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New Register House


I often get asked how to go about doing a search for your roots at New Register House in Edinburgh.  Well today (19th Jan 2001) I was kindly invited to accompany Tony Reid of Scottish Roots for a session to find my mother's line and here are my impressions...

First of all you need to find it and it's actually very easy although parking is a real problem. New Register House is at the end of Princess Street right opposite the Balmoral Hotel at North Bridge Street in Edinburgh. I took the train into Waverly station as it's only a 5 minute walk from there. There is parking at the St James Centre which is right next door to New Register House.  

When you go into New Register House there are two security guards or receptionists at the door and they are most helpful and will direct you where to go first.  In fact there is a room where you book your session and pay for your seat.  You then go into the Dome where you have access to computers and microfiche and microfilm readers.

With the use of the computer you can quickly track down the record you are interested in. To actually see the record you complete a form on which you mark down the year, issue number, etc.  You then go into a set of rooms which go around the dome in which sections are laid out for deaths, marriages, births, census records, etc.  So if you have located a date for a death you go to the death records section, find the year and then the issue number drawer under that section.  Just like a card index system but containing microfiche records.  When you locate the record you have to tear off the larger portion of your ticket you made out in the Dome and leave that in the drawer in place of the record. That record also contains your name and seat number so if anyone else is looking for that microfiche they'll know where to go and get it.

You then take the record back to the dome and insert it into your reader and flick through to find the information.  Many births also record the parents names so that can take you a good step forward or backward in this case :-)

When you have finished with the document you go back to the section and you'll find a tray where you leave the microfiche and one of the assistants there is responsible for replacing it in the file drawer.

One thing I was impressed with is that they also have the complete set of CD's of the Mormon church records and this is up just one flight of stairs.  You can search that on computer terminals and also in that room are various other records which can also be searched.

You'll find while in the Dome that right around it, some three or four floors above, are all the actual records.  That means if you can't read the microfilm copy you can ask for the original record to be made available for you.

There are also records there to help you find a location. We were looking for Hurley and by going to the appropriate records in the Dome it told us it was in the parish of Ricarton in Ayrshire. This allowed us to cross reference various Brown's we found in the records and pin point the one we were looking for.

There are staff there that can give you a quick introduction to the procedures and help with working the equipment.  It doesn't take too long to get the hang of things but of course experts will find clues in various ways.  Tony often did some arithmetic to calculate ages at the time of the 1881 census and so was able to make use of the age field while searching.  This helped also to cross reference family members where you were uncertain if the James you were looking at was the right one.

There are also cemetery records so if you know the location you can check these as well. I'm told however that is was mainly the wealthier folk that have records but well worth checking.

There is no doubt an expert can shorten your visit by hours if not days but there is no doubt you can locate records very easily if you have a record of a marriage, birth or death.

I might add that right next door are two great pubs where you can have a bar lunch or even a full meal if you prefer.. so you could easily spent an entire day there and the surroundings are very comfortable.

My overall impression is that the place is comfortable to work in and extremely well organised with lots of friendly and helpful staff available if you get stuck.  I'm told that in the off peak holiday season you normally don't need to book but if in the height of the summer season you probably do need to book in advance.  A queue starts forming around 8.30am and they let you in at 8.45am and close at 4.00pm.

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