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?

Abolition of marriage by habit and repute

Why was the irregular form of marriage, by habit and repute, not abolished in 1939 in Scotland, when all other forms of irregular marriage were? Here’s an excerpt from the parliamentary debate on the Marriage (Scotland) Bill on March 30th 1939, on its second reading, and the comments of John Colvilee, MP for Midlothian and Peeblesshire Northern:

1851 Religious Census of Scotland – surviving returns

In the Religious Worship Census of 1851, taken alongside the main decennial census on March 30th-31st, just four years before the advent of civil registration, there were some 904 Church of Scotland congregations in the country (which had made a census return), but some 2122 congregations from other denominations that were not of the official state church. The breakdown was as follows:

The MacGillivrays and Culloden

Not long ago I enjoyed a bank holiday break in the Inverness area with my wife and kids. I have several lines of family from the vicinity, including Frasers, Camerons, Munros, MacFarlanes and MacGillivrays, who endured many ups and downs in their lives, none perhaps worse than the death of my great great grandmother, Janet MacGillivray (nee Fraser), who committed suicide in 1860 at the Bridge of Tomnahurich in Inverness – she jumped into the Caledonian Canal and drowned, being so distraught at the death of her daughter during childbirth. But the real mission for me was to explore the ancestral area of my MacGillivrays, in the parish of Dores, for the first time.

Penny weddings & dirty dancing

The Scottish kirk had a very traditional outlook on things – if it was enjoyable, then the Calvinist medicine of “thou shalt not” should be applied. Wedding celebrations were most definitely a case in point.

Horning and poinding – 17th century debt in Scotland

Often in the past our ancestors could find themselves in a spot of financial bother, but if they found themselves in serious debt, they would soon find that the state was very much on the side of creditors. Prior to 1838, if a person failed to pay his or her debts, they could be punished quite harshly with imprisonment and the seizure of assets. The civil process for debt recovery was for the creditor, the person to whom the money was owed, to first demand payment of the outstanding debt through a document called a ‘protest’, which essentially said “pay up – or else”. If the creditor still had no joy following this, he or she could then appeal to a court for permission to pursue the debt through a process called ‘horning’. A ‘letter of horning’ laid out the full terms of the agreement and the money outstanding, with an instruction by the court for it to be paid up immediately on pain of the debtor being declared a rebel.

The Poor Had No Lawyers – Who Owns Scotland?

For almost fifteen years now I have been using Scottish land records for genealogical purposes, particularly so over the last decade. In almost every Scottish guide on family history resources, there is usually a basic description of record types such as sasines, which detail every land transaction in the country from the early 17th century, and retours (aka Services of Heirs), which prove the right of an apparent heir to inherit property once the deceased has left this mortal coil. A couple of years ago I produced my own genealogical guide entitled Discover Scottish Land Records, which tried to take a more depth look at how some of these processes worked, and to explain a bit more about the system of Scottish feudalism and the law that derived from it. The purpose, again, was for genealogical research.

Dunadd, ancient capital of Dalriada

I recently managed to make a visit at long last to Dunadd (Dùn Ad), the ancient Iron Age hill fort near Kilmartin in Argyll which was once the capital of the historic kingdom of Dalriada (Dál Riata). This long forgotten kingdom by many once straddled the Irish Sea and encompassed County Antrim in the north of Ireland, and Argyll and Lochaber in the west of Scotland. It was the Gaelic clans of this region who were said to have given Scotland its name – the word ‘Scot’ coming from Scoti, the Latin name used by the Romans to denote the Gaelic inhabitants of Ireland.