Family Research – English, Scottish and Irish Genealogy

24/11/2004

The future of family history

The new £1.6 million Scottish Family History Centre will be fully operational in 2006.

Deputy Justice Minister Hugh Henry today gave family historians their first glimpse of the physical layout and organisation of the campus which will create a ‘one-stop-shop’ for genealogy research.

It will bring together services provided separately by the General Register Office for Scotland, National Archives of Scotland and Court of the Lord Lyon.

The new family history centre will span the adjacent General Register House and New Register House buildings, both A-listed buildings at the East end of Edinburgh’s Princes Street to create an integrated Register House campus.

Deputy Justice Minister Hugh Henry said:

“I am delighted to unveil the plans for this extremely innovative and valuable project. These plans mark an important milestone in the development of a fully integrated Scottish Family History Centre at the Register House campus.

“We have two landmark buildings here which are architectural treasures, but at present the public can’t properly enjoy them. This project will change all that.

“The buildings contain a treasure trove of information reflecting the personal histories of Scots over many centuries. The creation of a single family history campus will unite the efforts of three Offices providing genealogy research services. It will produce a first class facility – a visitor attraction in its own right. This will be a magnet to ancestor hunters both in Scotland and across the world. It will increase our understanding of our past and help to boost tourism.”

Tourism and Culture Minister Frank McAveety said:

“Research shows that many visitors to Scotland give “family roots and ancestry” as the main influence on their decision to holiday in Scotland. Scotland is fortunate in having some of the best genealogical resources in the world. The development of a Family History Service provides a valuable opportunity to attract more visitors and maximise use of this tremendous resource.”

The launch of the £1.6 million Scottish Family History Centre project was announced by the Scottish Executive in December 2002 and work has subsequently begun on defining the physical layout and organisation of the new campus.

Two new public search rooms will be created. Other benefits include enhanced facilities for visitors, exhibition and retail spaces, and improved disabled access. Online and other facilities will be integrated to provide an enhanced service to family historians.

The plans have been developed in consultation with Historic Scotland as both buildings have grade ‘A’ listed status. Building work will start early in 2005 and take approximately 12 months to complete.

At present, the main records which individuals use as the basis for their family history are held by three separate institutions

General Register Office for Scotland (GROS)
National Archives of Scotland (NAS)
Court of the Lord Lyon
They occupy two buildings – General Register House and New Register House – which lie in close proximity at the East End of Princes Street in Edinburgh.

The Scottish Family History Research Service will build on work already begun by the partners in creating digital images of their records, and online versions of indexes and catalogues.

It will enable staff to give a fuller, more tailored service to genealogists to provide enhanced exhibition facilities, and to exploit more fully the visitor potential of the landmark Register House buildings.

A part of the project will encourage local authorities to set up similar one-stop-shops in their areas. In addition, the Scottish Family History Research Service will bring together the various internet facilities offered by the project partners to improve the links between them, and work towards seamless online searching of the resources they contain.

GROS is an Associated Department of the Executive. One of its functions is to make its genealogical database available to members of the public. It holds the statutory registers of births, marriages and deaths and census records for Scotland and Old Parish Registers of the Church of Scotland.

New Register House, the main building of the General Register Office for Scotland, was designed by Robert Matheson, the Clerk of Works at the Office of Her Majesty’s Works in Scotland.

The New Register House site was acquired in 1859. The building was first occupied in 1861 and completed in 1863. The main feature of this building is the fireproof central repository, the Dome, which consists of five tiers of ironwork shelving and galleries – totalling over 27 metres high.

The Dome contains 6.5km of shelving upon which sit some half a million volumes. These include some 400,000 statutory registers of all the births, deaths and marriages in Scotland since 1855 and open Census records from 1841 to 1891.

The National Archives of Scotland is an Executive Agency. It has one of the most varied collections of archives in the British Isles.

It is the main archive for sources for the history of Scotland as a separate kingdom, her role in the British Isles and the links between Scotland and many other countries over the centuries. NAS holds records spanning the 12th to 21st centuries, touching on virtually every aspect of Scottish life.

As well as being the repository for the public and legal records of Scotland, NAS also holds many local and private archives. It also advises Scottish government departments, institutions, businesses and private individuals on the care of their records.

The National Archives of Scotland’s headquarters, General Register House, is one of the oldest custom built archive buildings still in continuous use in the world.

By the mid-eighteenth century the need to provide accommodation for the national archives was widely recognised. In 1765 a grant of £12,000 was obtained to carry out the work and a site was chosen fronting the end of the North Bridge then under construction. The eminent architect Robert Adam and his brother James were selected for the project.

The building finally opened in 1789, though only half of the building was ready for use. Robert Adam died suddenly in 1792 before his building was complete. The architect Robert Reid finished the exterior to Adam’s design, and the interior to his own, in the 1820s.

On behalf of the Sovereign the Lord Lyon King of Arms exercises the Royal Prerogative to grant Arms to ‘virtuous and well deserving persons’.

The Court of the Lord Lyon is a court of law, and deals with petitions for grants of Arms. The Court holds the Registers of Arms and of Genealogies as well as other collections. The Court is located in New Register House.

source-Scottish Executive

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