Today’s blog post comes from Jill Dye, a second-year PhD student at Stirling on a SGSAH-funded Applied Research Collaboration with the University Dundee and the Library of Innerpeffray. Whilst her PhD research focuses on borrowers from the Library of Innerpeffray 1747-1854, Jill has been using the archives at Stirling to research the borrowers from the Leighton Library, Dunblane, as part of the Scottish Universities Research Collections Associate Scheme (SURCAS) Pilot.
How much can we know about ordinary individuals long since deceased? Any search usually starts with parish and census records via one of the many platforms of the thriving genealogy business. Before the first census in 1841, however, the only information you’re likely to find is birth, baptism, marriage and death. While the early censuses record addresses and occupations, such information does not give a particularly good insight into what they were like as an individual, only key places and dates. Any archive that allows us to see more than these simple facts and build a better picture of a person is therefore invaluable.
My research focuses on 18th and 19th century library borrower records, which are particularly rich in historic Perthshire. Whilst my PhD is centred on the borrower records from Innerpeffray, as part of a public outreach project I have recently been focusing on the region’s other incredible borrowing record, that of the Leighton Library at Dunblane, which is housed at the University of Stirling. Borrowing records usually give address and occupation information (far earlier than the census), but more importantly, they show how an individual interacts with the library and the types of books which they were interested in reading. These archives are invaluable not just to academics but to the family or local historian, and yet few know of their existence.
This project aims to highlight the usefulness of this resource to the wider public. The website created from the project explores the borrowings of selected Leighton Library users, using, where possible, local and family history sources to place the records of their borrowing into the wider context of their lives. These individuals range from well-known figures such as the writer John Ramsay of Ochtertyre, to a Minister from St Ninians, a local Surgeon, and even a female visitor to the Dunblane Mineral Springs. In a forthcoming guest post on the website, fellow PhD Student Maxine Branagh-Miscampbell will be commenting on the borrowings of a local student. The site will also eventually include an index of names recorded in the register so that anyone researching local individuals can easily identify whether they appear in the record. The project will culminate in a display of material from the Leighton Archives followed by a short talk, free and open to the public, which will take place at the University Library on Tuesday 28 March. More details on the event are available here.