Crowd sourcing genealogy brick walls using Twitter

Twitter is rarely out of the news at the moment and is often criticised as a medium for egotists to broadcast the minutiae of their lives but I would like to highlight a recent success story I had in solving a  brick wall be using Twitter.

I had found my 4th great grandfather, John Boyd, on the 1861 Scottish census living with his daughter and son-in-law in Tradeston, Govan, Glasgow. His place of birth had been transcribed aLurkegone, Cumnridue which was unlikely to be correct!

My next stop was Scotland's People to see a scan of the actual census:

You can see why the transcriber was struggling.

At this point I was at a loss but I turned to twitter and tweeted:

Within three hours I had three replies and, what I think is, the correct answer: Linlithgow, Carriden

A testament to the benefits of using Twitter to help solve genealogy brick walls.

Test Post

Just a test...

The Broons have a ruckus about the census for more on Scots and the 2011 Census to be used until Google Translate does Scots-> English!

2011 census v 1911 census

There's an interesting article on the BBC website today about the differences between the 1911 census and the 2011 census. Although it talks about the 'UK' census I'm sure it is referring to the 1911 census on England and Wales as there are some differences. Foremost at the moment is that the 1911 census for England and Wales has been released while we have to wait a couple of months for the Scottish one!

However, the differences it highlights between the 1911 and 2011 census are interesting e.g.

  • In 1911 the census fitted on one sheet of paper. This year it will fill up about 30 pages
  • The husband was automatically the Head of the household - not sure if that would be tolerated today!
  • The language used to describe infirmity e.g. imbecile, lunatic feels uncomfortable
Ultimately though the purposes of the censuses remain the same - it is important to find out how many people are in your country. What remains to be seen is that will 2011 be the last census undertaken in the UK?

Pigot and Co's national commercial directory for the whole of Scotland (1837)

Almost on a daily basis seem to have more and more digitised copies of the National Library of Scotland's collection - the current count stands at 3,069 items!

I have only looked at fraction of what is available but I have spent a fair amount of time on Pigot and Co.'s national commercial directory for the whole of Scotland and the Isle of Man. This particular edition was published in 1837 and not only does it contain lists of the higher status members of each area and tradesmen but also contains a 'gazatteer' type description of the area.

I came across this particular edition while searching for ancestors of a friend who came from Pitsligo and Rosehearty. There are a variety of file formats that are available that can either be downloaded or read online and all verions can by searched by keyword.

What other commercial directories have you found useful?

Edinburgh Academy Register (1824-1914)

While researching the history of my house in Edinburgh I came across this fantastic resource which lists all pupils who attended Edinburgh Academy from its foundation in 1824 to 1914. It is out of copyright and can be found in various formats at the Internet Archive.

Entry for physicist and mathematician, James Clerk Maxwell

It lists information about the pupils' achievements both in school and also after leaving school in addition in gives information about parents and wives. The PDF version is fully searchable.

Entry for author, Robert Louis Stevenson

Farm Horse Tax 1797-98

A document I recently came across while doing some researching for a friend was the Farm Horse Tax returns. They are a valuable resource for anyone in search of their rural ancestors to find a hidden gem, because they name tenant farmers, who can be difficult to find otherwise. The tax was introduced in 1797 raised to help the war effort against the French and was abandoned soon after. The returns for the whole of Scotland can now be searched free online at the Scotlands Places website

There were several other taxes introduced into Scotland in the late 17th and 18th centuries including:

  • Hearth Tax
  • Poll Tax
  • Window Tax
  • Cart Tax
  • Shop tax
  • Carriage Tax
  • Dog Tax
  • Clock and Watch tax
  • Male and Female Servant Tax



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