"PEEBLES-SHIRE, or Tweeddale, an inland county in the southern division of Scotland. It is bounded on the north and north-east by Edinburghshire; on the east and south-east by Selkirkshire; on the south by Dumfries-shire; and on the south-west and west by Lanarkshire ... The surface of Peebles-shire, regarded in the aggregate, is higher than that of any other county in the south of Scotland. It is chiefly an assemblage of single hills, clusters of hills, and ranges of mountains, which direct their spurs and their terminations to every point of the compass. The lowest ground is in the narrow vale of the Tweed, immediately within the boundary with Selkirkshire, and lies between 400 and 500 feet above sea-level."
From the Imperial Gazetteer of Scotland, edited by John Marius Wilson, 1868.
A considerable quantity of archival and historical material is held at the Scottish Borders Archive and Local History Centre at the Heritage Hub in Hawick.
Information on many local libraries within the county can be found among the SLAINTE web pages (Scottish Libraries Across the INTErnet).
The Borders Family History Society has a research room in Galashiels. For further details, see the society's home page.
The Borders Book
edited by Donald Omand
Published 1995 by Birlinn Ltd., Edinburgh
ISBN 1 874744 50 5 [hardback]
ISBN 1 874744 73 4 [paperback]
Note: this contains essays on a wide variety of topics making it fascinating reading for all with an interest in the Borders.
List of books relating to, or published in, the counties of Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles
Published Edinburgh, 1899
For general information on Scottish census returns see the Census section on the main Scotland GENUKI page.
The Peeblesshire FreeCEN Project is developing a free-to-view online database of the 1841 and 1851 census returns.
Graham and Emma Maxwell are transcribing and indexing the 1841, 1851 and 1861 Peeblesshire census returns. Their website also offers a free census database search facility.
Chapter 10 entitled "Abbeys and Churches" of The Borders Book (see the Bibliography section) is devoted to this subject, starting from the ancient monastic communities in the Borders through to the present day.
Christian Heritage in the Borders examines the history of the Christian church in the Scottish Borders. It is a companion to Early Settlers in the Borders (see under the History section) and was published by the Scottish Borders Council in 1998. Its ISBN is 0953043819.
For information on registers (baptisms, marriages and burials) for a particular parish, please see that parish's page. General advice on parish registers throughout Scotland can be found under Church Records on the main Scotland page in GENUKI.
The website of the National Records of Scotland includes a leaflet on irregular marriages and information on the known surviving registers. Irregular marriages occurred along the Border and were a form of marriage by consent, convenient both for English runaway couples and Scottish Borderers who did not want to marry in their own churches. The Church of Scotland disapproved of such marriages and would often catch up with a couple, perhaps when their first child was born or baptized. So kirk session minutes can be another useful source for tracing irregular marriages.
Graham and Emma Maxwell are transcribing and indexing baptisms, marriages and burials recorded in Scottish Borders kirk session records and non-conformist church records. Their website also offers a free search facility for these resources.
The kirk session of a parish consists of the minister of the parish and the elders of the congregation. It looks after the general wellbeing of the congregation and, particularly in centuries past, parochial discipline. Most kirk session records are held in the National Records of Scotland in Edinburgh and can be fascinating reading. For more information see Anne Gordon's Candie for the Foundling published by the Pentland Press in 1992. ISBN 1 872795 75 7 (720 pages).
For an account of the Border kirk session records, focusing particularly on poor relief and the dispensation of discipline, see M.C. Lawson's article "The Poor, Crime and Punishment, and the Power of the Kirk in the Borders, 17th & 18th Centuries" which was published on pages 14-15 of the June 1996 Borders Family History Society magazine.
Registration of Births, Marriages and Deaths began in Scotland on 1st January 1855. For further details of this see the National Records of Scotland website.
ScotlandsPeople is the official government website providing access to indexes of Scottish birth, marriage and death certificates, linked online images of the certificates, census return indexes and linked images, and parish register indexes.
Graham and Emma Maxwell are transcribing and indexing the prison registers for the Scottish Borders. Their website also offers a free prisoner database search facility.
There are many websites that can be helpful for finding out about the Scottish Borders, whether you are planning to visit or not. Here are just a few of them (in no particular order):
A classic guide to the area is Andrew and John Lang's Highways and Byways in The Border, first published in 1913 and reprinted in later years. Most recently it was reissued in the United Kingdom by Senate in 1999, under the title Scottish Border Country, ISBN 1859585434 (439 pages). The book takes the form of a journey through the Border country and is full of local and historical snippets of information, as well as many pencil sketches of local places.
A more recent book which may be of interest is Charles Alexander Strang's Borders and Berwick: an illustrated architectural guide to the Scottish Borders and Tweed Valley. As the title suggests, it concentrates on the architecture of the area. However it is well illustrated with hundreds of photographs and contains short descriptions and historical notes on many places. It was first published in 1994 by the Rutland Press and its ISBN is 1873190107 (272-page paperback edition).
Chapter 9 of The Borders Book (see the Bibliography section) has a lot of information on the history of roads, bridges and railways in the Borders. More is given in Chapter 14, pp 171-176 as part of the chapter on the Industrial Revolution.
A web page has been created giving bibliographic details of Peeblesshire directories.
In Tales of the Borders Michael Brander presents a number of tales from John Mackay Wilson's collection of the same name which was first published in the first half of the nineteenth century. This more recent collection includes 12 tales spanning the thirteenth to seventeenth centuries, together with historical notes and background information on the places described. It was published by Mainstream Publishing in 1991 (ISBN 1 85158 395 5).
Haunted Borders by Norrie McLeish is a collection of Border stories of the supernatural, placed in an historical and geographical context. It was published by Alba Publishing in 1997 (ISBN 1873708084).
Both Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) and James Hogg (1770-1835) (the "Ettrick Shepherd") were fascinated by the folklore and history of their native Border country, and used it considerably throughout their works. Their contribution is discussed in two chapters of The Borders Book (see Bibliography section).
A number of articles related to this subject have appeared in past transactions of the Hawick Archaeological Society including:
- "Strange happenings in the Borders" by Edward Barton, 1942 transactions, pages 21-27 (contemporary records of supernatural events)
- "Border Ghosts and Witches" by W.E.Wilson, 1947 transactions, pages 32-38
Imperial Gazetteer of Scotland, edited by John Marius Wilson and published by A. Fullarton and Co - 1868
Peebles Railway, a line of railway from the town of Peebles near the centre of Peebles-shire, to a junction with the North British railway at the Eskbank station, in the south-western vicinity of Dalkeith in Edinburghshire. It was authorized by parliament in July 1853; and was commenced to be formed in August of that year, and opened for traffic in the end of June 1855. It is a single line, with the narrow gauge. The act of parliament for it cost only about £1,000; the land for it was nearly all obtained at agricultural prices; and the total cost of its construction, including all expenses, was about £4,500 per mile. Its length is 19 miles; and the length of the part of the north British which connects it with Edinburgh is 8 miles, - making a total distance from Peebles to Edinburgh of 27 miles. The line runs northward, up Eddlestone-water, from Peebles to the boundary between Peebles-shire and Edinburghshire; and it runs north-north-eastward down the right side of the basin of the North Esk, from the boundary between Peebles-shire and Edinburghshire to the junction with the North British. The stations on it are Eddlestone, at 5 miles from Peebles; Leadburn, at 10 miles; Penicuick, at 12 miles; Roslin, at 15 miles; Hawthornden, at 16 miles; and Bonnyrig, at 18 miles. Coaches run in connexion with it, from the Peebles terminus to Innerleithen, and from the Leadburn station to Romano-bridge, Broughton, and West-Linton.
Michael Robson's Surnames and Clansmen: Border family history in earlier days is a study of Border family life over three hundred years ago, based on extensive original research. The book includes an index of surnames mentioned (nearly 400) and focuses in detail on three of them for illustrative purposes (Chisholm, Mader/Mather, and Yarrow). The book was published by the author in 1998, has 200 pages, and its ISBN is 0953401502.
Other online resources for Peeblesshire include the following:
The Royal Commission on Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland published Peeblesshire: an inventory of the ancient monuments in 1967 (2 volumes).
The Borders Book (see the Bibliography section) contains much information on Border History and is strongly recommended to anyone wanting to learn more about this.
Early Settlers in the Borders looks at the early settlers of the Borders, from prehistoric times, through Roman Britain, and up to the early Christian kingdoms in southern Scotland. It is a companion to Christian Heritage in the Borders (see under the Church History section) and was published by the Scottish Borders Council in 1997. Its ISBN is 0953043800.
The border counties were for many centuries the battleground between Scotland and England. Largely as a result of this the reiving tradition arose, something which only really died out with the Union of the Crowns in 1603. For a comprehensive history of the reiving times, read George MacDonald Fraser's The Steel Bonnets: the story of the Anglo-Scottish Border Reivers, first published in 1971 and reprinted ever since.
Allan Wilson's Roman and Native in the Central Scottish Borders (British Archaeological Reports British Series 519, 2010) examines interactions between Romans and native society in Roxburghshire, Peeblesshire and Selkirkshire. It includes an inventory of Roman-era archaeological finds in this part of the Borders, as well as plans and sketches of archaeological sites and finds. Its ISBN is 9781407307220. The book was sponsored by The Trimontium Trust.
Some books specifically about Peeblesshire include:
- A History of Peeblesshire edited by J.W. Buchan, published 1925-27 at Glasgow in 3 volumes
- A History of Peeblesshire by W. Chambers, published 1864 at Edinburgh (listed in the LDS Family History Library catalogue in microfilm format, so hopefully available worldwide in LDS family history centres). This out of copyright book has been scanned and put online by the Internet Archive.
- A General View of the Agriculture of the County of Peebles by C. Findlater, published 1802 at Edinburgh by Constable. This out of copyright book has been scanned and put online by the Internet Archive.
- Tweeddale by W. Grant, published 1948 at Edinburgh by Oliver and Boyd
- The Counties of Peebles and Selkirk by G.C. Pringle, published 1914 at Cambridge by Cambridge University Press. This out of copyright book has been scanned and put online by the Internet Archive.
- Historical Notes on Peeblesshire Localities by R. Renwick, published 1897 at Peebles (listed in the LDS Family History Library catalogue in microfilm format, so is hopefully available worldwide in LDS family history centres)
See also under Statistics.
The Borders Book (see Bibliography section) has an entire chapter all about the Borders dialect.
A 19th century county map of Peeblesshire is available online, although it is large (123 Kbytes) to download.
Chapter 15 of The Borders Book (see the Bibliography section) is a descriptive account of "Borders Place-Names".
Michael Robson's book Surnames and Clansmen (see the Genealogy section) gives an insight into Border family life over three hundred years ago and mentions nearly 400 surnames.
Indexes of death notices in 1854 and 1853 in the Kelso Chronicle have been published. These list many deaths throughout the Scottish Borders as well as deaths on the other side of the Border (including Berwick-on-Tweed) and deaths of Borderers overseas.
See under Newspapers for details of pre-1855 death notice indexes compiled from old issues of the Kelso Chronicle.
Farm Servants and Labour in Lowland Scotland 1770-1914 edited by T.M. Devine (published in 1984 by John Donald Publishers Ltd of Edinburgh) includes a chapter by Michael Robson entitled "The Border Farm Worker". This appears on pages 71-96 of the book.
"The Peebles-shire Miners" by J.B. Fleming appeared on pages 150-156 of the May 1990 edition of the Scots Magazine (New Series, volume 133, No. 2).
The Borders Family History Society is transcribing and indexing old Poor Law Records for Peeblesshire.
Here are some figures showing the county's population through time:
- 1755 - 8908
- 1801 - 8735
- 1811 - 9935
- 1821 - 10046
- 1831 - 10578
- 1841 - 10499
- 1851 - 10738
- 1861 - 11408
- 1871 - 12330
- 1881 - 13822
- 1891 - 14761
- 1901 - 15066
- 1911 - 15258
- 1921 - 15332
- 1931 - 15050
- 1951 - 15226
The commissariot record of Peebles: register of testaments, 1681-1699 edited by Sir Francis J. Grant was published in 1902 in Edinburgh by the Scottish Record Society. It is listed in the LDS Family History Library catalogue in microfilm format, so is hopefully available worldwide in LDS family history centres.
Index to the inventories of the personal estates of defuncts: recorded in the Commissary Court books of Ayr, Kirkcudbright, Wigtown, Dumfries, Roxburgh, Berwick, Peebles, and Selkirk was published by HMSO in Edinburgh in 1868, and indexes inventories of personal estates of deceased people in these counties between 1846 and 1867. It is listed in the LDS Family History Library catalogue in microfilm format, so is hopefully available worldwide in LDS family history centres.
Note that testamentary records - where they survive - for this county are generally held in the National Records of Scotland in Edinburgh. The National Archives has unpublished testamentary indexes for some other periods, but many surviving records are unindexed. Please note there is a significant gap in the surviving testaments for this county between 1699 and 1785.
Chapter 9 of The Borders Book (see the Bibliography section) contains a section concentrating on the social life and welfare in the area, including population numbers, pay and conditions, housing, health and education etc. See also the Statistics section below.
An article on "Border life 140 years ago" (circa 1800) appeared in the 1936 transactions of the Hawick Archaeological Society, pages 5-12. Written by James Edgar, it is largely based upon the Statistical Account of the 1790s.
The 1932 transactions of Hawick Archaeological Society contained an article on "Border rural life in the olden time", pages 13-16. Written by Walter Barrie, this concentrates on the first half of the century, going back to his childhood and also covering life for the previous generation.
The Borders Family History Society covers Peeblesshire.
For a social and economic record of the parishes of Peeblesshire, together with masses of statistical material, see Sir John Sinclair's Statistical Account of Scotland which was compiled in the 1790s. The account was reprinted in facsimile form in the 1970s by EP Publishing Limited of Wakefield, England.
Follow-up works to this were the New Statistical Account (also known as the Second Statistical Account) which was prepared in the 1830s and 1840s; and more recently the Third Statistical Account which has been prepared since the Second World War. The Third Statistical Account: The Counties of Peebles and Selkirk edited by J.P.B. Bulloch was published in 1964 by Collins.
The New Statistical Account for this area is listed in the LDS Family History Library catalogue in microfilm and microfiche format (under Scotland/Peebles/History), so is hopefully available worldwide in LDS family history centres (note that one microfilm version of it is misnamed in the LDS catalogue as "The New statistical account of Scotland: vol. III: Boxburg - Peebles - Selkirk").
See also the Population section above.