Story of a Nation

 Scottish History Events  Comments Off on Story of a Nation
Jan 242011

Last spring we blogged about “Story of England” (titled “English Story” at the time), a major Michael Wood series looking at the history of England through the prism of the community of Kibworth in Leicestershire. The AddressingHistory team very much enjoyed the series when it was aired last year particularly as the series placed the local community at the centre of its explorations of the history of the place and its people. We are therefore delighted to hear that a follow up series, Story of a Nation is currently being developed!

Story of a Nation will be looking at the history of the entire UK and the programme makers, Maya Vision International, have been in touch to see if we can help with a rather specific request for help. The team are seeking possible projects in Scotland around the Black Death and around Calvinism. The production team are keen to ensure that these projects involve the local community – as they did for Story of England – and are very interested to hear any possible ideas for projects or to connect to existing activity around Scottish history of this era.

For instance you might be aware of colourful local accounts or archaeological sites that relate to the Black Death or the surrounding era (from around 1300 to around 1500). It may be that your local history or community group may have a special interest in, or your ancestors may have strong connections to Calvinism in Scotland, the Protestant Reformation or indeed to key figures of this movement such as John Knox. Or it could be that you enjoyed Story of England and had a great idea for a project that would work in your local community for these historical periods.

So, if you or your local history or archaeology group are already active in this area, if you know of a particular connection or have a great idea to explore further then please get in touch with us ( as soon as possible and we will forward your message or contact details to the team at Maya Vision International.

We think this will be a really interesting series so would definitely encourage you to send in your ideas!

New POD browsing page on the NLS website

 Project Updates, Related Projects and Services  Comments Off on New POD browsing page on the NLS website
Jan 212011

A quick update that we think will make for some fun weekend browsing.

AddressingHistory project partners the National Library of Scotland have recently added a new page to their website allowing you to browse the Post Office Directories that have already been scanned and made available online. Each directory is listed and the number of directories available is shown in brackets after the town or city name. This can be found at: and the page looks like this:

A screen shot of the NLS Scottish Post Officer Directories page

A screen shot of the NLS Scottish Post Officer Directories page:

Clicking through to a directory lets you either look at the PDF file or browse the directories in an online viewer at the Internet Archive – I decided to have a look at the Glasgow directory and rather liked the “names too late for insertion” section:

Glasgow Post Office Directory in the online viewer

The new Scottish Post Office Directories page is a really useful way to browse the collection, and the directories are always huge fun to read through, so we know you will be pleased to see that so many Scottish directories can now be viewed from there for free.

On a related note: currently only three Edinburgh directories that appear in the AddressingHistory search and mapping tool so you may also be pleased to hear that we are currently looking at several possible developments to AddressingHistory including the possibility of broadening coverage to another or several other areas of Scotland. If there are areas you think would be particularly useful we’d love to hear your comments below.

Have a fantastic weekend and do let the National Library of Scotland know your thoughts on their new directories page!

Jan 062011

To mark the start of the new year we are delighted to bring you a guest post by Celia Heritage. Celia is a professional genealogist and lecturer in Family History and, yes, her surname really is Heritage. Celia offers professional research service, online research advice and Family History Courses. She is currently working on putting her popular 5-week beginners’ and refreshers’ course “Building Your Family Tree” online and has  several talks on using maps in family history coming up in her talk schedule over the next few months.

Using Maps for Family History Research

As family historians we often become set in our ways in the types of records we study. Records of birth and marriage tell us about our ancestors in relationship to other people, while census records provide us with a glimpse into the lives of our families once every ten years, showing us where they lived and what they did for a living. If you hope to really get to know your ancestors however, it’s time you turned to other sources and two of the sources we regularly underuse are maps and directories. We are very lucky to live in the world of digitisation! Digitisation has revolutionised family history, taking records that were previously only available in isolation on the bookshelf and, not only making them accessible at home via the Internet, but evolving them in order to achieve a far greater depth of meaning.

Whereas maps tell us what sort of environment our ancestors lived in, giving an indication of local facilities from railway stations, public houses, factories and public baths, directories give us specific information about the people who actually lived in that environment: where they lived and often their occupation. Directories are excellent sources for fleshing out your  family tree. I traced two of my own relatives Joseph Hemus and his wife Martha in the post office and trade directories for Birmingham between 1880 and the 1920s. From the directories I discovered that although Joseph ran a draper and hosiery business, his wife had her own business as the proprietor of a domestic service agency, initially from the same address as her husband and later at a separate address. The directories also showed that Joseph and Martha had originally lived in and run his draper’s business from one premises but, presumably as his business prospered, he was able to rent separate premises for the business a few streets away from the family home. In his later years a study of the directories once again shows that he moved the business back home and guess he must have downsized the business in his later years.

The beauty of the AddressingHistory project is that it marries these two concepts, producing as it does the results of a surname search in the directories plotted on a map of the environment in which they lived. This means that not only is it easy to pinpoint exactly which part of the city an ancestor  lived in at that time, but that you can simultaneously locate other family members with the same surname living in Edinburgh.  The Edinburgh directory of 1784 predates the first national census that was of any use by some 57 years while both the 1865 and 1905 directories are useful stop gaps in between the decennial census returns. And while we are here – the other great thing about this project is that with the selection of three  maps many years apart it makes  a superb tool for watching the city of Edinburgh develop through the years before your very eyes!