The Scots in me

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The last week has been interesting for me. Firstly our twitterchat was about Scottish ancestors. I mentioned two that I have found on dad’s side of the tree.

  • Catherine McKay tried in Edinburgh in 1848 and came to Van Diemens Land as a convict
  • Her future husband William Dawson tried in Edinburgh in 1847 and sent to VDL as well.

I have not researched these two people yet, as I am trying to write biographies of each grandparent and then great grandparents etc. I know more about mum’s side of the tree so normally look for the information for their stories first.

But after our twitterchat on Scottish ancestors, I learned about so many resources, I think I might have to quickly get onto that work. Then I got an email from One Place Studies about a presentation by Chris Paton who is well known for his Scottish research. So I watched this and found out so much more about resources to use prior to 1800.

One of the participants in the chat was Scottish Indexes which has been holding regular conferences since April 2020 and all free. The website also has a fantastic learning zone to help you research your ancestors in Scotland.

They mentioned there was a lot of information on Scottish convicts so, of course, I went to the indexes and put in the names of my two convicts.

WOW, information on both of them.

Both had been convicted with other people but not all had been transported. Apparently you can buy the records for the High Court – Crown Office  precognitions and High Court of Justiciary Trial Papers. These will detail the trial and evidence from both sides.

I think I might make October my Scotland month and get onto those Scottish ancestors. According to my Ancestry DNA test I am 34% Scottish this being inherited from mum with 27% and dad with 27% mainly from the highlands and islands and in particular South Sutherland.  My brother also inherited 35% from our parents.

Now I wonder who these Scottish ancestors are from mum’s side of the tree? I do have one convict from County Donegal near Londonderry so maybe her parents came over from Scotland at some time before the 1830s when she was born.

Oh well, I need to start researching more!!

Readers: Do you have Scottish ancestors? What resources did you find useful for researching them?

Searching for Scottish ancestors

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Do you love Scottish research or find it difficult? What are your favourite resources: sites, databases, books, speakers etc?

Being a Scot I love it. Agree, ScotlandsPeople is excellent and for more than just BMDs from 1855 onwards. Census returns 1841 to 1911, church registers, valuation rolls, Kirk session records and more. The number of archives available are also invaluable.

Does anyone have any “bibles” or books they refer to? TC Smout’s History of the Scottish People was recommended to me and I have The Scottish Family Tree Detective by Rosemary Bigwood.

As most of my ancestors are Scottish, I spend a lot of time doing Scottish research. Some work is easy, some is hard. I underwent the Tartan Trail on @WikiTreers so was taught how to find many sources.

Had a quick look at WikiTree on this and looks like a good place to learn more about Scottish research. Thanks for pointing it out.

Yes, you do @WikiTreers profiles which are critiqued. There are three levels, the last being well back with few records. I’ve done all three levels. Lots of good sources listed on the Scotland Project page – very helpful people in the team too.

Scotlands People is a must. Lots of good stuff there. And Scotlands Places is another. Clan Histories. Books about Scotland in general. Then the usual places for general sources

Have been researching a family in Glasgow. @ScotlandsPeople has been my go to resource. Ordnance Survey Maps from @natlibscotmaps have been very useful for adding context.

Don’t forget to check Burke’s Landed and Gentry and Burke’s Peerage for Scottish ancestors. You never know!

I should have shares in ScotlandsPeople! Other favourites: ScotlandsPlaces, Nat’l Library of Scotland, Nat Records of Scotland, Scottish Archives Network, Electric Scotland. FindMyPast’s Scottish records are well transcribed and I love the companion maps.

I purchased two wonderful maps from the NLS Maps Online just today Pauleen to overlay on Google Earth over Bothwell near Glasgow and Hawick Roxburghshire

I’m really liking that the FindMyPast census transcripts show you a map of the area you need. Mind you, it’s still necessary to do some sleuthing separately or you’d be lost.

Love researching with Scottish records, and in Scotland! Apart from gaps in parish registers, I haven’t found it too difficult. Fav sites: ScotlandsPeople and Findmypast, and NLS for maps. Chris Paton’s @PharosTutors courses are extremely useful.

thanks for mentioning Pharos Maggie. I have done a few of their courses (Alex here) and found them excellent. Also did some this year through the University of Strathclyde which were good too, particularly the one on working in the factories and mills

I have 42% Scottish ethnicity -my brother has 70% so lots of Scots from all over – Glasgow post office directories helped but Hebrides records are challenging – plus @scottishindexes did some great research finding records of my one female Scottish convict

Scottish research is a mix bag, not as easy as England. Scotland’s people and Scotland’s places are good resources. Ancestry and find my past is good for searching but no images so Scotland’s people to go for the images.

I have a love/hate relationship with researching my Scottish ancestors. I love Scotland but I’m not a very smart researcher I think. I keep coming to dead ends. I use Scotland’s people, the Scottish Indexes, the NLS etc.

I have traced back to the 1700’s on almost all Scottish lines Alex BUT my paternal g g grandfather who said he was born in Aberdeen (married in Northumberland) is a mystery

So much depends on how far back the parish registers survive. I have one that is limited. But I love the Strachur parish register which says “if you don’t find your name here, blame your parents who didn’t pay the fee”

I love Scottish research even though I’m relatively new to it. Their records usually have really detailed info

Mum has 19% and dad 39% and the only one known is on dad’s side.

Did the Scottish ancestor emigrate to Tassie? I haven’t tackled my husband’s Scottish emigrants yet. I expect it will teach me about endogamy. Wilsons, Wilsons, everywhere (and particularly around Rhyndaston, Tunnack, etc)

catherine mcKay came courtesy of the Scottish government in 1848 #ANZAncestryTime Iknow some Wilson family in Oatlands

“Courtesy of the Scottish government” Are you using a euphemism for convict? No need for that, you’re amongst #FamilyHistory friends 🙂

Catherine McKay born Scotland but in 1848 was at Cowgate, Edinburgh, Scotland according to convict records

Her convict husband was William Dawson tried in Edinburgh but born Berwick on Tweed

@scottishindexes located the pretrial and justiciary papers for my female Scottish convict Jean MacDonald from Paisley – over 30 pages

Chris Paton’s books are useful and I like the ones published about the National Records of Scotland. Also a very useful book from a thesis about Argyll in the 19th century.

I absolutely love researching Scottish #FamilyHistory My grandmother was Scottish and I am about half Scottish across all my lines. Their records are so detailed and the women retain their maiden names. What’s not to love?!

My paternal grandfather was Scottish and my maternal g grandfather so I grew up feeling quite Scottish. Having a very Scottish maiden name helped. And I named my first child Hamish!

And my grandmother taught me to love the pipes and all things Scottish to the chagrin of my mother and her Irish father.

My father took me to hear pipe bands when I was very small. Turns out I have a famous piper as an ancestor. Still go to the displays. I’m a Scottish dancer.

I am such a sook I burst into tears every time I hear them start up. I cannot speak I am so choked up with emotion. I spent my early childhood in Edinburgh and came home with a Scottish accent apparently when I was 4.

it’s fascinating but have not located the ancestors’ whose 15% is in my DNA

I love Scottish Research This week I have been using: 1.ScotlandsPeople (stat. registers, census images) 2.ScotlandsPlaces (Place name books) 3.National Library of Scotland Maps Using 2 & 3 together is a game changer. Late 19thC tenants are named.

…and I was looking at Kirk Session records at Scotlands People too. When using FindMyPast I now filter record sets to the Scottish Parish records.

I was lucky in my kirk session research. I knew exactly the time & place I was looking for – the 9 months before the birth of GGGrandfather John Robb Andrew. Looks like Isabella was able to keep the bump hidden until the 3rd trimester.

Have been researching a family in Glasgow. @ScotlandsPeople has been my go to resource. Ordnance Survey Maps from @natlibscotmaps have been very useful for adding context.

I need information back in the 1700s for my Scottish paternal family. That’s for my gggparents. Not many records then. My ggparents born in the early 1800s. Gparents in the 1850s.

Also deeds can be useful in this time period. #ANZAncestryTime

Have you tried the Kirk Session records on @ScotlandsPeople

Yes, I’ve used some legal documents looking for possible connections for my Dickson family. And muster rolls in Gairloch trying to work out the relationship between family members. Thank you for your help.

All inspired after the latest #ScottishIndexes conference. I’ve been tracing the Robb family of Aberdeenshire. Found double marriage of sisters, married in Ireland, but also recorded in their home parish register. Why did the home parish do that?

Project Scotland from WikiTree:

I’ve got most of the clans. Highland ancestors. I also have a good bunch of Border people, so books on the Borders are useful. And I’ve started looking at the free newspapers on Find My Past, but need more time.

I did mtdna testing with FTDNA as my direct maternal line is from Calligary Isle of Skye – an interesting exercise

Excited as I got notified today that @MyHeritage has added the Scotland Census Index, 1841-1901, with 24 Million Records to its catalogue. Great news for those with Scottish ancestors

my great grandfather was Scottish born at Port Glasgow

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Have you used records that are unusual or unique to Scotland and what discoveries have you made? What tips would you offer others about these records or others?

Clan histories are a good guide to where to search – except my families seem always to be missing!


What is Service of Heirs and where do you find it? I’m impressed with the sources 🙂

I’m thinking Family Search – just did a quick google. First I’d heard of it. (Alex)

The original records are held at @NatRecordsScotland. The registers are series C22, which alas was closed for conservation purposes in the Before Times. (My fault for reporting white powdery residue, which after testing I was informed was “probably not anthrax” …)

That’s a reasonable overview, but there are a number of minor errors. After 1847, they’re in English, not Latin (and many of the local-court copies are in English). The decennial indexes run to 1859, not 1959. The index of tutories also includes curatories.

Tessa Spencer, Head of Outreach and Learning at the @NatRecordsScot  showcased some wonderful Scottish records at our conference this month. Watch ‘An introduction to the National Records of Scotland’s archives’ here:

other good resources have been NLS maps and the newspapers at the BNA

Unique find: Saw a History TV program that mentioned my Uncle’s village. Mentioned it to my cousin and she said knew of the “Blackhouse” I saw on the TV. She had contact with some locals and over time has passed on family research details from them tp me.

On @scottishindexes I found that my 3X g grand father was a victim of forgery. Was able to download the entire proceedings and read his witness statement written in his own hand

I’ve only just got the hang of it this week, matching up the OS Maps to the place name books. The books describe the places, eg “Bogside, Mr John Robb, tenant, a small farm steading with dwelling house, out houses & garden in bad repair.”

TIP: Check all records available for your ancestors’ parishes and fully explore the offerings. It can be slow, and the content variable but you might find #genealogygold worth it!

using the Scottish Indexes I did order an entry in the Sheriff Court – Buchan vs Forfar. I”m not sure it was related to my ancestors but it was the first time I had seen this kind of record. It was for maintenance for an illegitimate child.

Scottish Post Office Directories were amazing for details on generations of my Newlands Merchant Tailors of Glasgow Bathgate and Shotts

Not necessarily unique to Scotland but to Church of Scotland (and Presbyterian?): Communion rolls and Kirk Sessions. Latter require slow patient review but can have wonderful detail. Pray for problem/naughty relatives.

rachinmanila / Pixabay

Which part(s) of Scotland are your ancestors from? Any tips for researching “place” including endogamous communities in the Scottish Islands? Have you visited?

My Gairloch families intermarried so there is strong endogamy there. Few records until 1800. The MacKay Pipers are well known which has been a help. I have been to Scotland, but not had much time to look for family.

I have a similar problem with my maternal cousins fathers side from the Hebrides. Plus with Scottish naming patterns they have a very limited variety of names.

A good number of the shires feature in my tree. So Caithness and Ross at the top down to Kirkcudbright and Roxburgh at the bottom. Plus those who skipped over the borders and waters to Ulster and Northumberland.

My Scots ancestors are from Isle of Skye North Uist Rothes Elgin Paisley Glasgow Shotts Bathgate Edinburgh – my husband has some of these and also Angus Dundee Forfarshire Perthshire places we did a Scottish road trip in June 2019 – got it in before covid

James Ireland was born in Edinburgh. Came to NZ pre 1882. Not sure if John McDonald was from Scotland. He came to NZ with his wife Ann Scott and their children arriving Feb 1843.

in planning our 2019 Scottish road trip I contacted a family history consultant on Skye in advance to see if there was more that could be uncovered – however she advised that I & my relatives had already uncovered most of what would be known about my McKenzies

I have visited most of my Scottish ancestral places (not the Isle of Skye) and a planned trip back there last year is still on hold sadly

Most of my Scottish ancestors were from Fife, though moved into Perthshire, and have visited a couple of times. Recently discovered that 3xggg father was from Glasgow, so keen to get back there.

My husband’s family are also from Argyll- islands of Lismore and Mull. we found the relevant documents and spoke to some people as well. I haven’t explored the implications of DNA endogamy.

Main set of ancestors are from Aberdeenshire and Banffshire. Some moved to Edinburgh and Glasgow. DNA shows Top right hand corner of Scotland so fairly spot on.

Robb, Murdoch, Andrew from Aberdeenshire, Banffshire(?) Barclays, miners from Dysart, Fife William Andrew left Stonehaven, Kincardinshire to come to Australia. I visited friends near Glasgow one fabulous weekend (snow, whisky, & roaring fires, but no research)

ScotlandsPlaces is great for learning more about the place your ancestor came from. Also Nat Lib of Scotland maps are gold. Be aware that the spelling of the name may change over time. Gazetteers are invaluable as well.

Place in Scotland I am researching are Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire, Dunbartonshire, ,Aberdeenshire, Stirling, Ayreshire, Isle of Skye, Perth

McCorkindale/McCorquodale in Argyll on Lochs Fyne and Awe; Morrison at Strachur, Loch Fyne; Sim at Bothkennar in Stirling; Melvin in Leith near Edinburgh, and of course Glasgow for mid-19th century migration.

My Scottish ancestors are mostly from Glenshiel, in Ross & Cromarty. I haven’t visited. Yet!

my mob are from Stirling and Inverary. I think joining a local society and blogging have brought me the best results.

My Scottish Surnames: Morison, McCrae, McLeod from Glenshiel. Louden Alexander and Anderson from Lanarkshire. These are the lines I’ve been working on. THere are others

I have MacDonald McKenzie MacLean McIntosh Robertson Highland Clans, plus Tulloch Taylor Anderson Urquhart from Moray plus also Newlands Ure Weatherstone and more – plus my husband has heaps of Lowland Borders ancestry

Nowaja / Pixabay

Do you know their occupations and the industries they worked in? What sources are best or discovering occupations?

Four pipers to the Lairds of Gairloch! Lots of shepherds which is why they came to New Zealand. Stone masons. Weavers. Tailors. Stoker. Shipwright. Carpenter. Crofters and lots of ag. labourers. Smiths and iron forgers. Mariner.

I forgot I have a Scottish architect in my family. Charles Rennie MacIntosh. My husband is related to the English architect Charles Edward Mallows

My ggfather William Murphy was a mason in Urr (1871 Census). His father was a coal miner – fell down a pit, so recorded in the fatalities for mines.

Newlands were Merchant Tailors & Carpenters; others were agricultural labourers, cattle drovers, a Newland relative was Church of Scotland minister in Southwark & another Newlands relative from Bathgate went to West Indies as a carpenter & became a slave owner in Jamaica

a shock to find that the cousin of one of my ancestors was a slave owner – Bathgate had the annual John Newlands procession/festival – however they have just removed his name due to #BlackLivesMatter – they used my blog post on him as part of the petition

Sue has reminded me that my Melvins were cooks as well as merchant seamen. My great-grandfather was an excellent confectioner. I really want to find apprenticeship records for him one day.

My Catherine McKay was a book folder in 1848 according to her convict records

My William Dawson was a bread and biscuit maker on his convict records.

quite a few were Crofters, Quarrymen who travelled the world a lot. Building trade – carpentry etc. Publicans as well. And a couple of nurses.

My Morrisons are a mystery. I can’t find the parents of my g g grandfather John Morrison the Sydney rail carriage builder. Born c 1847 Aberdeenshire

I find occupations in census records, kirk sessions, parish registers, civil registration, wills and even court reports. Merchant seamen are registered with the UK system.

newspaper obituary: James Finlay Stevenson, a native of Scotland, he came to Australia when he almost 19 years of age… he was a blacksmith by trade

My McCorkindale occupations changed with time and seasons: weavers, labourers, sawyer, wright. Descendants were either joiners or gardeners.

My Sim family farmed the land (leased) at Bothkennar for a couple of centuries. The Melvin/Melvill family from Leith were mostly merchant seamen and before that porters.


Scottish Indexes asked how are you all getting on with your Scottish research?

All inspired after the latest #ScottishIndexes conference. I’ve been tracing the Robb family of Aberdeenshire. Found double marriage of sisters, married in Ireland, but also recorded in their home parish register. Why did the home parish do that?

I’m not sure Brooke but there’s a bit of me that thinks it was standard or common practice at the time. Does anyone else know?

I think it tied into banns in both places and ensuring they had a record in both. Ive seen the same in Irish RC and some English records.

Considering that the idea of banns was to consult/inform the community, that makes sense. The couples returned to Scotland & it had to be known that they were validly married.

Just had a look on @ScotlandsPeople and the parish entry does not say where they got married. Have you checked to see if there are any Kirk Session records?

Mostly my own is going well. Your conferences have been an excellent insight into Scottish records and with different speakers too. Thanks so much!

Only thing missing is cemetery information 🙁 Still can’t find my great-grandfather’s burial from 1906.

might need to write personal post about tonight’s twitter chat and what I found afterwards

wow just found William Dawson also accused with others in 1847 for robbery. definitely going to need to do more Scottish research

wow just found Catherine McKay was accused with 6 other people for robbery in 1848, might need to get those papers.

Blogs to read about Scottish ancestors or searching for family in Scotland

Kerri Anne has lots of blogs about different branches of her Scottish ancestors

Kerri Anne’s blogs on her husband’s Scottish ancestry – I use all these blogs as electronic notebooks & #cousinbait

Pauleen: Vaccinations, Family sharing, discovery in kirk sessions, attack on house,

Deb: George Ritchie,

Readers: Do you have any Scottish ancestry? How is your research going finding information on them?

Where did my ancestors come from?

After summarizing the migration twitterchat, I thought it would be interesting to find out where each of my direct ancestors was born and to work out how Australian I really am. So I am going to use just my direct line and include flag to show where they were born. As I write their biography, I will link that to their name.

(T)  Tasmania

(L)  London (S)  Surrey (M)  Middlesex (D)  Devon (W) Worcestershire (SU) Sussex    (C) Cambridgeshire (Y) Yorkshire  (B) Bedfordshire (CO) Cornwall

(SC) Scotland (NI) Northern Ireland

RebeccaLintzPhotography / Pixabay
Nerivill / Pixabay
  • William Allen jnr(L) – Grandparent
  • William Allen snr(L) – Great grandparent
  • Florence Evans (L) – Great grandparent
  • George Allen (S) – 2x great grandparent
  • Mary Spry (D) – 2x great grandparent
  • George Evans (W) – 2xgreat grandparent
  • Mary Ann Lee (C) – 2x great grandparent
  • John England (Y) – 2x great grandparent – convict
  • William Chandler (M) – 2x great grandparent
  • Caroline Bryant (M) – 2x great grandparent
  • John Davey (D) – 2x great grandparent
  • John Allen (M) – 3x great grandparent
  • Amelia Elwes (M) – 3x great grandparent
  • William Spry (D) – 3x great grandparent
  • Mary Babb (D) – 3x great grandparent
  •  William Dawson (SC) – 3x great grandparent – convict
  • Catherine McKay (SC) – 3x great grandparent – convict
  • Matthew Sutton (L) – 3x great grandparent – convict
  • Mary McCrewney (NI) – 3x great grandparent – convict
  • William England (Y) – 3x great grandparent
  • Margaret Rylands (Y) – 3x great grandparent
  • Henry Bryant (M) – 3x great grandparent
  • Charlotte Bryant (SU) – 3x great grandparent
  • John Davey (D) – 3x great grandparent
  • MaryAnn Jennings (D) – 3x great grandparent
  • David Dixon (Y) – 3x great grandparent
  • Mary Pickering (Y) – 3x great grandparent
  • Francis Colgrave (B) – 3x great grandparent – convict
  • Isabella Watkins (Y) – 3x great grandparent – convict
  • John Holliday Boyd (CO) – 3x great grandparent – convict
  • Martha Hearn (M) – 3x great grandparent – convict
jorono / Pixabay

So going back as far as 3x great grandparents, out of a possible 63 direct line ancestors (including me), I have proven: 17 born in Tasmania, 31 born in the UK (2 of these in Scotland) and 1 born in Ireland. I still have 14 to find out who they are and where they live.

From these statistics: I am 17 out of 49 Tasmanian – this means roughly 34%.

Readers:  Up to your 3x great grandparents, how many have you proven where they were born?