The end of summer weeding

At the beginning of September, we said a fond farewell to our five summer legal students, who are employed each year to assist us with processing the vast amount of Sheriff Court civil records that we take in each year.

Archivists aim to visit 5-6 courts every year and bring back records that are over 25 years old. We keep a record of every case that goes through the courts, but the sheer bulk of the papers concerned means that we have to make informed decisions about what we can dispose of from amongst the huge amount of papers that go along with every court case.

students
Our 2017 team of Sheriff Court Record ‘weeders’

This is where our legal student team come into play. They are usually drawn from the ranks of 3rd or 4th year students from one of the Scottish Legal degree courses, and they spend twelve weeks sifting through and ‘weeding’ the civil court papers to allow us to dispose of papers with no enduring historical interest, or evidential  value.

In practical terms, this means that we are able to retain the pertinent information about every case (the people involved, the case details, the judgements, etc.) but that we are not overburdened by keeping case papers which are simply multiple examples of similar types of cases (e.g. simple payment cases).

disposing of weeded material
The students disposing of ‘weeded’ material

This year, the students helped us to process over 400 meters of records from Edinburgh, Elgin, Falkirk, Haddington, Hamilton, and Peebles Sheriff Courts.

We anticipate that, by the time we finish cataloguing these records, the ‘weeders’ will have helped us to reduce this down to around half of the original amount – saving us a huge amount of space, and allowing us to efficiently preserve and catalogue the records which will help to inform future generations.

We wish our summer students all the best success with their future endeavours, and send our thanks for their help.

 

A fascinating investigation

Handling records in poor condition causes further damage. In such cases extensive conservation treatment is necessary to make records suitable to be produced and therefore available to scholars and researchers.

I recently worked on an interesting court book dating between 1686 and 1714, a limp vellum binding containing a whole block of papers in seriously bad condition. So bad that throughout the treatment the volume was referred to as “the monster book” and phrases like “better you than me” could be heard in the Conservation studio at NRS. As it had been affected by mould, the paper was extremely soft and had lost its strength completely. The edges were frail and brittle, and fragments would be lost at any page turned.

Continue reading “A fascinating investigation”

A tale of a Government cat

Archive cat image
An illustration of the Exchequer Cat at work, from the 1950s.

While the exploits of Whitehall Cats – Palmerston and Larry most recently – have been recently making the news, cats in Government employ are nothing new. In fact, here at National Records of Scotland, we have evidence of a feline curiosity – a cat tasked with protecting records more than three centuries ago.

The Exchequer Office in Parliament Close, Edinburgh, set up in 1708, initially had problems with records being ‘greatly damnified, eaten and destroyed by rates and myce’. After giving the matter some thought, doorkeeper Robert Morison decided that perhaps a cat might give the rodents pause. Continue reading “A tale of a Government cat”

Scotland’s Changing Population

National Records of Scotland (NRS) today publishesScotland’s Population 2016 – the Registrar General’s Annual Review of Demographic Trends’, alongside an infographic booklet which summarises the key trends in Scotland’s population.

Tim Ellis, the Registrar General of Scotland, said:

“The population of Scotland is at its highest ever at 5.4 million. It has grown by 5% over the last 10 years. The majority of this growth has been due to migration as natural change (births minus deaths) has not contributed significantly to Scotland’s population growth.

“Most recently, 31,700 more people came to Scotland than left (net migration over the year to 30 June 2016) – made up of a net gain of 22,900 people from overseas and 8,800 people from the rest of the UK. The majority of migrants to Scotland are young, with 52% aged 18 to 32 years.

“Overall Scotland’s population has continued to age over the past decade, with the greatest increases in the population in the older age groups. Over the next 25 years, there is a projected increase of 28% in the number of pensioners in Scotland, compared to an increase of just 1% in the number of people of working age. This has implications for funding allocations, tax revenues, pensions, education, health and social care provision.”

 

Scotland’s population is projected to age
Scotland’s population is projected to age

 The report is a compendium that brings together key demographic information from a range of publications produced by NRS. It has been produced every year since 1855. It covers population, births, deaths, life expectancy, migration, marriages and civil partnerships, adoptions, households and housing.

Continue reading “Scotland’s Changing Population”

New PRSA Assessment Mechanism

Under the Public Records (Scotland) Act 2011(PRSA) the Keeper of the Records of Scotland, NRS’ chief executive Tim Ellis, assesses and agrees records management plans submitted by public authorities. Over 150 plans have been agreed to date, the majority under improvement. The PRSA Assessment Team, in consultation with our stakeholders, have now developed a user-friendly tool to facilitate the capture, and review, of the continuous improvements in recordkeeping being made by authorities following agreement of their plans.

First mooted in 2015 and subsequently piloted by East Lothian Council in late 2016, the Progress Update Review (PUR) mechanism is currently being rolled out to Scotland’s public authorities. The issuing of a template reflecting the original assessment of an agreed plan enables authorities to demonstrate where changes have occurred and new policies have been instituted, help them identify where further resources and work is required, and highlight the general progress in recordkeeping they are effecting. Continue reading “New PRSA Assessment Mechanism”

The Scottish Longitudinal Study

You may have seen recent media coverage on the employment prospects of young people in Scotland from different social backgrounds.

What you might not have realised is that this piece of research – and many others – relies on the Scottish Longitudinal Study in which National Records of Scotland is a partner.

The Scottish Longitudinal Study (SLS) is a valuable social research dataset that is the result of a collaboration between National Records of Scotland and the Universities of Edinburgh and St. Andrews. It links data from National Records Scotland (NRS) (including Census from 1991, 2001 and 2011) and the National Health Service Information Services Division. Continue reading “The Scottish Longitudinal Study”

Getting started with digital preservation

Our Digital Records Unit is launching two new digital preservation tools this summer. These guidance and capacity planning tools have been specifically developed for Scottish local authorities. They are the product of a 12 month project and will assist local authority archivists and record managers get started with digital preservation.

The guidance tool will help local authorities to understand and implement the steps needed to ensure that digital records are captured and preserved within the archive, while the capacity tool enables users to calculate their digital storage needs.

The events are aimed towards those currently working within Scottish local authorities, however other interested parties are also very welcome to attend.

The tools will be launched in Glasgow City Chambers on July 10th (book here) and in Aberdeen Town Hall on August 8th (book here).

Tickets are selling fast so be sure to register soon if you would like to attend, and spread the word to anyone who might be interested.

You can follow the events on Twitter, using the hashtag #scotladp and we’ll be livetweeting from @natrecordsscot.

We look forward to seeing you in Glasgow or Aberdeen!

 

Trudeau’s Scottish family

Canadian Prime Minsiter Justin Trudeau looks at NRS documents on his family history at the National Museum of Scotland
NRS’ Dr Alison Rosie shows Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau documents about his Scottish family history. Copyright Stewart Attwood.

You may well be aware that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in Edinburgh this morning to meet the Queen. During his visit, he also visited the National Museum of Scotland, where he saw Canadian artefacts, as well as documents on his family history from National Records of Scotland which show his Scottish ancestry over five generations.

Continue reading “Trudeau’s Scottish family”

WW1 and the Census

Preparations are now under way for Scotland’s Census 2021 but a hundred years ago the First World War had a dramatic impact on the people who planned and delivered the census in 1921.

This photo shows Census staff in 1911 in what is now the Archivist’s Garden between General Register House and New Register House in Edinburgh.

The largely male staff of the 1911 census
The staff of the 1911 Census, pictured in what is now the Archivists’ Garden between General Register House and New Register House in Edinburgh

 

The 1921 photo was taken on the steps of George Heriot’s School in Edinburgh

The staff of the 1921 Census - including many more women than the 1911 Census.
The staff of the 1921 Census – including many more women than the 1911 Census.

The two pictures reflect a direct consequence of the First World War when women entered the workplace in large numbers, many for the first time, releasing men to go to war.  Some worked in occupations never previously done by women on the railways, in shipyards, munitions’ factories.  After the war – when the men returned – some left their employment but many remained in work. One such work opportunity – the decennial Census.

Continue reading “WW1 and the Census”

White gloves

If you watched and enjoyed “The Hector: From Scotland to Nova Scotia” on BBC 2 yesterday (if you missed the programme it’s currently on the iplayer), you’ll have seen Neil Oliver viewing documents in our Historical Search Room. You may also have noticed he’s wearing white gloves – something we don’t generally require readers in our search rooms to do, unless they are handling photographs. 

 

Neil Oliver in our Historical Search Room wearing white gloves to handle a document.

There are different schools of thought about the value of wearing white cotton gloves. While once it was common place, it has become a matter of debate. It’s sometimes pointed out that not wearing gloves at all would be better than wearing ill-fitting or dirty gloves – something we agree with. Continue reading “White gloves”