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Sunday, 26 February 2012

Genealogy Libraries - 52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy

The Heritage Hub, Hawick
with kind permission of
Genealogy Libraries   is the latest topic from Amy at  http://wetree.blogspot.com/  in conjunction with Geneabloggers, in the series of weekly blogging prompts on the theme of  52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy.

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.

An adaptation of a previous posting in the  series "Beyond the Internet"  at Family History Across the Seas,


  1. Wow, there are lots of resources, dating far back, for family researchers. The building is charming!

  2. Susan, you surely must have tempted anyone with Borders ancestry with all those wonderful sources! I was thinking I wish I had someone on the Borders to search then I realised my latest clues suggest I might. You may yet see me at the Hub on a future trip.


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