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Creating new Melrose one-place study website

I’ve had a hand-coded HTML site for my one-place study for some years, but it has become rather unwieldy in terms of structure and organisation, and it’s not the easiest thing for people to read.

So I’ve now switched to a WordPress-based site, which will have a much more structured approach to the resources that I put online. I am also hoping it will encourage me to add more!

The new site also incorporates the accompanying blog. All the previous blog entries have been imported, but their original in-text links may not all work. I will fix them over time. And new posts will be added to the blog here in future.

Slides for talk about Melrose regality court in 17th century – a well used Scottish local court

Just put online slides from a talk I gave about 17th century Melrose some years ago.

Viv's Academic Blog

I’ve been spending much time in the last week in the 17th century, transcribing a lengthy poem about a corrupt court judge at Melrose in the 1680s. Doing that reminded me of the talk I gave in September 2013, at the conference of the Economic and Social History Society of Scotland, held in Inverness. I thought it would be nice if I put the PowerPoint slides from that online, so have done that – link here. It was a 20-minute talk, as is usual for academic conferences, so I was limited in how much I could say. But I covered a lot in the time allowed.

My talk was titled “Glimpses into a time of turmoil: examining the regality court records of Melrose, Roxburghshire, 1657-1706”, and was based on the dissertation for my taught MPhil degree at Dundee. I studied the voluminous local court records for Melrose regality…

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Major update to Melrose WW1 soldiers list

Today I’ve uploaded a new version of my list of Melrose WW1 servicemen. This is a major update, adding over 100 names of new soldiers to the list, taking the total to nearly 350. Significant numbers of soldiers who were born in Melrose but lived and enlisted elsewhere have been added, as well as new soldiers from and in Melrose itself. In addition new information has been found out about many of the previously known soldiers.

The online list will continue to be updated over the coming years. The next goal is to incorporate the names of the soldiers recorded in the town’s Roll of Honour in the Ormiston Institute. I hope to collect these names later in 2016, and add them later this year, or more likely in 2017. And I would also research any extra names, to find out as much as possible. This Roll of Honour includes men who survived as well as those who died. Though it will omit many who had moved away from Melrose, but were originally from the town.

Smallpox references in Roxburghshire, from my one-place study and personal family history

Just blogged about references to smallpox in Roxburghshire records, and in particular in Melrose records. Both parish registers and memoirs of a childhood inoculation at Toftfield near Darnick, probably in the 1780s.

Viv's Ancestry Blog

Reading a recent blog post by Emma Maxwell of Scottish Indexes re finding smallpox references in unusual places reminded me of some references to smallpox I’ve seen in my genealogical research.

Firstly from my Melrose one-place study the Melrose parish registers include a burial register from 1781 onwards which includes causes of death, including many cases of smallpox.

Melrose burials registerNames, addresses and ages at death are also given. The pre-1820 Melrose parish registers have been transcribed and indexed, and a PDF version of the resulting Scottish Record Society book is readily downloadable from archive.org. I intend to analyse these burial registers more fully soon as part of my one-place study, including analysing the causes of death as given.

I also have a nice reference to smallpox from my own family history. In his memoirs my distant uncle Andrew Usher (1782-1855) who founded the whisky distilling dynasty in Edinburgh recalled his smallpox…

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1911 excavation report of Trimontium Roman fort available freely online

Although this one-place study focuses on the period with documentary evidence that can be studied and transcribed, especially before 1820, there is also an interest in the wider chronological history of Melrose and the surrounding area. And that includes extending far back in time before documentary evidence is available.

One of the most famous sites in the Melrose area is the Roman fort of Trimontium, which was excavated in the early 20th century. There is now a permanent Trimontium museum in the town, and the Trimontium Trust promotes the site and its history.

So I’m pleased to be able to say that the 1911 excavation report for Trimontium is available freely online. See here, in particular the link to the PDF page. PDFs of individual chapters are available, or a single 400+ page PDF of the whole book can be downloaded.

Pulling out list of RHP plans for Melrose parish from NRS catalogue

I’ve been using the National Archives of Scotland (previously Scottish Record Office) online catalogues for many years. Now it’s part of the National Records of Scotland, and I’ve just been trying some more catalogue searches, and found something new for me. The NRS has lots of plans for places in Scotland in the past, including maps, sketch plans of places, and architectural plans. And these seem to be largely tagged by place.

Searching for the place tag for Melrose parish finds 228 of these RHP maps and plans, from the 18th to the 20th centuries. Check out the list to see if any might concern your ancestors, depending on when and where they lived. Contact the NRS for further information on accessing these records, including arranging photocopies or digital copies.

First working list of Melrose WW1 servicemen online

I’ve previously announced a WW1 project associated with the Melrose one-place study.

The working list of servicemen traced has now been put online. This will grow over time, especially after I have a chance to study the Roll of Honour of 454 serving Melrose men that is held in the Ormiston Institute. This Roll of Honour includes men who lived as well as those who died. In this first working version of the servicemen list relatively more men who died than lived are included. This should change over time.

To see the list, and please remember that it will be updated, see here.

Starting a WW1 project for Melrose

For my two one-place studies, Coldingham and Melrose, I’ve decided to start a project researching soldiers from World War I that I can trace. This is quite difficult to do, because the soldier records are in many cases incomplete, many lost due to World War II bombing. But it’s also hard for both parishes because of the high populations. It’s unlikely, for example, for me to be able to draw up a list of all men of the right age range, and look for all of them in the records, one by one. Rather I will use resources like Ancestry to try to find soldiers who were recorded as living in the right places.

Both parishes have war memorials, and the lives and deaths of the men recorded on them have previously been researched by others (see “Melrose War Memorials” book available from the Borders Family History Society). I do not plan to replicate this work about the soldiers who died during the conflict. Instead I’m looking for all soldiers that I can find, living or dead, in the surviving army records, particularly those I can search from home online.

I will be preparing a list of the men I find for Melrose, and putting it in the one-place study website. This will be a slow ongoing process, and more information will be added as I find it. I will be using as my model for this list Alex Coles’s list of WW1 soldiers traced for Wing in Buckinghamshire, though I will probably aim, where possible, to put more information online in my basic list. And I would aim to keep copies of relevant records that I trace, including any detailed soldier service records, so they can be passed on to any descendants or other relatives of the soldiers who get in touch.

I would also welcome information from modern descendants who have known relatives from each place who served during WW1. Feel free to contact me about this on email at viv.dunstan@one-name.org

Photograph of a large group of Melrose children in 1909

I collect old postcards of Melrose, and particularly like the photographic ones that show major events in the town in the past, such as this one.

I’ve just got hold of another one, showing a large group of children at Melrose on 25th March 1909. They are described as the principals and chorus of Kinderspiel “The Gipsies”.

I wonder if anyone can spot their relatives in there. My grandfather wasn’t born until the following year, but he had older cousins, on both sides of his family, who could be there. Click on the picture to see a larger version of it.

Melrose choir in 1909

Surnames per place derived from baptisms

Melrose parish registers, like Scottish parish registers in general, include addresses within the parish when children were baptised. This can be used to work out exactly where ancestors lived, but it’s also possible to trace which surnames were resident in specific areas, in an era long before the 19th century census returns.

Based on this principle I’ve started analysing surnames recorded for families bringing children to be baptised in Melrose in specific decades. The surnames recorded are those of the fathers, and only noted where an address inside the parish is given. So far I’ve analysed the baptisms for 1700-1709, 1750-1759 and 1800-1809.

The results are sorted by place name within the parish, and list the surnames associated with each place, at least as far as the baptism evidence goes. As I say on the relevant page

They aren’t complete lists of surnames in these places, being restricted to parents (usually fathers) having children baptised in the period. But it is hoped that gathering this information is useful, showing changing surname patterns over time, at least in part, as well as changing place names occupied in the parish.

For more details see the appropriate page in my Melrose one-place study website.