Alloway and Southern Ayrshire FAMILY HISTORY SOCIETY Robert Burns Cottage, Alloway, Ayr
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Sunday, 30 October 2011

26 Oct 2011 - Mitchell Library Visit

Wednesday the 26th October saw a group of thirteen members assembling in the Mitchell Library cafeteria for a session in the Archives.  We were pleased that Alastair and Janice Menzies joined us from Aberdeenshire, who were staying in Edinburgh that week and also Alison White from Livingston.

Dr Irene O’Brien, Senior Archivist at the library was talking to us about Church records, in particular the Kirk Session records of the Church of  Scotland pre 1855. She had also set out a number of source books for us to look at.  She explained the relevance of these to family historians, not only for the facts that they contained, but also the additional personal details that could be gleaned from them.

Dr O’Brien explained that very often the session minutes would relate to a particular misdemeanour by a Church member. This might have been a case of drunkenness, slander, illegitimacy or an irregular marriage etc. This was a way of the Church encouraging good behaviour among their
parishioners, particular during the 15th 16th and 17th centuries.

Dr O’Brien then went on to explain how the Church accounts could also provide information; in particular the pew rent books, poor relief, charitable gifts etc. She also spoke about communion rolls and congregational rolls. All of these could be checked for ancestral names.  She then mentioned that the Kirk Session records of the various denominations are held in the Archives. These are the Baptist, Congregational, Evangelical and Methodist Churches. In particular, she mentioned the Episcopal Church whose members were known to come from the landed families.

Dr O’Brien then explained that the Registrars Genealogy Centre is now on level 3. This holds all the Kirk Session records for the whole of Scotland. These were held previously in Park Circus, but are now available at the Mitchell.  She suggested that it would be wise to book in advance. The cost is £15 per day.

This was a most interesting and informative afternoon, enlivened throughout by the expertise of Dr. O’Brien.

Barbara Finlay

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