Thursday, April 28, 2011

The History of Scottish Fire Brigades

As far as I know I never had any ancestors that served in the Fire Brigade (modern day cousins, yes). If you have ancestors, then here's an interesting site, if you don't it's still interesting :)

Since I am currently trolling around the general area of Dundee in my family research, I thought I'd look up what the site had to say.
Here's a wee bit of it.


1835 to 1837Superintendent T. Matthew
1837 to 1845Superintendent J. Coutts
1845 to 1870Superintendent James Fyffe
1870 to 1873Superintendent John W Fyffe
1873 to 1898Captain Robert Ramsay
1898 to 1903Captain John Ramsay
1903 to 1937Captain James S Weir MIFireE
1937 to 1941Firemaster William MacKay



Steam Engines,350 gallons capacity
Manual Engine (obsolute, not used)
70' Horsed Fire Escape
Horsed Hose Tender
General Service Waggon
Hand Hose Reel
Hand Pumps
Stand Pipes
Branch Pipes
Scaling Ladders
15'Pompier Ladders and Belts
Horses belonging to the Department
8,300 yds
Canvas Hose 2 1/2"

Received an additional Horse Hose Tender.

Calls to fires
1904 - 146
1905 - 137
1913 - 235

There's also information about where the fire brigade was located, some salaries, staff (some locations list the names).
Some other districts also have breakdowns on the kinds of fire trucks.

 AD43 - the Romans invaded Britain and the first fire fighters were organized - basically buckets of water.
1666 - Great Fire of London. As a result Nicholas Barbon introduces fire insurance then sets up his own fire brigade. Insurances companies set up their own fire brigades but only attended those buildings insured by their clients.
1672 - fire hose invented by Jan Van der Heiden
1725 - fire engine developed by Richard Newsham
1810 - Napoleon Bonaparte creates the "Sapeurs-Pompiers"
1824 - First public fire brigade in Britain is established in Edinburgh by James Braidwood. He later took charge of the London Fire Engine Establishment which had been created in 1832. He developed the strategy of entering buildings to fight fires.
1938 - Fire Services Act
1947 - Fire Services Act 1947 returns fire brigades to local authority control

It would be difficult for me to sum up the operations of fire brigades (in Britain) in a few sentences because of all the changes that have occurred over the years.

The Scottish Fire Heritage Group has got a lot of resources in their LINKS section.

A wee hint - if you had male ancestors living in Edinburgh, in the early to mid 1800's, who were tradesmen e.g. slaters, carpenters, masons and plumbers, or sailors, they might have been volunteer firemen.

When I'm in London in a few weeks time I'll try and pay a visit to the Firefighters Memorial near St. Paul's Cathedral. Last time I was there it was pouring rain so I did not take time to stop.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Year Was -1805

My main paternal line stops at 1805 and I'm hoping if I research some other events it might spark other avenues to explore.

Twas the time of the Napoleonic Wars. The Battle of Trafalgar was fought. Lord Horatio Nelson died. Napoleon was crowned king of Italy.

If you want to find out if one of your ancestors fought in the Napoleonic Wars try searching at I found a John McKellar from Bute, now I just have to work out if he is one of mine.

Did you know that -
Dayton, Ohio was incorporated (I had to put that one in since my husband grew up near there.)
Tangerines appeared in Europe from China.
The modern matchstick was invented by K. Chanel
Jane Austen's father moved his family to Bath.
"The Beauties of Scotland" 5 vols. by Robert Forsyth was published.
The Beaufort Wind Scale was devised.
Sir Walter Scott wrote "The Talisman".
George Greenough did a geological tour of Scotland

Famous births

Hans Christian Andersen - writer
Horatio Greenough - sculptor
Samuel Palmer - painter
Franz Xavier Winterhalter - artist and engraver
William Harrison Ainsworth - writer
Joseph Smith jr. - founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Famous deaths
Jean-Baptiste Greuze - artist
Friedrich von Schiller - dramatist and poet
Alexander Carlyle - Scottish church leader

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Another WWI casualty

I'm old enough to have grown up around a lot of people that were impacted by WWI. Last night I was doing some research on one of my great grandparents when up pops an e-mail.

Stewart Greig
son of Lyall and Jessie Stewart Greig of Dundee
Lance Corporal Royal Marine Light Infantry (CH/15295)
Killed, age 34, after HMS Hogue was sunk by U9 off the Dutch coast. 22/09/14
Commemorated on Chatham Naval Memorial.
Source: CWGC Casualty Details Data Base.

That's all it said.

Stewart's mother was sister to my gggrandfather John Kirkwood Stewart. At the moment they are the only two of the 9 siblings that I have done any research on. They had an older brother and the remaining 6 were younger. My dad grew up near his Stewart cousins.

So I took a wee detour, checked out the information and added a lot to it :) Here's some of it. has some information.

Greig, Stewart
register # 11266
division Royal Marine Light Infantry, Plymouth Division
when enlisted: 02 December 1901
date: 19 April 1881
catalogue ref: ADM 159/79
depart: Records of the Admiralty, Naval Forces, Royal Marine, Coastguard, and related bodies
series: Admiralty: Royal Marines: Registers of Service
piece: 10916-11464
image ref. 351/332

War was declared 4 August 1914
Stewart died 22 September 1914 in what I learned was a really famous incident (from the German perspective) at the time involving a German U9 boat and 3 ships, Aboukir, Hogue and Cressy.
Alan Coles wrote a book specifically about the incident "Three Before Breakfast"(1979).

There's a very sobering list of WWI Royal Navy and Dominion Navies casualties here (This is the September page.)

A concise write up on the event can be found at

After reading about the ships, nicknamed "The Live Bait Squadron" and the circumstances surrounding the incident "it was an accident waiting to happen", it's a sobering thought that it only took HMS Hogue 10-15 minutes to sink and that if zig-zag protocol had been stuck too maybe many of the deaths (abt. 1400) might have been avoided. Hogue was attempting to rescue survivors from Aboukir. (scroll down to the Cressy Class)
As usual it annoys me that memorials like Chatham Naval Memorial get vandalized. We need to be more respectful of those that fought to give us freedom Many were scared, young men with inadequate training, trying to do the best they could in horrible circumstances. (IMHO)

Lance Corporal Stewart S. Greig was added to the CNM Find a Grave Memorial on May 23 2006 (#14372098). A copy of the Memorial Register is kept in the Naval Chapel of Brompton Garrison Church, other copies are kept at Chatham Library.
"In honour of the Navy and to the abiding memory of these ranks and ratings of this port who laid down their lives in the defence of the Empire and have no other grave than the sea."

Gate photo courtesy of
It's somewhat ironic that for about 2 years (in the mid 1980's) I lived 40 miles NW of Chatham and at the time never knew anything about the memorial.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The year was - 1849

I have a fondness for my g-g-aunt Ann Kay nee McKellar. I don't know a whole lot about her and have not been able to track down any descendants yet. I do know that she was a very talented stitcher because I have one of her samplers in my possession. She was a shopkeeper by profession and had 5 children, that I know of. Ann was born, raised, and died on the Isle of Bute. She did make some visits to the mainland to visit her sister who was living in Glasgow.
So I decided to use her birth year - 1849- as the first of my "The year was ...." mini series. I'm in a mood to explore Scottish history and put my relatives into some social context.
Our relatives may, or may not, have been impacted by greater events and it definitely is useful to know what was going on during their lifetime.

It's somewhat ironic that my little delve into Scottish history would find Peter Hume Brown who also was born in 1849. He is credited with being the first professor of Scottish history at Edinburgh University and slanted his classes toward placing Scotland in a European context.

The "Highland Clearances" were at the tale end of that sorry episode. The bareness, and barrenness, of the Highlands led to some wonderful art and writings, so I suppose some good came out of it.

There was an epidemic of Cholera, including Glasgow (where 3,777 died.) Ick :(
Thomas Carlyle visited Ireland in July and wrote about the effects of the famine.
Edinburgh and Bathgate railway opened, as it did in a number of other towns round Scotland.
600 people left the Isle of Tiree bound for Canada.
Multiple Sclerosis was first diagnosed.
California Gold Rush.
Inverurie Catholic Church was consecrated.
Rosslea Hall, Helensburgh, built for Daniel Walkinshaw.
Ness Bridge (Inverness) destroyed by a flood.
1.5% of Scotland's population was from England - 39,000.
David Livingstone was traveling from Mabotsa trying to find a waterway across the African continent.
Auchen Castle built
Tileworks opened at Kilchattan Bay, Isle of Bute.
Corn Laws abolished.
Battle of Novara
Britain annexes Punjab
Ardnamurchan Lighthouse built.
Alexander Duff, first Duke of Fife, was born
First edition of "Who's Who" published

Family births in 1849
William Robertson Lindsay (great grandfather, Angus)
William Colville (cousin, Perthshire)
Margaret Audus (cousin, Orkney)
Elisabeth Bissett (cousin, Fife)
Kay Brownson (cousin, England)
David Gardner (cousin, Stirlingshire)
David Howie (cousin, Ayrshire)
Mary Robertson (cousin, Orkney)
Ann Smith (cousin, Forfar)
William Thorburn (cousin, Bute)
Mary Ann Wilson (cousin, England)
Janet McArkley Wighton (cousin, Forfar)
Robert Charles Williamson (cousin, Midlothian)
Janet Weir (cousin, Fife)
George Watson (cousin, Scotland)
Mary Ann Watson (cousin, Fife)

map of Scotland  1849 drawn and engraved by J. Rapkin

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Original Scots Colonists of Early America" 1612-1783

David Dobson has done a ton of research over the years about Scottish immigration to the Americas.
"The Scottish participation in the settlement of America dates from the early seventeenth century, and from that time until the American Revolution probably around 150,000 Scots emigrated to the New World. During the seventeenth century many Scots settled within the English, Dutch and French colonies, while others attempted to establish independent colonies in Nova Scotia, New Jersey, South Carolina, and at Darien (Note: Darien is the Scots' name for Panama. --GB). After the political union of Scotland and England in 1707 the Scots had unrestricted access to the English plantations in America. Emigration expanded slowly but steadily until 1736 when a combination of factors in Scotland and America stimulated emigration, especially from the Highlands. Although Scots could be found throughout the American colonies from Barbados to Rupert's LAnd, areas such as Georgia, the Carolinas, upper New York, Nova Scotia and Jamaica had the greatest concentration of Scottish immigrants. This then was the general pattern of Scottish immigration and settlement in colonial America."
Source - "The Original Scots Colonists of Early America"1612-1783, David Dobson

I highly recommend reading any of his publications though be prepared for lists, and lots of them. I am currently reading "The Scottish Surnames of Colonial America."
I have the Arthur surname in my family and here's what the book says - Arthur. Probably from the Gaelic "Artair", also MacArthur, from "MacArtair". Their traditional lands were in Lorne in Argyll. Isabel Arthur, from Edinburgh, emigrated to Philadelphia in 1775, and Duncan McArthur from Jura settled in North Carolina in 1754. Linked with the Clan Campbell or the ClanMacArthur."

If you have Scottish Quakers in your lineage then check out "Scottish Quakers and Early America, 1650-1700." Very interesting.

One of his newest releases is "Genealogy at a Glance: Scottish Genealogy Research" a 4 page laminated resource for conducting research. It includes tips, publications and in-line resources. (where would most of us be nowadays in our research without on-line resources.) I'm looking forward to getting my own copy and trying it out.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Ship Passenger Arrival Records and Land Border Entries

Most people in these parts have immigrant ancestry so the topic of port entry comes up fairly regularly.
Not everyone came in though Ellis Island or the main ports of call earlier in history. Ships captains were not obligated to keep, or hand over, a list of passengers till after 1820. A goodly number of people came in through Canada or South America. Not all immigrants flowed from north to south or east to west.
A good start off point is to check the introduction page at the National Archives (Washington DC). There's lots of general background information and resources.
If your British ancestry came "By Way of Canada" you might be interested in this article by Marian L. Smith
Another useful listing of, and about, port entries can be found at
Irish Ancestry - check here -
History of the INS -
A few years ago I had a lengthy talk with one of the ships experts in Edinburgh. His advice to anyone researching from the US was to exhaust all possibilities here (US) first before attempting to research in the UK.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A starter tip when reading birth records

If you are going to make a photocopy of an original Scottish birth record OR make a digital copy double check the back side. Oftentimes the christening/baptism date was written on the back (mine being an example). Also check information that might have been added onto the certificate at a later date. I have a number of birth certificates where the christening dates have been written in, and signed by the minister.

I have copies of a number of OPR pages that I am revisiting. I originally got them because a specific family member was recorded on each page. One page I am currently "re-visiting" has two or three other people on it that are family but I did not know that at the time the copy was made.

I also have both copies of the Certificate of Proclamation of Banns that were posted for my maternal grandparents. The marriage date was written in after the event on both copies by the minister. One of the pieces of paperwork is "suitable for framing" :)

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Scots-Irish: The Thirteenth Tribe

The longer I live in the south the more questions I get asked about Ireland, specifically the "Scotch-Irish". Yesterday during our question and answer session at our local genealogy group my mind went completely blank when asked for resources and unfortunately I did not have my resources book with me :( (It's at the Franklin FHC if anyone is interested in looking.)

Northern Ireland (Belfast)
PRONI - Public Record Office of Northern Ireland

Southern Ireland (Dublin)
General Register Office

National Library of Ireland

Find My Past Ireland (new)

I have issues with the term "Scotch-Irish" and consider it a purely American "tag" made for convenience sake. Having said that it did originate with the Protestant Irish to separate themselves from the newer Catholic Irish immigrants. Here's some sources about the history.

The Scots Irish - The Thirteenth Tribe

Tracing the Scots Line

Scottish and Scotch-Irish Americans

Scotch Irish Emigration to America

The Irish Story

This wee Scots lass with Irish ancestry is currently trying to work out why her ancestor moved from Ireland to Scotland. I guess I better hit the history books again. Looking at the time period 1790'ish thru 1815.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Book Review- History for Genealogists......

The full title is "History For Genealogists. Using Chronological Time Lines to Find and Understand Your Ancestors" by Judy Jacobson, a very long title for a very interesting little book. Very well researched.
It mainly covers USA state timelines and history BUT there's a bit about Scotland at the start and a number of European sections. I'm still reading the book and enjoying it very much.
How did I find the book? My friend Rick attended my class on Timelines and when he saw the book thought I would be interested in reading it. He came into the FHC and I have it on loan from him. I need to buy my own copy because I guarantee I will use it often :)
Here's a taste of some of Judy's timelines -
Major revolutionary war events and battles
foreign military and armed engagements
uncivil disobedience
international disasters
the rise of labor unions

Judy has a lot of concise, well written "shorts" that are packed full of information. A great jump off point to take your own research further e.g. Meandering Boundaries, Ghost Towns, Orphan Trains, The Lost Three States, America's Historical Migration Patterns, to name but a few.

Chapter 2 is specifically about how and why to create Time Lines.

For more information about the book go to

With all the junky weather, bronchitis type stuff that's been going round the family and my own lack of transportation on occasion, today was the first time this year that I was able to go to our local family history group. Thanks to Bob for highlighting my blog at his web page and to everyone who came to our question and answer session. Hopefully between the two of us we were able to provide decent information :)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Personal Past Meditations-A Genealogical Blog

I've been thinking recently about genealogy blogs that I really like and would like to share with others.
Dr. Daniel Hubbard has a wonderful blog (IMHO). Lots of wonderful information that is very concisely written and reflects his sense of humor :)
It's not got a huge amount of information about my area of research - Scotland BUT it does have a ton of information that is useful for any kind of family history research.
One of his recent postings entitled "Who Will They Think We Were?" raises some very good points about when a future genealogist might be researching him.
Daniel lives in the house that his grandfather built. There are plenty of records locally indicating that Daniel lived/lives there BUT does that tell the whole truth? In this case ..... NO..... because Daniel has travelled extensively, married abroad and had some of his children abroad also.
So while we are focusing on researching our own ancestry remember that one day one of our descendants might research us. What information will we leave behind in our own paper trail? Will it be accurate or shrouded in family myth?
My descendants might get upset with me because I am not an active journal writer and do not come from a family that does. I have stories that I am writing down and photographs that I am collecting, but will it be enough to flesh out the official documents?

The good doctor has a topics section in his side-bar that takes you to interesting postings on such things as experimental genealogy, forgotten history.
If you live in the USA here's a good resource from his writings that could prove useful - Sanborn Maps. are they? Fire insurance maps. How many of you would have thought to look there for family history information?
And why is the good doctor so interested in the maps himself?
I love how it links into expanding upon the use of census records AND how it got his dad talking.

Addendum - The British equivalent of Sanborn would be Goad and they can be found at the British Library

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

So excited ......

...... because I am heading off to Scotland in May, with two of my daughters in tow, to visit my parents. So far we have our flight to and from London booked (we want to visit my brother) and just have to take care of booking the short hop up to Edinburgh. We have a 4 hour lay-over in Toronto, Ontario on the way over and will be in spitting distance of some family history locations there.  I've already had the "no you cannot leave the airport to go visit ......." speel.
To make good use of my family history opportunity in Scotland I'm going to have to make some tough decisions about who and what I will have time to research.
How to incorporate touristy stuff for my daughters with family places I would like to see.
How much time can I actually spend at New Register House in Edinburgh without the girls "buying up" the whole city :) Last time I was in Edinburgh the new section of NRH was still being built and I so want to see the changes AND check out the newest census record releases (1911).
What research information/notes do I want to take with me just in case there are issues with internet access.
Which cousins do I contact and visit, etc. etc. etc.
I had camera issues last time I did research over there so one of my questions to myself is "Do I want to revisit some areas to get decent photographs or do I want to go to areas not visited before?"