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 Claire, son Jamie and I made our way to Alloway in the south of Ayrshire to visit the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum ( 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…

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 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.

The Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Dublin

Due to the seriously bad weather in Ireland over the Christmas period, my family and I had to change our plans with regards to some of the sites we wished to visit. A last minute decision therefore led us into making a day trip to Dublin on our last day there, just prior to our return home to Scotland in the evening. I took the opportunity to photograph various sites of interest for a forthcoming book, such as Kilmainham Gaol and O’ Connel Street, but an unexpected bonus was a chance to visit the former Royal Hospital Kilmainham, close to Dublin Heuston station, and now the Museum of Modern Art.

Unclaimed estate ‘in hereditas jacens’

Prior to 1868 land and property was inherited in Scotland through a very separate process to that of moveable estate (the records for which are on ScotlandsPeople). This involved judicial procedures such as the Services of Heirs, or the granting of a document called a precept of clare constat, depending on who the feudal superior was in the arrangement. So whilst these processes were going on to confirm the right of the apparent heir to inherit, who actually owned the land or had responsibility for it?

Christmas at Ruhleben

On Friday 6th November 1914, the mass internment of British civilians living in Germany began, many of them Scots. For the next four years, some 5500 British and Commonwealth citizens were imprisoned at the Ruhleben camp, a converted racecourse just a few miles from Berlin, with many not seeing release until the end of the war. Whilst the common belief was “it will all be over by Christmas”, few would have realised just how many Christmases would pass until that statement would finally ring true.

Get the kids involved!

Family history is fun, but why not get the kids involved – that’s something I’ve been working on with my two, Calum and Jamie! Jamie’s older brother Calum was never one for caring about who was connected to who – Calum’s much more a story man, he loves hearing about who got up to what…

The last heir – ultimus haeres records and retours

I had an interesting case to look at last week, where a client contacted me to try to trace the relationship between a John Menzies and James Alexander Playfair MacLaren, with Menzies having been appointed as MacLaren’s heir some two years after his death in 1910. The client had already obtained some solicitor’s records and some sasines (land transfer records) outlining to a degree what had happened to the deceased’s estate, but without the relevant genealogical information. There were mentions of family trees having been drawn up to prove the claim – could I essentially find the other side of the conversation, and work out the relationships by locating the mentioned tree charts?