Friday 16 January 2026

Welcome to Scottish Family History

This blog is run by members of  Cumnock History Group.

Cumnock is a town in Ayrshire and the History Group members are interested in its history and the history of its inhabitants. We have discovered that many of us are linked through marriages so we have our own big family tree in which we aim to link families who lived there and their ancestors and descendants.  We are approaching 10,000 names on the tree.

We are researching Cumnock men who fought in WW1. It started with the names on the War Memorial but has gone beyond that and includes local women who served as nurses. Read about them here

Kay, the group secretary, has been running family history workshops in Cumnock Library and has decided to share some tips with a wider audience.  Some tips will seem pretty basic and self evident. Congratulate yourself if you knew that already! 

We hope you find it helpful and do visit our site and look us up on Facebook.


Groups: Cumnock Family History
Old Cumnock

and on Twitter @CumnockHistory

Oh, and if you're wondering why this post is dated 2026, it is a cunning ploy to keep this post at the top!  

Monday 27 April 2020

Breaking down a brick wall or two

I had got to a "brick wall" with the parents of Susan McTurk, an ancestor of my husband. Her death certificate gave parents as Hugh McTurk and Elspeth Patrick.  There is a baptismal record for her born at Auchingee, New Cumnock in 1825.

I can find no marriage for the parents or other children, nor burials for them, nothing after 1825.

After a while I looked for McTurk matches in my husband's DNA results from ancestry.  A few were descended from Hugh McTurk born 1778 and Ann Cameron. I had a closer look to see if they had a son Hugh. They did, born New Cumnock 1801and he married Elizabeth Murray in 1828, 3 years after Susan was born. Is it possible he is her father and was either married to Elspeth first or probably not married to her. I'm going with the latter.

As for Elspeth, assuming Susan was her first daughter, then Elspeth's mother should also be a Susan so I had another look for a  birth and found an Eppie Patrick born in 1801 in New Cumnock to George Patrick and Susan Ranken. I think this is her as Eppie is a form of Elspeth.

Susan McTurk

One other piece of evidence Hugh McTurk the son of Hugh and Ann Cameron is on the same page of baptisms as Eppie Patrick 1801 in New Cumnock!

So DNA, naming patterns and a bit of lateral thinking has helped.

Friday 8 September 2017

Free resources

Family history research is an expensive business.

Here are some suggestions for finding information for free. is free. A most wonderful resource for many countries. Includes 1881 census for England and Wales is now free to search.  To see the record you need to pay though.
You can view transcription of 1881 (LDS) census for free{"category":"census"} UK wide censuses.  Patchy coverage but most areas are covered in 1841.
 England and Wales birth, marriages and deaths   UK   You can search for births and deaths in England and Wales  Scottish births marriages and deaths, user submitted records. This site seems to be no longer available. (September 2018)

If you are serious, you want  to sign up to or  Start with a basic account.  Ancestry offers a free trial and is often free over holiday weekends.
Some libraries offer free access to ancestry.

Some records on findmypast are free to view

Also check out for offers.

1940 US census is free

1921 census of Canada is free

Monday 10 July 2017

Wolfram alpha

This is a computational site. I'm sure it has lots of uses.

I use it to find the day of a week a certain date was.  e.g. Try typing in your birthdate. It will tell you the day of the week and exactly how old you are with months and days. And lots more.

It comes into its own to pinpoint a date from a newspaper report.

For example I found a newspaper report of a death "last Tuesday". The date of the newspaper is 10 Sep 1864. So to find the date of death simply type in the date

10th was a Saturday so the previous Tuesday was the 6th September 1864.


Wednesday 5 July 2017

Scotlandspeople - name search

I had not really used this feature until recently.

I think the reason was that it gives far too many results if you type in a common name like Robert Wilson.  Yikes!

You can restrict results by date e.g. from 1850 - 1950

However, if the name is less common or if especially you have a middle name as well, it will give you all matching records at once.

Here are the 3 results for Edna Stewart Sinclair. You can view at each and use the back arrow to return to this screen. Result!

Monday 12 December 2016

Named after first wife

I have seen examples of this before but not documented it.

I was looking at a Jessie Guthrie born about 1852. Father William Guthrie and mother Jane McKerrow.

She was baptised as Janet Morrison Guthrie in Ochiltree on 28 June 1851. (Jessie is a variant of Janet.)

She was married in Maybole in 1872 as Jessie Morrison Guthrie. Her first husband died within a few months of marriage and she married again in 1874 as Jessie McKerrow Guthrie. The parents are the same on both certificates.

Looking more closely at William Guthrie; his first wife was Janet Morrison so she was named after the first wife.  This seems a bit strange to us nowadays. I need to see if I can find the other examples of this I've seen.

Jessie must have decided to use her mother's name as her middle name in 1874.  Her death certificate has Morrison again as her middle name.
610/A 32
Old Cumnock

Link to Jessie Guthrie on the Cumnock Connections tree

Here's another example: Ann Moodie Henderson b 1871 in Kilmarnock

Sunday 4 September 2016

Who was he named after?

Middle names are often seen through the generations and this can help you be sure you have the right family.

See my previous post on naming patterns here.

The middle name Bigby or Begbie crops up in the Thorburn family of Ayrshire and descendants in the USA and New Zealand.   Originally though I think the name was Biggar and I think  I have traced it back to a John Biggar in the 27th Regiment of Foot, possibly born in Ireland and his daughter Mary Biggar born 1814 in Ayr who married William Thorburn and died aged only 23.  More about the Thorburns here

I spent a lot of time looking for the connection between several children with the first names William Vessie in West Kilbride, only to find that  William Vessie was the local minister! So don't assume that the unusual name in your family tree must be an ancestor!

A female ancestor of mine rejoiced in the names Christian Straton Allardice Sievwright  when all her siblings had a single given name. I thought I was on to something. But it turned out Christian Allardice Straton was the minister's daughter!