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Ancestry Research
Creating a Family History through the Internet


Nowadays, the immediate question or even assumption is: I can trace my family tree on the internet. How true is this? The answer varies from country to country in terms of the amount of ORIGINAL and therefore vital record sources that have been placed on the internet. In terms of SCOTTISH research, this is minimal and hands on research AT RECORD OFFICES, either yourself or by use of a professional researcher, is necessary.

However, below is described the records that are available for Scottish research; as can be seen from internet use, the single most important feature for Scottish genealogical research is the existence of people and societies tracing same branches as yourself: this is what can lead to being put in touch with others who have already traced sometimes a large amount of information on a particular branch, bearing in mind that unless these sources are copies of originals, all detail needs verified in original records.

First of all the Scottish GRO (General Register Office) at New Register House, Princes Street, Edinburgh holds all births, deaths, marriages from 1855 to date and the INDEXES to these are offered online for research purposes — once a possible index entry is identified, it is a matter of a fee paying process to obtain the certificate from the GRO so in this sense on-line research is possible. These records, although vital, are basic however and real research involves much cross reference in findings between many sorts of material, most of which is not on-line.

Turning to tuning into persons who have already traced a branch you are interested in or conversely are looking for others who can provide them with information: lets take the example of a Glasgow family who had members who emigrated to the U.S. (New Jersey): the CAMPBELL family had been in Glasgow since around the late 1840s having come from Ireland according to the 1851—1891 census records (census records always provide birthplace). Research concentrated on a Mary Jane Campbell (b.c.1840 Ireland) who was a direct ancestor of the researcher; however, research on siblings is always useful as it often provides new information on their parents who are, in effect, direct ancestors. Therefore, a census record in Glasgow for 1881 showed John Campbell a brother of Mary Jane: with him was living his elderly father, in his 80s and interestingly the census record showed that 3 of John’s children had been born in New Jersey, USA. Obviously, he had went out there and returned. It is at a junction like this that two areas of further inquiry are possible: firstly, original New Jersey records can be looked at either by checking if these are available on-line or by hiring a researcher based there; in this case John Campbell’s marriage was found in Trenton, New Jersey as were births for 3 children. The second avenue ran as follows: key in to the ‘net under the basic ‘search’ (eg. MSN search) sequence the words ‘New Jersey genealogy’ or in this case if you can be more specific ‘Mercer County genealogy’ (Mercer being the county in NJ where John Campbell & family lived always be as specific as possible): the search results included reference to a site for genealogy information sharing for that very county; access to the site further divided readers’ interests into various sections including a basic surname by A—Z section for posted notices trying under C for Campbell, it was found that someone was actually researching John Campbell. It read: ‘I am looking for information on John Campbell who married in Trenton NJ to Elizabeth Baird. They both came from N. Ireland. They had 4 children between 1864 and 1876? They were probably Presbyterian. John was a Potter teaching the Americans how to do it. They went to Scotland before 1878’. The contact (e-mail address) point for the person is given. The person who had been researching the Campbell family from the Glasgow end (ie they lived in Glasgow, Scotland) was able to contact this new cousin who was very pleased to hear that he had researched the family in Glasgow: for example, she had only been aware that they had left NJ and went to Scotland (Glasgow): she had not known that the Campbells had lived in Glasgow since c.1847 and so John had (despite his Irish birthplace c.1830) returned to the city (Glasgow) where all his family lived. The person who had posted the Mercer County site notice lived in California and her grandmother had been a child of John Campbell, born once he had returned to Glasgow: the grandmother had went out to California after marrying in Glasgow; and so we have a case of a man John Campbell leaving Glasgow for the U.S., marrying there, having a family, returning to Glasgow where he remained and some of the next generation in shape of his children emigrating to the U.S. Through this contact with the current California descendant, it was further established that another brother, William Campbell, had left Glasgow for NJ too but had left to go to Canada: his obituary was located in 1922 in a Quebec newspaper, outlining his career as a businessman and leading church member. Furthermore, it was hoped that the Campbells place of birth in Ireland would be established allowing original county/parish baptism etc., records to be searched with success; however, whilst the Campbells were pretty consistent in providing their birthplace as ‘Ireland’ (usually this information is from census records 1851— 1901) the brother William who ended his days in Quebec insisted according to Canadian census records that he was born in Glasgow and his very gravestone and wall plaque in the local church there provides the same information this despite his appearance as a young man on earlier census records saying that he was Irish. He may have felt that being Scottish fostered a better business sense (at that time) since much of Ireland was still fairly undeveloped in that general sense; or he may have had other reasons for his ‘change’ of origin; also, bearing in mind that he would have only been a young boy (about 13—14) when his family came from Ireland to Glasgow, he may well have considered himself more Scottish than Irish and the surname itself speaks of an immediate Scottish connection: likely his forebears had originally been Scottish, settled as tenant farmers in Northern Ireland (as many did: plantation of Ulster) and a few generations later, during the well known late 1840s period, the family had left Ireland in view of the ‘Great Famine’ at that time, many, as in this case, coming to Glasgow and the west central Scotland area.

Other internet sources include keying into the website for existing Scottish genealogy societies (eg: the Aberdeen & NE Scotland Family History Society) and there, along with other information, you may find some records such as recorded local gravestone inscriptions, on-line.


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