Keeping it local …
There’s a great deal of chat about local services – #ShopLocal and #KeepItLocal are two hashtags that often trend on social channels when people are trying to encourage folk to spend more time and money in their communities. Only this month (August 2019), The Herald shared a story on how the Federation of Small Business is calling for investment at a local level to help revitalise towns across Scotland. Two thirds of Scotland’s population live in 479 towns. We are helping to share local news, offers and events – seven days a week – and on our travels, we come across many organisations and community partners working hard to support the town. Cupar Library is no exception – and we discovered that they have a ‘Local Studies Department’ so we went along to find out more. We spoke with Local Studies Supervisor, Andrea McMillan …
The Duncan Institute, now Cupar library, has stood for 149 years but, as Andrea explains, the records and resources go back much further: “The reference room holds the main family and local history collection for North East Fife, and that includes photographs, books, newspapers, census records, old parish registers, maps, sasines and valuation rolls.”
The photographic archive is currently being digitized, and contains images from Cupar, St Andrews and surrounding villages. Andrea adds: “We also hold collections from Aase Goldsmith, Tom Pearson (Newburgh) and George Normand, including his magic lantern and glass slides.”
If you are looking for Fife ancestors, they have census records from 1841 – 1901, albeit 1841 records for several local parishes are missing. Andrea explains that they were lost in transit to Edinburgh when the ship that was taking them to their new abode sank in the Forth!
From cradle to grave!
There are Old Parish Registers – recording births, deaths and marriages. Some date as far back as the 1600s – the earliest are the records for Dysart that start in 1582! These run through until the middle of the 19th century when responsibility for keeping them passed from the church to local government. They have microfilm reels – photographs of the original books, in the handwriting of the parish clerk. Spelling was somewhat erratic, as was the quality of the ink and the writing! Reading the entries can be an art, but staff will do their best to help with any translation.
They have books and CDs of Monumental Inscriptions which record the writing on old headstones in Fife cemeteries and graveyards. These are indexed by surname so they can track down who was buried where. The library has a subscription to Ancestry.co.uk, which is available for free on the public access computers. Visitors need to be a member of the library to access them, but joining is easy and just requires proof of name and address. A MyFife card can also be used as a library card.
You can also find out more about your house. Census records will show who lived there up to 1901. Valuation rolls will show even more information – who owned a property, who lived in it and what was their occupation. Andrea says: “We have the 1894 and 1914 Ordnance Survey Map series, and a copy of the 1820 John Wood map of Cupar showing individual houses and their owners. We hold the Sasine register for Fife – starting in 1781 – and this records the transfer of ownership of land or property, usually by sale or inheritance.”
Hold the front page!
The newspaper archive is quite extensive and covers North East Fife. The earliest paper is the Fife Herald from 1824 – and the run right up to 2018 (although there are a few gaps). Other early editions are the Fifeshire Journal (1833), the East Fife Record (1856) and the Fife News (1870). Many of these are on microfilm but there are bound volumes of the Dundee Courier from 1926 – 1989 (minus 1976 for some reason) and the St Andrews Citizen from 1977 – 2007.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a library without books. Andrea adds: “We have reference books on open shelves, covering all manner of themes – from art and literature to dictionaries, stamps of the world and genealogy.” She explains that rarer volumes are kept in locked cabinets and include a wide range from myths and witches to the church, from schooling and military history to nature and poetry – as well as architecture, golf and industry. These books are available to look at in the reference room and a member of staff will access them for you.
The room is shared with Fife Family History Society for three days a week. The Local Studies’ resources are available whenever the library is open …
10 am to 5 pm Monday to Friday
10 am to 4 pm on Saturdays
Late night opening on Thursday until 7 pm
Andrea is usually in on Tuesday and Wednesday and will be happy to help. If you have a particular enquiry, contact them before making your journey to see what information they have. If you want to make an appointment to visit, they can ensure that any relevant material is ready for you. Otherwise you are welcome to come in anytime and browse. One tip: just make sure you have plenty of time in the car park!
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