Book Review: Scotland – Mapping the Islands

Scotland – Mapping the Islands

Scotland Mapping the Islands. By Christopher Fleet, Margaret Wilkes and Charles W.J. Withers. Published in association with the National Library of Scotland by Birlinn Ltd. West Newington House, 10 Newington Road, Edinburgh, EH9 1QS. www.birlinn.co.uk. £30.00. US Distributor: CasemateIPM 1950 Lawrence Road, Havertown PA 19083. www.casemateipm.com. $42.99. 2016. 244 pp. Illustrations, index. Hardcover.

Islands fascinate us. This book looks at the history and geography behind the many maps of Scotland’s islands. The focus is on understanding the history and geography of the islands but also in showing how that history and geography has been realized in and produced through art, the artifice, and the authority of maps. This is the first book to take the maps of Scotland’s islands as its central focus.

A modern expectation is that maps accurately depict size, shape and relationships. Especially with the case of islands surrounded by water, researchers need to know where the islands are in relationship to one another, how big they are, and what their coasts look like.  That information has not always been available on the maps of islands of Scotland. Some islands are even transient, appearing twice a day depending upon the tide. For the map makers and their users distinguishing sea from land, one island from another, what is an island and what is not is vital.

This book is not an A-Z gazetteer of islands and island maps, from Arran and Barra to Zetland, showing maps of each. Rather the book has a narrative focus that is thematic, following a broadly chronological order. Each chapter addresses the ways in which an island’s history and geography have been captured in maps over time. The chapters reflect the sequence in which islands have not only appeared but also have come to exert their force and ‘pull.’ The sequencing of chapters reflects the processes by which the islands were peopled, then named, then navigated to and from (or avoided as hazards), defended, improved, exploited, pictured and escaped from or to.

The book has lavish color illustrations of numerous maps, from all time periods, many as two-page spreads. All supplement the detailed text of the chapter. At a minimum the detailed captions provide the source of the maps. More often the caption draws reader attention to features on the map – e.g. the island being in the wrong location, the wrong shape, the wrong size, the fact it is missing, who copied the map from whom, and how the map is different from its predecessors.  These captions thus extend the story of the main text and embellish the history ‘behind’ the maps in question.

The book can be read in the conventional fashion, from front to back, like I did, with each chapter building upon its predecessors. Alternatively, using the index, one can look at a particular island, or group, and see how the narrative of that place changed across time, and how it evolved through the different types of maps over time.   

The Highlands and islands are the center of the use of Gaelic in Scotland and its use is supported by governmental acts and policies. In this book many of the place names are written in both English and Gaelic, so readers will see examples within the text like: Western Isles / Na h-Eileanan an Iar; Lewis / Leòdhas. This is appropriate but makes the text in places harder to read.

The knowledgeable authors present the rich and diverse story of Scottish islands from the earliest maps to the most up-to-date digital mapping in engaging and imaginative ways. This book is an informative delight to read and view. It makes a great companion volume to Scotland: Mapping the Nation from the same publisher.

Book Review: How to Read Scottish Buildings by Daniel MacCannell.

How to Read Scottish Buildings. By Daniel MacCannell. Published by Birlinn Ltd., West Newington House, 10 Newington Road, Edinburgh EH9 1QS, UK. www.birlinnco.uk. £9.99. US Distributor: CasemateIPM 1950 Lawrence Road, Havertown PA 19083. www.casemateipm.com. $14.99. 2015, reprinted with corrections 2017. 224 pp. Illustrations, index. Softcover.

This is a practical book, sized to fit in one’s pocket or purse, unlike many books on architecture. I wish I’d had it with me on my recent trip to Scotland when I was taking photographs of many buildings because I would have been able to take better photographs of many of the features mentioned in the book. In the meantime, I can use the book to more accurately analyze the photographs I have. This is where researchers will benefit when examining family photographs that include buildings.

This is not a book about the famous buildings: cathedrals, palaces or royal castles, which are only mentioned in passing. It is a guide to the curious, attractive, sometimes even beautiful old Scottish buildings for which there are no plaques, no websites, no costumed guides or colorful pamphlets or ‘ancient monument’ designations. The book “is intended to provide travelers and residents with an impartial, brief, clearly illustrated guide that allows them to place Scottish buildings and groups of buildings with regard to their ages, styles, influences and functions, as well as the messages that their builders, owners and occupants intended to convey” (p.9). In this it succeeds. It will help you determine if you are looking at an outstanding, typical or inferior example of a building feature, a style, or a period building. The book is designed to teach a deductive approach that can be applied equally well to Scottish buildings in any setting, in any region, or originating in any  time period. The author acknowledges that there may be regional variations, and some are touched upon, but the overall principles apply everywhere.  

Mr. MacCannell divides Scottish architecture into six style periods, which are explained and illustrated. The six style periods are: Style before 1540 – Middle Ages into the Renaissance; Style 1540-1660 – Baronial glory days and the overthrow of the church; Style 1660-1750 – de-fortification, symmetry and the emergence of architecture as a profession; Style 1750-1840 – Pan British Neo-Classical style consolidated, amid increasing scale and the first stirrings of ‘retro’; Style 1840-1920 – ‘retro’, diversity, mechanization and unparalleled prosperity; Style after 1920 – ‘retro’ perfected, Art Deco, Brutalism and green architecture.

The following section examines the cross-period issues that may create problems for the observer, but may, with some knowledge and understanding, aid in narrowing down dates, such as: dated stones; arms; marks of quality that transcend periods; symmetry and the notion of ‘Georgian style’; ownership; and how to read a house built in multiple periods.

The next section looks at the individual external features of a building starting at the roof, and working down looking at windows, walls, doors and all their multiple variations. You will understand what to look for and how to distinguish between original and ‘retro’ versions of features after reading this section.

The book concludes with a table, designed for quick onsite estimation of time period. It looks at the observable features and describes what to look for in each period, knowing that some features go across multiple styles. The style periods go across the table and the features described like the buildings start at the top and work down. The table is not a summary of the prior section but contains significant information not mentioned elsewhere.

This is a practical book well worth looking at by anyone interested in Scottish architecture and the everyday buildings in which our ancestors lived. Users will come away with better understanding of how designs changed over time.

Book Review: Lost Lives, New Voices: Unlocking the stories of the Scottish Soldiers from the Battle of Dunbar 1650

Lost Lives New Voices
Lost Lives, New Voices: Unlocking the Stories of the Scottish Soldiers from the Battle of Dunbar 1650 by Christopher Gerrard, Pam Graves, Andrew Millard, Richard Annis and Anwen Caffell

LostLives, New Voices: Unlocking the stories of the Scottish Soldiers from the Battle of Dunbar 1650. Christopher Gerrad, Pam Graves, Andrew Millard, Richard Annis and ANwen Caffell. Published by Oxbow Books, The Old Music Hall, Cowley Road, Oxford OX4 IJE, UK  www.oxbowbooks.com. £20. And Oxbow Books, 1950 Lawrence Rd, Havertown, PA 19083. www.casemateacademic.com/ oxbow. $35.00. 2018. xvi, 368 pp. Color and B&W Illustrations, index. Softcover. Also available as an eBook.

Though this book has a broad context in the stories of all soldiers from the Battle of Dunbar in 1650, its Appendix A will likely be of most interest to the American researcher seeking Scottish ancestors. This is because no passenger list for the Unity that arrived late in 1650 carrying Dunbar prisoners exists, The appendix is divided into four sections: (1) Definite – men who appear in association with the Saugus Ironworks and are not on the John and Sara list: (2) Probable – men who first appear in records shortly after the likely end of indentures, or who have strong associations with groups of Scots in Oyster River, NH, York, ME, or Block Island, RI, or who are founders of the Scots Charitable Society, and who are not on the John and Sara list; (3) Possible – men with weaker associations, with slightly later appearance in the records, who possibly appear on the John and Sara list or where the team has failed to find evidence suggestive of their status as Scots and/or prisoners; (4) Doubtful – men who have been named as Dunbar prisoners in the past, mostly by George S. Stewart, but for whom no evidence seems to show they arrive in New England other than on the Unity, mostly because they appear on the John and Sarah list or they first appear well after 1660. Entries for each individual in the four alphabetical lists provide surnames (with known spelling variations) and forenames, residences listed by state, date of first known appearance in New England records, years of birth and death based on evidence contemporary with the name, and brief notes justifying the categorization or offering other items of interest, followed by sources.

Chapters 7 and 8 will also interest American researchers. They provide context and describe the experience of the approximately 150 Scottish Dunbar prisoners transported to New England in 1650. The majority were destined to serve five to eight-year indentures working in the iron works at Braintree and Hammersmith and in the northern timberlands on the frontiers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, though others were sold off to local farmers, merchants and craftsmen. The study shows that prisoners’ lives were very different from their former lives in Scotland. Descriptions illustrate, using both archeological and documentary evidence for personal living and working conditions and industrial context of the time. This information is applicable to anyone living in the area at the time, not just the Scots, though they are used as examples.

To get a stronger sense of the people involved and their lives, mini biographies are provided for James Warren, William Furbusch, Peter Grant, William Cahoon, and William Paul. Appendix B, also provides transcripts of New England wills and inventories for Nyven Agnew, Arsbell Anderson, John Berbeene, Alexander Bow, Alexander Bravender, John Clarke, Alexander Cooper, Patrick Fassett, Peter Grant, George Gray, Robert Junkins, John Maccoon, Robert Mackclafflin, Alister Mackmallen, Alexander Maxwell, Micom McIntire, Henry Merrow, James Moore, Finaly Ross, John Taylor, John Upton, and James Warren. These men, and the other Dunbar prisoners, are tied together through family, marriage, and mutual support networks, each illustrated. The men also have an impact on the naming of the places where they settled throughout New England.

The impetus for this book was an archaeological find. In November 2013 two mass burials were discovered unexpectedly while excavating the foundations of a new café at the Palace Green Library, part of Durham cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Thirty bodies were excavated, with other bodies left undisturbed, under the walls of the surrounding buildings. The goal was then to identify these men. One option, later confirmed, was that they were some of the thousands of soldiers taken prisoner at the Battle of Dunbar in Scotland in September 1650, marched south to Durham Cathedral and held prisoner. In putting this event in context, the book provides context for the battle and its results.

The book also describes in detail the archaeological dig to unearth the prisoners who died in Durham. It makes fascinating reading in explaining why this was a mass grave rather than an old cemetery and examining old maps and construction sites around the cathedral. The discussion of skeleton science showing which bones survived for which skeletons, identifying their preservation, fragmentation and completeness, whether young or mature adults, their dental health, and skeletal pathology (scars, inflammation, sinusitis, hollows, nodes, etc). For a non-archaeologist reader, this was in places technical, but clear and understandable. The scientific analysis of the teeth and bones provided impressive clues about where in Scotland many grew up, but also showed that a significant number had spent time in continental Europe, all under differing living conditions.

The book continues by describing the battle and then what happened to the survivors, of which the New England soldiers were a very small number, though the only group individually identified by name. Other survivors worked in the coal mines and salt pans in the Northeast of England, others were sent as laborers to drain the Fens, as soldiers to France, along with discussion of other places considered but apparently not acted upon – Crete, Virginia, West Indies – mainly because of political leanings.

The book is heavily footnoted, with an extensive bibliography, providing lots of additional options for further research. Certainly, for anyone with known or possible Scots ancestry in New England this book is a must read, but it is also of value to others wanting to understand life in New England. This book combines archaeology, modern DNA studies, and documentary research, illustrating life during the English Civil War, in the context of European and North Atlantic trade.

GB1900 – Online Project – Great for Genealogists

GB1900.org Opening Screen - Project to save Great Britain place names identifying all places on 6 inch to one mile maps for 1900
GB1900.org Opening Screen – Project to save Great Britain place names identifying all places on 6 inch to one mile maps for 1900

Online Project to Save Great Britain’s Place Names – Great for Genealogists

Come join the project to identify all the place names in Great Britain. First I will explain what the project is, how it works and then why it is a great way for you to get to know the neighborhood in which your ancestor lived.

The new online project – GB1900 – is calling for volunteers to help make sure local place names can live on and not be lost forever. GB1900 aims to create a complete list of the estimated three million place-names on early Ordnance Survey maps of Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales). It will be a free, public resource, of great value to local historians and genealogists. I will come back to this later.

The project partners include the University of Portsmouth (Great Britain Historical GIS Project: A Vision of Britain through Time); National Library of Scotland; National Library of Wales; University of Wales; The People’s Collection of Wales and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales.

On their new GB1900 web site, http://www.gb1900.org, volunteers work on digital images of all the 2nd Edition Ordnance Survey County Series maps of the whole of Great Britain, at six inch to one mile scale. These maps show not just every town and village but every farm, hill and wood – and include names for most of them. The site’s software enables contributors to mark each name by clicking next to it, and then to type in the name itself. To ensure correctness each name needs to be identically transcribed by two different volunteers.

The final list of place names will be not just the most detailed gazetteer ever created for Britain, it will be the world’s largest ever historical gazetteer. It will be released under a Creative Commons license, making it usable by everyone without charge.

How the GB1900 Project Works

Go to www.gb1900.org. The first time you will need to register – name, email address and password. In the future when you return to login you will provide your email address and password. As of this morning there are 590 volunteers who have transcribed 440,789 places, and confirmed 42,766 places. What this means is that many more individual places have been tagged by individuals that have been confirmed by a second transcriber. Every place is being identified by two transcribers.

The first time into the system read the brief tutorial. It is easy to understand, but read it carefully. The mistake I made by not reading the tutorial carefully enough is that I was placing the marker on the map at the location of the feature, e.g. farm, mill, etc. This was wrong. The marker needs to go under the first letter of the text for that feature. Having tagged enough places now on the maps I can see the validity of this, especially in the crowded urban areas. Unfortunately, if you put a marker in the wrong place you can’t undo it.

You will see three types of markers. Brown – these are the places you have tagged; Green – these are places someone else has tagged; Purple – these are places tagged by someone and tagged again correctly by a second transcriber. When registered, you place the cursor under the first letter of a place name and hit enter. An entry box appears. Type in the name of the feature and confirm. The marker appears on screen, but you can’t see how it is labelled. If you are confirming a green marker and type in what the other person typed it changes to a purple marker, if you type in something different you get a brown marker. As you do more data entry menus will start to appear on your data entry box as you start typing. This is especially useful if you have common features in your area of interest, e.g. quarries, old mine shafts, foot paths, foot bridges, etc.

Common mistakes that I have made include – apostrophes in the wrong place, or missed; expanding an abbreviation, e.g. street when its only st on the map, which is easy to do especially when the entry box covers up the information on the map; or being too quick and ending up with a marker being placed where there is no feature. Unfortunately, if you make a typing error and immediately spot it, or put a marker in the wrong place there is no way to correct it.

Personal Statistics identifying how many places you have transcribed and confirmed, and listing the top 10 users (Paul Milner at number 10)
Personal Statistics identifying how many places you have transcribed and confirmed, and listing the top 10 users (Paul Milner at number 10)

If you log out and then come back into the system, then click on your name you will be told how many entries you have transcribed and how many entries you have confirmed. There is a ranking table for transcribers, and the number selected is the lower of your two numbers. So as of this morning I am number 10 on the top ten user list with 2,021, having transcribed 2,021 names, while I have confirmed 2113 places first marked by others.

As a Genealogist you should get involved.

You should get involved because looking at these detailed 6 inch to the mile maps helps you to get to know the neighborhood in which your ancestors lived. Doing the transcription reinforces in your mind the places names – streets, farms, mills, rivers, woods, all of which are named. But also you will learn about the: wells, parish boundary markers; public houses, foot paths and foot bridges.

The gazetteer on the opening pages seems to use the underlying modern Open Street Map index, so it will not find all locations on the map. It can be used to find a village or town that you want to explore. A slider in the upper right corner of the map can show you how the area has changed between the old 1900 maps and present. For my readers outside Great Britain the find my location button will not work.

For those with Welsh ancestors this project grew out of the Cymru1900wales.org project, so there are more place names already identified in Wales than other places in Great Britain.

For those with Irish connections, the old maps are not part of this project (yet?). However, the modern interactive map of Ireland is available on the opening screen, move the slider in the upper right to the left to see the modern underlying map.

This is a fun way to get to know the area in which your ancestor lived, be involved in a worthwhile project, and most importantly you don’t have to worry about old handwriting issues that you may have with other transcription projects. Come join this fun project, help yourself and your fellow researchers. Learn your ancestral neighborhood.

Book Review: Down and Out in Scotland researching ancestral crisis by Chris Paton

Book review for Down and Out in Scotland researching ancestral crisis - law and order - poverty in scotland - debt ain scotland - medical problems in scotland - covenanters in Scotland - killing time - Jacobite rebellions
Down and Out in Scotland Researching Ancestral Crisis by Chris Paton

Down and Out in Scotland researching ancestral crisis. By Chris Paton. Published by UnlockThePast Publications, PO Box 119, St Agnes SA 5097, Australia. . AUS $16.50. Available as an UnlockThePast e-book, AUS $7.95. Available in Canada from Global Genealogy  CAN $18.50; in the US from Maias Books $18.50 and in the UK from My History  ₤7.  2015. 56 pp. Illustrations, Index. Softcover.

Chris Paton’s experience as a diversified Scottish genealogical researcher comes through in this book about the down and out in Scotland. Many of our Scottish ancestors at one time or another fell on hard times, at which point society may have worked for them or against them depending upon the situation. In most cases someone was there to record the event and its consequences. It is the recording of these events that can break down the brick walls, or at minimum provide social context for how an ancestor was living or dying. Not every possible situation is addressed in the book, but many are and they will stimulate you to thinking about what else may survive.

In each of the six parts to the book the goal is to highlight some of the areas where records may have been generated. Part one examines family events and relationships focusing on: illegitimacy; foundlings, orphans and adoption; marriage, bigamy and divorce; homosexuality; and death. Part two looks at law and order outlining the many jurisdictions involved and where their records may be found, which includes: the Kirk; the Crown; franchise and burgh courts; criminal prosecution; murder; additional courts; police and prison records; transportation; and execution. Part three explores poverty, for which in Scotland there were distinctions between the ‘deserving poor’ and the ‘undeserving poor’, showing how they are different under the Old and New Poor laws and the records they created. Part four addresses debt, an issue for which it was easy for any of our ancestors to succumb no matter what levels of society, and this section especially seems to have its own vocabulary and sources, all worth exploring. Part five looks at medical problems, examining in particular: hospital records; asylums; suicide; and accidents. The final section entitled them and us, explores the periods in Scottish history when the aspirations of the people did not match those of the state or its many agencies, invariably generating hardship. The periods covered include: the Covenanters and the Killing Time; the Jacobite Rebellions; the expulsion of the Gael (Highland Clearances); and the struggle to vote. The book concludes with a brief bibliography and an index.

This is definitely not a book to begin your Scottish research with. It assumes you have done your basic research and you want to go further, into more depth, and explore the troubled lives of your Scottish ancestors. It will help you understand how Scottish society worked, what records were created, may have survived, and may have been indexed and how to access transcripts or the originals. There is much in this volume that I have not seen in other Scottish guide or reference books, so is highly recommended for those wanting new avenues to explore.

Chris Paton will be speaking with me on the upcoming July 2015 UnlockThePast Cruise to the Baltic seaports.

Here are links to some of Chris Paton’s other books that I have reviewed on this blog.

Early Registration for British Institute closes September 15

Header for the International Society for British Genealogy and Family History from their website
Header for the International Society for British Genealogy and Family History from their website

Early Registration Closes September 15 for the British Institute.

The 2014 British Institute to be held 20-24 October in Salt Lake City is organized by the International Society for British Genealogy and Family History.

This year’s speakers and topics are:

Scottish Research: The Fundamentals and Beyond by Paul Milner
Scottish laws, regulations and records are different from the rest of the British Isles, yet with enough similarities to create confusion for the unwary.  This course will address the fundamentals of all the major record groups, examining how to search the indexes, exploring what is and is not available online. Case studies will highlight the research and record evaluation processes to determine next steps. Individual consultations are available to assist each participant with their personal research.

Researching Your Irish Ancestors by David Rencher
This course is designed to help the student of Irish genealogical research, whether beginning or advanced. Strategies for establishing a sound beginning and building on that foundation using proven research techniques will be coupled with an understanding of what records sources are available online, on microfilm and in Ireland. Individual half-hour consultations are provided with the course coordinator to assist each participant with ways to extend their research.

Welsh Family History Made Simple by Darris Williams
Welsh family history is different from other localities in some significant ways. Those differences are not impossible roadblocks. Understanding the peculiarities is a good first step to success. Record knowledge is important but not the key. Understanding how to search, evaluate evidence and collate information will resolve many difficult research situations. This course will provide examples of problems, aw well as strategies and skills for learning more about your ancestors.

From Simple to Complex: Applying Genealogy’s Standards of Acceptability to British Research by Tom Jones
Through hands-on activities, lectures, and discussions, participants will learn how to use widely accepted standards to measure their genealogical work’s accuracy and to assess others’ genealogical conclusions. In the process they also will learn about genealogical research planning, its implementation, genealogical reasoning, and the preparation of credible genealogical products.

For speaker biographies, details on lodging and registration go to www.isbgfh.org

Yes, I am teaching the week long course on Scottish Research so do come join us.

 

Scottish Military Wills – Tips for Searching, Using the Results and Workarounds

Will of Peter Trainer of the Cameron Highlanders who died 24 Apr 1918
Will of Peter Trainer of the Cameron Highlanders who died 24 Apr 1918

Let’s take a closer look at the Scottish Soldiers wills so proudly announced as being available on ScotlandsPeople in the last post I made so we understand how and why the records were created, collected and how to search them – without wasting lots of money.

What’s there? – There are 32,932 wills in this collection. Approximately 26,000 wills from ordinary Scottish soldiers who died in WWI, another 5,000 from WWII, several hundred from the Boer War and the Korean War, with others from conflicts between 1857 and 1964.

How did they get there? – When a soldiers estate was settled by the Effects Branch of the War Office their wills were no longer required. All documents were then passed along to H.M. Commissary Office in Edinburgh under the Regimental Debts Acts of 1863 and 1893. Later they were deposited with the National Records of Scotland, now in SC70/8.

The majority of the wills, especially those from WWI were the page(s) removed from the soldiers Pay Book (Army Book 64), or an equivalent Army form. Other documents might include personal letters from soldiers, a testimony by witnesses, both of which could be accepted in lieu of a will. The majority of the wills were written by men below the rank of officers, who were domiciled in Scotland. The example is for Peter Trainer of the Queen’s Own Highlanders who died 25 Apr 1918 leaving everything to his father Robert Trainer of 88 Gloucester Str, Glasgow. The will is one of four images in the file, which is common, the other images being of the army’s sheet for the will, plus two envelopes (inner and outer).

It is estimated that this collection of wills represents approximately 20% of Scotsmen who died during WWI and about 17% of those who died during WWII.

The records begin in 1857, but there is only one will for 1857 and that is for Private Roderick Alexander of the 71st Regiment of Foot [71st (Highland) Regiment of Foot (Light Infantry)] and his will is signed 19 Jun 1857 and importantly it is not the date he actually died, that is not stated on the document [SC70/8/7/1].

Performing a Search

You have the options of searching on surname, forename, date of death – from and to, service number, rank, battalion, regiment, theatre, and cause of death. The reality is most of us are going to use surname, in possible combination with forename if we get to many results.

Date of Death – this is a key searching point. If you know you are searching for someone killed in WWI then change the dates appropriately. Generally I would recommend leaving the defaults at 1 January 1914 and 31 December 1948 and it will search everything in the database and include them in the results, even when the event occurs outside these parameters or the date of death is not stated. Change either date and it does limit the search to the period chosen.

Table of Results for search on ScotlandsPeople for Jo Hunter
Table of Results for search on ScotlandsPeople for Jo Hunter

Let’s do a search for Hunter without adding or changing anything. I get 134 hits. Viewing the search results is free, so I could look at all 183. Instead I want to limit my options and I type ‘Jo’ (without ‘’) in the forename field and select ‘forenames that begin with’ from the adjoining menu. Now I have 18 options and that is a more manageable number, so I look at the results. Quickly scanning the list shows that I have found multiple Johns, a John Alexander, two Josephs and a Jonathan.

I have 15 John’s, or which 13 John’s died in WWI. At ₤2.50 or 10 credits for each will downloaded that is too many to just randomly pick. So use other options to eliminate some of the other choices. The best place to start, which is free, is the Commonwealth War Grave Commission website and search for the records of each of these soldiers. You are looking to see if there is mention of family members and or place of residence in the comments field. Look at my earlier blog posts for examples and explanation of how to do this (WWI – Finding the Dead – Commonwealth War Grave Commission – part 1part 2part 3)

Workaround for Results with Missing Dates

National Archives Scotland Search screen for the will of Jonathan Hunter in SC70/8 - Scottish Soldiers Wills.
National Archives Scotland Search screen for the will of Jonathan Hunter in SC70/8 – Scottish Soldiers Wills.

In our results table you will see Jonathan Hunter, rank unstated, of the 91st Regiment of Foot, who died, with no date or place given. We know that regimental numbers were no longer being used by WWI, so we can safely guess that this is a pre-WWI soldier. That however is still a potentially big time period 1857-1914. So how can we narrow down our options to see if it is worth spending the money on getting the will?

Go to the free website of the National Archives of Scotland at www.nas.gov.uk and select Catalogues and Indexes from the top menu, then NAS Catalogue, then Search. You have three search fields – in the search for field type the name of the person you are seeking (surname or both forename and surname if too many results) – in the reference field type SC70/8 plus select the ‘starts’ button and this will search the collection of Scottish military wills – leave the date from field blank.

In my case I am going to search for Jonathan Hunter in SC70/8. I get one matching record which I can display. The full reference is shown SC70/8/2/3 with a title of “Will of 3938 unstated Jonathan Hunter, 91st Regiment of Foot, cause of death: died” all of which is given in the search on ScotlandsPeople. The one additional piece given is 20 Apr 1864, which is the date his will was signed. If this was your ancestor you could then return to ScotlandsPeople and download a copy of the will with more confidence that it matched the time frame for your ancestor.

Will of Jonathan Hunter.

Will of Jonathan Hunter of 91st Regiment of Foot, leaving everything to his wife Isabella Hunter in Glasgow, dated 20 April 1864 from Scottish Military Wills Collection
Will of Jonathan Hunter of 91st Regiment of Foot, leaving everything to his wife Isabella Hunter in Glasgow, dated 20 April 1864 from Scottish Military Wills Collection

The will on Form of Will, No.1 states “to be used by a Soldier desirous of leaving the whole of his Effects to one person. Jonathan Hunter No. 3930, of the 91st Regiment of Foot, do hereby revoke all former Wills by me made, and declare this to be my last Will. After payment of my just Debts and Funeral expenses, I give to my wife, Isabella Hunter of No. 5 Waterton Street, Mile End, Glasgow, absolutely for her sole and separate use, her receipt being a sufficient discharge; the whole of my Estate and Effects, and everything that I can by law give or dispose of.” The will is then duly signed by three witnesses.

At the bottom of the form there is a Declaration of the Medical Officer. “I declare that I was present at the Execution of this Will and that Jonathan Hunter, the Testator was at the time in a fit state of mind to execute the same.” Signed by a member of the Medical staff.

Reverse of Will of Jonathan Hunter of the 91st Regiment of Foot, notice the rules for writing the will, and the faint reference SC70/8/2/3 in the upper left.
Reverse of Will of Jonathan Hunter of the 91st Regiment of Foot, notice the rules for writing the will, and the faint reference SC70/8/2/3 in the upper left.

On the reverse, which is actually the outside of the document when it is folded is a summary – The Will of Jonathan Hunter of the 91st Regt. Of Foot dated 20 April 1864. W.O. Form No. 897.

Written faintly in ink on the side of the form, upper left, is the NAS reference number SC70/8/2/3. Interestingly this is the only place to find it. The reference number is not printed out on the image header. You can however figure it out from the full reference if you save it with full ScotlandPeople reference.