15 August 2011

National Records of Scotland

July 18

Off to Scotland we went for London Away, on a looooong bus ride with two or three other classes.  While we made two stops and watched several movies, by this point bus trips were getting old.
Finally we arrived at Dalkeith Palace, our lovely home for the next three days. We had to stand around in the lobby until we were assigned our rooms, and boy was I excited when I found out that while half our group was in the same room, I was in a double with Kimberly and no one else. Score!

We all dropped our stuff off in our rooms, and then met Dr. Welsh downstairs to see a little bit of Dalkeith the town.  We went down the main road and looked into some restaurants, and found the bus stop where we were meeting in the morning , and then everybody drifted off and did their own thing.

The next morning we met and took the bus into Edinburgh, to the General Register House.  We were early so Olivia and I went to get some caffeine while others went sightseeing, and then we all gathered up and went in. 
Our guide for the visit was Margaret McBryde, the Education Officer, a really nice woman who worked hard to give us a lot of good information.  First she took us upstairs, an interestingly twisty trip, to a conference room where we all sat for a slideshow.

On April 1st, the National Archives of Scotland merged with the General Register Office of Scotland to become the National Records of Scotland.  The NRS is contained in six buildings, with about 450 staff members.  Records begin in the 12th c and include birth/marriage/death and the census from 1841, along with government and  legal documents, deeds, photos, marriage contracts, wills, etc.  The oldest document is a grieve from King David I from the 1120s, granting land in Edinburgh to the church.

The main building is the General Register House, opened in 1779.  All of the ground floor is used by Scotland’s People, for public to come in and pay (or free between 10-12 and 2-4) to do genealogy or other research.  This gives access to all of the records that Scotland’s people holds and is really awesome if you have Scottish relatives like me.

The NRS is slowly making a move to digitization, as evidenced by the fact that so many of the records are available online now.  In 1995 the Thomas Thompson house was built outside the city for storage of the NRS’s most precious documents.  Recently an inquiry was done into records management in Scotland, and a new act was passed to make sure records are handled properly, as apparently it wasn’t very well regulated before and some records were in danger.

The NRS also has many websites under their umbrella, including the Scottish Register of Tartans, ScotlandsImages, Scottish Handwriting and Scottish Archives for Schools. 

We then looked at records on each table that Margaret had pulled for us, from Mississippi and other parts of US; there were letters, supply lists, a book listing people who were on support for poor, and maps, all handwritten.  This time everything was encased in mylar sleeves (phew) but it was still nice to be able to pick things up and really look at them.

Once we were finished perusing the records, Margaret took us on a tour of the building, showing us where patrons receive readers cards, where research can be done, and the beautiful round Adam Dome.  We also went through some of the conservation area, but as it’s not Margaret’s area she couldn’t give us too much information, plus we didn’t want to bug the conservationists.

I hadn’t realized before we walked in the building that Scotland’s People was there, and I was really excited that we were there because I had been planning on doing research there.  It was nice to know where I was supposed to go, and I did end up gong back on Wednesday and getting a lot of good information about my grandmother’s family.

*Photo of National Register House courtesy wikipedia

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