Discovering Scottish Ancestry – which McIntosh am I looking at?

During my latest new teaching session there were quite a few learners who were trying to discover their Scottish links.  Scottish records can be difficult as so many families share the same surnames and lived relatively near to each other.  However, there are a few ways to check that you have the right people in your line.  For example, are the names of the children concurrent with baptism parental names, in particular the mother’s surname? Also, are there any middle names?  The registrration of birth, deaths and marriages has been conpulsory in Scotland since 1 January 1855.

Another clue can be found under occupations that appear on the Scottish census returns. (1851-1911). People tended to remain within their ‘born into occupational class’.  It is highly unlikely that a boy of sixteen working in a mill will appear thirty years later as a lawyer.  Yet the 2 differing lines may have even given their children all the same names!  So double check the children’s birth year and baptism record (if you have found it), and with time you can even crossing reference with cousins and other family members to see if there is a match.

Earlier Scottish records can be found in church records and these can be found on line if they have survived. Before 1855 Scottish births, deaths and marriages and burials will be found in the church registers.  However, they often contain only a simple index of names depending on the church and parish recorder. Presbyterian church records are available from 1716.

Heritage Found can help you with this research.

More information can been found at


18th May 2017 a talk about Bedminster Workhouse

The Life and Death of Hannah Wiltshire

I will be giving a talk on Bedminster Union Workhouse. Bristol to the Clevedon History Group on the 18th May, 2017.  The talk will illustrate how during the year 1855 the workhouse Guardians neglected in their care and duty to protect a vulnerable young women, which resulted in her death. This lead to a public outcry and calls for the first mental health asylum to be built in Bristol.

Bedminster Union Workhouse was located Flax Burton, in North Somerset, England and served the parishes in the region of south west Bristol as well as Bedminster, Bristol.

Let me search for your ancestors and see if any of them were in a workhouse click

The British Census a beginner’s guide 1851

1851 Census

Following the first census that is of use to us as family history researchers came the second census of 1851, taken on the night of 30 March.   This was to set the pattern for a census to be held every 10 years, which still happens to the present day.

The census of 1851 was taken in slightly more detail than the 1841 census.  It shows us a persons true age (or what they thought was their correct age!), as well as the relationships between the people living in any one household, institution or vessel.  Disabilities were also recorded, which were listed as either blind, deaf, or imbecile.  Also, the documents reveal to us where a person was born.  This is an incredibly important piece of information for the researcher because it aids us to find baptism, marriage and perhaps other records such as property records that exist before 1851.  Therefore, helping us to trace a family line further into the past.

So, in brief the 1851 census will tell us:

  • Place of birth
  • Martial status
  • Relationship to the head of the household
  • Disability
  • Exact age to the nearest year
  • Occupation  (the number of people employed)

Reaction to the 1851 census. Punch, April, 1851 p.152




The British Census, a beginner’s guide 1841


The first British census, which covered England and Wales, was undertaken in 1841.  The census was carried out by literate persons who had to visit each and every household, institution and vessel on the xxxxx 1841.  We can view all the records on line at various sites, which you will have to pay for.  The 1841 census gives us the names, age, occupation, where they lived and whether born in the county where they were living.  This was noted as a simple y for yes, or for no.  An S was recorded for those born in Scotland and an I for those of Irish birth.  If a person was born abroad an was marked instead to note this, although it does not tell us in which country they were born. The 1841 census rarely gives us full addresses and never states the relationship of the people within one household.

Another important fact that you need to be aware of is that age was marked down to the nearest 5 years.  So if a person was 38 their age was recorded as 35!   Why would they do this, when it would have been just as easy to put the persons real, known age?  Well, some people did not know their exact age in 1841, and the government were really just interested in where people were living.  There had been a huge wave of migration in the early to mid 19th century as people moved off the land into the cities and towns to find work.  The Industrial Revolution had caused many families to move to find work in the new mills, coal mines and factories that were now covering large areas of the new urban regions.

So, in brief the 1841 census will tell us:

  • The persons first name and surname (last) name
  • Age of person
  • Gender
  • Occupation
  • Where born