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Sunday, 22 January 2012

Your Ancestral Home - Beyond the Internet

Cassmob at Family History Across the Seas, has introduced a new series "Beyond the Internet" to highlight some of the sources for family stories.   The latest theme focusses on researching your ancestral home.  

My own Danson family came from Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire. and I have written in previous postings about the ancestral home Trap Farm at Carleton.   I found references to it in a Family Bible c.1830, in Death Duty Records for 1839  of my great, great, great grandfather and of course on birth certifcates, census records, and maps. 

I now live in the Scottish Borders and I thought I would highlight some of the Scottish resources for tracing house histories - not available online, but held at archive centres aross the country. The information falls broadly into three categories:  Owners & Occupiers, The Local Community  and Architectural Guides
Valuation Rolls by county and burgh  date from c.1855 and record the name of owner, tenant and occupier asnd usually their occupation.  To some extent, the information supplements the 10 yearly census returns,  You  get a picture of the neighbourhood, especially for instance the scale and range of workers on landed estates.  On the downside, the rolls do not list other residents/family in the property The lack of street names, house names or even numbers  means it is not always straightforward to identify the property you are looking for.   It is always worth checking if earlier similar records of property have survived such as Cess Rolls and Poll Tax Records.    

Electoral Rolls can be helpful in establishing who lived in a property, but give little detail other than name and it was 1928 before women in the  UK  would appear as eligible to vote on the same basis as men i..e over 21 years of age.  

Sasines have been the mainstay of Scottish land ownership records from the 17th century.  They are legal documents recording the transfer of ownership of land or building. 

Directories are great sources of information to browse through with description of the town or village, with lists of addresses  of nobility, gentry, clergy, schools, societies, professional people, farmers, manufacturers, shopkeepers, tradesmen, coaches and carriers etc. to present a profile of the  community in which your ancestor lived.

Many Local Histories  have been written by dedicated enthusiasts and can provide potential information, often quirky,  on specific streets and property and also the history of the locality and its people.

The Scottish Statistical Accounts are detailed contemporary parish reports giving background information on how people lived,  with descriptions of the economic and social state of Scotland at the time. The “Old Statistical Account” was written 1791-99,  so particularly valuable in pre-dating census returns, and the 'New Statistical Account” 1834-45. The “Third Statistical Account “was published in the second half of 20th century.  Again a good source if you are looking for colourful background on where your ancestors lived.

Postcards and Photographs The early 20th century saw a huge boon in postcard production, featuring houses, streets, shops, churches, historic buildings, war memorials transport etc with even small villages being profiled in this way.  A must to illustrate your family history.

If your ancestral property was really old, look for Architectural Guides on your region, or find out if it was worthy to be designated a "Listed Building".  Local Council Planning Records can also provide information on the development of the property. 

Family history is so much more than just names and dates.  Finding out about your ancestral home  is one of the many directions you can take from the basic research, to add colour to your family story.

For more information on the source material outlined above,  see the website of the National Archives of Scotland at  http://www.nas.gov.uk/guides/



  1. Thank you for this very helpful post. It makes a 'house history' seem much less daunting.

  2. Thanks for bringing us the Scottish perspective Susan! This is a great insight into sources for Scottish houses and absolutely -anything we can use to build up insights into our families is wonderful. I've used a number of these, but not all, and I'm still struggling with Sasines. The Statistical accounts are gold in terms of background, for any ancestor, rich or poor. Thanks for taking part! (BTW the blogger-wordpress interface is being a pain hence my new Google link).


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