The still growing popularity of research into family history for those people not only resident in Scotland but also for those scattered across the globe with ancestral links to Scots has undoubtedly been encouraged by the availability of online resources such as Scotland’s People. Among other resources, this popular website holds birth, death & marriage records for the Church of Scotland and more recently for the Scottish Catholic Church. As with all record types however, there are always gaps and one of these is the records of Episcopal Churches.
Edinburgh City Archives holds at least some of the capital’s Episcopal Church records such as St Paul’s & St George’s (including St Andrew’s & St Barnabas), Old St Paul’s and St Peter’s. All of these collections include some of the surviving baptismal, marriage and burial registers for the churches.
The St Peter’s Church collection, for example, contains registers of baptisms from
1807-1935, marriage registers, 1807-1959 and burial registers, 1807-1917. So, if your ancestors belonged to this church then, potentially all of these series of records will hold information on them unavailable elsewhere until 1855 when statutory civil registration was introduced into Scotland.
This collection also incorporates other series of records which could be of interest not only to family historians but also to those interested in the history of this church. There are series of registers of pews, confirmations and services and a good series vestry minutes as well.
But perhaps one of the most intriguing and visually striking volumes contained within this St Peter’s Church collection is an album containing depictions and newspaper cuttings of various clergy and other individuals within the Scottish Episcopal Church in the early 20th century. The wonderful water colour painting illustrated here appears to be a likeness of Bishop Walpole who was reportedly overjoyed when St Mary’s Cathedral, opened for worship in 1879, gained its west towers in 1915 and 1917. (The little picture in the top left of this painting looks to be a representation of these) The Bishop acknowledged that he could have built twelve mission churches with the money spent on the building of these towers but believed that the completed cathedral would have a greater impact on the missionary work of the Episcopal Church.
One more very colourful example taken from this slim volume of illustrations is shown left. This beautifully detailed water colour carries a caption at the foot indicating that it was painted in either 1912 or 1913 by “J.J.” It notes “Result of studying the Visitor’s book at Bishop’s House, Iona” and further, “Archbishop of York & Guardsman”. Since there is little more by way of explanation the underlying meaning, if any exists, will have to remain a mystery for the present.
This perhaps only serves to remind us that the rich resources of Scotland’s archival holdings contain not only records of great usefulness to us in our historical researches but also records that can surprise and delight us; to all those who take the first step into your local archives – good hunting!