Ancestors recording meteorological observations in 19th century

I found out tonight that two of my direct ancestors – a father and son – recorded weather conditions in 19th century Melrose. Here’s the blog post which I wrote about it on my own dedicated ancestry/genealogy blog.

Viv's Ancestry Blog

Thanks to the British Newspaper Archive digitising many decades of Southern Reporter issues, I’ve just found lots of references to ancestors in the Borders. And they include some very unexpected ones, like those described in this blog post, where two generations of Dodds ancestors at Abbey Gate in Melrose were recording the weather conditions, with the results printed in the newspaper.

The first references come from meteorological observations made by Alexander Dodds (1816-1877). As well as being church officer, or beadle, for Melrose parish, he was burgh officer and baron officer, and took a wage directly from the Duke of Buccleuch. His weather observations were reported as below:

Southern Reporter, 1873 January 9


The following return of the rainfall for the past year, compared with that of the previous year, is furnished by Mr Alexander Dodds, Abbey Gate. The elevation of Melrose above the sea level is…

View original post 298 more words

Melrose dog tax records for 1797

I’ve just put online my notes from the Melrose dog tax records of 1797. This tax was levied on non-working dogs, so presumably pets, including possibly former working dogs now too old to work. The list is relatively short, but I was quite pleased to see some ancestors pop up in there. Two 6xg-grandfathers: James Blaikie of Langhaugh, and James Usher of Toftfield. Both had two taxable dogs. I wish I knew what the dogs’ names were!

I posted this just now to my blog for general academic historical musings. But it includes a bit about Melrose in 1892, so reblogging here.

Viv's Academic Blog

A TV series which I’ve enjoyed in recent years is Paul Murton’s Grand Tours of Scotland using an old 19th century guidebook as his guide. I bought a copy of the same guidebook, Black’s Picturesque Guide to Scotland, in my case the 1892 edition, and have been enjoying reading it. It has useful descriptions – often illustrated – of the main tourist destinations, as well as information on lesser-known attractions.

Edinburgh pages in 1892 guidebook

Although it’s hardly the main focus of the book I particularly like the series of advertisements at the back, many from Scotland, but some from other parts of the UK and Ireland too. These include adverts from hotels touting for guests. The one that really made me grin was the thought of buses transporting people from the railway station at Melrose to the George & Abbotsford Hotel. It’s only about 2 minutes walk round the corner! But I guess…

View original post 130 more words

Goals for Melrose one-place study in 2013

As we near the end of another year and approach the start of a new one I thought I’d blog about my goals for this blog and the related one-place study for the year ahead.

My first priority will be to digitise the various references to Melrose-dwellers I’ve extracted from 18th century tax references. These are from a mix of sources such as servant tax records, and farm horse tax. All potentially useful for genealogists tracing their family tree, and it shouldn’t take me much time to digitise them and put them online.

Another priority is to create a detailed person index to the 17th century regality court records. In the original Scottish History Society publications there is an index at the back of names, but it doesn’t give more details in the index about the people such as their occupations and places of residence. I have extracted this detail from the court records, and could easily prepare a much more useful index including for each person any extra information recorded such as address, occupation, and any relatives, and put this online.

Longer-term I want to start to reconstitute the population, but that’s a long-term goal. For now I am focusing on putting useful indexes and other resources online.

Employees of the Royal Bank of Scotland in Melrose in 1905

Another old postcard that I picked up on eBay shows a group of bank employees outside the Royal Bank of Scotland in Melrose. The postcard was written by the young man in the middle, and he noted the names of his fellow employees standing beside him. The postcard was posted in November 1905.

The young man, Jim, was sending the postcard to his parents, and addressed it to Mr and Mrs Gilbert Cowan, Montague Street, Newcastleton.

Looking in the 1901 census finds the family: 36-year-old father Gilbert Cowan, a coal merchant, his 37-year-old wife, Jane, and their children James, 10, Richard, 7, Gilbert, 5, and Mary Jane, 4. This means that Jim was only 14 or 15 when photographed outside the bank in Melrose. In his note he asked his parents not to worry about him. It is hardly surprising they did, given he was working away from home so young.

Of course at this time there would have been a train link between Melrose and Newcastleton, and Jim would not have been so far away from home had he travelled that way. However it is likely that he could only visit his parents rarely, partly for cost reasons, partly due to his work commitments.

By 1911 Jim was back at home in Newcastleton, with his parents and siblings, and now working as a colliery clerk.

I’ve tried to look for his fellow bank employees in census returns, but their names are a bit difficult to decipher reliably, and even at my best guesses (most likely Inch and Jerkins) have been unable to trace them in census returns, either 1901 or 1911. But maybe descendants will recognise them.

Click on the images in turn to see larger versions of each one.

P.S. I’ve just been using Google Street View to double check what the Royal Bank of Scotland building in Melrose looks like now. It’s just as I remember it from childhood, and remarkably unchanged on the outside from a century ago.

Coronation Service in Melrose Abbey, 9th August 1902

I keep an eye on old Melrose postcards on eBay. Even though my main focus in the one-place study is pre-1820 it’s nice to look for interesting pictures of Melrose in the past.

One that I found recently shows part of the service held in the Abbey for the Coronation of King Edward VII. The postcard shows a large group of locals gathered together for the service, including many young ladies in fine dresses, and also local dignitaries.

I’ve been peering at the picture trying to spot any ancestors. My Dodds ancestors lived there then, and one of them at the time – probably Alexander elder brother of my great-grandfather – would have been beadle or church officer, so definitely at any service. My Hall ancestors also lived near Melrose at this time.

A message is written on the front side of the postcard, and the back of the postcard shows who it was to be sent to, as well as carrying the stamp and date of posting.

Click on the images in turn to see larger versions of each one.

Studying Melrose hearth tax records for 1694

I’ve just put online my notes from the Melrose parish hearth tax records of 1694. I analysed these records in 2002, as part of my taught Masters postgraduate degree. I was using them to estimate the population of people in Melrose parish then, including a village-by-village breakdown.

Looking through the list of names a couple jumped out at me based on my extensive research into the local regality court records of preceding decades. The long-serving court clerk was still listed in the hearth tax, as was the Gattonside man sued in 1673 after an accused murderer he had acted as surety for escaped on horseback from Melrose jail.

I must study these tax records more closely, to see what other names I recognise from the huge numbers of people who were involved with the court. But this is an interesting start.