A couple of months ago, while doing some eighteenth-century research for a client in the Carrington Kirk Session records, I came across a much later letter which had evidently been bound in with the accounts at a later date:
In a different hand – seemingly that of William Granville Core, minister of Carrington, who at this time was also acting as session clerk for the parish – the following two entries are extracted:
1695 Febry 10 Received from James Dewar in Capilaw & his wife being th[ei]r collection for the building of Kinkell harbour 7 shillings by reason they were not here the day if was gathered.
This is an example of what is known in genealogy circles as a lookup – a request for somebody to inspect a particular record set and to report back any entries that match the requester’s requirements. Instances are scattered throughout the Kirk Session records. There was a particular flurry of them following the enactment of the Old Age Pensions Act 1908, which for the first time granted the right to a pension to people aged 70 and over. Claimants had to prove their age, and often this would involve the pensions committee contacting the parish of birth to request confirmation of the information provided by applicants. Diligent clerks in some parishes incorporated copies of these lookup requests into the original Kirk Session records, sometimes providing useful information about what happened to parishioners.
Occasionally you will come across a request from someone researching their ancestry. We also recently found a letter to the session clerk of Dumbarton requesting a lookup about the writer’s grandfather, who was born in 1854. The letter was sent from Tasmania in 1973 – a fantastic discovery if you happen to be researching Robert Brown Ballantyne.
In the modern age, however, you don’t have to find the name and address of the parish clerk, send off a speculative letter and wait for a response by post, which might never come. (It would seem Robert Brown Ballantyne’s grand-daughter may never have received a reply, as her international reply coupon is included with her letter in the Dumbarton records!). We have recently launched a service offering lookups in Kirk Session records for a very affordable price, which we are gradually rolling out across the whole of Scotland. Those parishes currently available are shown below. If you don’t see the parish you’re interested in listed, let us know and we’ll have a look for you.
Genealogy and Family History - A mix of our news, curious and intriguing discoveries. Research hints and resources to grow your family tree in Scotland from our team.