Monday, 26 July 2021

Now Open: Scotland

Tarbat Discovery Centre

Heritage venues around Scotland are beginning to reopen after extended closure periods, and travel restrictions having lifted mean that more of us will be getting out and about on research trips!

Here, I’m highlighting just a few places to visit, but do check with the relevant local authority or tourist office to find out what’s happening in your area of interest.  VisitScotland is a good source of information about current openings, as well as the limitations that still apply across the country regarding things like ferry travel or indoor activities.  

In the Highlands, Tarbat Discovery Centre has been able to start receiving visitors again and will do so until the end of October, Wednesday-Saturday each week.  This very atmospheric museum, housed in a former church, is well worth a wee detour from the North Coast 500, or the short drive from Inverness.  They’re also looking for local volunteers to help staff the museum.  

In Lanarkshire, Airdrie Local Studies Discovery Room, housed on the first floor of the public library, will be reopening this Thursday (28th July) for local and family history research on Thursdays and Fridays 11:00–12:30 and 14:00-15:30. Visit their website for more information and to book an appointment.

For those with Clyde shipbuilding in the family, Fairfield Heritage Museum in Govan is reopening too.  Starting from Tuesday August 3rd, they will once again be welcoming visitors and telling the story of the famous shipyard.  Visits are by free ticket until further notice, every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon, with social distancing measures in place.  You can book your ticket via Eventbrite.  

And I've just booked a tour of the Scottish Jewish Heritage Centre in Glasgow city centre, not far from the School of Art.  It's based in the beautiful Garnethill Synagogue, the first purpose-built synagogue in Scotland, and has the most exquisite stained glass.  As well as taking a guided tour of the Centre, you can benefit from the resources of its Archives, including the Scottish Holocaust-era collection.

For the time being, face coverings will be required indoors in public spaces in Scotland, so make sure you have a good supply of them to cover your trip!

Monday, 19 July 2021

Summer Searches


Elgin Cathedral, Morayshire

With the good weather many of us in the UK have been having of late, I thought it might be a good time to share some resources to help you plan and carry out research visits to graveyards.

For those working out of doors in Scotland at this time of year, the most important item to pack is


A few years ago, a nurse gave me a tip that has worked for me.  Dilute a small amount of Listerine mouthwash in a spray bottle and apply to exposed skin (yours, not the midges’). Frugal and effective!


For identifying historic graveyard locations, I recommend the National Library of Scotland’s Maps (their OS collections cover the UK).

The Ordnance Survey (the official UK Government’s mapping organisation) provide free access to contemporary maps, as well as an app to purchase for your mobile device, with a free 7-day trial.

Current online maps provided by popular search engines like Bing and Google are not always accurate or up to date.  A recent report about Google Maps' dangerous path up Ben Nevis highlighted the potential hazards of relying on this kind of source. 

GENUKI may give names and/or locations of burial grounds in a parish or county you are researching.  Again, check that the information is current (especially crucial details like opening hours) by contacting the local church, council, or family history society. Their contact details may also be found on GENUKI or, for the latter, through the Family History Federation or the Scottish Association of Family History Societies.

While websites such as BillionGraves or FindAGrave won’t necessarily list your ancestors, they may have an entry for the graveyard(s) you’re interested in, with the all-important location details, including GPS coordinates.



“Leave nothing but footprints” is a phrase often used to raise awareness of the potential impact we can have on the countryside.  I’d suggest that we adopt a similar approach to visiting cemeteries whether in town or country.  These spaces are often havens for wildlife and need to be treated with care, as well as the respect due to burial grounds in general.

I would advise you to choose footwear appropriate for rough terrain, especially if you aren’t familiar with the cemetery.  Some graveyards may suffer from subsidence and require caution while navigating around.  Many cemeteries are neglected and overgrown, and while I'm not advocating the use of machetes, sensible clothing is definitely advisable!



Decide in advance which method(s) of recording gravestones you’ll use, and bring the appropriate kit.  Hidden Heritage has some great ideas for non-invasive techniques, with free imaging software and examples of how this can help make inscriptions clearer. 

To preserve the fabric of headstones, use contactless methods to take a note of monumental inscriptions.  Pen and paper or photographs may be old-fashioned but they’re reliable and good for the stones.  Digital photography and smartphones have transformed our ability to take multiple images of a gravestone and its surroundings, and to share and store them online.

Historic Environment Scotland has produced a PDF leaflet, Looking After Gravestones, which has some excellent advice about the treatment, care and preservation of cemetery monuments.



While some burial grounds may have plans or maps available, either online or in the cemetery itself, it can still be difficult to locate a specific burial site, even if you have a plot number.  Do ask for help if local staff are available.  Those tasked with keeping the grounds in good order will be very familiar with the chronology of the place as well as the location of some of the occupants.

If you have a plot or lair number for the grave you want to see, these are sometimes carved into the side of the headstones in larger cemeteries, and while your family stone may not have one, the surrounding stones might.

Once you have found the grave(s) you’re looking for, check nearby for potentially related memorials.

My perennial graveyard tip: look on the reverse of the headstone (just in case they ran out of room on the front).

And to finish off with, check out my recent blog "mini-class" on graveyard research.  Happy hunting!

Monday, 12 July 2021

RootsTech 2022 News!


Good news from FamilySearch recently– there will be a repeat of their successful virtual show, RootsTech Connect, next year.  See the official announcement for more details.

Some genealogists will be disappointed at the accompanying news about the postponement of RootsTech’s live shows, previously scheduled for London this October and Salt Lake City next February.  However, with the current fluctuating travel and public health restrictions around the world, this seems the safest option, avoiding any last-minute cancellations. 

Visit the official press release to learn more and to sign up for RootsTech’s email newsletter.  

As the first RootsTech Connect event this year demonstrated, it's possible to hold an international, diverse, and extensive show online.  FamilySearch’s resources have also allowed them to make it freely available to everyone with an internet connection, and the 2022 event will be the same.  The hundreds of online video presentations that are a key feature of the virtual show are available until next year, so whether you want to find out how to research ancestors from China, Mexico or Italy (or many other countries), you can find ideas and learn new skills there.  Other subjects covered by the videos include organising your records, using DNA to trace relatives, and telling your own family’s story. 

You can search for content and build your own playlist on the show website.

And do check out my two RootsTech presentations:

The Riches of the Scottish Kirk Session Records 

Full of lively and colourful snapshots from the everyday lives of your Scottish ancestors, the Kirk Session Records contain a fascinating breadth of information.  Learn what they can tell you, and best of all, they are now completely free to access on the ScotlandsPeople website! 

Scottish Vital Records on ScotlandsPeople 

Learn how to use the official website for Scottish records to search for your ancestors’ information-packed certificates.  Using examples, you can learn what to expect in certificates of post-1854 births, marriages, and deaths; how to interpret them; and how they can give vital clues leading you to other records.

Monday, 5 July 2021

Free resources from home, via your public library

Although many libraries are starting to re-open after an extended shutdown, they may still be offering free home access to internet resources by way of compensation for the closure.  These often include subscription websites that are of interest to family historians.

All that’s needed is an online account with the relevant library.  Check your local library’s website for information about the services they are making available remotely to their members. You may need to re-register online to take full advantage of their free resources, which could include one or more of the following:

Ancestry has a Library Edition which has proved a popular choice with public libraries.  Some services, such as those in Manchester and North Lanarkshire, have also partnered with Ancestry to give readers free access to records local to their areas, such as church or poor relief registers.

FindMyPast provides a similar service through some libraries’ websites.

SCRAN is a website from Historic Environment Scotland hosting audio and visual resources from museums, galleries, archives and the media around the UK.

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography gives full access to subscribers, including those signing in with their local library’s credentials. 

For some of these websites, you can access their full content through a link on their home page that says something like “Sign in via your institution”.  Select your library’s name from the list that will appear (if you don’t see your library listed, it doesn’t provide access to that particular resource).  You will then be able to sign in with your own library account number and passcode.

A multitude of digital resources are available at home, free of charge, to all residents of Scotland, through the National Library’s website.  They include several newspaper databases such as the Times, the Scotsman, and the British Library Collections, as well as the excellent British Newspaper Archive.  Some of the sites restrict the number of NLS users that can access them at one time, but these are clearly indicated on the list of websites.  

Normally you would need to either have your own subscription or a university library account to use many of these resources, so it is well worth registering for an NLS account if you live in Scotland.  If you don’t live in Scotland, though, don’t despair; many of the Library’s online treasures are free on the open web, such as their Maps collection or the Moving Image Archive. 

Finally, if you’re disappointed with the lack of such resources through your local library, why not petition the powers that be to provide them?  You can find information online about products such as FindMyPast’s Community Edition, and pass on your suggestions to a librarian.  Alternatively, if you use and are happy with your library's digital services, give them positive feedback and encourage them to continue providing remote access after normal opening hours are resumed.  This may be especially important if library services are considering cutting back opening times in the near future.

Tuesday, 29 June 2021

The Genealogy Show Online 2021


The Genealogy Show's Map of Exhibitors

I don’t usually recommend paid-for events on the Frugal Family History blog, but it’s not often you see a show reduce their ticket price!  The Genealogy Show took place last weekend, with a starting admission charge of £30/£20.  That’s now been reduced to £15, for access to all the talks, exhibitors etc (i.e. everything except the live chat) until 26th July.  Do check it out; there were over 80 presentations on a very wide range of family history topics, including my own two talks on Scottish subjects - see my previous posts here and here for previews of those.

The presentations I’ve listened to so far have been of a really high quality, and there are plenty more for me to work my way through.  In general you’ll find that speakers at genealogy events really know their stuff, and are able to share their expertise and knowledge in an entertaining and engaging way. 

In the Exhibition Zone you can learn more about organisations and their products or membership.  These include family and local history groups and institutions, such as The Society for One-Place Studies or FamilySearch, which has some thought-provoking videos on display.  Many of the exhibition “stands” share free downloadable material that you can use to organise your family tree or build your skills (I can thoroughly recommend The Heraldry Society’s beautiful booklet), and are happy to get feedback or queries from visitors.  And look out for companies such as Family Tree Magazine who are offering trial discounts, plus a free DNA guide if you sign up for their e-newsletter.

The Show’s website is by far the most eye-catching I’ve seen in the last 18 months of everything-going-online. I was touched to find out about Parker, their mascot owl. He's named after a respected colleague of the Show, Robert Parker, who sadly passed away last year.

Learn more about The Genealogy Show at

Monday, 21 June 2021

Free Family History Mini-Class 2021 : Lesson 10

For the final lesson in this series of mini-classes, I’m sharing some online tools that you may find helpful as you continue with your research, whether that’s just beginning, or is a long-term project.  These ideas can build your skills as well as your family tree – and like everything else in this course, they are completely free.

☙  Try a spot of descendant research, using the intriguing Puzzilla app that connects to your FamilySearch Tree.

☙  Have FT Analyzer check out your GEDCOM file for potential lines of research or problems. Family Tree Magazine’s Rachel Bellerby gave it a test drive and you can read her review here.

☙  Mind mapping for genealogy – use this study idea to organise your research, and perhaps download the free software it suggests. 
☙  Choose some of these PDF family tree charts to organise and display your genealogy. Scroll down to find the freebies!

☙  And finally, sign in to RootsTech Connect to access to all the classes and resources. You can do this with your FamilySearch account, if you have one - if you don't, check out the benefits here.

Thanks for taking my mini-classes! You can review them 
here on the Frugal Family History blog, or share them with your genealogy buddies – and come back soon to check out 
what else is new here.

Saturday, 12 June 2021

Three Essentials of Scottish Research - Church, Civil, and Census records

Edinburgh, Home to Scotland's Records

Are you trying to work out which records are most likely to feature your Scottish ancestors?  Do you hit a brick wall when you look for a birth or death certificate? If you’re in need of a boost or some tips to get your research going, I may have just the thing for you.

At The Genealogy Show, this year online and available wherever you are, I’ll be sharing some pointers and showing you how to search for and interpret civil, census, and church records – without having to make the journey to Edinburgh. 

Tune in to my talk “Three Essentials of Scottish Research” - but don’t be put off by the early start time if you’re in the UK!  The 80+ presentations are all pre-recorded, and once they're broadcast, your show ticket gives you access to them for 30 days afterwards, so you can pick the ones you want to watch, when you want to watch them.

And check out a sneak preview of my other Show presentation, A Grand (Virtual) Tour of Scotland's Archives.