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My Ain Folk: Professional Scottish Family History Research

Professional Scottish Family History Research

Why should I hire a professional genealogist?

Many people find researching their family history an enjoyable and rewarding hobby, so the idea of paying someone else to do it for you may at first seem a little odd. There are three main reasons why people seek the assistance of a professional genealogist:

  1. Location - the records you need for your research may be held far away from where you live, perhaps even in another country, and it may not be easy for you to visit in person

  2. Time - research can be time-consuming and many archives have limited opening hours, which often don’t include evenings or weekends, making it difficult for those who work full-time to visit

  3. Skills - many people turn to a professional genealogist when they come to a ‘brickwall’ in their research or don’t know what sources to use to take their research further.  Hiring someone with a specialist knowledge of records from the areas where your ancestors lived may help to uncover new information, extend your research further back in time and solve family mysteries.

Guides to hiring a professional genealogist are available online from the Society of Genealogists and FamilySearch.

What information do you need to begin a search?

Ideally, to begin a search in Scottish records it is useful to have the full name of someone who lived in Scotland, the date (even if only approximate) of an event in their lives such as their birth, marriage or death, and the place where that event occurred.  In some cases it is possible to begin a search with a little less information than this but it is almost always necessary to have more than just a name.

It is also helpful if you can provide any additional information you have about the person or family you would like researched.  This might include the names of their parents, spouse(s) and children; any records you have already located relating to them; and any sources you have already searched without success.

If you are unsure whether or not you have enough information to begin a search please contact My Ain Folk for advice.

How far back can you trace my family?

The usual advice is that it is possible to trace most ordinary Scottish families back to the late 1700s.  Successfully researching your family back earlier than this will depend on a number of factors including what records survive for the areas where your ancestors lived, how much detail is given in those records, how common your ancestors’ surname was in that area and their social status (for example, landowners left many more records than labourers).

How many hours of research should I commission?

The amount of research needed will vary considerably depending on the information being sought and the type of records being used.  When starting out on researching a family line (beginning in the 20th Century) research will typically proceed quickly and a search of a few hours could uncover information on several generations.  However, as you progress further back in time and begin to search more specialised or unindexed records research will become slower and a few hours may only be enough to search a few years of records which may not always contain the information being sought.

For advice and a quote regarding your particular research question please contact My Ain Folk.

Will you definitely find information on my family?

Unfortunately, it is not possible to guarantee what information (if any) will be found during research.  Prior to 1855 in Scotland, there was no legal requirement to register births, marriages or deaths and many church registers contain gaps, were poorly kept, or simply were not used by all members of the community.  Whilst it is usually possible to find some trace of those living in Scotland from 1855 onwards there are times when incorrect information provided on an official record or an informal name change can be enough to obscure someone’s origins.  Fees are paid for a researcher’s time, not for the information uncovered. 

What will I receive from My Ain Folk?

My Ain Folk provide a detailed written report describing the research process and specifying all sources searched (with archival references or publication details).  This report includes transcripts or abstracts of the records located during research and discussion of the information found in them.  Where research covers multiple generations a family tree chart is also included.  Copies of records can be provided (subject to any copying restrictions) at the cost set by the relevant archive or record repository.  Research reports are either sent by email as a PDF document or printed and posted, as the client prefers.

Can you help with research into adopted people?

Adoption only became legally recognised in Scotland in 1930.  Prior to this adoptions were arranged informally and few records survive.  Records of Adoption are closed for 100 years and information is supplied only to the adopted person (not to their relatives or to professional researchers).  Those seeking to access their own records should contact the charity Birthlink who provide a range of services associated with adoption, including maintaining the Adoption Contact Register for Scotland.

If the birth name and birth date of the adopted person is known then researching their family history is little different to researching anyone else’s and My Ain Folk would be happy to assist.  However, if the purpose of the research is to reconnect with relatives who have become separated through adoption then it is strongly advised that this should be done through an appropriate third party such as Birthlink who provide a go-between service.

What does ‘My Ain Folk’ mean?

My Ain Folk is Scots for ‘My Own People’.  The phrase was popularised by a song written in the early 1900s in which a Scottish emigrant longs for his beloved homeland and the family he left behind.  Since then ‘My Ain Folk’ has been the title of several films and books dealing with the subject of family and ancestry.

Frequently Asked Questions

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