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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.

Index of ~9000 court participants at Melrose, 1657-1676

I have just put online a detailed index of almost 9000 participants in Melrose regality court between 1657 and 1676. I studied this local court’s records for my MPhil dissertation, and built a database from them. In the process I recorded details of people participating in the court: pursuers who went to court with complaints, defenders who disputed their claims, and other mentioned people, mostly people local to the regality. The regality included all of Melrose parish, and stretched north almost to Lauder, west almost to Galashiels, east almost to Earlston, southeast to Lessudden (St Boswells), and south nearly to Bowden. The population of the regality then was probably about 2500, but many people appeared before the court multiple times, disputing things with neighbours, business contacts, or relatives. The court included some criminal cases, but was primarily a civil court, for disputes between individuals.

There is also a person index in the regality court transcript books, but this online index is more detailed, including information where recorded about occupations, addresses, and any relatives. Due to its length and size the index is split into three sections. Fields in the table are standardised version of name, name as recorded, occupation/designation, address, any additional notes (often relatives are mentioned), the case ID as used in my database, and type of reference i.e. whether pursuer, defender, or another mention. Entries in the table are sorted by standardised version of name then case ID. The case ID can be used to look up the full case details, and details of how to do this, including links to digitised versions of the court transcript books, are given in my web pages.

These court records are a wonderful resource, giving a valuable glimpse into late 17th century life in Melrose and surrounding areas. Unfortunately they largely predate detailed useful parish registers, so it may not be possible to reliably link up later families to these earlier ones. But they are still well worth studying, and hopefully this new detailed person index will provide a new way of accessing them.

To see the new person index see here.