Handfasting – marriage or betrothal?

This may be one of those ‘where angels fear to tread’ posts…!  I’ve occasionally been asked in the past about so called ‘handfast’ marriages in Scotland, where it is said that couples could be married for a year and day, at which point they then decide whether to call it a day, or to continue…

Lists of Roman Catholics in early 18th century Scotland

A few years ago I bought the entire collection of the Scottish Genealogy Society’s journal, The Scottish Genealogist, and from time to time I take a batch of them and read through. Many of the articles are quite dated on the technology front (the journal started in 1954!), as is the language used, but one…

Balancing the books

Ever wondered what our ancestors earned? The following is an example of an agricultural labourer’s income and expenditure, as recorded in the First Statistical Account for Auchterarder in Perthshire, 1790s. The family consists of a husband and wife, and seven children: INCOME Man – 1s. per day for 8 months, and 8d for remainder……..£13 17…

Scottish vaccination records

The Vaccination Act of 1863 (https://wellcomecollection.org/works/e5pk9d8s) required all Scottish based parents to vaccinate their babies against smallpox from January 1st 1864 onwards, following the registration of their births, and to have that vaccination registered. This continued until 1948, when compulsory vaccination was discontinued. The Act designated each registration district as a vaccination district, with a…

In Search of Missionaries

Throughout my personal family history research I have found many cases of ancestors who have fought for their country, but never in my wildest dreams did I expect to find three close relatives fighting the good fight for the Almighty himself. My first cousins twice removed, William and Mary Paton, as well as William’s son…

King James VI Hospital in Perth

The King James VI Hospital in Perth was first founded by a Royal Charter on August 9th 1569 by the young infant king’s regent, the Earl of Moray, and reconfirmed by the king himself on July 29th 1587.

The National Register of Archives for Scotland

The National Register of Archives for Scotland is the catalogue that tries to pick up what other catalogues don’t – namely the records still held in private hands, such as family estate papers and business records still retained by the businesses in question. The following is the list of work carried out for the register…

Terror of the Belfast Blitz

As a young student in Belfast in the early 1990s, I was unfortunate enough to have to witness an IRA bomb going off in a shopping arcade in the heart of the city. The bang was loud, the damage considerable, but fortunately on this occasion nobody had been injured. Yet if I had thought of…

Robert Burns birthplace: Alloway, Ayrshire

On Good Friday, my wife, son and I made our way to Alloway in the south of Ayrshire to visit the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum (www.burnsmuseum.org.uk). I had previously spoken in the village on several occasions at the Alloway and South Ayrshire Family History Society, which sadly ceased to operate last year, but had never…

St Andrews Church in Toronto

St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, was established in 1876 as a Scottish kirk, although the congregation had already existed from 1830. From the church’s official website at www.standrewstoronto.org/discover/history.html comes the following snippet from its history: The present building was opened for worship in 1876. At that time the King and Simcoe Streets location was…

A French Horn in County Tipperary

One of the greatest thrills from doing family history research is that occasionally what goes around, comes around. Over the last few years I have been corresponding with a cousin of my wife’s, Paddy Nolan, on a shared part of our family tree concerning the Giles and Nolan families of Carrick-on-Suir, Co. Tipperary, Ireland. I’ve been sending finds at this end to Paddy, he’s been reciprocating with finds at his end, and together we have achieved a lot in unravelling the shared part of our respective family stories.

Connecting Largs to Brisbane

A few years ago in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, I got a chance to walk down Paton Street and Bell Street at Kangaroo Point. Both streets are short walks running parallel to each other off River Terrace, which provides a fantastic view of the city centre across the River Brisbane. My interest in the area lay in the fact that the two streets were named after emigrant members of my family in the 19th century.