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Exploring church and military records

A focus on church and military records
The map and photograph collections found at the Glasgow City Archives located at the Mitchell Library here, in Glasgow, can really enrich family history research.
This is an early baptismal register, which show records like these across the world. It’s really very informative. It’s telling you when the child was born, and this child was born in 1837. It tells you when they were baptised. It gives you their name. It tells you whether they were male or female. It gives you their parents’ names, and really interestingly, obviously, it gives you the name of the mother’s maiden name. And that’s a vital connection to going back and looking for a marriage certificate. It tells you where they lived. And it tells you who baptised them. So for people who are actually looking pre- civil registration, this is the next step for them to actually find out about their ancestors.
We also have communion rolls. The church records are really important, because they give you membership. They exist pre- civil registration but also we have them after civil registration. It means that you can actually– it’s the only place to find them in an early period but in a later period a later period it can add vital details for your family history. And this one here I’m going to look at is actually an Episcopal Church. And again, there’s Episcopal Churches all over the world. And this is a marriage … a baptism and a marriage volume, and it tells you the details here.
And so this is 1823, and it tells you that Thomas David Stewart of the Honourable East India Company Service was married to Mary, eldest daughter of George Pinkerton, Esquire in Barony parish. They were married on 1st of September 1823. And I’m sure if you found that about your ancestor and that vital clue about East India Company– I’m sure if you found that you’d be really excited to see that. And it would give you a next step to look for East India Company records.
The church also includes a lot of membership rolls, and I’m just going to use one for you just to give you an idea what they are. And this is a membership roll for a church. It’s actually a communion roll. And, again, it gives you some really vital detail– It gives you the name of the communicant. It tells you where they lived. So we know which area they lived in. It tells you their employment or their profession so we could follow and look to see if we could find any records of that. It tells you when they were admitted to the church. And that actually, really interestingly, actually tells you where they came from. Some come from England.
Some come from Ireland. And so it’s a really vital source for taking a step back to their place of origin. When the First World War broke out, Glasgow, as a city, was authorised to equip a number of battalions and prepare them for battle. It wasn’t just Glasgow. This happened all over the world. Battalions were being raised by cities and different other organisations so you’ll find records elsewhere. What happened – Glasgow raised the battalions, they equipped them, they kitted them out for war, … they gave them all their equipment and clothed them. And there’s some really interesting records for family historians that came as a result of this process. So I’m going to show you a couple of examples today.
These are for the Highland Light Infantry– two battalions that were raised by the city of Glasgow. What we’ve got here is a Nominal roll for tabs. So on people’s uniforms, on the top right of their collar, they had certain information about people. And this was records that were created to show what information was going to be put on the tabs. So you’ve got the person’s name. You’ve got the regimental number, and you’ve also got their religion which is really important because, obviously, it might be required if they got into any trouble. We’ve also got a number of other records about the raising of the battalions.
So when they did clothe them, we have a lot of information about their uniforms, their shoe sizes, their hats, all sorts of things. This is an example of that too. So what we have is … it cross references with the record we saw a second ago for the Nominal rolls. We’ve got the person’s name. We’ve even got their height here, in this column, and their jacket size. In other record we’ve got, they mentioned their shoe size, their hat size too.
And we’ve cross referenced all these into a database, so you can look up your ancestor and find them in there– find their name, find their regimental number, which will lead you on to some other records if it helps for that. We’ve also got– you might find things like their shoe size really colourful, good bits of information about your ancestors you might not find in any other records at all and allow you to know more about their daily lives. During 1914, Glasgow’s Evening Times, like many British local newspapers, decided to put information into the paper either as news of the events or as an appeal for information from the families of servicemen who were missing, wounded, or killed overseas.
The information can be very useful to family historians, because it often gives the information such as name, regiment, rank, very often the address of the servicemen, sometimes their occupations, and workplace and often the names of the parents or families. It very often too– something that can be really important– is a photograph, a service photograph, and that might be the first published photograph that the families might have seen. This particular section is from 1916. And there’s a Roll of Honour section here, which identifies some interesting photographs, which I think are very, very lifelike. Here, it gives the name of the mother who is looking for information. It gives their home address, the area she’s from.
It gives the name and rank of her son who was killed. And it gives the place of work. The library decided in the 1980s when it began to establish a family history section to use the information in this paper to create a database that would be useful for family history research and also Glasgow’s experience of war. Initially, the focus was on families from Glasgow. All service Glasgow personnel were indexed and the database contains information on name, regiment, and rank. It also gives the date of publication, the date of death if that’s known, if a photograph is mentioned, and also a sentence about the event, for example, if someone was killed or if they were missing at a particular, named battle.
And so the database, itself, can be really, really important for family historians coming to that online on the Mitchell Library website That database was completed in the 2000s. But from then on, it was decided that there’d been– really due to demand– that there was such interest in people from areas local to Glasgow, or not far from Glasgow, that it should include all service personnel who were mentioned in the Evening Times Roll of Honour. That exercise was completed in about November 2014, in time for the centenary of the first outbreak of the First World War. And the database now contains over 15,000 names, and it can be accessed online.

Archivists and librarians at the Mitchell Library based in Glasgow, Scotland share a selection of church and military documents held at the Glasgow City Archives.

Records such as these are available in many archives and libraries around the world and provide important birth, marriage and death information but can also give additional details such as photographs and military service dates.

While much data is now available online, it’s important to remember that you may need to make a trip to an archive or library to access physical records.

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Genealogy: Researching Your Family Tree

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