James' Jaunts
National Archives of Scotland
Edinburgh, Scotland
Margaret McBryde, Education Director

Institutional motto: “Preserving the past, Recording the past, Informing the future”

The archives recently merged with the General Registrar Office of Scotland and is now called the National Records of Scotland, and are an agency of the Scottish government.

Records date from the 12th century. Records include, but are not limited to: Scottish registers of births, marriages, and deaths, census records from 1841, parliament papers, deeds and sasines, church records, legal and tax documents, parish registers, government documents, and geographical and topographical surveys and documents.

Patrons include members of private industry, local government, and families. There are six public search rooms and nine websites. One room is a “short stay” room, where researchers can begin work and book a longer visit in another room if necessary. There is a legal room, where Scottish barristers and solicitors can search legal and government documents. There is also a room primarily used for genealogy research.

Some of the online services offered to patrons include an online catalog, websites, digital collections, and a catalog of private archives. The archive offers virtual volumes to on-site researchers, which are digitized collections of entire volumes available for print. The websites offer self-help guides to reading the documents. The staff also offer paleography skills workshops to teach researchers how to teach the Scots dialect. They also promote the use of primary documents in Scottish schools and offer webinars at schools through a system called GLOW.

Ms. McBryde allowed us to examine records from the archive, and even went to the effort of pulling records that related to our regions in the United States. One document was a letter from a Robert Bailie, who moved to the Bagbie Plantation in Georgia; the letter discusses the adverse trading conditions in Jamaica circa 1753. We also examined a South Carolina currency bill valued at £5, circa 1748. There was also a boat order for troops to use to travel up the Mississippi River, circa 1768. Perhaps the most interesting item, however, was a letter known as the criss-cross letter. This letter was written by William Knox to his uncle, and the text is written horizontally, and then vertically. It is a challenge to decipher and read!

The tour of the building was great. There are a lot of twists and turns, but the way they occupy the building and separate the research interests makes it work really well. The most interesting part of the tour was the digitization area. Ms. McBryde showed us the huge cameras they use to digitize maps and briefly explained how they digitize documents and books—the process and the rate of production.


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    London Away:
    British Studies
    Summer 2011


    I am a professional student.  I have a formal education--both a Bachelor and Master's degree in English, and I am working on a Master's in Library and Information Sciences.  But I believe that life experience is the greatest teacher anyone can have.  So I am hitting the road to have fun and to learn--and no, that's not mutally exclusive!--and live life to the fullest.



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