the value of these records to the family historian.

Craig Statham

Craig Statham is the Maps Reading Room manager at the National Library of Scotland. Educated at the universities of Edinburgh and St Andrews he has spent the past 16 years working in museums, archives, and libraries. He took up his current role four years ago, and has recently overseen the move of the Reading Room to a new venue.

Chris Halliday

Chris Halliday of www.scotlandsgenealogy.com is a family historian based in Edinburgh and the Scottish Highlands. A former Family History Leader with the Highland Archive in Inverness, he has also spoken at Who Do You Think You Are? Live events. With Highland and Lowland ancestry, Chris is familiar with many of the resources that can aid your search for your Scottish roots.

Christine Woodcock

When not organizing genealogy research tours to Scotland, Christine lectures on Scottish genealogy, hosts webinars, authors blogs and articles. She also writes and instructs courses on Scottish genealogy. Christine is the editor for British Connections, a quarterly newsletter for the International Society for British Genealogy and Family History. She authored Moorshead Magazine's Special, "Tracing Your Scottish Ancestry" Issue which was published in May 2017.

If you are ready to find your Scottish ancestors, join us for the Scottish ViC (virtual conference). Click HERE to register

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Fifth Talk Added to Scottish ViC (virtual conference)

Great news! A fifth talk has been added to an already robust day of learning. National Library of Scotland Maps Manager, Craig Statham will be sharing his vast knowledge not only about the phenomenal collection of maps and plans within the NLS holdings but also about how to get the most out of the NLS Maps website. This really is a wonderful resource for anyone researching their Scottish ancestry. 

Craig's talk will take place mid way through the day, January 27th, 2018. Craig will be providing handouts of his talk as part of the ViC as well. 

For more information or to register: https://www.genealogyvic.com/home-1.html

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Scottish Genealogy Virtual Conference - Mark the Date!

Genealogy Tours of Scotland announces their new venture, a virtual conference on Scottish Genealogy Research.

JANUARY 27TH, 2018

The ViC (virtual conference) will launch on Saturday, January 27th, 2018 at 8 am Eastern with the opening of the marketplace where you can watch mini presentations by the vendors/exhibitors and learn about the value their product can add to your genealogy research.

The line-up of talks and speakers for the day:

Pre-Civil Registration Research, presented by genealogist Chris Paton

“Seek and Ye Shall Find” Using the Kirk's Archival Legacy to Unveil the Lives of Your Scottish Ancestors presented by archivist Margaret Fox

Researching Your Highland Ancestors, presented by genealogist Chris Halliday

Cleared to Canada: From the Highlands and Islands to Canada, presented by genealogy educator Christine Woodcock

Registration fee is just $79.99 (cdn) and allows unlimited access to the talks, handouts and marketplace for 72 hours. The live chat will only happen on January 27th.

*** Virtual "Seats" are limited! Take advantage of the opportunity to pre-register:

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

FREE Access to Findmypast Military Records until Saturday

For Freedom. For Honor. For You.

Don’t let your family’s military heroes be forgotten. Unearth their remarkable stories in original documents from the US, UK, Ireland and more. Together, we’ll keep their legacies alive.

Monday, 30 October 2017

Researching Pauper Ancestors

During Victorian times, most of the 19th century, poverty was a scourge and there was tremendous stigma attached to being poor. It was felt that if the poor were shamed and treated poorly, they would try harder to eke out a living, however meagre.  

The Poor Law Act was enacted in 1845 and the caring for the poor became the responsibility of the local councils/burghs through the passing of the Poor Law Act. The Act established parochial boards in the parishes and towns, and ensured a central Board of Supervision which was based in Edinburgh. The Board of Supervision was granted the ability to raise taxes in order to cover the poor relief payments.

Unlike England, where the impoverished faced a life in the Workhouses, Scotland preferred a system of  'out relief’. This allowed for the person in need of relief to remaining in their own home and receive regular small payments. This might allow the person to partially support themselves through work and to receive assistance from family members, charities and friendly societies, rather than becoming wholly dependent upon poor relief payments. Clearly the expectation was that if you were in need, then your family had an obligation to provide assistance. This is clearly seen in the questions that are asked during the application process.

The 1845 Poor Law Act also allowed parishes to operate poorhouses. Sometimes two or more parishes would join together to establish ‘combination’ poorhouses. This meant that the funding for the poorhouse was a combined responsibility of the joint parishes. 

Poor relief was not for able bodied persons who were unable to find work. It was for those who were infirm or incapable of being able to work. This might be men who were injured on the job, people who had a chronic illness, the elderly or perhaps  women of young children whose husbands had deserted them or who were incarcerated.   Other eligible persons would be those with intellectual or mental health  impairments.  In addition, the person who was seeking relief would need to prove that for whatever reason, their family were unable to assist them in their time of need.

Because of the restrictions around eligibility, not everyone who applied received relief. However, the poor law applications followed the applicant for several years and as circumstances changed, they may become eligible at a later time. The records give tremendous insight into the lives of those who applied.

In seeking information regarding the applicant, the council tried to determine not only eligibility by also who ultimately was responsible for the applicant. If the person was deemed not to have lived in the council area for a minimum of 7 years, then they were sent back to their place of origin to attempt to get relief there.

The questions on the application were quite thorough and provide a depth of insight not as clearly seen in other record sets. The information includes:

·         Name
·         Age
·         Sex
·         Marital Status
·         Date and place of marriage
·         Name of spouse
·         Names of any children residing in the household
·         Ages of children residing in the house
·         Status of child - whether working or in school
·         If working, wages of child (in this case, the children would be expected to contribute to           the household and offset any financial need)
·         The applicant's address
·         Monthly rent
·         Occupation
·         Employer or former employer
·         Religion
·         Name of the church
·         Names of parents of applicant
·         Name of parents of applicant's spouse
·         Parent and in law status as to whether alive, working etc. 

   Again the applicant would have been expected to reach out to family for assistance before applying for poor relief.

·         Any insurance companies applicant had a policy with

 The poor relief applications are with the local council archives for the area where your ancestor lived.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Canada Northwest Land Company Settlements

Following the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1885, the lands in the western part of Canada opened for settlement. The Canada North-West Land Company, incorporated in 1882, provided 11 settlements in the provinces of Assiniboia (Manitoba) and Alberta, 30 miles apart from each other and extending along the CPR lines at the foot of the Rockies.  The settlements each comprised 10,000 acres. 

Unlike the settlement grants in the Maritimes, Quebec and Ontario, the grants in the west came fully stocked. While the grants in the east came with uncleared land, the grants in the west were “systematically” settled. The Canadian Agricultural, Coal and Colonization Company’s plans show this quite clearly.

 In the centre of each settlement, 640 acres were to be dedicated to the “village” including shops, a school and a church.  The outlying areas were to be divided into 1000 acre lots which were to be completely fenced, and were to come equipped with: 
  •        A farm house
  •        Furniture
  •        Stables
  •     A barn
  •     Cattle and sheep sheds
  •      50 sheep
  •        5 cattle
  •     1 mare
  •        1 sow

Each settlement area (village) was to share ploughs, wagons and rakes.
Each farmer paid £100 and was loaned £192 by the settlement company.

The primary purpose in setting these settlements up was to prevent isolation of any one family, having people emigrate with family or neighbours from their community and placing them together. On the new settlements, they were surrounded by people they knew and were able to carry on the traditions and customs of their lives in Scotland.

The purpose in having the farms fully equipped was to alleviate the hardships of the earlier settlement schemes and provide the farmer with a fully equipped and revenue bearing farm whereby he could begin to repay his loan that much sooner and be ready to own his own land that much faster.  

Maps and land grants for the Canada Northwest Land Company are on microfilm and held by the Glenbow Archives:

Some of the documents have been scanned and digitized and made available on the Internet Archives:

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Settling the Huron Tract

In 1826, a group of London based business men came together to form the Canada Company. The purpose of this conglomerate was, essentially, to sell parcels of land in what became known as the Huron Tract. The Huron Tract consisted of 2,484,000 acres of land in western Ontario, north of Lake Erie, south of Lake Huron and encompassing lands east of Lake St Clair. The Huron Tract covered parts of what are now Perth, Huron, Middlesex and Wellington Counties.

The Huron Tract  was managed by John Galt. Galt saw the Huron Tract as an agricultural settlement with the land owned by individual farmers. Settlers were attracted by the prospect of land. This land comprised some of the richest and most fertile farming country in Ontario.

The largest group of settlers along the Huron Tract were from Scotland. In 1833 there were about 685 people living on the Huron Tract. By 1839 the number of settlers had risen to 4,804. The earliest township records are for Goderich and Tuckersmith and date to 1835. Land in Grey County, also part of the Huron Tract, started being settled in 1852.

Land records for the Huron Tract can be found on the Library and Archives Canada website:

Friday, 27 October 2017

Feeling Stuck? Create a Research Plan

When you come to what you think is a dead end, or a "brick wall" in your Scottish research, step back, and take a better look at the documents. Scottish documents contain a wealth of information and can make researching so much easier when you really take a look at what the documents are telling you.

Use a spreadsheet or create a chart with five columns:


  • Make a list of all of the documents you already have so that you don't waste time searching for them again.
  • Think about what you already know from the documents you have.
  • What questions are still unanswered?
  • What do you still need to know?
  • Looking at the documents you have and knowing what you still need to find out, what are the best documents for you to get that might give you the answers you need?
  • Next do some online research to determine where you are likely to find the records that will help you fill in the gaps or chip away at your brick walls (newspapers, land records, church records)
  • Move forward by starting to look through documents you may have missed in the past. If you can’t access the records online and can’t plan a trip, reach out to a local genealogist who can work on your behalf to access the records and the information you need to help break through your stagnation and move your research forward.  

Selkirk Settlers

In 1802, Lord Selkirk approached the Colonial Office for a subsidized settlement grant in Sault-Ste Marie, Upper Canada, with the hopes of establishing a settlement where the displaced Highlanders could once again farm their own land. The Colonial Secretary instead offered a land grant in Prince Edward Island, in the Belfast area, near Wood Islands on the southwest shore. Upon receipt of this notice, Selkirk wasted no time in recruiting highland emigrants or in contracting ships and supplies.

In July 1803, three ships, the Dykes, the Polly, and the Oughton sailed to Canada with eight hundred former highland crofters and headed to Prince Edward Island. The Polly arrived in the harbour of Orwell Bay, Prince Edward Island on Sunday, August 7th, 1803, carrying 250 adults and 150 children. Most of these passengers were from Skye. The Dykes, which also brought Lord Selkirk, arrived in Charlottetown two days after the Polly. Most of the passengers on the Polly were from Mull. The Oughton arrived on August 27th, 1803, carrying another 40 or 50 passengers, this time from Uist.

The land given to these new settlers consisted primarily of evergreen forest. Each family was given between 50 and 150 acres for a nominal fee. The lots were laid out so that four or five families were grouped together. Each parcel of land granted access to the waterfront. Many families spent their first winter in makeshift lean-tos. However, come spring, the new immigrants worked together to clear their lands, build their houses, and settle into their new lives.

Being able to work the land once again became somewhat of a tonic for them. Because these settlers had come with their families or members of their communities, they arrived with their social support system and this made the transition to life in the new world much easier for them. These Highland Scots were a self sufficient community within a year of their arrival.

Later generations moved to the Bruce County area of Ontario, setting up communities along the Saugeen River near Paisley as well as along the south coast of Lake Huron from Southampton to Kincardine.  

Having used his land on the southwest shore of PEI for the initial settlers, Selkirk was eager to continue to pursue his original desire to find land in Upper Canada. He was eventually able to purchase land in Southern Ontario, near the junction of Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River, in what is now Wallaceburg. This was a problematic scheme in that the land was very different than that granted in PEI. The first winter saw deaths of 15 people through malaria from the mosquitoes in the damp, forested lands. Selkirk soon abandoned this settlement. However, the Scots remained and became very successful in their new country. The Scottish influence of these early settlers can be seen throughout the south western most part of Ontario.

Selkirk later managed to persuade the Hudson Bay Company that an agricultural settlement would lower their costs since local farmers would be able to produce goods that, at the time, the company was having to import at great expense. Selkirk was able to purchase 116,000 square miles in the Red River Valley and along the Assiniboine River in Manitoba and what is now Northern Dakota and parts of Northern Minnesota. This land mass was five times the size of the whole of Scotland. Selkirk purchased this land at a cost of 10/s ($26.50 in today’s currency).

This settlement was not without its difficulties and there were many physical battles as well as court battles between the early settlers and the Hudson's Bay Company, Canada's largest retail trading post. Many of the early settlers married into the local aboriginal communities, creating the Metis nation.

If you have ancestors who were Selkirk Settlers, here are some resources to assist you in your genealogy research:

Passenger List reconstruction for ship Polly:

Passenger List reconstruction for ship Dykes:

Passenger List reconstruction for ship Oughton:

Passenger List reconstruction for ship Spencer:

Hudsons Bay Company Archives:

There are some archives regarding the men from Orkney, Scotland, who were recruited as indentured workers with the Hudson's Bay Company in the archives in Stromness, Orkney. These are not available online.

Some records are also available at Library and Archives Canada. These records need to be consulted in person.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Packing Your Cemetery Bag

Every genealogist or family historian has a inner taphophile - someone with a love of cemeteries. We might want to visit ancestor's graves, an historic cemetery or we might just enjoy wandering amongst the peace and tranquility of these sacred sites. 

If you plan to go and visit an ancestor's grave, make sure  you pack your cemetery bag before  you go. Here's what your cemetery bag should include:
  •         a camera and batteries - take photos of everything. The sign to the cemetery, a wide angle view of the cemetery, the proximity of the grave to a landmark within the cemetery (a fountain, the office, a pond, a church). Photograph all sides of the gravestone. Check nearby stones as they may also be your ancestors. If the names are the same and you are unsure of a connection, take photos of all sides of the gravestone for further research. 
  •         pencils and paper - take notes. Write down names, dates and inscriptions exactly as they appear on the stone. It is very easy to make assumptions in the excitement of the moment, and it will be important to have an accurate record once you return home. Take note of any symbols your are unfamiliar with so you can look them up later. These may give important clues about the life of your ancestor. 
  •      garden clippers - carefully trim back any overgrowth that covers the stone - especially if the stone is a flat marker. Do NOT dig into the marker to remove moss or growth. Instead, try washing it away
  •         water and soft cloth - wash away any dirt or moss that is obscuring  your ability to read the marker. If a marker is hard to read, pour some water over it to see if the wet stone allows for enhancement in reading the marker


Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Was Your Ancestor a Shipbuilder on the Clyde?

At its height, the shipbuilding industry along the Clyde employed tens of thousands of workers who made some of the world’s fastest, biggest and most beautiful ships. In addition to this tens of thousands more were employed in the supporting industries in Lanarkshire. The industries of coal mining, ironworks and steelworks.

With the Industrial Revolution (1760-1840), came steam engines creating faster transport across the seas.  As a result, shipbuilding replaced trade as the major form of commerce along the Clyde river and shipbuilding companies soon dotted its banks. Arguably the largest of these companies was the Fairfield Shipping Company in Govan.  In addition to the Empress line (Empress of Ireland, Empress of Britain, Empress of Japan, Empress of Asia and Empress of China), Fairfield was one of the leading suppliers to the Royal Navy. 

As a result of the numbers of shipyards and the quality of the vessels, Glasgow became a world leader in shipbuilding. "Clyde built" soon became the standard of quality. 

If your ancestor worked in the Shipbuilding industry on the Clyde, you may wish to have a look at some of the archival records. These records include plans, photographs, minutes and cost books for the shipyards. Few personnel records have survived. The records are housed at the Glasgow Archives in the Mitchell Library and at the Glasgow University Archives.

Shipbuilding records are at Glasgow University Archives: http://www.gla.ac.uk/media/media_60314_en.pdf

Iron, Steel and Coal mining company records for Lanarkshire, are at the Glasgow University Archives:

Any company magazines of the various shipbuilding companies are available at the National Library of Scotland. These often include promotions, deaths, celebrations and photos of company gatherings.

Monday, 23 October 2017

Using Findmypast for Scottish Genealogy Research

While ScotlandsPeople is the necessary site for Old Parish and Civil Registers, Findmypast can help you fill in the details of your ancestor’s life.

Military Records – one of the best resources on Findmypast for Scottish research. After the Union of the Crowns in 1707, everyone who was enlisted was enlisted in the British Army, even if they fought for a Highland Regiment. The good news here is that unlike the National Records of Scotland, the National Archives in London have partnered with Findmypast and made their records available for people researching their family history. In the military records, you get the entire record. If, like my great grandfather, your soldier was a serial enlister, you will get their attestation and discharge papers. If your soldier was a career military man, you will get oodles more.

Newspapers – another fabulous resource is the British Newspaper Archives. The real gem here is that the BNA is not limited to national newspapers, but also includes regional and town newspapers which, of course, hold a wealth of social history news.

Ship’s Lists – another treat from the TNA. These lists are “people leaving the UK”  but will give you the passenger manifest including the name of the passenger, their residence, their age, where they were destined, the ship’s name and where they actually entered North America. For example, my grandfather was on the Cameronian, destined for New York, first docked at Halifax and disembarked there.  

Paternity Decrees – these are listed under “Institutions”  and are a result of the incredible work that have been done by ScottishIndexes who have partnered with Findmypast to have their transcriptions available online. I was able to find the father of my illegitimate great aunt thanks to this database and the transcription which gives you the name and address of the pursuer (in this case, the mother), the name and address of the defender (the father), the date of birth of the child and the sex of the child. I can then order the original record if I wish.

Mental Health Institution Admission Registers – again thanks to the tireless work of the Maxwells at ScottishIndexes, these transcripts provide you with the name, age, sex, d.o.b., residence, occupation, and the year of admission as well as the name of the institution.

Prison Registers – more work from the Maxwells, this transcription gives you the name, sex, age, birth date, occupation, crime and name of prison.

Linlithgow Poorhouse Records – this is a result of the great work of the West Lothian Family History Society and includes Admission registers, death and discharge registers, lunatic registers and discharges, and the poorhouse roll of the sick.

Catholic Heritage Archives – this relatively new collection includes baptism, marriage, burial and congregational records from all eight of Scotland's Roman Catholic Dioceses. These are: St Andrews & Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Argyll & the Isles (where the Catholic faith was strong well into the 19th century), Dunkeld, Galloway, Glasgow, Motherwell and Paisley.

PERSI – what a wealth of information for those with Scottish heritage. There are thousands of records that you can search or browse to learn more about the life and times of your Scottish ancestor. These include family histories, family history society journals and newsletters and magazines. To find these gems, simply enter “Scotland” in the “where” field and “family history” into the “what else” field.

Enjoy getting to know your Scottish ancestors through the resources of Findmypast!

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Understanding Scottish Surnames

Spelling was not consistent until dictionaries made it standard in the 1800s. Until this time, spelling was quite fluid and tended to be according to the enumerator or registrar. Often this was done in a manner similar to phonetic spelling. I could not find the marriage for my Henry Fowler anywhere. I was beginning to think that perhaps the couple had had an irregular marriage. Then I decided to use a wildcard search for Henry and lo and behold I found him - listed as Henry FULLER. As soon as I saw the certificate, I realized why I hadn't found him sooner. Henry would have been asked his surname. In his thick Border brogue, Henry would have responded "Fooler" And that became written as FULLER.

It is not uncommon to find that your ancestor's surname changed from Clerke, to Clarke and then to Clark. All three sound the same in Scotland (clark) and yet the spelling has evolved over time. Knowing this will help to ensure you don't rule out people who might be your ancestor, but who you have ignored based on the (mis)spelling of the surname.

As a standard, surnames in Scotland weren't adopted by the common man until about the 1600s. Prior to that, people were known by patrynomics (Donald, son of John or Donald John's son), by physical trait (John the Red - Red John - for someone who might have been a redhead, by location (Thomas by the burn or Thomas Burn) or by occupation (David the miller or David Miller). Once surnames became common practice, many of these former descriptors were adopted as surnames. Others, particularly the Highlanders or border clans, took on the surname of the clan chief, family head or even the landowner for the estate they lived or worked on. For this reason, not everyone named Wallace, for example, is related to William Wallace. Nor is every Mc/MacDonald related to the clan chief.

People often have questions about the Mc vs Mac surnames. Some understand that one is Irish and the other is Scottish, while others understand that one is Catholic while the other is Protestant. In reality, they are interchangeable. Both Mc and Mac are the anglicized spelling of the Gaelic M' or M'hic. M'hic or M' for short, means "son of" in Gaelic. This has been transcribed over the centuries as Mc or Mac, depending on the transcriber and their understanding of how the prefix is spelled. So whether your ancestors were Mc or Mac, don't discount the other spelling in the event you might also be discounting your ancestor and his/her documents!

Saturday, 21 October 2017

84th Regiment of Foot: Royal Highland Emigrants

From 1775-1784, 2000 Scots highlanders were recruited to the 84th Regiment of Foot (Royal Highland Emigrants)  which defended the lands in the 13 colonies and then fought on the side of the British government in the American Revolutionary War. These men had military experience in the Seven Years War. The 84th Regiment of Foot was divided into two companies. The muster and pay lists for both companies can be found here: 

After the Revolutionary War, the 84th Regiment of Foot disbanded and about half of the men settled in Nova Scotia while the other half settled in Eastern Ontario where they were given land grants for remaining loyal to the Crown. They were given land grants of between 100 acres (for privates) and 500 acres (for Officers).  To search the indexes for these early land grants, consult:

Friday, 20 October 2017

Scottish Post Office Directories

Post office directories are the equivalent of City Directories. These are a terrific resource for following your ancestors between census periods. Not everyone was recorded. Since there was a fee to be included, many of those included had some degree of stature - clergy, educators, doctors, professionals, merchants, etc.

A recent addition to the website are the Post Office Directory Maps. Four hundred new street maps of Scottish towns held within Post Office Directories have been digitized and uploaded to the maps website. These are excellent resources for family and local history. These are quite detailed, providing street names, location of public buildings such as churches, shops and schools, as well as railways, cemeteries and open green space.