I have the family history bug for researching both my own family history and that of friends. If your interest is in families of the Fylde in Lancashire, this site is for you, with many photographs to enhance interest. I'll also be looking at my Scottish Donaldson connections, hints and tips, and stories that appeal. So read on, or even better, sign up as a follower. Do get in touch - I would love to hear from others who share my enthusiasm for family history fun.
My local archive centre is the Heritage Hub, Hawick which serves the four Scottish Border counties of Berwickshire, Peeblesshire, Roxburghshire and Selkirkshire - broadly the corner of south-east Scotland between Edinburgh and the English border. It is a region noted for its turbulent cross border history in the middle ages and later for the development of the tweed and knitwear industry. Distinctive surnames in the region include Scott, Turnbull, Armstrong, Elliot and Kerr - and many more.
The Hub opened in Hawick in 2007 replacing a very cramped facility at library headquarters. It was part of a major urban regeneration project of old buildings, financed with the help of European funding and Heritage Lottery Fund. It has an active education and outreach policy aimed at attracting non-traditional users, and offers an enquiry service and remote research service.
Besides the standard family history sources of census returns, old parish records and monumental inscriptions, the Heritage Hub also holds unique material not available anywhere else. The key to searching these records is often a census entry giving a clue as to occupation or status.
One of the most popular sets of records consulted relate to the Poor Law. The Victorians were great bureaucrats and the Heritage Hub holds a large collection of Poor Law Registers, Poor Relief Applications and Parochial Board Minute Books, many of which can give a mini-biography of an ancestor, in often tragic circumstances. See the posting Poor Law Records.
Police Records for the three Border counties of Berwickshire, Roxburghshire and Selkirkshire go back to the 1850's, so if your ancestor was a constable or even on the other side of the law, these are the source to look at and include mug shot photos of criminals, lists of prisoners, plus constable registers with personal details including descriptions.
Being a Councillor might seem rather dull, but the Burgh Minute Books, which go back to the mid 17th century give a full description of burgh affairs and discussions and can reveal interesting sidelines such as the councillor in the 1880's who was petitioning in support of woman's suffrage, long before it was close to becoming a reality.
If your ancestor was a teacher, then the School Records are the place to look - with Log Books recording daily school life, and School Board Minute Books and Education Committee Minute Books recording appointments - and dismissals! If you are lucky you may get a glowing testimony from an Inspector's Report.
Was your Borders male ancestor aged around 20-30 in the period of the Napoleonic Wars (1790's-1815)? Then he might well appear on the Militia Lists, whereby each parish was charged with setting up a volunteer force in the event of a French invasion. The lists may give little more than a name, address and occupation but, as with all archives, there is a fascination in seeing actual handwriting relating to an ancestor, written during his or her lifetime. They are also particularly noteworthy in pre-dating the first published census of 1841, so may be the only record of an ordinary man.
These are just some of the records available at the Hub and complement the large collecting of maps from the early 19th century, old postcards of the region and 23 titles of local newspapers (many long since gone), with the oldest 1804. Most of these records above are available to view in digitised format at the Hub, but are not available online.
Note: Date protection restrictions apply to most post-1900 records where personal names are given.
So I am pleased to promote my local archive centre in this way to show there is genealogical life well beyond the Internet. It is records such as these which can contribute so much to us discovering the stories of our ancestors.
If you have Scottish Borders connections, the Heritage Hub, Hawicl should be top of your "must contact" list.