Archive for November 2010

The Rossdhu Book of Hours

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Auckland Libraries is much more than just a regional public library with borrowable books. Our friends will know that we are much more like a national library or even a museum in respect to the quality and quantity of the rare items we hold in our collections. We are a noted heritage and research centre.

The Sir George Grey Special Collections on Level 2 of Central Library, was founded by an initial gift to Auckland City Libraries, from George Grey himself in 1887. Grey was an enthusiastic collector of books and manuscripts, and his collection also contains correspondence and diaries from his time in New Zealand. This collection has been added to over time with many other bequests for other sources.

The Auckland Research Centre (ARC) and the Sir George Grey Special Collections (SGGSC) have a very close relationship with each other within Auckland Libraries. So close, that the collections can be described as either intertwined and/or complementary. Family historians flit across the floor on Level 2 between ARC and SGGSC on a regular basis.

An example of this, are the manuscripts and letters from the Sir George Grey collections, where a lot of information about New Zealand’s early settlers are found. Another is the Little and Sons' Funeral Directorsorder books, where the card catalogue is held in the Centre, and the original order books are held by Specials. A lot of this information has also been digitised and can be found in our eResources and can also be viewed on our virtual exhibition Shades of Grey.
Illustrated book of hours

One of the real gems of SGGSC holdings, which is currently being exhibited in their exhibition 
room, is a very precious medieval manuscript called 'The Rossdhu Book of Hours', which was commissioned between 1460 and 1470. This manuscript was the first medieval manuscript to
be digitised at Auckland City Libraries and it can be viewed online.

This manuscript is of particular interest to medieval enthusiasts of course. However, family historians would be fascinated by the accounts of the investigations into the provenance of this manuscript. The research that went into this investigation by different people resembles a 
detective story of the most intriguing and cryptic.

Although the fly leaf has long been lost, along with the name of the original owner, the Book of Hours almost certainly belonged to the Colquhoun family of Rossdhu, near Luss in Dunbartonshire. Convincing research done by Anne McKim and published in Migrations: Medieval Manuscripts in New Zealand, pinpoints the original owner to have most probably been Lady Elizabeth Dunbar who married Sir John Colquhoun in 1463.

McKim's research points to the notations made in the manuscript's calendar that had significance to the region around Luss where the Colquhoun's had lands, as well Inverurie where Elizabeth Dunbar had links.

She compares handwriting, often with the use of an ultraviolet light, and traces the pedigrees of the Colquhouns and Elizabeth Dunbar to convincingly argue her point. Signatures of Robert Keyth and William Lovertie in the Book of Hours, dated a century later, strongly indicate that this Book of Hours was passed down through the family as an heirloom.

Sir George Grey purchased the manuscript 'on approval' from W & T Boone in Bond St, London. The historian in me, shudders to think of such a precious item being sent 12,000 miles to New Zealand 'on approval' - an often treacherous journey for humans in the 1860s, never mind books.

Much more recently, the manuscript made its trip home to Luss for a visit, after an absence of at least 400 years. This time much more stringent controls over the travels of the book was made. It was accompanied by Auckland Libraries’ conservator and preservation manager David Ashman, and returned home by the Libraries' manuscripts librarian Kate de Courcy.

If the manuscript could only speak, I wonder at what tales it might tell of its much travelled life?

Those interested in hearing more about the Rossdhu Book of Hours, including its trip to Luss, should come and listen to Kate and David on Thursday, November 18 at 12 noon.

Seonaid Lewis

Guest post: The latest news from Auckland Research Centre

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1911 CensusI subscribe to Who Do You Think You Are? magazine and needed to contact them via their website.

Of great interest is that an agreement between TNA (The National Archives) and Ancestry and The Genealogist has been reached, and these sites can now add the 1911 Census to their databases. 

According to the article, it is expected that the first entries will appear before the end of this year with the project being completed before the end of 2011.  Each company will need to produce their own transcription and index, hence the delay in release.  For additional information see the above-mentioned sites.

FindMyPastAuckland Research Centre will be present at the History and Genealogy Roadshow at the Ellerslie Events Centre at Ellerslie Racecourse, Wednesday 24 November 2010 (noon-9pm). Seonaid Lewis, our family history librarian, will also be presenting there, amongst others including eminent international speakers.

As a result, I was checking out some of our subscription databases to include some information in folders we usually display giving examples of material available at Auckland Research Centre. 

One of the sites I was checking, was FindMyPast (which is available for use in Auckland Research Centre). 

One of the categories is "Specialist records" which includes: 
  • Crew lists 1861-1913
  • Civil Service Evidence of Age 1752-1948
  • GWR Shareholders 1835-1932 and
  • Other records 1320-1996. 
As I am familiar with most of these databases, I decided to have a look at "Other records ..."

I am pleased that I did as this is an amazing set of records and includes of the following -
  • Army deserters 1828-40
  • Bankrupt Directory 1820-43
  • Corfe Castle and district 1790 census
  • Dorset Flax and hemp growers (1783-91)
  • Glamorgan Schools admission registers - covers 18 schools and includes WWII evacuees
  • Lincolnshire settlement certificates
  • Match Workers' Strike 1888
However, it was the Match Workers' Strike 1888, that really caught my eye. 

How fascinating to find if your ancestor participated in the Bryant & May strike led by Annie Besant.  This includes details of 714 people and gives the details such as – name, address, occupation, wages, how much paid by strike fund, marital status and who they lived with.

I couldn't find Annie Besant included in the records, but a fascinating database all the same.

New Series on Sky - Living ChannelOn Saturday evenings and early Sunday mornings the above channel has started showing the acclaimed BBC series Victorian Pharmacy

The first episode went to air on Saturday 6 November 2010.  Catch this if you can as it is supposed to be very interesting; according to TV Guide, it airs before Heir Hunters which I also understand is an interesting series.