Melrose One-Place Study


This one-place study is for Melrose parish in Roxburghshire. This is the old parish (as it was circa 1855) and so stretches north to nearly Lauder, west to nearly Galashiels (including the later Ladhope parish), and included, in addition to Melrose itself, settlements such as Gattonside, Darnick, Newstead, Eildon and Blainslie.

For practical reasons I am focusing my one-place study on the pre-1820 period. Later records such as census returns and civil registration records have been heavily transcribed and indexed already, and indexes and digital images are readily available at websites such as ScotlandsPeople.gov.uk, findmypast and Ancestry UK. I see no benefit in my reproducing the excellent work they have already done. I can make more of a contribution by focusing on the earlier period.

I have a copy of a published transcript of the pre-1820 Church of Scotland parish registers for Melrose parish, though note these have already been indexed at ScotlandsPeople.gov.uk. But the parish registers record much extra information which could be indexed and analysed, such as names of witnesses, and some kirk session material. And, long-term, I would like to reconstitute the 18th century population, piecing together the family trees. I also have some of the early kirk session minutes (originals held in the National Archives of Scotland in Edinburgh) on microfilm, which I could transcribe and analyse.

For my postgraduate taught Masters degree's dissertation I indexed and analysed the Melrose regality court records. These cover 2364 court cases between 1657 and 1676, including 2684 named pursuers, 3483 named defenders, and 2471 other people. This was for a population in the whole regality then of about 2500 based on hearth tax listings: yes a lot of people made multiple appearances at the court! The detailed information recorded about individuals in these local court records is often enough to piece together family trees or make tentative identifications. Melrose is very lucky to have these records (it had an unusual history to be at the centre of a regality jurisdiction), and I was lucky that they'd already been transcribed so studying them wasn't the vast task it would have been. I can't do global surname dumps at the moment (except for fellow registered one-name studiers) but am happy to do more specific lookups. For more information about these records, including pointers to the published and now digitised versions of the transcripts, see under Court Records on the Melrose page in GENUKI.

My list of online Melrose resources will grow over time. For now it includes an essay about the population of Melrose in 1694 together with a transcript of the hearth tax for that year. See here. Also available is the dog tax list for 1797, a list of Melrose ladies receiving first aid certificates in 1911, a lengthy list of Melrose parish masters and apprentices between 1743 and 1804, a list of prisoners from Melrose between 1839 and 1878, a detailed index of nearly 9000 participants at Melrose regality court between 1657 and 1676, and surnames per place in various decades derived from baptism registers.

My next task is going to be to transcribe and analyse the causes of death recorded in the Melrose Mortuary Roll for 1781-1819. As a social historian I'm fascinated by this record, an unusually early record of reasons for people dying, and what insights this can give into the local population. I intend to put the results online here.

Looking further ahead, as I said I would like to reconstruct the parish's 18th century population in the form of family trees. But I need to think about the best way of tackling this, and ways in which I can make the most helpful contribution. This is very much a long-term project.

If anyone is interested in working on the post-1820 history of Melrose from a one-place study perspective and would like to collaborate with me please get in touch.

The Melrose one-place study now has a dedicated blog where I plan to post details of interesting new findings, new online records etc. This will be a long ongoing process.

To contact me about the Melrose one-place study please email me.

For more information about Melrose records from the past see the parish's GENUKI page.

For more information about one-place studies in general see the One Place Studies website.

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Vivienne S Dunstan
Last updated 24th December 2013