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Wednesday, 15 April 2015

A-Z Challenge: M for Mortcloths, Militias, & Much More

A-Z of Family History Sources & Stories 
Join me on this A-Z journey to explore the fascinating records 
that can  enhance your family history research and writing.

MORTCLOTH RECORDS - A mortcloth was a funeral pall,  draped over the coffin during the service. The   payment of a fee to hire one from the church was  sometimes  recorded in old parish or kirk session records.  Prior to compulsory registration of deaths in 1855, It can often be the only evidence that a death has occurred. I must admit I am unsure whether this was  just a Scottish custom or more widespread. 

Smailholm Parish  Mortcloth Book (1822-1847), held at the Heritage Hub, Hawick. 

MEDICAL TERMS - are you stuck to understand a cause of death on a certificate?   Then take a look at http://rmhh.co.uk/medical.html  which explains medical terms.

MILITIA LISTS  - Was your  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  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.
Militia List, Castleon Parish, Roxburghshire, 1797.
Other lists can be more informative with details of age and occupation

MIDDLE NAMES   - I like middle names as they can often be a big clue, not only  in confirming that you've  found the right person, but also in alighting on the possible   maiden name of a mother or grandmother.  For instance I was once looking on the internet  for a George Hogarth from Scotland who emigrated to Canada.  I found him amongst many George Hogarths, because of his mother's distinctive surname used as his middle name.   In my own family,  my uncle Harry Danson had his grandmother's maiden name Rawcliffe. as his middle name.

MAPS - Are you wanting to find a map of where your ancestor lived in Scotland?  Then take a look at the website of the National Library of Scotland at http://www.nls.uk/collections/maps.  Its map collection is the  largest in Scotland with over 2 million items, many of which you can download.      

MONEY VALUES  - I like to  find out how respective money values over the centuries   have changed and use  http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/currency/.  

Prior to the Act of Union in 1707, Scotland had its own currency, so for more information see  http://www.scan.org.uk/researchrtools/scots_currency.htm 

PLUS SO MUCH MORE  such as:  Marriage Bonds and Marriage Certificates,  Message Boards, Monumental Inscriptions, Military Records -  I could go on and on,,,,,,,,,

Archive images courtesy of the Heritage Hub, Hawick 


Onto N for Newspapers and Names  


  1. Mortcloth.....now there's a new word for me. To my knowledge it's not used in America, but it does seem possible immigrants would have brought it over. So many of our words were derived that way. Thanks for visiting my blog, Susan. Be sure to stop back :)
    Inventions by Women A-Z

  2. Mortcloths - that's a new source I would never have thought of. I wonder if that's more common according to the particular religion.


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