I just returned from a trip to the United Kingdom. Most of my time was spent in Northern Ireland visiting my new grandson and his parents, but I also took the ferry over to Scotland and spent a few days riding around on trains. My mother’s parents came from Scotland and I grew up listening to tales of Robert the Bruce, poems by Robert Burns and music by Harry Lauder. My grandmother rarely referred to it as Scotland, it was always the Old Country (actually the Auld Country) and that’s how I have always thought of it.
In recent years, I feel like I have spent a lot of time in Auld Scotland, in a way. I have been researching my grandparents’ lives and our family history, tracking down documents on Ancestry.com and Scotland’s People, finding images on Scran and specialty sites like Scottish Mining Website.
But whether I am looking clues to help straighten out a genealogical point or just trying to learn more about the specific places where my family members lived, the work they did and their homes, historical events that affected them and their everyday lives, I have found the digitized old public domain books work from Google Books. There are so many available and they’re so searchable. I can search the whole Google Books collection and find a personal or place mentioned in one or two books; I can search just the books I have saved to my own collection or I can search within a particular book. There are also tools for linking, clipping, and embedding the books, like the one at the bottom of this post. These books can also be downloaded in various formats which makes it easy to carry them around when I travel, very useful when I am trying to superimpose the past on the present.
Here are a few of my favorites from my Google Books Scotland collection :
- Geography of Ayrshire — By Ayr County, Scotch Education Code, 1879
- Picturesque Ayrshire — William Harvey, 1905
- Scotland illustrated : with pen and pencil By Samuel Gosnell Green, Thomas Faulkner
- Handbook for travellers in Scotland — John Murray, 1867 (Several different editions of this are available)
My grandfather’s family came from Ayrshire, and I found this school geography book particularly useful. The travel books cover the cities and scenic places in the countryside, but skip over the small mining communities where my relatives lived. This book lists all the towns and villages in Ayrshire with population, and has lists of industries and mining operations associated with each place, railroad lines, etc., which is very helpful in understanding the economic environment of the places where my family lived.