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

Pencils of Light – the albums of the Edinburgh Calotype Club

The National Library of Scotland has a fantastic collection of early photographs taken in Scotland Belgium, Italy and Malta.

St. John's Chapel, West End Princes Street, Edinburgh.
Photographed by Hugh Lyon Tennent (1817-1874) and Robert Tennent (1813-1890)

These two albums of the Edinburgh Calotype Club, the first photographic club in the world, are among the earliest photograph albums in the world ever assembled. They contain over 300 images by a group of pioneering Scottish photographers working in Edinburgh and St. Andrews.

South Street, St. Andrews.
Photographed by Hugh Lyon Tennent (1817-1874) and Robert Tennent (1813-1890)

The calotype process was discovered by William Henry Fox Talbot; Talbot’s friends coined the term Talbotype. The calotype process was novel in a number of ways. It can be regarded as a direct forerunner of modern photography with its use of both a negative and a positive; the paper negative was the earliest process to allow the manufacture of several prints and it was also the first paper process- its predecessor, the daguerreotype, primarily used for portraiture, was printed onto a silvered copper surface.

William Henry Fox Talbot (1800 - 1877)

The albums can be browsed or searched and contain a number of images taken around Edinburgh, Fife and Ayrshire.

Census Abbreviations Updated

While researching using the 1841 Scottish Census I came across the abbreviation "F S" under profession. As I was not sure what this was I did a quick search online and came across this useful list of commonly used abbreviations in a rootschat.com forum here.

These are the official abbreviations used in the censuses:

Ag. Lab. 1841-81 Agricultural labourer
Ap. 1841-61 Apprentice
Army 1841 Members of HM land forces of whatever rank
Cl. 1841-61 Clerk
FS. 1841 Female servant
H.P. 1841 Members of HM armed forces on half-pay
HLW 1841 Hand loom weaver (followed by silk, cotton etc for material they work in)
FWK 1841 Frame work knitter
Ind. 1841 Independent - people living on their own means
J. 1841 Journeyman
M. 1841 Manufacturer
m. 1841 Maker - as in 'Shoe m.'
MS 1841 Male servant
Navy 1841 Members of HM naval forces, including marines,
of whatever rank
P. 1841 Pensioners in HM armed forces
Rail Lab. 1851 Railway labourer
Serv. 1861 Servant
Sh. 1841 Shopman

Are there any others that you know of?

Easy Google Genealogy Searcher

Most people searching Google will have learned the usual basic search techniques such as:

  • quotation marks ("  ") for phrases
  • a minus sign (-) to exclude certain terms
  • Using OR to specifically allow either one of several words
  • wildcards (*) to 'fill in the blanks

Easy Google Genealogy Searcher goes one step further as the website explains you can:

Learn to do effective genealogy internet searches with the Easy Google Genealogy Searcher. Can't remember all the Google tricks you've heard for genealogy searching? Want to learn some things you probably had no idea Google could do? The Easy Genealogy Google Searcher puts advanced Google features on one page with suggested keywords and advice about how each feature is useful for genealogy searches.

The most interesting part I found was the Google search by family tree. Simply enter in the details of an individual, their spouse and parents and a choice of Google complex searches are automatically created for you.


I am searching fort more information on the Islay branch of my tree. I filled in the details as shown below:

Select the search that you wish, in this case I selected the first one:

Then your complex search is automatically generated. You are given a choice of three different saearches. In this case:

1. "Isabella McArthur" OR "Isabella * McArthur" OR "McArthur, Isabella" "Robert McWhinnie"  ~genealogy OR ~ancestry

2. "Isabella McArthur" OR "Isabella * McArthur" OR "McArthur, Isabella" "Robert * McWhinnie"  ~genealogy OR ~ancestry

3. "Isabella McArthur" OR "Isabella * McArthur" OR "McArthur, Isabella" "McWhinnie, Robert"  ~genealogy OR ~ancestry

Although there are only subtle differences between these search strategies it may well make the difference between finding that elusive information.

Is this the geekiest genealogy post in the world?

As you start researching your family tree and recording the results you become familiar with various technical words associated with it. The Ahnentafel numbering system is one that most are familair with.

What I have found fascinating as a Mathematics graduate who teaches Computing and is addicted to genealogy is the link between the binary Ahnentafel number and the ablilty to identify how the ancestor is related to the subject.

If you look at the table below the first column is the standard Ahnentafel number, the second is the binary equivalent and the third is the relationship to the subject.

Now for the interesting (geeky?) part. If you know the binary representation of the Ahnentafel number then you can work out the relationship tro the subject:

The first 1 indicates the subject
A 0 represents a father
A 1 represents a mother


1011 represents: subject - father - mother - mother

So Ahnentafel number 1011 is my Father's mother's mother.

Is it just me or is that not just fantastic?

A Fellmonger in the Family

One of the many fantastic things about being involved in family research is the amount that you learn about your ancestor's history and social history in general. What began for me as a crossword like exercise in filling in the blanks has now become a full blown obsession. A wise friend who has been involved with tracing family histories for years warned me that once you start researching your family you will never finish. How right he was!

Recently I came across the census return for my 3rd Great grandfather Thomas William Stokoe. He is listed as being born in Blaydon, Durham, England. Thomas is listed as being 31 years old, living with his wife Jane (32) and children Mary, Dorothy and Sarah.

Thomas' occupation is fellmonger. After some research I discovered that a fellmonger is a dealer in sheepskins. The job seems to be fairly unpleasant as it involves removing the skin from the sheep soon after slaughter to prevent decay.

Family Photo Mystery

This photo was part of a collection that my Mum found of her family. The only thing that I know about it is that my maternal grandfather John Graham (born 1910) is on the back row, second from the left. He was born in Glasgow, and after a short spell living in Ireland when he was an infant, stayed in Govan and Pollock in Glasgow.

I do not know if this is Army, Navy or Airforce and whether he served in the Second World War. Any ideas or where I might find out more?

The Art of Palaeography

The Guardian today has an article entitled Writing off the UK's last palaeographer which reminded me that I was going to write a post on palaeography.

While researching the Scottish branch of my family tree it has been fairly easy, using the Scotland's People website to find copies of the extracts of birth, marriages and death and the Old Parochial Registers but the challenge is sometimes deciphering the handwriting.

Sometimes the names or words can be worked out from what is around and other times it requires a bit more knowledge of the Secretary Hand letters that were used in the 200 years ago.

An invaluable website to assist with this is Scottish Handwriting which provides:

Online tuition in palaeography for historians, genealogists and other researchers who have problems reading manuscript historical records written in Scotland in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.
The emphasis of the website is on practical help to improve the palaeographical skills, rather than on the academic study of Scottish handwriting.

Sinking of the SS Daphne, 3rd July 1883

While researching my mother's family I came across an extract of a death certificate for my 2nd Great-Grandfather Robert McWhinnie, a journeyman joiner, who died on 3rd July 1883. The cause of death was listed as drowning. I also noticed that the other two individuals listed in the extract also drowned. Intrigued, I searched the Internet and found a report of the sinking of the SS Daphne as it was launched on the Clyde in which 124 people died.

On the 3rd July 1883 the Clyde shipyards suffered one of their worst disasters. The SS Daphne was a 460-ton steamer to be used on the Glasgow-Ireland run. The ship was launched from the shipbuilding yard of Messrs. Alexander Stephen and Sons at Linthouse, Govan. Within three minutes she had capsized with over 200 workers finishing the internal fittings still on board. 124 died as a result.

A joiner who survived named Kinnaird wrote: "I was busily engaged on the deck, and felt the vessel moving on the ways, and nothing occurred until she had taken the river. Then an extraordinary scene happened, and tremendous shouts arose from those on board. I felt the vessel toppling over to the right and in a moment every person on board was hurled into the water. The shrieks and cries were terrible. I, along with some others, scrambled on to the bottom of the vessel, which was turned upside, and retained a hold. In a few moments a man came round with a small boat, and asked me to jump into the water. I did so, and was rescued. There would be about twenty persons besides myself who clung to the bottom of the vessel, and also succeeded in getting into the boat. Round about I could see a large number of people struggling and shouting in the water. Prior to the accident there were so many men and boys on deck that it was difficult to move about. I believe that over two hundred people were in the vessel. I cannot possibly describe the heart-breaking scenes which I witnessed."

Such was the scale and tragedy of the disaster that there are two SS Daphne Memorials in Glasgow. One is located in Elder Park, Govan and the other on the other side of the Clyde in Victoria Park, Whiteinch, representing the loss to those communities involved.

My Scots Ancestors Blog Updates

Test post. Having twitterfeed issues!

The Scottish Way of Birth and Death

The Scottish Way of Birth and Death, is a history of civil registration in Scotland from its beginning in 1855 until the Second World War.  It shows how the basic tools of Scotland's 'vital statistics' - the registers of births, marriages and deaths, were produced.  This site describes some of the people responsible for Scotland's vital records, the difficulties they experienced, and some of the characteristics of the Scottish registration system.  Amongst other things, it looks at the problems of producing accurate death certificates, regular and 'irregular' marriages (including those at Gretna Green), divorce, compulsory smallpox vaccination, the compiling of the census, and the work of the General Register Office for Scotland in times of war.


Their Past Your Future Scotland

Their Past Your Future Scotland is a fantastic opportunity to ensure that the memories of war are never forgotten, enabling generations within communities to discover personal stories which have affected or involved their local area.

This is an ‘interim’ website which aims to help TPYF Scotland projects, namely in collecting reminiscences from veterans (both military and civilian) and illustrating them with digitised images.

The results from these oral history projects will form a series of some 300 on-line mini exhibitions or ‘vignettes’ – oral histories and associated illustrative exhibits from local and national collections. They may include diary extracts, newspaper articles, old photographs, archive film, all manner of old documents and paintings. Together they will create a vivid story of a person, event or place.


Family Photos Collage

Spent a bit of time this weekend going through and scanning some old family photographs from my Mum's family. These were all taken between 1895 and 1940 and show my maternal grandmother's family and some of my maternal grandfather.

I think all these photos were taken in and around Govan, Glasgow.


Surnames: Graham, McWhinnie, Cassidy, Reid

Tagul Tag Clouds

Came across this website called Tagul on a @geneabloggers tweet which creates an interactive tag cloud which can be placed on your blog and website.

I have used a similar site before called Wordle which does essentially the same thing. That is they are both used for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text.

The key difference between them is that Wordle creates an image which can be saved while Tagul creates an interactive tag cloud.

This is my first attempt:

This is a non interactive version.The interactive version which updates is on the bottom right of the page.

Creating a logo

I have a fairly clear idea in my head of the overall look I want to achieve with  this blog and eventually the Scottish family history website I am going to set up: www.myscotsancestors.co.uk. I have got as far as buying the URL with that one!

I am not very artistic - my attempts at designing a logo look they have been done by my two year old daughter with her eyes closed - so, as a short term measure, have created a simple one using Vistaprint.

I am reasonably happy with its modern and clean look but will get round to updating it sometime.

Blog Tweaking

Spent a bit of time today playing about with various templates for this blog from: btemplates. They have plenty to choose from but I am still not completely happy with what I have. I may have to resort to playing about with the HTML which was something I was trying to avoid.

I now have the blog talking to twitter and facebook so they will update automatically. It has been a steep learning curve so far but I am enjoying it - time seems to fly by. It's very similar to researching family history where you seem to lose all track of time!

Scottish genealogy and family history links on delicious

Have started putting together the most useful websites for researching your Scottish ancestors. This is very much a work in progress and I will continue to update it. Any other suggestions would be gratefully received.

Click here for link to delicious

Trying to link with Facebook

Let's see if that one has worked then!

Getting Started

Created the blog using Blogger, a Twitter account, MySctsAncstrs, and added a company page on Facebook. Have tried linking them together using Twitterfeed. Lets see if it works...

First Post

Test Post



Blogging For Ancestors

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