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Sunday, 6 July 2014

My Tyneside @ The Discovery Museum

My favourite museum that we visited on this trip to the North East was the Discovery Museum in Newcastle.

A large, free entrance museum in the city centre, the museum celebrates its 80th birthday this year but the exhibitions and displays are very, very modern - lots of interactive displays and things to engage people of all ages in the history of the North East.

On a family history note, there are two notable exhibitions - The Newcastle Story and Destination Tyneside.

In The Newcastle Story, you can talk a walk through the history of Newcastle and the surrounding areas from Roman times to the present day, through reconstructions of the "streets, homes and communities of the past" and as well as local history, there is a lot of general social history too around the 1930s depression, the arrival of the welfare state in post-war Britain and the swinging 60s.

In Destination Tyneside, which celebrates migration to the North East, there is lots to learn about those who have arrived in the North East throughout the decades. From the Scottish migrants of the early 20th century (like my great grandmother's family) to the Eastern Europeans arriving more recently, the arrival of those from abroad is celebrated and presented in a fun way which encourages people to think about "their Tyneside". There are some interactive displays which allow you to trace your surname and see comparison maps showing the geographical spread of your name between 1881 and 1998 which proved very interesting - both me and my husband searched lots of names from our tree (and were surprised by some of the results)!

The best part of Destination Tyneside though, has to be the My Tyneside Wall - a permanent celebration of all those who have arrived in the North East and made it their home. For a donation of £20 you can have your ancestors arrival in Newcastle commemorated, which is not only a nice idea but makes an amazing visual record of migration to the North East over the years. Since returning home I have been on the museum website and added my great-grandmother's details, and I look forward to seeing them on the wall when we return to Newcastle!

My Tyneside Wall (Photo from Discovery Museum website)

Sharing the Discovery Museum building is the Tyne & Wear archives, another treasure trove of North East family history resources - but it was closing time by the time we reached them, as there was so much to see in the museum. So if you're planning to visit both, keep an eye on the time!

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Saturday, 5 July 2014

Glasgow museums

Glasgow has more museums than we had time to see, but the two we did visit were very enjoyable and offered an insight into Glasgow life in years gone by.

The Riverside Museum, on the banks of the River Clyde, is a fantastic modern building that looked amazing upon arrival on a sunny June morning. It’s the newest of Glasgow’s many museums (it opened in 2011) and last year it won the European Museum of the Year award.

Described as “Scotland’s museum of transport and travel”, the museum houses exhibits of all types of transport, from the wall of cars to Glasgow police cars, caravans and bikes. The best bit for me though was the original trams and a reconstruction of a 1900s Glasgow street and subway. It’s great to wander down a street that looks very much like one your ancestors would have walked down!

After a couple of hours at The Riverside Museum, we went to The People’s Palace Museum, situated in Glasgow Green – Glasgow’s oldest park. The People’s Palace was originally built as a cultural centre for the people of Glasgow’s industrial East End and it’s a magnificent building, with a huge fountain outside that was first unveiled at the Glasgow Expire Exhibition in 1888.

The People’s Palace Museum tells the story of Glasgow and its people and it was a great place to find out more about how ordinary Glaswegians have lived throughout history.The “Doon the Watter” exhibition about Glaswegians descending en masse to the West Coast seaside towns was fun and the recreation of life in a Glasgow Tenement in “The Single End” brought home how cramped the living conditions would have been.

Like all of Glasgow’s museums, the two we visited were free. Worth a visit if you’re in Glasgow and want to know more about the lives of your Glaswegian ancestors!


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Friday, 4 July 2014

Family History at The Mitchell Library (Glasgow)

First stop on our week away was Glasgow, Scotland’s second city. 

We spent most of our first day at The Mitchell Library which is one of the largest public libraries in Europe. The Mitchell is a beautiful building but bizarrely is next to a motorway (yes, really – though obviously the building is older than the motorway!). 

There is a dedicated family history centre at the library which houses not only Glasgow’s city and NHS archives (both free) but also the Registrar’s Genealogy Centre – where for a fee of £15 per day you can search online Scottish records for the following:

Statutory Birth, Death & Marriage Records for the whole of Scotland (1855 - 2010)
Civil Partnership records (2005 - 2010)
Scottish Divorces (1984 - 2010)
Old Parochial Records (1553 - 1854)
Census including Street indexes (1841 - 1911)
Catholic Registers

Upon arrival at the genealogy centre, you are allocated your computer for the day and are introduced to the records and the search system by one of the registrars. Anyone who has used the Scotland’s People website will be familiar with the layout of the system and it offers a substantial saving to the Scotland’s People site if you are searching lots of names and want to look at many records to check they are “your” ancestor.

If you want to print out copies of certificates an A4 page costs 50p (there are restrictions on very recent certificates being printed, but all certificates can be viewed). Unlike the Edinburgh Scotland’s People centre copying on a USB stick is not allowed, which is a shame as copies can easily get lost on a trip. The computers didn’t seem to allow standard internet access either, which was another annoyance – I had my iPad with me, but wifi is not yet available on all floors of the library, so I could only access my ancestry information via the app and could not carry out additional research online without going downstairs to the café. There are plans however for wifi to be extended throughout the building when refurbishments are completed so perhaps we just visited at the wrong time!

The café on the ground floor provided a nice place to venture to for some lunch, and there are toilets right by the genealogy centre for comfort breaks, as well as throughout the building. Lockers are provided for the archives (they are not needed if only visiting the registrars), and there is also a shop selling notebooks, pens and pencils. There is also some vending machines and sofas outside the genealogy centre if you want a quick break.

Our day at the centre provided some new leads, new information and a chance to see what was available . As always, I wish I had been more organized and regimented with my research whilst there to get the most out of the day (I wish for example I had made an appointment to view some records in the Glasgow NHS archives) but maybe that means a return visit is in order…?!


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