Last weekend I attended the Third Australasian Scottish Genealogy Conference, organised by the GSV’s Scottish Ancestry Group. Arriving at the conference on Saturday morning, I was greeted to the sound of bagpipes. This was the first of many performances, designed to immerse us in Scottish culture over the course of the weekend. We later experienced the delights of Highland dancers, Scottish folk ditties and the Scottish Gaelic Choir.

The conference theme Catch the moments: A century of transformation 1750 – 1850, covered varied presentations about the historical, cultural and technological circumstances of Scotland during this 100 year period. Events such as the Treaty of Union with England, slave traders in the West Indies, agricultural, commercial and technological changes, the Highland Clearances and British wars were all discussed in the context of researching the lives of our Scottish ancestors.

The quality of the speakers was high and the keynote speakers,  Eric Richards and Sheena Tait did a fantastic job.

Eric Richards gave an interesting talk on the Highland Clearances, which gave a bit of historical context to those with ancestors impacted by these displacements.

Sheena presented 4 times over the course of the weekend, each topic fascinating in its own way. In her second presentation Tracing Military Ancestors,  she spoke about the location of Scottish military records. The National Archives UK hold many records and a search of their online catalogue (for a particular regiment) will tell you what records have survived.  Once you have identified a National Archives’ series number, you may want to check the  Family Search Library Catalog as they hold microfilm copies of many of these records.

The Statistical accounts of Scotland were mentioned by a number of speakers. These are parish by parish surveys of Scotland’s natural, social, cultural and political history compiled in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. The Parish ministers were tasked with filling out these surveys, and the result is a fairly idiosyncratic and at times eccentric account of each Parish. Comments on the character of the population often appear and are not always without bias.

The (old) statistical account of Scotland consists of 21 Volumes, covering the period 1791-1799. These are available to view on microfiche in our Genealogy Centre.

We also hold copies of The new statistical account of Scotland (1834 – 1845)  and the The third statistical account of Scotland (1951 – 1992) in our storage area.

The fee based website, Scotland’s People was another hot topic of conversation. This website includes births, death and marriage records in the form of old parochial and statutory registers. Will and testaments (1513 – 1901) and census records (1841 – 1911) can also be searched.

In the final session of the conference, Sheena suggested using maps, images, statistical accounts and other written sources to develop a mental picture of where and how our ancestors lived. The ScotlandsPlaces website was mentioned as another good source of information.

Overall, a great conference that was well organised with high quality speakers. Well done to the Scottish Ancestry Group for another fantastic event.

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