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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.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Great-Aunt Alice's Family History Website of the Week

Two centuries of women's costume history and women's fashion history.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Vision of Britain

My Ancestor Came from Scotland 1891-1900

Edinburgh  Diary 1891-1900

Edinburgh in 1891 from the road known as ‘Rest and Be Thankful’. From Scottish Pictures Drawn with Pen and Pencil by Samuel G. Green, The Religious Tract Society, 1891.

1891  The first sod of the Barnton railway (providing a service from Barnton and Craigleith into Edinburgh is cut on 29 October.


1892 On November 26, the premises of Messrs. Charles Jenner and Company, silk mercers and drapers (and forerunner of today’s famous department store), are completely destroyed by fire. The damage is estimated at £250,000.


1893 Royal visitors, the Duke and Duchess of York, visit Edinburgh in October and receive their wedding gift from the town - a service of glass for the table and some books. The Duke receives the freedom of the city and opens a new wing of the Longmore hospital.


1894 During May and over the summer, there is an outbreak of smallpox in the city. A temporary wooden hospital has to be erected in Queen’s Park to deal with the high number of cases.


1895 On 11 April, Mrs M’Donald, wife of the Lord Provost, turns on the electric lighting in the city. This has been installed at a cost of about £120,000.


1896  A new observatory, which has taken four years to erect, is opened on Blackford Hill.


1897 Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee is celebrated all over the city on 22 June. Bonfires are lit on many hills during the evening.


1898 On 9 December the 1st Gordon Highlanders arrive home from India and meet with a splendid reception to celebrate their triumph over Afridi tribesmen in the Dargai Heights the previous year.


1899 The Scots Greys and the Gordon Highlanders leave in early November to fight in the Boer war in South Africa. More than 50,000 people turn out to see them off.


1900  Motor cars arrive in Edinburgh after the first half of a thousand mile run  (to London and back) and are exhibited on May 3. They are very much a novelty - only 10,000 vehicles (most of them made abroad) exist in Britain at the time.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Great-Aunt Alice's Family History Website of the Week

www.visionofbritain.org.uk  A vision of Britain between 1801 and 2001. Including maps, statistical trends and historical descriptions.


My Ancestor came from Edinburgh 1881 - 1890

Edinburgh Diary, 1881-1890

The Game of Golf. Braid Hills is opened to the public as a park and golfing ground in 1889. From Black’s Picturesque Tourist of Scotland, Adam and Charles Black, 1856.

1881 For three months, Princes Street and the North Bridge are lit by electricity in an experiment by the Anglo-American Brush Electric Light Company in an arrangement with the Town Council.

1882 On 7 August, the Black Watch (42nd Highlanders) depart for the Egyptian War. Their leavetaking is witnessed by large and enthusiastic crowds.

1883 The Cathedral of St Giles’ is reopened after extensive restoration work which has lasted more than a decade.

1884  The tercentenary of Edinburgh University is celebrated during the week beginning April 15.

1885 A City Hospital for the treatment of infectious diseases is established at the old Infirmary.

1886 Plans are passed for the restoration of the Old Parliament House, the Argyle Tower and other buildings at the Castle. The costs will be met by Mr William Nelson, publisher.

1887 Edinburgh is illuminated during the festivities to celebrate the Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee from the 17-21 June.

1888 The Flying Scotsman completes the journey to London in 7 hours and 32 minutes in a ‘railway race’ between the East and West Coast lines.

1889 A number of impressive dignitaries visit the city including Mr Parnell, Leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party (who is given the freedom of the city) on 19 July, the Shah of Persia on July 22, the Earl of Hopetoun on his acceptance of office as governor of Victoria on October 4, and Mr A. J. Balfour (Irish Secretary) on December 4.

1890  The Prince of Wales puts the last rivet into the Forth Bridge and declares it open on 4 March.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

My Ancestor Came from Edinburgh 1871-1880

Edinburgh Diary, 1871-1880

Dress 1870 and 1880. By the 1870s, crinolines have largely disappeared, the ladies of Edinburgh preferring the newer, closer-fitting styles including the ‘pin back’ in which the front and sides of the skirt were drawn tightly over the legs and all the fullness of the dress was at the back. From W. M. Gilbert ed, Edinburgh in the Nineteenth Century, J & R Allan Ltd, 1901.


1871  A bill for the introduction of street tramways is passed and tramways are opened between The Bridges and Haymarket on 6 November.

1872 On the 10 June, restoration work on St Giles’ Cathedral begins. The high-backed chairs in the Corporation pews are removed to the City Chambers. Many interesting relics are discovered during the renovation.

1873 After Lord Young’s Education Act of the previous year, the first Edinburgh School Board is elected.  Two years later, sixteen schools in Edinburgh are under its management with 7,142 children on the roll.

1874 The Princess of Wales arrives in the city on 14 July and stays at the Douglas Hotel. Her father, the King of Denmark, arrives two days later. They remain in the city for several days doing the sights and visiting the theatre before sailing to Copenhagen on 20 July.

1875  Edinburgh’s entertainment facilities are changing. The Theatre Royal on Broughton Street burns to the ground in February whilst the Southminster Theatre is gutted by fire in March. In July, the Gaiety Music Hall opens in Chambers Street and this is followed in December by the new Edinburgh Theatre on Castle Terrace.

1876  In January, many historical houses in the areas of Bristo and Potterrow are demolished. These include Leechman’s School which was attended by Sir Walter Scott.

1877  The memorial stone of the Livingstone Medical Missionary Memorial Training Institution is laid in Cowgate by the veteran African missionary, the Rev. Dr Robert Moffat.

1878  French teacher Eugene Chantrelle is executed within Calton Jail for poisoning his young wife, probably with opium administered in a glass of lemonade. He is the first prisoner to be hanged within rather than outside the jail and the large crowd that appears to witness the event must return home disappointed.

1879 Former Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone arrives in Edinburgh in November to commence his first Midlothian political campaign. Great demonstrations occur both in Edinburgh and elsewhere in Scotland wherever the ‘Grand Old Man’ appears. He becomes Prime Minister again the following year.

1880 The telephone is introduced into Edinburgh in February.