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Its Burn’s night tonight and so I began thinking about how my Scottish ancestors may have celebrated this important anniversary.
Burns Night falls on 25 January every year, the date having been chosen to coincide with the poet’s birthday, who was born on 25 January 1759. According to Wikipedia Robert Burns, also known familiarly as Rabbie Burns, the National Bard, Bard of Ayrshire and the Ploughman Poet and various other names and epithets, was a Scottish poet and lyricist. He is widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland and is celebrated worldwide. See: Wikipedia
To celebrate this anniversary I have sat down with a copy of Chris Paton’s new book: Tracing Your Scottish Ancestry Through Church & State Records. Pen & Sword November 2019
My Scotts ancestors are a fascinating bunch and so in the hope of being able to trace a bit more about them I have turned to the latest book written by the respected genealogist and writer who runs Scotland’s Greatest Story research service.
It always bodes well when just a few pages into a genealogy book that the author manages to capture my attention by expanding my knowledge with a number of facts that I had not known and which allow me to experience that ‘light-bulb’ moment when I think: Ah that explains why…so and so. That was exactly what happened to me when reading this new Scottish ancestry book from Chris Paton, the well respected author and professional genealogist.
I have sometimes wondered why I had found an ancestor born on the continent in an European country, but who also appears within the Scottish records in Edinburgh. This publication has finally cleared it up for me. As the book points out, as well as the normal civil records, that you would expect to find recorded at the General Record Office for Scotland (GROS), there are also a number of Minor Records that relate to Scots residing or working overseas in certain capacities, as well as those born at Sea (until a UK based authority took over births at sea in 1874).
Another point that I had not been fully aware of was that adoption in Scotland was not placed on a legal footing until the Adoptions of Children (Scotland) Act 1930 came into force. The book taught me that the NRS Register of Adoptions can only be consulted in person at the ScotlandsPeople Centre and it gave me other helpful details about researching adopted people in Scotland.
I was very interested to learn about the differences between Regular and Irregular Marriages and to understand the differences between a marriage by declaration, a betrothal followed by intercourse and a marriage by habit and repute. Again, to understand that there are a number of minor records of marriage that covered Scots people abroad I thought could be important when researching some of our ancestors living in foreign countries.
A fact that I had not know until I read this book was that uniquely, in the British Isles, Scotland has a Register of Corrected Entries for its civil records. This would allow a name to be put right if it had been given incorrectly to the registrar at the time of registration. This seems so sensible as I am aware of a member of my family whose registered name was misspelt by her father when he registered it in the English system, with the records remaining incorrect to this day!
I was fascinated to read the brief history of the Church in Scotland, especially as I have a Scots ancestor who was an Episcopalian Bishop in Perthshire and now I see why his family were supporters of the Jacobite cause in 1745-46. Other ancestors of mine from Scotland were Covenantors and so I have been given a better understanding of their religious leaning. Previously I had only noted them in the records where I had found them, be it in Church of Scotland parishes, the Scottish Episcopal Church or others. I had not fully understood the various factions that had broken away from the State Kirk and how, even in the branch of my family tree that was Scots, that my ancestors may have had different views on religion from each other.
When looking at the Old Parish Records, which I have done for a number of my ancestors who were married before civil registration took place in January 1855, Chris Paton suggests in this book that we researchers should always consult both the marriage register and the Kirk session minutes “even if there appears to be nothing out of the ordinary with the marriage record”. His example of a couple who tried to get away with banns being read twice on one Sunday, because of their hurry to be married before the baby was born, made me smile.
The advice that Church of Scotland registers may also contain the names of dissenting couples whose banns are being read is yet another example of how educating this volume was for me. The author suggests that we pay careful attention to the name of the minister that performed their marriage as this can reveal the denomination of the church that the wedding actually took place within. Should the minister’s name differ from the incumbent of the Parish Church, in whose register the banns had been published, then the minister’s name can lead us to find the nonconformist church or chapel where the marriage took place.
There is so much more that I could have brought up in this short review that I found interesting in this book, from understanding Land Tenure and the chapters on Inheritance and Law and Order.
I thoroughly recommend that anyone with Scots heritage get hold of Tracing Your Scottish Ancestry Through Church & State Records as I am sure you wont be disappointed by it!
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