Family History information at your fingertips

It can often be a frustration for visitors to the Library, especially those that are visiting for a brief period, that most of the collection is in storage and has to be ordered and fetched. For the material that is held offsite in our Causewayside Building, this process can take up to two or three hours. Luckily there are a number of useful open access reference items shelved in the General Reading Room.

Probably the most common type of day visitor that we receive are tourists who are looking to further knowledge of their family history. Fortunately for such visitors, in the General Reading Room there is a sizeable genealogy section, pictured above, which contains a broad range of texts that may be of use for such research. To reflect the times, this includes numerous items on finding this information on the internet, such as “Genealogy Online for Dummies”. There are also books specifically for researching family history in both the different regions in Scotland and various countries in the world, including several books about names.

In addition there are titles which cover the various sources which are often useful for family historians, albeit the majority of these sources are not held by the National Library of Scotland. These include guides to using census and marriage records, electoral rolls and indexes to parish registers, as well as books like “Tracing Your Ancestors in the National Archives”.

There are numerous monumental inscription publications in the genealogy section, which index the information found on the gravestones of various Scottish churchyards. Staying with the Scottish theme there is an extensive selection of books on clans, including books about the tartans, history, heraldry and chiefs of a number of well-known clans. You can also find books on emigration from Scotland to numerous overseas territories, including historical directories of Scots overseas.

Furthermore there are guides to tracing your ancestors in various professions, including army, navy, air force and railway. Some of these books have handily descriptive names, such as “My Ancestor Was a Policeman”. The open shelves also have books about tracing your ancestors of various religions.

If there is a particular branch of family history that you are interested in, you are able to determine what material there is on the open shelves by doing a simple catalogue search. There is a “Quick limits” option in our search facility, allowing you to narrow down the parameters of what you are looking for, and one of the options is “Reading room collection”. Selecting this, and inputting the relevant keywords, as demonstrated in the image below, will retrieve a list of results containing these keywords and shelved in the General Reading Room.

There is material in other sections in the General Reading Room which may be of use to family history research, in particular the Scottish history section, which is conveniently located in the two bays that follow genealogy. There is also, of course, plentiful material in the closed stacks.

Should you have any further queries about this or any other subject, please contact us at Ask a Librarian or simply speak to staff at our Enquiry Desk.