Friday, 31 August 2007

National Archives of Scotland

The National Archives of Scotland are a valued destination for anyone wishing to trace their family history through Scotland. As a Scottish Smith, I was wondering how complicated it would be to find out what that side of my family’s last name was before they altered it to Smith. I know it was altered because a literature class I took at the U of Iowa informed me that during the Jacobite revolutions in Scotland, many Scottish families changed their last names to Smith (previously there weren’t any Scottish Smiths, although that seems unlikely as it’s third in the list of widely held last names) after Scotland lost, one assumes this was to fit in and I personally don’t really approve of that decision, it seems less than patriotic, but maybe it was to be sneaky. The archive currently has three buildings – the General Register House, the West Register House, and the Thomas Thomson House (which is running out of storage despite opening latest in 1995) and hold records of vast types of transactions like church records, parliament papers, wills, families’ holdings, tax records, and more. It is no surprise that they are running out of storage space and looking to build another site.

During our lecture on the archives we were shown materials from their collection including a handwritten cookbook with a lard-riddled recipe for puff pastry (typical but hard to imagine cooking today directly with lard), a document with one of the first mentions of being paid for something with whiskey from 1494, a poem that apparently school children still learn today about the British Rail system that had some vitally true lines, and a letter from Mary Queen of Scots to her mother, which was just lovely as I used to have a set of queen paper dolls that included her and so far she’s the only one of those whose signature I have now seen.

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