Book Review: Scottish Catholic Family History by Andrew R. Nicholl

ScotlandsPeople Catholic research
Scottish Catholic Family History: A family historian’s guide to Catholic Parish Registers and Cemetery Records for Scotland and the Bishopric of the Forces by Andrew R. Nicholl

This post came as a result of questions in a lecture I gave this morning on Effective use of ScotlandsPeople Website at the Federation of Genealogical Societies Annual Conference in Ft. Wayne Indiana.

Scottish Catholic Family History: A Family Historian’s Guide to Catholic Parish Registers and Cemetery Records for Scotland and the Bishopric of the Forces. By Andrew R. Nicholl. Published by The Aquhorties Press, Columba House, 16 Drummond Place, Edinburgh EH3 6PL, UK. www.scottishcatholicarchives.org.uk. 2011. 115 pp. Illustrations. Softcover.  £10.

The Catholic Parish Registers Project began with a focused plan – to digitize and index all pre-1855 Catholic parish registers that existed. Digitization continued beyond this date because volumes continued beyond 1855, post-1855 registers had been deposited at the Scottish Catholic Archives; plus the records of the Bishopric of the Forces, Dalbeth Cemetery in Glasgow and Mount Vernon Cemetery in Edinburgh were fully available. If the records survive in the Scottish Catholic Archives they have been digitized, though there may be more modern records still in the Catholic parishes around Scotland. The latter have not been sought after to be added to the collection at this stage. This collection is much more extensive that the photocopy collection of Catholic registers that exists at the National Records Scotland (former National Archives of Scotalnd).

In the collection there are the usual parish registers of births/baptisms, marriages and deaths/burials/funerals, each with 100, 75 and 50 years closure periods respectively to protect privacy. Other items in the collection, all with a 100 year closure, include: confirmations; confessions; converts; communicants; status animarum (“state of souls” – often a list); seat rents; and sick call. The book begins by describing all the different record classes, itemizing what they are likely to contain and showing an example.

The largest section of the book is the detailed lists of the records.  The lists are arranged by location of the parish and the saint to which it is dedicated. For each location it identifies the type of register, dates covered and the collection reference at the Scottish Catholic Archives. There is the Missions and Parishes Collection, plus the Individual Missions Collection and the researcher needs to check both lists for complete coverage of any given locality.  For the three major Catholic cemeteries in Glasgow and Edinburgh that are included there are internment registers, owners’ registers and lair registers, all of which can provide different information. The Bishopric of the Forces records are the Catholic records from the British military all over the world, unfortunately many of these still fall under the time closure rules.

The last section in the book is a directory, with maps, of Catholic parishes in Scotland. The directory in table format provides: name of the town and dedication of the church; the unitary authority; diocese; date the mission was founded; date of the church building. For most researchers, unfamiliar with Scottish geography, it is the maps locating the churches that will help us identify the parish records worth investigating for our ancestors. One additional aid included is a comprehensive Latin-England forename glossary with all case endings making it easy to distinguish the Latin variants for Patrick and Patricia or Terence and Teresa or other similar male and female names.

If you have searched ScotlandsPeople and found your Catholic ancestors you are fortunate. The bigger problem is if you have searched and not found them – is it because they are not there, the records have not survived, or you are just looking under the wrong name. It is this book that will help you identify the time or record gaps in any specific parish. This book is therefore very important for anyone working on Scottish Catholic ancestry.

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