Tracing Your Scottish Family History

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A thorough guide to researching your Scottish family tree.

This year, Scots worldwide will celebrate the Homecoming year to mark the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns. Amidst this gaiety, many will come to Scotland to reflect on their own family's journey, personally examine Scotland's past and research their family tree.

Tracing Your Scottish Family History guides the reader step by step, from "ask your family first" to finding, ...

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New Brand New Book, Firefly Books edition 1st printing, 2009, paperback, no marks inside, 224 pages of knowledge, a great book.

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A thorough guide to researching your Scottish family tree.

This year, Scots worldwide will celebrate the Homecoming year to mark the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns. Amidst this gaiety, many will come to Scotland to reflect on their own family's journey, personally examine Scotland's past and research their family tree.

Tracing Your Scottish Family History guides the reader step by step, from "ask your family first" to finding, accessing and understanding obscure local records. Anthony Adolph shares insider tips on how best to search archives, libraries, publications, registers, censuses, tax rolls, debt records, churches, testaments and deeds, and he supplies all relevant contact information. Fortunately the Internet, digitized archives and DNA sampling have made it easier than ever to reconstruct a family tree.

This book's abundant archival photographs and illustrations and Adolph's engaging text describe Scottish society in detail, from the early seanachaidh (druids) and chieftains to Viking genetics. Adolph explains how critical historical events affected how and where Scottish people lived, and he gives comprehensive detail on such important topics as naming patterns, clans and tartans, heraldry, parishes, landholders and tacksmen, the Burghs, sasines, farmers and crofters, and Highland and Lowland families.

Tracing Your Scottish Family History is a comprehensive research tool and easy-to-use guide that gives an authentic historical perspective of Scotland and the lives of its people — a core reference for researching a Scottish family tree.

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Editorial Reviews

Muskoka Today - Lois Cooper
Great tools for authentic historical research.... Check out your heraldry or tartan and follow lots of clues to your ancestral records. They help us to understand or imagine the society our ancestors experienced before emigrating to Canada or the U.S.
National Genealogical Society Quarterly - Norman D. Nicol
From the very first pages, the reader will realize that this [book's] particular approach to Scottish ancestry has a vigorous style that reflects the author's boundless enthusiasm.... Adolph introduces the reader to his subject in an eminently readable manner. The tone is conversational, not pedantic. His penchant for telling a good story leads the reader down the path to desired information, and then to the summit of what to do with it once it has been located. Both beginners and veteran researchers will find much that is useful and instructive in this book. Whereas other titles in this genre populate my library shelves as reference books, Tracing Your Scottish Family History will likely remain next to my reading chair, to be reread and enjoyed in small doses. By such means, the many interesting illustrations and exemplary vignettes can be savored again and again. Robbie Burns would be proud.
The National Post - Dave Obee
The basic rules of family history research apply to just about every country.... But there are many variations on the formula, which is why it's important to have a book that is specific to your country of origin... [This book is] well written and lavishly illustrated, so it's possible to find something of interest on almost any page.
Family Chronicle
Takes the reader step-by-step through the process of investigating their Scottish heritage.... Comprehensive details...and critical historical events, add color to your Scottish family tree.
The News Gazette (Champaign, IL) - Joan Griffis
A most helpful book... Comprehensive... Fascinating... Interesting and informative.... Of all the how-to books I have ever seen, Adolph's are the most beautiful... One can easily learn the basics for researching in Scotland and/or Ireland from Adolph's new works but more important, become truly informed on the historical background of these countries and ultimately learn why certain records were created and how they can be accessed. Photographs of ancient ruins as well as the charming countryside make one want to visit one's homeland, whether it is Scotland or Ireland!
Glenn Historical Atlas and Family His - Glenn Perrett
Filled with lots of interesting photos and illustrations, Tracing Your Scottish Family History covers considerable areas to help you trace your Scottish roots...[It] is a good guide and research tool for tracing your Scottish family tree.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781554074570
  • Publisher: Firefly Books, Limited
  • Publication date: 2/1/2009
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 7.40 (w) x 9.60 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Anthony Adolph is a professional genealogist, writer and broadcaster. He has written many articles for the genealogical press and appeared on the Discovery Channel's Ancestor Hunters.

Ryan Tubridy is a leading TV personality in the UK.

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Table of Contents

Abbreviations used in the text
Part 1: Getting started

  • How to start your family tree
  • Archives and organizations
  • Scotlands' names
  • Know your parish
Part 2: The main records
  • General Registration
  • Censuses
  • Church registers
  • Religious denominations
  • Testaments, deed and other useful records
Part 3: How they lived
  • What people did
  • The burghs
  • Landholders
  • Farmers and crofters
  • Clans and tartans
Part 4: Comings and goings
  • Emigration
  • The origins of Scotland's people
  • Genetic evidence

Useful addresses
Acknowledgments & picture credits

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This book was written to mark the 250th anniversary in 2009 of the birth of Robert Burns, the Ploughman Poet, whose words captured the spirit of the Scottish nation. His anniversary year has been declared Scotland's Homecoming Year, which aims to encourage Scots all over the world to come back to visit, and to assure them of a warm welcome when they do.

To come home you need to know where you come from. Underpinning Homecoming Year is genealogy, the study of family trees or pedigrees, and its associated discipline of family history, the study of the stories behind the pedigrees. In many countries, computerization of records has rocketed genealogy from a minority interest into an immensely popular obsession. But in Scotland, knowing your roots is nothing new. Right back in the 16th century, the French joked of any Scotsman they encountered, "that man is the cousin of the king of the Scots," for that was what he would surely claim. A rather more cynical view was penned in the mid-18th century by Charles Churchill (1731-64), in his Prophecy of Famine: "Two boys, whose birth beyond all question springs/From great and glorious, tho' forgotten kings,/Shepherds of Scottish lineage, born and bred/On the same bleak and barren mountain's head..."

Sarcastic, yes, but accurate, for many of the widespread Lowland families and Highland clans were indeed founded by scions of Scotland's ruling dynasties, be they in origin Pict, Briton, Gael, Viking or Norman. And such knowledge was not lost, especially in the Gaelic-speaking parts, when ancestors' names were remembered through the sloinneadh, the patronymic or pedigree, in which two or more - often many - generations of ancestors' names were recited, and which was a natural part of everyone's sense of identity.

Such essential knowledge was threatened, diluted and sometimes lost by migration,
whether to other parts of Scotland or over the seas in the white-sailed ships. Nonetheless, it results today in many people all over the world being able to point at a particular spot on the map of Scotland and say, "that is home."

This book is for those who can't but want to, or who can but want to learn more. I know that many aspects of genealogy such as DNA and nonconformity can seem terribly complicated, and that some specific aspects of Scottish genealogy (such as services of heirs, wadsets and precets of clare constat) seem to have been designed purposely to intimidate the faint-hearted. And, given the great amount of contradictory information flying about, does your Scottish surname actually indicate that you belong to the clan, or may wear a tartan, or doesn't it?

I hope this book will help guide you through these issues, to develop a much fuller understanding of your Scottish family history, and to find your own way back, so to speak, to your Scottish home.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 15, 2012


    Any of the books used to trace your family or to even look into the history of your own country or another is well worth reading. These books teach your some of the ends and outs of tracing your history and others.

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