If it had been a good day on Friday I would have gone off in the car to Perthshire, for a little tour around the places where one of my families came from. However, it was pretty dreich in the morning, with a threat of rain, so instead I went to Edinburgh for another day among the records at Register House, aka the Scotland’s People Centre, looking for traces of the same family. It was a cousin who years ago, when I was “nobbut a lass”, showed me the very first family tree I had ever seen. There I was at the bottom of the page and all these folk above were connected to me. Kathleen pointed out my direct line back to a crofter/shoemaker in Perthshire in the 1700s, and I was hooked – especially as I had the family name as a middle name, named for dad’s favourite aunt. So that’s how I started my quest to find out more of my family history.
I’ve written about Register House quite recently so forgive me if I repeat myself, but it is a wonderful building, completed in 1822 as a purpose built repository for the records and archives of Scotland. Researching Scottish ancestry is not too difficult generally as all the records are here. Old Parochial Records of births, marriages and deaths up till 1854, statutory records from then on – these give far more detail and are therefore far more useful to the genealogist – census records, wills, etc…. they are all here in this building, and thanks to the Lord Lyon King of Arms they are all available to research. Originally, all the records were in books, stored on miles of shelves, as above right. These are the actual old records accessed by spiral staircases only available to staff nowadays. You may notice that each gallery has another inner gallery. The domes remind me of the Iron Age broch with its double skinned walls with galleries running between them.
Later the records were filmed for microfiches, but gradually over the last couple of decades they have been digitalised and whereas once you would be spending a lot of time searching on foot for the right drawer where your microfiche was to be found, now you need not move from your little niche in the research room, under the dome in this case – left - finding all the indexes and records on the computer screen in front of you. On the screen here, is a copy of an old parish record, which my neighbour then had printed out for her own files. Our desks were in one of the domes, in the inner gallery. You can probably see in the long photo above how there are desks behind screens – there to allow a free circulation of air . Before the big renovations, completed this year, there would have been a solid wall, separating dome from a gallery of microfiche drawers!
The main dome, the roof of which you see in the picture at the beginning of this post, is very ornate. I love the way the space has been used in a decorative, as well as useful fashion. Those bookshelves are beautiful, as is the dome ceiling, creatively decorated with plaster garlands, lozenges, arches and bosses, and sympathetically painted in pastel tones. Whereas the other dome was more practical, this one may well have been the reading room once.
Doors in and out of the dome face each other, north/ south, with large alcoves facing each other at the east/west positions. In one stands a full size Carrara marble sculpture of King George III, the one known for his “madness”, the one who reigned at the time this building was being constructed.
At the rear of Register House is a recently created garden known as The Archivist’s Garden, which connects New Register House, behind me, the main Register House, to the right of the photo, and the Office of Sasines, the tower in the centre. Here are to be found details of transfers of property since the 1500s. So far I haven’t made any sojourns into this department, but I may do so soon.
Anyway, despite my wonderful surroundings, my day spent here was not quite as profitable as I had hoped this time. Instead I came home rather confused about little anomalies I had found in the records of way back. I think I may have to do a bit of communicating with recently found relations, asking questions! A genealogist’s life is never straightforward!!
Talk again soon.