An exhibition to mark the 450th anniversary of the Reformation in Scotland goes on show this week at the Highland Archive and Registration Centre, Inverness.
The exhibition titled “Spreading the Word” has been organised by the National Archives of Scotland in partnership with the Church of Scotland and some of Scotland’s local archives including the Highland Archive Service.
This mobile display highlights fascinating records which are one of Scotland’s most important historical legacies.
Access to digital copies of the records will be available from this month at several local archives in addition to the National Archives of Scotland. Until now researchers in many parts of Scotland have found it difficult to travel to the archive in Edinburgh where the records are physically held.
Councillor Bill Fernie, Chairman of The Highland Council’s Education, Culture and Sport Service said: “I am pleased to see that important records are being made available from Edinburgh to the Highlands and hope that anyone with an interest in them will take the opportunity to visit our fantastic new facility at Bught Road, Inverness. Historians, archivists as well as the public have a unique opportunity to see these records while at the same time finding out what is on offer at the new Archive Centre.”
The records now transferred to digital format amount to more than 20,000 volumes, about five million pages of information.
The Scottish Reformation saw the introduction of a new system to run church affairs including the General Assembly, synods, presbyteries, and Kirk sessions. Presbyterians who broke later away from the Kirk also created similar records.
Of most interest to genealogists and local historians are the minutes of the Kirk sessions which contain a detailed and often colourful record of the discipline the minister and Kirk elders handed out to errant parishioners for offences such as drunkenness, swearing, breaking the Sabbath, quarrelling and sexual misdemeanours.
Other records include proclamations of banns, communion rolls and poor relief accounts. These extensive written records form a rich and varied picture of life in Scotland since 1560.
Drop-in sessions to demonstrate the online system will be held at the Highland Archive and Registration Centre, Bught Road, Inverness on Wednesday 17 November, 6.00pm – 7.30pm and on Thursday 18 November, 10am – 5pm. Members of the public are invited to attend the sessions, free of charge and without making an appointment.
Mr Robin Urquhart, Online Resources Archivist of the National Archives of Scotland, will be available to demonstrate and explain the system.
In 2011 it is planned to make the church records available online via ScotlandsPeople (www.Scotlandspeople.gov.uk), the family history resource which Nation Archives of Scotland runs with the General Register Office for Scotland and the Court of the Lord Lyon. Researchers will have the choice of accessing the records free of charge in various Scottish archives, or using a subscription service on ScotlandsPeople.
George MacKenzie,Keeper of the Records of Scotland, who heads the National Archives of Scotland, said: “Church records have long been among the most popular records in our care. Using digital technology, and with the help of local archives, we are making the remarkable information they contain available to a much wider audience. We’re confident that these exciting developments will make family history and academic historical research much easier. We expect many people will discover new avenues to follow when they begin to explore the records.”
The exhibition “Spreading the Word” is on view at the Highland Archive and registration Centre, Bught Road, Inverness, IV3 5SS from Wednesday 17 to Friday 26 November open weekdays Monday to Friday 10am – 5pm, Wednesday until 7.30pm.