"A village and parish in the district of Tweeddale. The parish is of an irregular triangular figure, on an average about 5½ miles in breadth, lying partly in the county of Roxburgh, and partly in that of Selkirk; the Tweed, which divides it into two parts, being the boundary of the two shires. The surface is hilly and mountainous; the highest point, Meghill, being elevated about 1480 feet above the level of the sea. The hills are mostly green, and furnish excellent sheep pasture. The soil is various, being partly a deep loam on a till bottom and partly a shallow loam upon gravel, with which it is much mixed. Considerable attention is paid to the rearing of sheep, and the improvement of the wool. Besides the Tweed, the parish is intersected by the Etterick and Gala waters, which are well known from the beautiful pastoral songs to which they give their name. The village of Galashiels, part of which lies in the parish of Melrose, is finely situated on the banks of the Gala, and contains about 780 inhabitants ... Population [of the parish] in 1801, 844."
From Gazetteer of Scotland published 1806, Edinburgh.
The Borders Family History Society has a research room in Galashiels. For further details, see the society's home page.
Nigel Hardie has transcribed and published both Galashiels deaths for 1762-1788 and Gala Aisle Cemetery monumental inscriptions.
The Borders Family History Society has published a CD of monumental inscriptions in Galashiels Eastlands and St Peter's cemeteries.
Lists of inscriptions for Galashiels Old, Lindean and Ladhope cemeteries may be found in the following publications (available in local libraries and through LDS family history centres around the world):
- Gravestone inscriptions prior to 1855: Vol 1. Selkirk, Ashkirk and Lindean Old Churchyards published by Selkirkshire Antiquarian Society, 1969 (listed in the LDS Family History Library catalogue in microfilm format, so hopefully available worldwide in LDS family history centres).
- Gravestone inscriptions prior to 1855: Vol 2. Galashiels Old Cemetery, Ladhope and Bewlie Cemeteries published by Selkirkshire Antiquarian Society, 1969 (listed in the LDS Family History Library catalogue in microfilm format, so hopefully available worldwide in LDS family history centres).
The LDS Family History Library catalogue also lists Monumental inscriptions of St. Peter's Episcopal Churchyard, Galashiels, Selkirkshire, Scotland, 1850-1910 by Sidney Cramer. This is listed as available in microfilm format, so is hopefully available worldwide in LDS family history centres.
Selkirkshire Antiquarian Society can supply a list of gravestones in both St Mary's cemetery, St Mary's Loch, and Lindean cemetery.
Graham and Emma Maxwell have transcribed and indexed the 1841, 1851 and 1861 census returns for this parish.
The following quotation comes from the Imperial Gazetteer of Scotland, edited by John Marius Wilson and published in 1868. This reference was found in volume I, page 705:
"The two ancient parishes comprehended in Galashiels were for a long period perfectly distinct. The church of Bowside anciently stood in a hamlet of that name, about half-a-mile below the junction of the Ettrick and the Tweed. Lindean derived its name from the British Lyn, signifying, secondarily, 'a river pool', and the Anglo-Saxon Dene, 'a valley'; and seems to have been a very ancient parish. The body of William Douglas, the Knight of Liddesdale, lay in Lindean church the first night after his assassination in 1353. The monks of Dryburgh probably obtained possession of this church, and had it served by a vicar; and, in Bagimont's roll, it figures as the vicarage of Lindean, in the deanery of Teviotdale, and diocese of Glasgow. But before the year 1640 it had ceased to be the parish-church, and became supplanted by that of Galashiels."
Rutherfurd's Southern Counties Register and Directory of 1866 lists the following non-conformist churches:
- Free Church
- Free Church (Ladhope)
- United Presbyterian Church (East)
- United Presbyterian Church (West)
- Congregational Church
- Episcopalian Church
- Baptist Church
- Glassite Church
- Roman Catholic Chapel
There may have been other non-conformist churches at different times.
For one local church see St John's Church, Galashiels: the first 150 years by David Leckey (102 pages), published at Galashiels in 1993.
The parish church (Church of Scotland) has registers dating from 1714. Old Parish Registers (before 1855) are held in the National Records of Scotland in Edinburgh, and copies on microfilm may be consulted in local libraries and in LDS Family History Centres around the world. Later parish registers (after 1855) are often held in the National Records of Scotland as are any records of non-conformist churches in the area (often unfilmed and unindexed, and only available there).
In his entry for the Statistical Account of Scotland (compiled 1790s, see the Statistics section of the Selkirkshire page for more details) the Rev. Mr Douglas made the following comment about deficiencies in the parish registers of Galashiels in the late 18th century:
"The number of deaths, marriages, and births cannot be ascertained, because many bury at Lindean, and some in other parishes; and many, from neighbouring parishes, bury at Galashiels. Many of different sectaries also are not married by established clergymen; and a still greater number neglect to register the births of their children."
Graham and Emma Maxwell have published the Galashiels Marriage Register 1845-54, Relief Church baptisms 1838-55, and the Parish Register 1666-1718.
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.
Galashiels now has its own town website giving lots of information about the modern town, photographs, maps, and also articles about the history of Galashiels.
- Bygone Galashiels by Norman Henderson (56 pages), published at Ochiltree in 1993
- Galashiels compiled by Old Gala Club (part of the Scotland in old photographs series) published by Sutton Publishing at Stroud in 1996 (125 pages, chiefly illustrations)
- Ask for a calculation of the distance from Galashiels to another place.
You can see the administrative areas in which Galashiels has been placed at times in the past. Select one to see a link to a map of that particular area.
History books about Galashiels include:
- The history of Galashiels by Robert Hall (601 pages), published at Galashiels in 1898 (listed in the LDS Family History Library catalogue in microfilm format, so hopefully available worldwide in LDS family history centres; also published on CD by the Borders Family History Society). This out of copyright book has been scanned and put online by the Internet Archive.
- Galashiels in history by William Rutherford, published at Galashiels in 1930
- A border woollen town in the Industrial Revolution by Karen McKechnie (96 pages), published at Harlow in 1968 (for children, but may be of interest from a family/local history perspective)
- Galashiels: a modern history (covering 1868-1975), published by Galashiels History Committee and Ettrick and Lauderdale District Council in 1983 (180 pages)
- A glimpse of Galashiels, 1939-1945 by David Leckey (48 pages), published at Galashiels in 1996
- Forgotten Families of Galashiels by Margaret C Lawson (74 pages), published at Galashiels
- Guid Auld Galashiels by Margaret C Lawson (109 pages), published at Galashiels in 1997
An article about "Galashiels and some of its families" was published on pages 10-13 of the June 1996 Borders Family History Society magazine, based on a talk by Ian M. Miller, President of the Old Gala Club. In addition to a summary of Galashiels history the article also details some of the holdings of the Old Gala Club, for example a copy of the 1654 Rental Roll of the Gala Estate, trade directories for the 1880s and 1890s, and the Militia Muster Roll of 1803.
Ordnance Survey maps covering Galashiels include:
- Landranger 73: Peebles, Galashiels & surrounding area - scale 1:50000, or 1.25inch:1mile, or 2cm:1km
- Outdoor Leisure 44: Tweed Valley (Peebles to St Boswells) - scale 1:25000, or 2.5inch:1mile, or 4cm:1km
The town is also covered by an old Victorian one-inch to the mile Ordnance Survey map published by Caledonian Maps. The relevant sheet is sheet number 25 "Kelso & Melrose" which also includes Earlston, Galashiels, Gordon, Greenlaw, Lauder, Polwarth, Roxburgh, St Boswells, Selkirk and Westruther.
The National Records of Scotland holds the following as part of its collection of maps and plans:
- circa 1780: Plan of land north of Gala Water at Gala bridge, showing road in dispute as well as houses with owners' names, mill dams, burial ground, road etc. Scale 1:800. Size 40x30cm. Grid (map) reference NT4836. NRS reference RHP.681
Old maps of the area will also be available in local libraries and a number can also be seen in the Old Gala House in Galashiels which was converted into a museum and visitors' centre a few years ago.
You can see maps centred on OS grid reference NT493331 (Lat/Lon: 55.588731, -2.80526), Galashiels which are provided by:
- Google Maps
- StreetMap (Current Ordnance Survey maps)
- Bing (was Multimap)
- Old Maps Online (Other old maps.)
- National Library of Scotland (Old Ordnance Survey maps)
- Vision of Britain (Click "Historical units & statistics" for administrative areas.)
- Magic (Geographic information) (Click + on map if it doesn't show)
- GeoHack (Links to on-line maps and location specific services.)
See the History section for references to a number of books relating to workers and working conditions in Galashiels of old.
If any of your ancestors worked on the railway at Galashiels, especially during its construction in 1848-9, you may be interested in an article "Working on the Railroad" by M.L. Lawson published on pages 9-11 of the February 1996 Borders Family History Society magazine. Life must have been very hard for those working on the railway as it was built, if the number of accidents detailed in this article is anything to go by! This subject is also covered in the book Guid Auld Galashiels (see the History section for more details).
Here are some figures showing the parish's population through time:
- 1755 - 998
- 1791 - 914
- 1801 - 844
- 1811 - 986
- 1821 - 1358
- 1831 - 1364
- 1861 - 3379
For a description of Galashiels' annual Braw Lads Gathering see Chapter 19 of The Borders Book.
The Old Gala Club is the local history society covering Galashiels and District.