Welcome, fellow genealogists! My blog will teach you about U.S. land records and United Kingdom research. My family has roots in Niagara County, New York; Norfolk, England; and northeast Germany.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Wisdom Wednesday: Gazetteers of Scotland

Genealogy is an ever-changing field. Now we are not only concerned about the major events in our ancestors’ personal lives but in the history of their communities and their relationship to major national and international events.

A gazetteer describes places within a country or area, but not all of these reference books are equal. In 1846 and in a second edition in 1851, Samuel Lewis wrote A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland, an alphabetical listing of the then 33 shires and all the parishes, villages and hamlets in the country. It is filled with facts, history and statistics. For example, here is part of the entry for Abercorn from his work:
“ABERCORN, a parish, in the county of Linlithgow, 5 ½ miles (E. by N.) from Linlithgow; containing the villages of Newtown and Philipstown, about 950 inhabitants. This place which derives its name from the situation at the influx of the small river Cornie into the Firth of Forth, is of very remote origin. Its ancient castle occupied the site of a Roman station between the wall of Antonine and the port of Cramond on the Firth, in the harbour of which the Romans moored their ships...”

The website www.visionofbritain.org.uk has a small map when you search for Abercorn that shows the villages of Newtown and Philipstown when you put 'Abercorn' in the search box on the home page.

Frank Smith condensed the information from Lewis’ book and added a few other sources in the 1970s for his book, A Genealogical Gazetteer of Scotland. His entries include the location and population of a village in 1851. In separate lists, he gives the years and locations of parish registers for Church of Scotland and non-conformist congregations. Here is the entire entry from the Genealogical Gazetteer:
 “ABERCORN parish 1585 Linlithgow 5 ½ m e Linlithgow pop 950 Free Church” (Smith, A Genealogical Gazetteer of Scotland, page 1)

The Free Church mentioned were a group that left the Church of Scotland in 1843 and had a congregation there, but according to Lewis, the Abercorn parish of the Church of Scotland had an ancient church which was enlarged in the mid-1500s. Now we might eagerly relish the details of the longer entries in the Lewis book.
Sometimes we want to know where a village is immediately and other times we want a slow stroll through the history of a place. It seems both books and the website have their uses.

Lewis, Samuel. A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland. Original issued in 1846, reprinted Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1989.

Smith, Frank. A Genealogical Gazetteer of Scotland. Logan, Utah: Everton Publishers, Inc., 1971.
Note: Frank Smith is the compiler of the two-volume set A Genealogical Gazetteer of England, Logan, Utah: Everton Publishers, Inc, 1977.

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