Friday, 22 January 2021

Free Scottish resources: Happy Burns Night!


Burns Monument Centre, Kilmarnock

To celebrate the birthday on January 25th of Scotland’s national bard, Robert Burns, I’ve put together a selection of free websites that may help you to grow your Scottish family tree a bit.

Ayrshireroots  Lots of links to explore including maps, reference books, and a surname database for the parishes and towns of Burns' native county.

Glasgow Valuation Rolls,1913-1914  Learn about and search these lists of Glasgow owners and occupiers, with the value of their properties, to locate your early 20th-century relatives living in the city.

SCAN – Scottish Archive Network  Identify useful genealogical sources using a keyword search of over 20,000 historical records in dozens of Scottish archives.

Statistical Accounts of Scotland 1791-1845  Background information for the entire country, parish by parish, in the 18th and 19th centuries.  These books were compiled from contemporary accounts written by locals about their own area, with descriptions of the parish, its history, its natural features and industries.  Excellent for learning about the times and places your ancestors lived in.

Scots Abroad  Whether your relatives went abroad to work, live, or visit, they may appear in these databases hosted by the National Library of Scotland.  These include correspondence from emigrants and guides for those planning to emigrate to different parts of the world.  Get a flavour of what life would have been like for people making their first trip away from Scotland.

Scottish Emigration Database  Search by the name of a person or the ship they sailed on. Thousands of entries from 1890 to 1960 list the address from which they were emigrating and their destination overseas.

And of course, post about Burns Night wouldn’t be complete without a link to

Happy Haggis which has a great index to over 30,000 historical newspaper articles from 1848 to 1854, covering that crucial period just before civil registration began in Scotland.

Enjoy exploring these websites as you nibble on your Scottish treats or haggis-flavoured crisps and sip your choice of national drink.

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Tuesday, 19 January 2021

Tuesday 2nd February: Put it in your diary!


Woman sitting at table typing on laptop

For the fifth year, Who Do You Think You Are? magazine has organised Transcription Tuesday – promoting family history record projects that need volunteers.

Simply put, in this context transcription means copying historical records from their original form by typing them into a computer.  WDYTYA? sets aside a Tuesday each February to focus on this important "citizen historian" initiative.


Last Transcription Tuesday, family historians contributed almost 25,000 individual records, and it’s an easy and worthwhile way to give back to the genealogical community.  Think of the times you’ve been able to simply type an ancestor’s name onto a free website and have their records pop up – now you can give that opportunity to others.


Each year, several different projects are made available for anyone to help with. 

For 2021, they are


Addressing Health – Health records for British Post Office workers.

More details at


Every Name Counts – WW2 concentration camp inmate records from the Arolsen Archives.

More details at


FamilySearch - Church of England and non-conformist records.

More details at


Voices Through Time – Records of children admitted to the Foundling Hospital from 1741 onwards, from the charity Coram.

More details at


Check out the information about each project, pick one that you like the sound of, and register your interest in advance.  I'd advise signing up in plenty of time to begin transcribing on the 2nd, and to get familiar with the transcription software as the projects will be providing different platforms for you to use.


If you want to get updates about Transcription Tuesday from the magazine you can subscribe to their free newsletter - visit their website and scroll down to “Sign Me Up” at the foot of the page.

Tuesday, 12 January 2021

Still At Home, Still Free Access

Time for a quick recap on the fantastic historical resources that are being made freely available to home users during lockdown.  Most of these providers have been doing this since last March, and some have put end dates on their free access, but keep an eye on that in case they extend (or reduce!) the time period.

In no particular order, then, here are my recommendations for great British research without spending a farthing. 

National Archives (TNA) 

Digitised documents such as wills or military service records can be downloaded free from the UK's national repository at Kew.  Search TNA’s Discovery catalogue and use their subject research guides to explore their collections. 

North Lanarkshire Records  

Sign up for a temporary free account to search Ancestry’s North Lanarkshire Poor Law and Electoral Register collection from 1847 to 1969. 

Ancestry   Find out from your local public library if they offer home access to Ancestry Library Edition.  All you’ll need to register for it is your library card number, and if you don’t have a library card, you should be able to apply for one online.  While you’re in touch with the library, check what other online resources they provide.  While not always genealogy-related, useful reference works like the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography can help fill in details of the times and places your ancestors lived in. 

British History Online  

This site is making all research content free to individual users until the end of April.  Browse the wide range of historical sources they host, for Britain and Ireland, particularly for the period 1300-1800.

There are many more resources opening up part or all of their collections.  I'll post about any others that I find especially useful.  Meanwhile, happy hunting!

Thursday, 7 January 2021

It's not just family history from home...


With schools closing across the UK, and elsewhere, various organisations have been offering free homeschooling resources online to help parents.  Here's a list of some of those resources, along with the subjects they cover.  

Historic Scotland: history, Gàidhlig

including, among other things, video content for early years learners and a good selection of colouring sheets.

FamilySearch: history

Lots of family learning and fun activities to help young people appreciate their heritage.

Marks & Spencer: business, textiles, graphic design

Images, videos, activities, lesson plans, downloadable worksheets and slideshows in new digital learning resources, for Primary, Secondary and learning at home.

Ordnance Survey: geography

A National Grid PDF factsheet and flashcards for learning map symbols.

BBC Bitesize: almost everything!

Click on the “All Bitesize” tab on the website to see the different resources for Scotland, NI, Wales and England.  And of course the Bitesize programmes are available on BBC television channels.

Plus: don’t forget PE classes with good old Joe Wicks, 9am on YouTube, Mondays, Wednesdays & Fridays. 

Monday, 4 January 2021

Record Focus : Gibraltar List of Inhabitants

John Mace, North View of Gibraltar from Spanish Lines 
Government Art Collection, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

This week I’ve got a recommendation for an archive resource – the Gibraltar National Archives’ List of Inhabitants, which contains 219,229 records covering over six hundred years, from 1309 to 1920.  It’s got a very straightforward search function, so give it a play if you have relatives who might have spent any time there.

Clicking on the “Inhabitants” tab at the top of the page next to “Home” lets you switch to searching Military records – very useful as the Rock has had a significant British military presence for many years.  This particular record set contains births, marriages and deaths from 1869 to 1914.

It’s also well worth exploring the rest of this fascinating Archives website which includes historical background, photographs, and oral histories.

Tip: This may just be my browser, but I found the text on the Gibraltar site rather small, so I used this shortcut: to enlarge any text and images on any web page, simply press the "Ctrl" and "+" keys at the same time. You can do this as many times as you need to in order to make the text readable.  And to reverse the process if necessary, use "Ctrl" and "-" (minus) together.  (If you have an Apple device, the "Command" key works in a similar way to Windows' "Ctrl".)


Monday, 28 December 2020

Genealogy New Year Resolutions

2020...moving swiftly on, let's focus on the year ahead and the possibilities it offers on the family history front.  Aside from wanting to travel to ancestral areas, or return to researching in physical archives, what do I hope to achieve?

Here are a few of my genealogy goals in the coming year.  In 2021, I resolve to

☙  Improve my research skills by reading more widely on family history techniques and different record types
☙  Check my DNA matches regularly and reach out to close cousins
☙  Make more progress on identifying my mystery Irish great-great grandfather (2020 was quite a good year for getting some ideas on that)
☙  Learn from other genealogists on Twitter's #AncestryHour (Tuesdays, 7pm UK time, from 12 January)
☙  Put my Legacy Webinar subscription to better use

Other goals to consider are, for example, making plans to identify the birthplace or parents of a specific ancestor.  Or you may be thinking of taking an online course - I previously posted about a free online learning provider that has some excellent courses for genealogists.  And something as simple as writing to an older relative to find out what they know about the family's history could be another worthwhile item on your to-do list.  The possibilities are endless!

So, what do you think?  What will your family history resolutions for 2021 be?

Tuesday, 22 December 2020

Christmas Family Tree Wishes

Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

 Wishing all family history lovers everywhere a peaceful and safe Christmas.

Best wishes,