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Tuesday, 7 April 2015

D for Deaths, Dictionaries, Directories and Diaries

 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.

DEATHS IN SCOTLAND - How I wished my grandmother Alice Danson, nee English,  had died in Scotland!  If this seems stark and insensitive, it is because Scottish BMD records give so much more information than their English counterparts - in particular the names of both mother and father are given on marriage and death certificates. My major brick wall is a failure to trace Alice's birth certificate of 1884 (or any other record)  and so find out the name of her mother.

Scottish certificates were introduced in 1855, much later than in England (1837).  if you trace a Scottish death in that first year of registration,  you are even luckier,  as the certificate named children and the burial place.  Unfortunately this was regarded as too much detail to cope with and was soon dropped.   Of course you are always dependent on the informant being aware of the facts, which may not always be the case.  Digitized entries can be found on the website ScotlandsPeople.

DICTIONARIES - as a former librarian, I love browsing reference sections of libraries/archive centres and dipping into their directories and dictionaries for nuggets of information,  whether it be Chambers Scots Dictionary, a Dictionary  of Trades and Occupations, Latin Dictionary for Local Historians etc - now of course more likely to be available online.  The ScotlandsPeople website features a very useful listing of 1500 occupations with definitions and variants.  

DIRECTORIES give little  more than a name, brief address and confirmation of status or occupation, yet,  as with all archives, there is a fascination in discovering the name of your ancestor in a publication written in his lifetime.  They provide ideal background material for writing about the community and times  in which your ancestors were living - for example how many blacksmiths, bakers, carters and  shoemakers are listed? 

A page in Mannex Directory of 1851  for Amounderness (the old name for the Fylde, Lancashire) lists my great great grandfather Henry Danson at Trap Farm, Carleton, his neighbour and brother-in-law John Bryning,  and under Poulton-le-Fylde Inns and Taverns two relations by marriage William Gaulter of the Golden Ball and Cornelius Cardwell  of the Kings Arms, plus son-in-law watchmaker James Brownbill.  

1851 Directory with entries relating to my extended Danson family highlighted

DIARIES - if I had a touch of genealogical envy, it would be for family historians who have a diary written by their ancestor.  What a wonderful piece of personal history.   

To end on a more prosaic note, be aware of British DATA PROTECTION legislation in restricting access to archives less than  75 years old, (100 years where children are involved).  An archivist  can advise on this complex topic.  


Onto E for Epitaphs, Emigration, Electoral Rolls,
 & Ephemera

Copyright © 2015 Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved


  1. Hi Sue. I am enjoying following along your alphabet journey. Still no luck with Alice :( She may of course not have known who her father was and made it up at the time of marriage. Alternatively she might have been referring to a step father. I agree though that a Scottish or Australian death certificate would have helped. Regards Anne

  2. Yes, I have that envy for those with a diary too. And I had to laugh over the death certificates -- what nerve our ancestors had to die in a time or place that made it more difficult and inconvenient for us family historians.

  3. I love those directories and the death certificates with the parents names on them!

  4. Thank you, all, for taking the time to comment.


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