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Launch of the Kirk Session Minute Records

Discussion in 'Scotland' started by Alexander Bisset, Mar 17, 2021.

  1. Alexander Bisset

    Alexander Bisset Administrator Staff Member

    Scotland has always had great records with far more detail than is available for researchers with English heritage. Now we have even more detail with the official launch of the Kirk Session Records collection at Scotlands People

    For those that are not aware the Kirk Session is the meeting of church elders to discuss business of the parish. The minute books survive for most parishes in Scotland and have now been digitised and made available to researchers on the Scotlands People website at the link above.

    Why is this of interest to Family Historians? Well the poor laws of the time meant that if there were illegitimate children born and no father to support them then the mother could turn to the parish for funds to support her child born in that parish. The church elders saw this as a drain on their resources so they went to great lengths to identify the father, so they could force them to take responsibility and remove the burden from the parish coffers.

    Note they weren't actually interested in the child's welfare - they didn't check the father paid anything for the child's upkeep - their interest was in saying - the child had a father so the mother had no claim on poor relief it was up to her to get the father to pay. Obviously this wasn't the case all the time but reading these minutes make it abundantly clear that their primary goal was reducing the claim on the parish funds.

    The practical upshot of all this is that the minutes of those meeting are now available on Scotlands People and this is a great way of finding out details that weren't recorded on birth certificates in particular it can identify who a woman named as the father of her child after being called before the church to testify. Information that isn't recorded anywhere else.

    The primary downside is that the books are not yet indexed so you do have to read through them to find any records of your ancestors. On the plus side this does make for fascinating reading and gives a great insight into how your ancestors lived and loved.
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  2. Alexander Bisset

    Alexander Bisset Administrator Staff Member

    Yesterday's official announcement...

    We’re very pleased to announce today that we’ve added over a million new images from our kirk session and other church records to ScotlandsPeople.
    The new records are free to browse and view from the comfort of your own home for the first time - thousands of volumes from the kirk session and other court records of the Church of Scotland, containing details of key events in communities across the country between 1559 and 1900.
    These records offer remarkable insights into the everyday lives of ordinary Scots, recording important moments such as births, marriages and deaths. The church also adjudicated on paternity of children and provided basic education, as well as disciplining parishioners for what could be called anti-social behaviour – drunkenness, cursing and breaking the Sabbath.
    The newly added records also include accounts of how people dealt with exceptional historical events such as wars, witchcraft trials, epidemics, crop failures and extreme weather.
    We’ll provide you with guidance, hints and tips on using these records here on Facebook over the next two weeks, and you can find out more about what’s in them and how use them for research now, at the ScotlandsPeople website
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