I’m pleased to say that the article based on my postgraduate Masters research into Melrose’s court is now newly published. It’s in the Journal of Scottish Historical Studies, and is currently the featured article, so can be read and downloaded freely by anyone without subscription. Enjoy! I had much fun doing this. I completed this research long ago, before doing my separate history PhD. It’s been a delight to revisit the work, and consider what else I can do with it.
I’m a member of the Society for One-Place Studies, which supports people doing one-place studies like mine. This year I took part in their annual A to Z blogging challenge. My blog post, which is now live on their site, is for letter W, and about one of my favourite people from 17th century Melrose, regality court clerk Thomas Wilkieson. I hope to write more mini biographies of some of the fascinating characters I’ve encountered in the rich Melrose court records. More soon, hopefully! Meanwhile enjoy the new blog post.
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.
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.