Tracing Your Scottish Ancestors : A Guide For Family Historians 2nd Edition
This fully revised second edition of Ian Maxwell’s Tracing Your Scottish Ancestors is a lively and accessible introduction to Scotland’s long, complex and fascinating story. It is aimed primarily at family historians who are eager to explore and understand the world in which their ancestors lived.
He guides readers through the wealth of material available to researchers in Scotland and abroad. He looks at every aspect of Scottish history and at all the relevant resources. As well as covering records held at the National Archives of Scotland, he examines closely the information held at local archives throughout the country. He also describes the extensive Scottish records that are now available on line.
His expert and up-to-date survey is a valuable handbook for anyone who is researching Scottish history because he explains how the archive material can be used and where it can be found. For family historians, it is essential reading as it puts their research into a historical perspective, giving them a better insight into the part their ancestors played in the past.
Published within a substantial family history series, this guide includes 140 pages on 'The Lives of our Ancestors' and a 50 page 'Research Guide' together with a select bibliography and a useful index.
The historical section provides a lively summary of the social history of Scotland, nicely illustrated from contemporary accounts and nineteenth- century line drawings. The chapters on Birth, Death and Marriage; Life in the Country; Life in the Towns; Clans and Kinship; Education; Working Life; Religion; The Military; and Migration and Emigration are informative and well-balanced. But it would have benefited from reference to the first-hand accounts of country life in Scotland, and the pupil teacher system which plays an important part in so many family histories.
The research guide is clearly presented and appears to be well up to date (in 2013) in accounting for the various reorganisations of Scottish institutions. But the brevity of the research guide compared with the historical section is such that it provides no examples of the use of Scottish resources. This guide does not explain the family naming sequence which can be so helpful or the inter-changeable first names which can be so unhelpful in tracing Scottish ancestors. It does not mention the wealth of local maps online at the National Library of Scotland, the publications of the Scottish Records Association, nineteenth-century newspapers online, or the key role of the family history societies and local history societies of Scotland. It is disappointing that for Aberdeenshire the archives are shown linked with Kinross instead of Kincardine. A Mormon centre and a tourism website are listed in preference to the superb resources of the Aberdeen Central Library and the North East Scotland Family History Society.
In short, this book is not a substitute for a 'hands-on' course in family history or one of the locally written booklets published by Scottish family history societies. However, it does provide a useful supplement to such resources and a high-level reminder of most of the invaluable but challenging accumulation of Scottish online resources.
David L Walker
The Friends of The National Archives