Thursday, 26 February 2015

British GENES podcast launch

Well I've been toying with this as an idea for a while, and have finally bitten the bullet - the British GENES Podcast is born!

The aim of the new monthly podcast will be to bring some of the top stories each month from the British Isles and beyond. In this first edition (where I have been learning to find my feet using sound editing platforms and more!), I look at 3 parent babies, the use of DNA to preserve digital data, the National Records of Scotland's announcement on its future property requirements, historic Ordnance Survey maps for Northern Ireland, the possibility for digital access to English and Welsh vital records, and the value of the Statistical Accounts of Scotland. There's also information on the forthcoming Scottish Research Online course from Pharos Tutors which kicks off next week.

As I get more confident with it I will hopefully bring interviews with some of the great and the good in the local genie scene and wider afield, as well as tips to help with research, and more. At the moment I want to walk before I run! I'm still learning here, so hope to improve how this is recorded in due course (for example there is a minor hum in the background from the PC stack, noted for future reference!)

So here goes...

(Also available at

Please let me know what you think!


For details on my range of genealogy guide books please visit To commission me for genealogical research, please visit my research site at

Alloway and Southern Ayrshire FHS to cease

Bad news on the family history society front...

Alloway and Southern Ayrshire Family History Society held an extraordinary general meeting last month to discuss its future. Unable to fill its core officer posts and committee members, as required by its constitution, the society, which was founded in 1997, has reluctantly decided to wind up its activities after its current year end on March 31st 2015.

This is a very tragic development for the society, and symptomatic of the pressures affecting many societies today not just in Scotland but across Britain. I had the pleasure on a few occasions to give talks to the group in Alloway, the home village of Robert Burns, and will be sorry to see the society wind up its affairs. Thanks to all for their generous hospitality in the past.

The full announcement is available on the society website at

(With thanks to Jack Davis)


For details on my range of genealogy guide books please visit To commission me for genealogical research, please visit my research site at

Irish Probate Genealogy Partners established in Dublin

A new probate research service has been established in Ireland, as a collaboration between Eneclann and Heirs Ireland. The service is called Irish Probate Genealogy Partners, and details on its services can be accessed at

(With thanks to Laura Carroll at Eneclann)


For details on my range of genealogy guide books please visit To commission me for genealogical research, please visit my research site at

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

TNA's Evaluating Archives survey

The National Archives in England ( is asking for people to participate in  short 10-15 minute survey to help it evaluate the impact of 'Archives for the 21st century', the government policy on archives.

For more on the survey, and to access it, please visit


For details on my range of genealogy guide books please visit To commission me for genealogical research, please visit my research site at

Memories of Maritime Leith project

From Historic Scotland (

Memories of Edinburgh’s maritime past explored in new project

A unique local community project has captured a series of personal stories, shedding new light on the rich history of Scotland’s once bustling chief port of Leith.

The Memories of Maritime Leith project saw members of the local Leith community invited to share their own personal tales and memories of the area, which was once the focus of the seafaring community for centuries.

Over a number of months, the project saw four residents of Leith share their own accounts, memories and experiences of the city’s nautical history, inspired by objects held at Trinity House Maritime Museum – once the former headquarters of the Incorporation of Masters and Mariners. The collection at Trinity House includes a vast array of objects and special items from naval history, from navigational instruments and models of ships to furniture, maps and even a 200-year-old harpoon.

These stories charting the memories of four ordinary people, have now been made into four special short-length films, capturing new insights into Edinburgh’s seafaring past.

The digital stories, featuring the participants’ memoirs are paired with personal photographs as well as other images, objects and paintings from the collection at Trinity House. All four short audio stories will be screened at a special event for those involved with the project to celebrate Leith’s maritime heritage and history.

The Memories of Maritime Leith films include:

A Bow-Tow Remembers by Sophia Abrahamsen
From Lerwick to Leith by Stephen Hall
Leith Docks by Ramsay Tubb
All at Sea by Andrew Grant

The Memories of Maritime Leith project was created in partnership with Historic Scotland, The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) and The Living Memory Association.

The completed films form a learning and educational resource, helping to raise awareness and engagement with Leith’s colourful maritime past. Trinity House will regularly screen the films as part of their community learning programmes and will be shared through talks for community groups and care homes in the area.

Commenting on the project, Craig Fletcher, Senior Learning Manager at Historic Scotland, said: “The Memories of Maritime Leith project engaged with older members of Leith’s community and encouraged them to share their own stories and memories of the area during the height of its maritime past.

“Each of the four films and story-tellers offer a truly unique perspective and insight into a different part of Edinburgh’s nautical heritage, bringing it to life with their own story and personal photographs.

“These digital stories will enable several individual’s personal accounts of Leith’s maritime past to be recorded and shared at a wider level for current and future generations.”

Miles Tubb, Project Coordinator at The Living Memory Association, added: “This community project provided the opportunity for Leith’s residents to revisit a part of their past and share their own individual account of their local community’s heritage with others around them.”

“We hope that people will enjoy hearing their stories first hand, and more about the objects which helped inspire them.”

The Memories of Maritime Leith project was funded by The Historic Scotland Foundation. The films will shortly be made available on the Historic Scotland website and YouTube channel; to learn more please visit: or

(With thanks to Grant Thomson)


For details on my range of genealogy guide books please visit To commission me for genealogical research, please visit my research site at

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Scottish Monumental Inscriptions update

Scottish Monumental Inscriptions ( have announced their latest data CDs, bringing the number available now to 354. The data can also be obtained as PDF digital downloads (though these do not come with the photographs included on the CDs).

Daviot Church (Inverness)
Insh Church (Inverness)
Kingussie Cemetery (Highland)
Struan Church (Perth & Kinross)
Dyke church (Moray)
Kirkton of Ardersier Cemetery (Inverness)
Petty-Torgrain Cemetery (Inverness)
Geddes Church (Nairn)
Ardclach Churchyard (Nairn)
Brachligh- Gollanfield Cemetery (Inverness)
Inverallan BG (Moray)
Fonab Cemetery (Perth & Kinross)
Insh Cemetery (Inverness)
Alvie Church (Inverness)
Auldearn Church (Nairn)
Ardersier Cemetery (Inverness)

The team are also looking for volunteer transcribers - for full details see the full newsletter at


For details on my range of genealogy guide books please visit To commission me for genealogical research, please visit my research site at

Monday, 23 February 2015

Archiving the Troubles workshop at PRONI

From PRONI in Belfast (

In PRONI next week we have our Accounts of the Conflict -The Challenges and Opportunities in Creating a Digital Archive of Personal Accounts of ‘the Troubles’ Workshop (Wednesday 4th March 2015 at 10.30am – 12 noon)

A workshop lead by Professor Gillian Robinson and Dr Brendan Lynn, Ulster University.

Contact PRONI to reserve a place (at

(With thanks to the PRONI Express)


For details on my range of genealogy guide books please visit To commission me for genealogical research, please visit my research site at

The Second World War in Northern Ireland website

I'm not sure that I have come across this site before, but if you are interested in the home front situation in Ulster during the Second World War, I'd recommend having a look at Andy Glenfield's comprehensive website The Second World War in Northern Ireland at There are some interesting pages on incidents such as the Belfast Blitz (which my grandparents were caught up in) and instances I certainly wasn't familiar with, such as a bombing at Bangor in County Down.

(With thanks to my brother!)


For details on my range of genealogy guide books please visit To commission me for genealogical research, please visit my research site at

Glamorgan schools activities in the First World War

There's an interesting piece at on the role of Glamorgan based schools during the First World War, including fund raising activities for refugees and entertainment for recuperating wounded troops. The article utilises school log books held at Glamorgan Archives.

(With thanks to @GlamArchives and @WalesRemembers)


For details on my range of genealogy guide books please visit To commission me for genealogical research, please visit my research site at

Sunday, 22 February 2015

The last heir - ultimus haeres records and retours

Another repost from other wee blog, this time from a case study I uploaded in August of last year concerning some fascinating documents known as ultimus haeres records. Enjoy!

I recently had an interesting case to look at where a client contacted me to try to trace the relationship between a John Menzies and James Alexander Playfair MacLaren, with Menzies having been appointed as MacLaren's heir some two years after his death in 1910. The client had already obtained some solicitor's records and some sasines (land transfer records) outlining to a degree what had happened to the deceased's estate, but without the relevant genealogical information. There were mentions of family trees having been drawn up to prove the claim - could I essentially find the other side of the conversation, and work out the relationships by locating the mentioned tree charts?

The deceased was a gentleman called James Alexander Playfair MacLaren, who had passed away in November 1910. He died without any immediate lawful issue, and no claimants were immediately forthcoming as prospective heirs. In Scotland, if no claimants step forward in such circumstances, after a suitable period the estate goes to the Crown as Ultimus Haeres, which is Latin for the 'last heir' (see The papers that my client held seemed to indicate that this was what had happened to James' estate, and so the first step was to first confirm that it had indeed fallen to the Crown. To do this I ordered up the Ultimus Haeres lists for the year in question, and confirmed it to be the case (they are catalogued under E869).

Next up, I then called up the Treasury Report in which the case would have been mentioned. In some cases genealogical evidence can be found included alongside these reports, and it was hoped that the family tree chart might have been included here - sadly this avenue turned out to be something of a damp squib in this case, however, simply noting that James' unclaimed estate had fallen to the Crown on 14 FEB 1911, with his lands due to be sold off in 9 lots. After any debts incurred by the deceased were paid off, the rest was to go to the office of the King's and Lord Treasurer's Remembrancer in Edinburgh, or KALTR (today it would be to the Queen's and Lord Treasurer's Remembrancer).

My next avenue now was to consult what are known as the Procedure Books, catalogued under E851. These provide a summary of developments concerning the administration of the Ultimus Haeres process, but also any subsequent claims made on the Crown by prospective heirs late to respond to the initial advertisements made by the KALTR for claimants to step forward. In this case I was now fortunate to get a 5 page summary of written conversations held between the agents of John Menzies and the KALTR's office. This slowly began to reveal some genealogical information. For starters, it noted that James MacLaren was the eldest lawful son of the late James MacLaren, draper of Coupar Angus, who was brother german of John MacLaren of Beechhill, a solicitor ('brother german' means a full brother), and that James junior had died at Auchterarder on 3 NOV 1910. In September 1911 the first mention of the name Menzies appeared, with a Jessie Menzies claiming to be the descendant of the deceased's grandfather's sister, though no names were provided. An exchange of letters requiring proof followed, and in February 1912 a solicitor was noted as claiming that John Menzies was MacLaren's rightful heir.

The thing is... the KALTR office was deeply unconvinced. There was a question mark over whether the relevant documents to support the claim had been found as proof, with particular concerns over a marriage document that seemed to imply that MacLaren's grandfather was aged 13 and a half when he married.

This was useful stuff, but what I really needed was the written conversation from the KALTR, not a summary, and as such, I next called up the letter books for the period from 1910 to 1913, which are catalogued under E854. The first thing to note about these books was the appalling quality of the letters, which had been kept as carbon paper copies. A few were so faded they were close to being illegible, but I photographed them all and was able to enhance some of them when I got home. These not only revealed the genealogical problem causing the KALTR office grief, but also the workaround that led to Menzies being confirmed as heir.

It transpired that the issue causing problems was the fact that Alexander McLaren (Laren or McLaurin), the grandfather, was said to have been baptised in February 1787, but that he had an older brother born in December 1785. This meant that the earliest that Alexander could have been born was September 1786 (assuming his mum fell pregnant again within a couple of weeks, which was optimistic!). This therefore put a question mark over whether Alexander was truly 14 when he married Elizabeth Cochrane in October 1800 - the age of 14 being the minimum legal age for marriage at that point for males. The minimum age for girls to marry back then was 12, but this was far from the KALTR's concern - the bride in this case was supposed to have been aged 24! John Menzies was said to be the grandson of Alexander's sister Jean MacLaren, and again there were problems confirming that she was related to Alexander. In short, the KALTR was having none of it, and was of the mind to reject the application of John and Janet Menzies to make a claim on the MacLaren estate that had fallen to the Crown, noting the relationship to be "unsatisfactorily established" in July 1912.

And that's when it got really interesting! Clearly frustrated with the KALTR's objections to the claim, the solicitor on behalf of John Menzies went down a separate tack - to have John formally recognised as an heir via the Services of Heirs procedure, and to have Janet Menzies appointed as an executrix dative for the moveable estate. Janet was first recognised as such in January 1913, and a month later John's application to be served heir went before the court. The Services of Heirs process was the Scottish jury based process by which anyone making a claim on heritable estate had to be first recognised as the lawful heir. There were two types of 'service' that could be applied, the easiest simply being a 'general service', the process pursued by Menzies' agents, where a jury simply looked at the evidence put before them and said yes or no as to whether the claimant was who he or she said they were (the other was a 'special service' where any land in question was also brought into the proceedings). Against the KALTR's objections, the Sheriff Court in Perth took a look at the family trees and other evidence placed before it and contented itself that John Menzies had the right to be recognised as MacLaren's heir-at-law. A last check in the indexes to the Services of Heirs from 1913 confirmed that John Menzies was duly served as heir as "second cousin" to James Alexander Playfair MacLaren. It seems that this move by Menzies' solicitor to have him recognised by a court as a lawful heir was enough to force the KALTR to release the assets held by the Crown which had been surrendered to it as Ultimus Haeres, to John Menzies, despite its overwhelming objections.

Although there were many references to family trees and genealogical documents being bandied about between the relevant parties, no tree was found in the papers that have survived from the case - but the detail in the records at least provided the information that allowed Menzies to satisfy his claim as understood and believed by a court of law. Unfortunately the Sheriff Court papers from the period have not survived, nor the solicitors' papers, and so this cannot be pursued further. The question remains as to who was right. Did the KALTR office have a legitimate problem with the evidence it was asked to consider - or did the Jury listening to the services case get it wrong?!

An interesting case!

For more on Scottish land records and inheritance, my book Discover Scottish Land Records is available from Unlock the Past at - both print and ebook versions are available.

(With thanks to my client for permission to share the story)


For details on my range of genealogy guide books please visit To commission me for genealogical research, please visit my research site at