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Beautifully illustrated family history books with a difference by a frequent contributor to the UK family history press. I write for Family Tree Magazine UK; Discover Your Ancestors Online Periodical and Bookazine; Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine. The publishers of my family history books are Pen and Sword Books and The History Press. I tweet (and retweet) thought-provoking content designed to help you tweak your approach to (your family) history at @RuthaSymes . Do follow me.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

My Ancestor Came from Edinburgh 1861-1870

Edinburgh Diary 1861-1870

John Knox’s House. John Knox’s House and Museum at Netherbow, From: Black’s Picturesque Tourist of Scotland, Adam and Charles Black, 1856.

1861 There is a great outburst of sadness in the city at the death of the 42 year old Prince Albert from typhoid fever on December 14.

1862 Dr Littlejohn is elected as Officer of Health for Edinburgh on September 30.

1863 There are great rejoicings in the city on March 10 when the Prince of Wales marries Princess Alexandra of Denmark. The couple visit the city on August 6 on their way to Abergeldie and again on the 1 October as they travel south. The Princess is presented with a gold casket from the ladies of Edinburgh at Holyrood Palace.

1864 The last public execution in Edinburgh takes place on 21 June. George Bryce from the village of Ratho has been convicted of slashing the throat of Jane Seaton, a nurse’s maid. He is hanged from gallows at the top of Libberton’s Wynd.

1865 Dr Pritchard – known as ‘The Glasgow Poisoner’ - is found guilty of the murder of his wife and mother-in-law at the High Court in Edinburgh. He is executed in Glasgow on 5 July.

1866 A great demonstration is held in Queen’s Park in favour of Parliamentary Reform on 17 November. Between eleven and twelve thousand people actually march, whilst another thirty to forty thousand are spectators. Resolutions are passed demanding Manhood Suffrage and the Ballot.

1867 On 10 October, a huge explosion takes place in Chessel’s Court, 240 Canongate at the shop of Mr Hammond, maker of fireworks. Five women are killed and twelve others injured.

1868 As part of the restoration of Parliament Square, a bronze plaque bearing the inscription ‘ I.K. 1572’ is placed in the causeway to mark the burial place of John Knox, Scottish clergyman and leader of the Protestant Reformation.

1869 Two distinguished Americans pay visits to the city: Mr Jefferson Davis, former President of the Confederate States on 25 July and the poet Longfelllow on 7 August.

1870 A huge fire destroys The Britannia Flour Mills at the Water of Leith. The damage is estimated at £10,000.

This article was first published in the now obsolete Discover My Past Scotland.

Keywords: Europe, European, ancestors, ancestry, family history, genealogy

Thursday, 7 June 2012

My Ancestor Came from Edinburgh 1851-1861

Edinburgh Diary 1851-1860


    The Castle from Greyfriars’ Churchyard from Black’s Picturesque Tourist of Scotland, Adam and Charles Black, 1856

1851 On April 28, the Assembly Hall is struck by lightening and set on fire during a severe thunderstorm. The damage is not extensive.

1852  The Victoria Dock is opened at Leith for the admission of vessels on 14 June.

1853  The Adelphi Theatre in Broughton Street is burnt to the ground on May 24.

1854  Part of the Old City Wall collapses on February 22. The wall, which is 20 feet high and three to four feet thick, together with the embankment against which it is built, falls into Leith Wynd, a narrow street with high tenement houses. Several people who are in the wynd at the time are killed.

1855  A mob marches to the Meadows where it destroys the stone pillars which have been erected to deter traffic. The mob is led by Mr R. F. Gourlay – a would-be politician – who has dramatic plans for the improvement of the city.

1856  In July, the 92nd (Gordon) Highlanders and the 5th Dragoon Guards return to the city from the war in the Crimea. They are greeted enthusiastically and are entertained to a banquet in the Corn Exchange on  31 October.

1857  In June and July, a sensational trial is held at the High Court. Architect’s daughter Madeleine Smith is accused of murdering her French boyfriend Pierre Emile L’Angelier by arsenic poisoning. A Not Proven verdict is returned.

1858 On January 25, a banquet is held at Parliament House in honour of the marriage of Queen Victoria’s daughter, the Princess Royal (Victoria Adelaide Mary Louise) to Frederick of Prussia.

1859 The National Gallery is opened to the public on 22 March.

1860 The 78th Highlanders return from India having taken part in the relief of Lucknow. They are entertained to a banquet in the Corn Exchange on April 24.

Keywords: ancestors, ancestry, genealogy, family history, Europe, European, Caledonian, Scotland, Scottish

[This article first appeared in the now obsolete Discover My Past Scotland 2010]

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

My Ancestor Came from Edinburgh 1841-1851

Edinburgh Diary 1841-1850

     Edinburgh University – site of the discovery of chloroform in 1847. Scottish Pictures Drawn with Pen and Pencil by Samuel G. Green, The Religious Tract Society, 1891.

1841 Famous author Charles Dickens is entertained to a public dinner in the city 25 June.

1842 The Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway is opened on 18 February. The line has taken three years to complete and has cost one and a quarter million pounds. Trains carrying dignitaries pass both ways during the course of the day.

1843 Disruption of the Church of Scotland and the Foundation of the Free Church. Twenty-nine ministers in Edinburgh secede from the Church of Scotland on 18 May and hold the first Assembly of the Free Church in Tanfield Hall.

1844 A huge statue of Queen Victoria, carved in stone by Mr John Steell R. S. A. is erected on the top of the Royal Institution on 24 January.

1845 On Sunday 19 January, the Old Greyfriars’ Church is totally destroyed by fire. The New Greyfriars’ Church, which is under the same roof, is also substantially damaged.

1846 The Memorial to Sir Walter Scott on Princes Street (200 feet six inches high, and ascended from within by 287 steps) is finished this year.

1847 On the 17 November, Edinburgh University’s Professor J.Y. Simpson announces his discovery of chloroform. This will be used as a substitute for ether in surgical operations.

1848 Serious riots connected with Chartist agitation take place on 7 and 8 March. Seven hundred special constables are sworn in.

1849 On the 5 December, the new Corn Market is opened in the Grassmarket. It has cost £20,000.

1850 In late August, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert spend two nights at Holyrood on their way to Balmoral. The prince lays the foundation stone of the National Gallery of Art. In October, the couple again stay at Holyrood for a night on their way back from Balmoral.

Keywords: Europe, European ancestry, ancestors, genealogy, family history, Scotland, Caledonian, Scottish, Edinburgh

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Family History and Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee

Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee

Read articles on Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee by Ruth A. Symes in June 2012's edition of Family Tree Magazine (UK); the special Jubilee edition of Scotland Magazine and June 2012's edition of Scottish Heritage Magazine.

Keywords: Europe, European ancestry, ancestors, Scotland, Scottish, English, British, genealogy, Diamond Jubilee

My Ancestor Came from Edinburgh 1831-1840

Edinburgh Diary 1831-1840

If your ancestors lived in Scotland’s capital city, these are the events through which they lived, in which they might have participated, and which – at the very least - would have informed their everyday conversation.

Sir James Spittal Sir James Spittal Lord Provost, 1833-1837. From: Edinburgh in the Nineteenth Century, edited by W. M. Gilbert, J. & R. Allan, 1901

1831 The Burns monument  - to the memory of Scottish poet Robbie Burns (1759-1796) - is completed at Calton Hill.

1832 Cholera hits the city on January 27th. On February 9th, a local day of humiliation and prayer is observed. This is followed by a national day of prayer on March 22nd. Thousands die of the dreadful disease over the course of the year.

1833  The Dean Bridge, designed by Thomas Telford,  is opened. The Queensferry roadway, mounted on four huge sandstone arches 120 feet above the Water of Leith, gives much better access to the North of the City.

1834 Earl Grey (former Whig Prime Minister) is given the freedom of the city on September 15th and is entertained at a magnificent banquet attended by 3,000 people on Calton Hill.

1835 During the course of lowering the High Street, workmen discover the foundations of an old jail (part of the 15th century Tolbooth of Edinburgh which was demolished in 1817). It is here that many criminals were executed in former years.

1836  A great deal of excitement is generated on Sunday May 15th by an eclipse of the sun. Many church services are postponed so people can watch. Venus can be seen shining brightly.

1837 Queen Victoria is proclaimed sovereign at the Cross, the Castle and Holyrood House on June 24th.

1838 A committee accepts the beautiful Gothic design of a monument to Sir Walter Scott to be erected on Princes Street.

1839  The building of three new churches is underway. The foundation stone for Buccleuch church is laid on April 3rd, and of St John’s Parish Church, Victoria Street on April 17th. Greenside Parish Church on Calton Hill is opened on October 6th.

1840 New Bridge is erected over the Water of Leith at Canonmills.

[This article first appeared in the now obsolete Discover My Past Scotland 2010]

Keywords: Europe, European, ancestors, ancestry, family history, genealogy, Caledonian, Scotland