Welcome to Scottish Genealogy Tips And Tidbits

A wee bit of info to help you in your journey to discover your Scottish Ancestors and maybe even crack a brick wall or two!



Monday, 23 October 2017

Using Findmypast for Scottish Genealogy Research

While ScotlandsPeople is the necessary site for Old Parish and Civil Registers, Findmypast can help you fill in the details of your ancestor’s life.


Military Records – one of the best resources on Findmypast for Scottish research. After the Union of the Crowns in 1707, everyone who was enlisted was enlisted in the British Army, even if they fought for a Highland Regiment. The good news here is that unlike the National Records of Scotland, the National Archives in London have partnered with Findmypast and made their records available for people researching their family history. In the military records, you get the entire record. If, like my great grandfather, your soldier was a serial enlister, you will get their attestation and discharge papers. If your soldier was a career military man, you will get oodles more.

Newspapers – another fabulous resource is the British Newspaper Archives. The real gem here is that the BNA is not limited to national newspapers, but also includes regional and town newspapers which, of course, hold a wealth of social history news.

Ship’s Lists – another treat from the TNA. These lists are “people leaving the UK”  but will give you the passenger manifest including the name of the passenger, their residence, their age, where they were destined, the ship’s name and where they actually entered North America. For example, my grandfather was on the Cameronian, destined for New York, first docked at Halifax and disembarked there.  

Paternity Decrees – these are listed under “Institutions”  and are a result of the incredible work that have been done by ScottishIndexes who have partnered with Findmypast to have their transcriptions available online. I was able to find the father of my illegitimate great aunt thanks to this database and the transcription which gives you the name and address of the pursuer (in this case, the mother), the name and address of the defender (the father), the date of birth of the child and the sex of the child. I can then order the original record if I wish.

Mental Health Institution Admission Registers – again thanks to the tireless work of the Maxwells at ScottishIndexes, these transcripts provide you with the name, age, sex, d.o.b., residence, occupation, and the year of admission as well as the name of the institution.

Prison Registers – more work from the Maxwells, this transcription gives you the name, sex, age, birth date, occupation, crime and name of prison.

Linlithgow Poorhouse Records – this is a result of the great work of the West Lothian Family History Society and includes Admission registers, death and discharge registers, lunatic registers and discharges, and the poorhouse roll of the sick.

Catholic Heritage Archives – this relatively new collection includes baptism, marriage, burial and congregational records from all eight of Scotland's Roman Catholic Dioceses. These are: St Andrews & Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Argyll & the Isles (where the Catholic faith was strong well into the 19th century), Dunkeld, Galloway, Glasgow, Motherwell and Paisley.

PERSI – what a wealth of information for those with Scottish heritage. There are thousands of records that you can search or browse to learn more about the life and times of your Scottish ancestor. These include family histories, family history society journals and newsletters and magazines. To find these gems, simply enter “Scotland” in the “where” field and “family history” into the “what else” field.


Enjoy getting to know your Scottish ancestors through the resources of Findmypast!

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Understanding Scottish Surnames

Spelling was not consistent until dictionaries made it standard in the 1800s. Until this time, spelling was quite fluid and tended to be according to the enumerator or registrar. Often this was done in a manner similar to phonetic spelling. I could not find the marriage for my Henry Fowler anywhere. I was beginning to think that perhaps the couple had had an irregular marriage. Then I decided to use a wildcard search for Henry and lo and behold I found him - listed as Henry FULLER. As soon as I saw the certificate, I realized why I hadn't found him sooner. Henry would have been asked his surname. In his thick Border brogue, Henry would have responded "Fooler" And that became written as FULLER.

It is not uncommon to find that your ancestor's surname changed from Clerke, to Clarke and then to Clark. All three sound the same in Scotland (clark) and yet the spelling has evolved over time. Knowing this will help to ensure you don't rule out people who might be your ancestor, but who you have ignored based on the (mis)spelling of the surname.

As a standard, surnames in Scotland weren't adopted by the common man until about the 1600s. Prior to that, people were known by patrynomics (Donald, son of John or Donald John's son), by physical trait (John the Red - Red John - for someone who might have been a redhead, by location (Thomas by the burn or Thomas Burn) or by occupation (David the miller or David Miller). Once surnames became common practice, many of these former descriptors were adopted as surnames. Others, particularly the Highlanders or border clans, took on the surname of the clan chief, family head or even the landowner for the estate they lived or worked on. For this reason, not everyone named Wallace, for example, is related to William Wallace. Nor is every Mc/MacDonald related to the clan chief.

People often have questions about the Mc vs Mac surnames. Some understand that one is Irish and the other is Scottish, while others understand that one is Catholic while the other is Protestant. In reality, they are interchangeable. Both Mc and Mac are the anglicized spelling of the Gaelic M' or M'hic. M'hic or M' for short, means "son of" in Gaelic. This has been transcribed over the centuries as Mc or Mac, depending on the transcriber and their understanding of how the prefix is spelled. So whether your ancestors were Mc or Mac, don't discount the other spelling in the event you might also be discounting your ancestor and his/her documents!


Saturday, 21 October 2017

84th Regiment of Foot: Royal Highland Emigrants

From 1775-1784, 2000 Scots highlanders were recruited to the 84th Regiment of Foot (Royal Highland Emigrants)  which defended the lands in the 13 colonies and then fought on the side of the British government in the American Revolutionary War. These men had military experience in the Seven Years War. The 84th Regiment of Foot was divided into two companies. The muster and pay lists for both companies can be found here: 



After the Revolutionary War, the 84th Regiment of Foot disbanded and about half of the men settled in Nova Scotia while the other half settled in Eastern Ontario where they were given land grants for remaining loyal to the Crown. They were given land grants of between 100 acres (for privates) and 500 acres (for Officers).  To search the indexes for these early land grants, consult:

Friday, 20 October 2017

Scottish Post Office Directories

Post office directories are the equivalent of City Directories. These are a terrific resource for following your ancestors between census periods. Not everyone was recorded. Since there was a fee to be included, many of those included had some degree of stature - clergy, educators, doctors, professionals, merchants, etc.


A recent addition to the website are the Post Office Directory Maps. Four hundred new street maps of Scottish towns held within Post Office Directories have been digitized and uploaded to the maps website. These are excellent resources for family and local history. These are quite detailed, providing street names, location of public buildings such as churches, shops and schools, as well as railways, cemeteries and open green space. 

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Researching Jacobite Ancestors

The Jacobites believed that being King was a God given right and passed on through heredity and were opposed to parliamentary interference with the line of succession to the throne. They saw this interference as being illegal. People were expected to swear allegiance to their King and his authority. Jacobites wouldn't swear allegiance since William was not a direct descendant of James, while Charles Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) was. Hoping to reinstate the Stuart regime, the Jacobites rose in rebellion on a number of occasions, notably in 1715 and in 1745.


Beginning in 1716, Jacobites were rounded up, imprisoned and subsequently transported to the Americas. Approximately 1,500 Jacobite prisoners were exiled to the American Plantations. Since Jacobites were charged with Treason they were tried before the High Court. Documents pertaining to the Jacobites, for genealogical purposes, are Royal Warrants, Letters, and a variety of letters.

While there are some records contained within the High Court records at the National Archives in Scotland, the primary repository is the National Archives in London.
There are also registers of ships that were used for transportation. PDF listings of Jacobite prisoners for various regions of Scotland can be found here: http://www.jacobites.net/lists.html

Hugh Tornabene, a volunteer for the Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild has uncovered the
passenger lists for the ships that were used to transport the Jacobites. He has transcribed the lists for the 10 ships that arrived in the Americas. 

There are another 8 ships that went to the Caribbean (Barbados and the Leeward Islands). Here is the website to view the transcriptions of the 10 ships (there are 13 lists, with two of the ships having made the voyage more than once) that Hugh has transcribed: 

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

From the Western Isles to Canada

Following the Reformation, most Scots had converted to Presbyterian while the Highlands and Islands remained predominantly Catholic. The landowners who had converted expected their tenants to do the same and those that didn’t weren’t allowed to practice their religion. Some were even removed for not converting. 

This led to a group of Scots from the Outer Hebrides (Uist) to be sent to Cape Breton in what is now Boisedale, a group from Glenfinnan near Fort William to be sent to what is now Prince Edward Island and who are now known as the Glenaladale Settlers and a group from Loch Broom near Oban being sent to Pictou. These were the settlers from the Hector. Interestingly, the clues of their homeland are given in the names of their new countries.

In their new lands, they were not only allowed to practice their faith, but also speak their language (Gaelic).

·        In 1774, the Lord Justice Clerk tried to gain an understanding of the extent of emigration from the Highlands and instructed Sheriffs from the area to provide him with lists of those from their jurisdiction that had emigrated. These lists should be within the collections of the National Records of Scotland.

·      Archives Ontario have several letters relating to the Glengarry Settlement including letters sent to family back home encouraging them to come to Canada.

·       The PEI Historical Society has just released a very genealogically comprehensive book on the Glenalladale Settlers. 

     Archives for Glenfinnan are with the Highland Archives https://www.highlifehighland.com/archives-service/

·       For records pertaining to Lochboisdale, contact the Seallam! Centre on Lewis http://www.tasglann.org.uk/en



In July 1803, three ships, the Dykes, the Polly, and the Oughton sailed to Canada with eight hundred former crofters from the Western Isles and headed to Prince Edward Island where Lord Selkirk had managed to receive a land grant. The Polly carried passengers from Skye. The Dykes brought passengers from Mull. The Oughton carried passengers from Uist. Further Selkirk Settlers from Colonsay, Oronsay and Tiree arrived in 1806.

·         Lord Selkirk’s papers are available online at: http://www.canadiana.ca/
·         The Archives of Ontario also have a number of letters pertaining to Lord Selkirk and his   settlers. 

Passenger List reconstruction for ship Polly:

Passenger List reconstruction for ship Dykes:

Passenger List reconstruction for ship Oughton:

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Did Your Scottish Ancestor Spend Time in Nova Scotia?

One of the best resources for learning the social history of your ancestors, the things that add details to their life stories, are newspapers. 


The Nova Scotia archives has a number of old newspapers available on their website, including Gaelic newspapers! The Gaelic newspapers date back to the early 1920s while other newspapers on their website date back to 1769. 

Here's the link to have a look and see if you can learn more about your Scottish ancestor who might have spent time in Nova Scotia:

https://novascotia.ca/archives/newspapers/