Thursday, 2 August 2007

Entry #11 National Archives of Scotland

Our visit to the National Archives of Scotland was one of the most pleasant visits of the summer. From the more than friendly staff, sound of bagpipes wafting into the room, and mid-lecture break for tea and biscuits, the whole time spent there was comfortable and relaxed – precisely representative of the Scottish people and their culture. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one of the best parts of the visit during which they brought out several hundreds-years-old items from their collection and let us touch and examine them. I still can’t believe we were able to hold a letter from Mary Queen of Scots; we felt the paper and got an up-close view of her handwriting. Experiences like that are what make the whole program worth it – getting to view and inspect materials and areas that the general public will never have a chance to see.

The National Archives of Scotland is housed in three different buildings: the General Register House; the West Register House, formerly St. George’s Church in Charlotte Square; and the Thomas Thomson House. The General Register House, opened in the late 1780’s, is where we had our tour. Known for the Robert Adam Dome, this is the main building where the public can obtain reader’s cards and access the records of Scotland. They have state/parliament, church, and private records, wills, deeds, taxation, and more that are helpful for genealogy searches. West Register House, opened in the 1960’s, came about due to the need for more space. This building has court/legal, government, business, railway, and nationalized industries records, including maps and plans. Finally, still needing more space, the Thomas Thomason was built in the 1980’s in the form of two separate building joined together. One building is for record storage and the other is for the day-to-day aspects of the organization such as reception, staff offices, and sorting areas.

My mother’s side of the family is from Scotland (the Dunbar’s) so I came to the center hoping to get some information on how to start looking into my own ancestry. I was pleased when our guide – an Education Officer – informed us that the majority of patrons came in for genealogy help and then proceeded to give us a ton of information about how to start the search and continue it. The first step she suggested is going to and using the Wills information to find out names. I’m excited to begin learning about my family!