Growing up, I was always fascinated by Scotland and my family tree. My father was born in Glasgow but immigrated to Canada with his family at the age of 13. Luckily for me I was able to get my british passport (hence my dreams of living in Europe were realized).
The first time I visited Scotland was after high school and I was able to meet a ton of family that I have never met before( nor had my own father). I enjoyed that visit so much that I longed to go back time and time again. There is something about Scotland that is so mysterious yet charming. All the old castles, green hills and lively people- it has a character all in its own.
Last year I decided to stay with some family outside of Glasgow for an extended amount of time. While I was there I discovered a course on discovering your family tree, and it was being taught at the Edinburgh University by one of the leading genealogists in the city. I thought to myself when ever will I have the chance to do something like this again-so I enrolled in it.
Now, being Scottish I am at an advantage as its known that Scottish records are by far some of the best kept in the world. So for anyone interested in learning about your tree I will share a few things I learned ( although if you have Scottish ancestry, you might have a few more resources).
Where to start?
The best way to start your research is to make your way backwards. Depending on what side of the family you are working with ( maternal or paternal) you can you start with the basics.
Gather as many documents as you can( your parent’s/grandparent’s birth certificate, marriage certificate etc).
Family tree research is based on records with the main ones being
- Birth Certificate
- Marriage Certificate
- Death Certificate
What are you looking for?
- Place of birth( town, church)
- Parent’s name( mother’s maiden name)
- Parent’s occupation
- Church name
- Home address + occupation of couple getting married
- The parents names and their occupation
- When and where did they die
- Their age at death
- The name of parents
- Cause of death
- Signature of resident in the house or informant at the time
The Census’s are quite handy when it comes to research. Every ten years since 1801 there has been a census.
What can you find in the census?
In the census it shows who were all living at a particular address at that time. It also includes the occupations and ages of residents. If you are trying to track someone down over a certain amount of time, this can come in handy.
How do you find all these records?
Unless you have been lucky and your family have passed down all these records over time, you will most likely have to check on an online database like ‘Ancestry.com’ or ‘Scotland’s people'( if you are scottish of course).
For those researching their tree for the first time, Ancestry.com is a good starting point. You can start off by adding in any of the names, dates or locations of the people you are researching. As you build your tree, Ancestry.com gives you clues, connecting your tree with other people’s trees who have the same or similar research. This is pretty cool as you can connect with people who might share the same family tree as you.
One thing you will realize when researching your family tree is that it branches into so many directions that you would be surprised who you are “related” to.
*As it turns out Madonna and Ellen are connected through their 10th great grandfather( an immigrant from France), making them 11th cousins.
If you have scottish roots your better option is checking out Scotland’s people.
What is so great about this data base is that it lets you see the original records( through scanned copies) and you are able to download them to your computer. This comes in handy when piecing everything together.
You can search for free ( birth, death, marriage, census, old parish records) and it will show you all the people with the same information(name+dates). In order to verify if it is your actual family member you must pay credits. It costs 7 pounds for 30 credits with certain documents costing more credits than others- so be careful before you click on it.
Other ways to find more information:
If you know where some of your family might have been buried, grave stones can offer some clues. Make sure to check the dates( birth, death) and names of family they left behind.
My cousin and I did some research by exploring a few cemeteries outside of Glasgow. We were able to find a few names that we were looking for which was beneficial as we could not find much online. You dont know what you will find unless you look! It also interesting to see some of the old gravestones, as they are at least a few hundred years old ( older than Canada even!).
From my research I was able to go back to the 1700’s on my fathers paternal side. My grandfather 5 generations back worked in a cemetery and my cousin and I were able to visit the cemetery he possibly worked at.
I was also able to find some interesting facts about my grandma’s paternal side. For example, we have a world war two war hero in the family.
Once you start research its really hard to stop as you slowly feel yourself going back in time and getting to know these people. It is also crazy to think that these people played a key role in you existing at all.
If you ever get the chance to start your family tree I highly suggest diving into it and if you are scottish or have scottish ancestry consider making a trip out of it and finding everything you can while there- you will not be disappointed.
Interested in learning more?
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