Ancestral Research and the Archivist’s Garden, Edinburgh

When asked to provide “Tip from the Locals” for an accommodation website writing about things to do in Edinburgh in January, I thought long and hard about what to recommend.  Ideas sprang to mind, like the Turner Watercolours Exhibition, galleries, cafés to visit, museums and more.  Lots of indoor ideas as January can be a chilly month in the city.  But then my thoughts turned to the types of visitors we’ve had over the years at Craigwell Cottage, and I thought about the Australians and New Zealanders who come to visit Scotland at that time of year to escape the hot summers in their country, or to come “home” to discover the land of their parent’s or more distant relatives birth.

We’ll be welcoming lots of visitors to Scotland in 2014 who are coming to Scotland for many different reasons, but our January visitors tend to already have a link to the country and want to make connections to places where their ancestors have lived, or to find out more about vital links in their more distant past.  For this reason, my insider tip relates to Scotland’s People Centre – the combination of Register House and New Register House, which stand at the east end of Princes Street.  Outside there is a statue of the Duke of Wellington on his horse.

Register House Edinburgh


Inside, you can attend one of the familiarisation sessions to get you started on researching your family history, or if you have already started to build your family tree, you can access original documents which your ancestors have been required to submit when recording births, deaths and marriages.  You can do all sorts of research on-line with Scotland’s People records, but for me there is nothing quite like the feeling of seeing an original signature in the records and realising that the person in question actually touched and wrote on that paper.

My “insider tip” is that to the rear of Register House, accessed via path from the front of New Register House, there is a very special secret garden.  The garden is planted with more than 50 varieties of plants which have a story to tell and a relationship with Scotland.  The Archivist’s Garden is free to enter while the offices are open, and it’s well worth a visit as it’s a tranquil place amongst the hustle and bustle of the city centre.  Even on a December day when I visited there were sculptural forms of plants to enjoy.

Archivists Garden Edinburgh

We’d love to welcome you to Edinburgh in January – find out more about our family-friendly holiday home: Craigwell Cottage.  If you visit the Archivist’s Garden on your trip, let us know in the comments below.

Anything to add?