Call to help transcribe historic Scottish records

A previous review of tax records identified the cabinet maker William Brodie as the notorious Deacon Brodie. Picture: Comp

A previous review of tax records identified the cabinet maker William Brodie as the notorious Deacon Brodie. Picture: Comp

A call has been issued to enlist thousands of volunteers to help transcribe more than one million historic Scottish records.

The Transcribe ScotlandsPlaces is the biggest crowd-sourcing project of its kind in Scotland and will focus on more than one million records of people and places dating from 1645 to 1880.

This includes more than 150,000 pages of old handwriting in Scots, English and Gaelic detailing information about land taxation; taxes on clocks, windows and farm horses as well as Ordnance Survey “name books” which were part of the first official record of Scottish places and place names.

It is hoped the information processed as part of this project, one of the first of its kind in the UK, will boost knowledge and understanding of Scotland and its people.


A previous review of tax records identified the cabinet maker William Brodie as Deacon Brodie whose dual life as a thief and model citizen inspired Robert Louis Stevenson to write The Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde.

Records show Mr Brodie made a respectable living and paid duty, which helped mask his criminal life. He was hanged in 1788 after he was arrested and tried for a failed robbery.

Fiona Hyslop, cabinet secretary for culture and external affairs, has praised the project. She said: “It will celebrate our long history in archiving and ensure these precious records become more accessible for everyone.

“I would urge as many people as possible to volunteer for this unique project and contribute to unlocking the secrets of Scotland’s past and improve our understanding of our history.”

During the next 12 months more than 50 talks and workshops will be held to encourage people to get involved and get trained on the new online system.

Andrew Nicoll, the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, (RCAHMS) outreach officer said: “Through this huge crowd-sourcing archive project, we hope that many thousands of volunteers will make new discoveries about people and places in Scotland’s history over the past 350 years.


“The website boasts a treasure trove of historical archives, which provide a fascinating insight into the history of buildings and communities across Scotland.

“But we need volunteer transcribers to help with the detective work, so that we can understand more and piece the jigsaw together.

“These records touch the lives of everyone from the famous figures of Scotland’s past, to the ordinary man and woman in the street. The potential of what we may find is incredibly exciting. And anyone, anywhere in the world, with access to the internet can get involved.”

The transcriptions will be added to ScotlandsPlaces website (www.scotlandsplaces.gov.uk) which compiles records from three of Scotland’s national archives: RCAHMS, the National Records of Scotland (NRS) and the National Library of Scotland (NLS).




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