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  • Second Edition

  • Acknowledgements

    I am indebted to the National Archives of Scotland for their permission to reproduce excerpts from NRS CC17/2/9

    (p20) and RS46/4, RS78/3 and RS45/7 (p24), and to the Orkney Archive for their permission to reproduce the 1535 deed from OA D2/33/13 (front cover), the family tree by Henry Leask from D17/1 (rear cover), and excerpts from

    OCR27/2, SC11/8/1, CO6/1/8, D13/86 and SC11/86/18/3 (pp 19, 22, 26, 27 and 29 respectively). Sheena Wenham has

    kindly allowed me to quote an excerpt from OA D5/33/5 (p27), and Malcolm Macrae to access his Breckness Estate

    records (p13). Archie Bevan traced the quote of George Mackay Brown (p6) to his “Winter Tales”, and John Brown

    introduced me to the Naming Stone (p40). David Mackie provided the photograph for the rear cover and assisted with

    that for the front cover, which was very kindly taken, along with all the other photographs, by my brother Bruce Irvine.

    I also owe thanks to many others. It was the late Janet Sinclair who encouraged me to embark on an overview of

    sources for Orcadian genealogy. Moving from this concept to publication has been a fascinating and illuminating

    challenge that I could not have achieved without the patience and assistance of the staff of the National Archives of

    Scotland and the Orkney Archive, especially Peter Anderson, Susan Corrigall, Alison Fraser, Phil Astley, Lucy Gibbon and SarahJane Gibbon née Grieve. I have also been helped by Hazel Anderson of the Scottish Archives Network, John

    Ballantyne, Patti Heimsness, Dave Higgins, Bobby Leslie, Robert Marwick, John Moar, Stan Sutherland, and Nan

    Scott, Anne Rendall and the Committee of the Orkney Family History Society. Rosemary Bigwood has sharpened my

    understanding of Scottish genealogy, Willie Thomson has taught me much on Orkney’s history, and Ray Fereday has

    been painstaking in his comments on my drafts. The staff of The Orcadian have been most co-operative. My wife

    Sally, besides making my spellchecker redundant, has shown remarkable forbearance.

    Notwithstanding all this support, no doubt some errors and ambiguities have escaped my attention. For these I offer

    the reader my apologies.

    I am much obliged to the Orkney Islands Council for their financial support.

    June 2004 James M Irvine

    Preface to Second Edition

    The print run of my first edition of 1,000 books having been exhausted, in this second, CD edition I have taken the

    opportunity to correct several small errors, incorporate important developments at the National Records of Scotland and

    Scotlandspeople, update various other websites and contact details, add a brief section on DNA, and introduce many

    minor refinements. However the basic structure and 76 A4 page format remain unchanged, with my text primarily

    aimed at established genealogists, but beginners and local historians being catered for as well.

    January 2015 James M Irvine

  • Trace Your Orkney Ancestors:

    A Guide to Sources for

    Orcadian Family and Local History

    James M. Irvine

  • © James M. Irvine 2004, 2015

    All rights reserved

    ISBN No. 0-9544571-1-0

    First edition published in 2004 by

    James M. Irvine

    11 Agates Lane, Ashtead, Surrey KT21 2NG

    jamesmirvine@hotmail.co.uk

    Printed in Orkney by

    The Orcadian Limited, Hell’s Half Acre, Hatston, Kirkwall KW15 1DW

    www.orcadian.co.uk

    Second, on-line, edition published in 2015 by

    The Orkney Family History Society, 44 Junction Road, Kirkwall KW15 1AG

    www.orkneyfhs.co.uk

    http://www.orcadian.co.uk/

  • Contents

    PREFACE …………….…………………...….. 6

    INTRODUCTION

    1 Access to sources

    1.1 Private sources …………………...……… 8

    1.2 Internet sources …………………….……. 8 1.3 LDS sources ……………………………... 9

    1.4 Libraries & Societies ……………..……… 9

    1.5 Sources in Edinburgh(incl. NRS & NLS). 9

    1.6 Sources in Kirkwall (incl. OA & OFHS). 11 1.7 Archives elsewhere ……………………… 13

    2 Research Principles 2.1 Choices: costs, convenience & reliability 14

    2.2 Care of documents ………………………. 14

    2.3 Confidentiality & Copyright ………..….... 14

    3 Handwriting, language and technical terms 15

    THE RECORDS AND THEIR USE

    4 Census Returns …………………………….. 17

    5 Hatches, Matches and Dispatches

    5.1 Births, baptisms, marriages & deaths .…... 18 5.2 Monumental Inscriptions ………………... 20

    5.3 Wills & Testaments ………..……………. 20

    5.4 Retours & Services of Heirs …….…..…… 21

    6 Transfers of Land-ownership 6.2 Register of the Great Seal, 1314-1919 .….. 23

    6.3 Records of Sasines, 1576-date ………….. 23

    7 Census Substitutes

    7.1 Admission Registers of Schools, 1874-date 25 7.2 Communicant Rolls, 1830-date …………. 25

    7.3 Electors Rolls, 1730-date …………….….. 25

    7.4 Valuation & Land Tax Records, 1601-date 25

    7.5 Poll Tax Returns, 1690s …………………. 26 7.6 Poor Relief Records, 1801, 1845-1930 ….. 26

    7.7 Rentals (Bishopric & Earldom), 1492-1974 27

    7.8 Suit Rolls, 1617-1747 …………………… 29 7.9 Taxation Returns ….……….….…….…… 29

    7.10 Other Lists of Orcadians ………...………. 29

    8 Other Sources

    8.1 Church Records ………………….………. 30

    8.2 Court Records, Deeds & Diligences …...… 31

    8.3 Estate Records ………………………….... 35 8.4 Genealogists' & Local Antiquaries' Records 35

    8.5 Government Records ………………….…. 35

    8.6 Hudson's Bay Company Archives …….…. 36 8.7 Maps, Plans & Gazetteers ………….…..… 36

    8.8 Newspapers, Periodicals & Directories ….. 36

    THE CONTEXT

    9 Orkney's Topography and History …….…. 37

    APPENDICES

    DETAILS OF SOURCE MATERIALS

    A Archives - Current Reference Codes …..….. 41

    B Archives - Former Reference Numbers …… 42 C Archives - LDS Reference Numbers ……… 43

    D Baptisms, marriages & burials - the OPRs ... 44

    E Baptisms, marriages & burials not in OPRs 45 F Census Substitutes ………….……………... 46

    G Church Records …………………….……... 47

    H Court Records (excl. Deeds & Diligences) .. 48 J Deeds ……………………………..……..… 49

    K Debt, Diligence & Bankruptcy Records ….. 50

    L Estate Records …………………………….. 51

    M Local Antiquaries’ Records ……………..… 51 N Monumental Inscriptions on Gravestones … 52

    O Newspapers, Periodicals & Directories …… 53

    P Poll Tax of 1693 - scope of parish returns … 53 Q Rentals of the Bishopric & Earldom ....….... 54

    R Sasines …………………………………….. 57

    S Suit Rolls ………………………….………. 58

    T Testaments, Retours & Services of Heirs .... 59

    BACKGROUND INFORMATION

    U Map of the Orkney Parishes ……..………… 61

    V Notes on Currency, Weights & Land values 62

    W Notes on Dates …………………………….. 63 X Notes on Land ownership in Orkney ……… 64

    Y Notes on Names, Clans, Tartans, Heraldry

    and Genetic Genealogy (DNA) 66 Z Glossary of Abbreviations and Legal terms 68

    BIBLIOGRAPHY ….…………………………. 72

    INDEX ….……………………………………… 74

    ______________________

    Illustrations

    Orkney Library and Archive, Kirkwall ……….... 38 Orkney Room ………………………..…………. 38

    Orkney Archive Public Search Room ……..….... 39

    Orkney Family History Society …………….…... 39

    Gravestone in Orphir churchyard …………….… 40 Naming Stone near Black Craig, Stromness …… 40

  • PREFACE

    We cannot live fully without the treasury our ancestors left us. (George Mackay Brown)

    God has been kind to those seeking their Orcadian roots: like its agriculture, archaeology, history, hospitality, ornithology and scenery, Orkney’s genealogical heritage “punches well above its weight”. Local interest in

    genealogy has a long tradition, the supporting records are extensive, and their accessibility is much improved.

    Orkney’s long winter nights were conducive to oral tales

    of ancestors. The Orkneyinga Saga,1 written c.1200, relates the ancestry of four centuries of Viking earls and

    warriors, implying family history has been in the blood of Orcadians for at least forty generations.2 Many local

    surnames go back over twenty generations, and at least two farms have probably been inhab

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