Please note: due to the recent Covid-19 outbreak the Centre is currently closed, but our website is still open for business.

Local History Centre Collections

The Local History Centre provides a fantastic service that will help you trace your family tree, find out about the history of your house or simply answer that nagging question about the history of East Lothian.

On this website you will find indexes listing the daily contents of the Haddingtonshire Courier (now the East Lothian Courier) from October 1859 up to December 1902. We add more indexes all the time, so it will be worth checking regulary for additions. The newspaper indexes were prepared by volunteers carefully going through each newspaper to make up the lists; other volunteers are working on related indexing. Come and visit us in the John Gray Centre to see the newspapers themselves. They’re a fascinating resource, and can help flesh out your research – they include everything from court cases to obituaries, business ads to local news.

We hold a vast amount of other resources in the Centre too, many of which are unavailable elsewhere. The Old Parish Registers and censuses will form the basis for a family tree. Further information can be added from our extensive book collection, Sasines, Valuation Rolls, monumental inscription books, burial/mortcloth registers and annual registers.

Some quick links

16 thoughts on “Local History Centre Collections”

  1. HelenB says:

    Hi Laurie,
    We’ve looked through the old parochial parish registers for the whole of East Lothian (formerly Haddingtonshire) in our collection and unfortunately cannot locate any information on James’s birth, his marriage to Janet, or even any record of Agnes’s birth in the period that you suggested.
    Also checked the 1841 and 1851 censuses for them but none of the names that matched were resident in East Lothian (Prestonkirk being a parish in East Lothian/Haddingtonshire).
    In addition, any midwifery records in our collection do not go as far back as the 1840s and 1850s.
    You could try and search for them via the ScotlandsPeople website as they hold all the birth, marriage and death records for the whole of Scotland.
    Were they a Catholic family by any chance? And what was Janet Nimmo’s maiden name? I could not check on her birth entry without this info.
    We’re sorry that we’ve not been able to find any useful information but please do not hesitate to contact us again should you have any further questions relating to East Lothian.
    Hanita (Local History team)

    1. David says:

      (posted for Laurie O’Neill)

      Hi Hanita,

      I’m sorry for taking so long to get back to you. My computer had been put into storage all the while I’ve been painting the house.

      Thank you sincerely for the work you have done in trying to locate any record of my gt-grandmother, Agnes Nimmo. One of the problems I’ve been facing trying find anything about the family’s Haddingtonshire roots is not knowing the surname of her mother, Janet. I think is was Murray, but I am not certain of it. Through Scotland’s people I was able to locate James, Janet and Agnes in the 1841 Census of Haddington, at which time James was a slater. James and Janet are indicated as being 21-years, with Janet and Agnes having been born in Prestonkirk and James in Haddington. In the 1851 Census for Midlothian (Edin?) James had picked up a further trade, that of a glazier.

      From that point the trail goes cold for the family until they arrive in Hobart.

      I’ll keep looking to hopefully find Janet’s family, and at the same time I have become acquainted with people in Tasmania who have started taking a interest in the Nimmo family, given the reputation Agnes built around her. When I complete her story I hope to send it the John Gray Centre, as I believe it’s mission shouldn’t be limited to what the Scots have done for Scotland, but also about what they have given the world.

      Until then, thank you again for your assistance.

      Kindest regards,

  2. Laurie O'Neill says:

    Hi folks. I’m hoping you might be able to point me in a direction where I could find out if my gt-gt-grandmother, Janet Nimmo, was a midwife in the Prestonkirk – Haddington area during the period of 1840-1855. Janet married James Nimmo sometime around 1840 in Prestonkirk. James and Janet had a daughter, Agnes, born in Prestonkirk 26/1/1836(?). Agnes became quite a historical figure in Tasmania for her involvement in midwifery, and was one of the very first college-trained nurses anywhere in Australia. James and Janet were married in Prestonkirk(?) in c1840 and emigrated to Tasmania around 1855. James also acheived some fame in Tasmania. He was born in Haddington c1817, and Janet was born in Prestonkirk c1817

  3. Hello,
    I am a Spanish teacher researching the Scottish and English esparto and mining trade in Aguilas (my hometown), Spain.
    I am trying to contact descendants of the British colony who worked and lived there.
    One of them residents was John Gray Watson (b. Aberdeen 1862 – d. ?)
    who became a very popular person in the city. He was married to Mary Eugen Smith, but -as I know- they had no descendants at that time.
    He joined the Aguilas FC and was a very active football coach and refree.
    The couple was living in Aguilas for more than twenty years, returning to UK around 1928.
    I have found some letters written between 1929 and 1936 from Shanklin, Isle of Wight, to Mr Gray’s best friend in Aguilas, but I am not sure where they lived their last years.
    Do you know how I can get any information about this person.
    Thank you very much for any clue on this matter.
    Antonio Hernandez.

    1. HelenB says:

      Hi Antonio, that sounds like a very interesting research project. It sounds as though your John Gray Watson probably has no connection with our John Gray (though maybe he was a descendant of one of our John’s nephews – like your John, ours had no children of his own). A good place to contact for more information might be the Aberdeen & North-East Scotland family history society (you can find them online) or Aberdeen council’s website about family history research ( It might also be worth having a look to see if there are any helpful resources linked to the Isle of Wight – the family history society there might be a good place to start ( Sorry not to have more information for you here – and good luck in your project!

  4. Jean Simpson says:

    I have recently found a postcard addressed to Miss Spaven, Know, Prestonkirk,
    Haddington . I wonder if you could throw any light on the address. I think Miss Spaven could have been in service in this area in the early 1900’s.
    Thank you

    1. David says:

      Hello Jean

      The address is undoubtedly ‘the Knowes’, a farmstead that lies a mile or two to the east of East Linton in Prestonkirk parish (I’ve attached a clip from one of our maps, available on our mapsearch facility). In the early 1900s it was owned by the earl of Haddington, but tennanted by Thomas Park Hope. I checked the 1901 and 1911 censuses and there appear to be no Spavens in East Lothian at that period and she doesn’t appear in the index of the East Lothian Courier.

  5. David says:

    Hello Mary-Ann

    That’s an interesting trail that you’re on. And we should be able to help. We have comprehensive collections of maps and images of most places in East Lothian. The best way to get the information you are looking for is to e-mail directly our colleagues in Local History: email [email protected]. They will need: an exact list of the places as noted in the census returns, the enumeration book details as well, and the relevant surname for each location (to check). There may be some costs involved if the work takes some time: they will advise you in that respect.

    I’d suggest in the first instance using our map search (front page, top bar) to locate the places in the present day and then fade in and out the historic maps to note changes.

  6. Mary-Ann Baker says:

    Not sure if you can help me find out who could help – but also don’t know who to send this to;;;

    Looking for maps and or photos that were relevant to the 1841 – 1911 cenus for the areas of Direton Prestonkirk, East Linton and Haddington that would show the placement of Kippilaw farm, farm cottage, direton, barnyard at Inveresk, New street Musselburgh, Bellhaven Inveresk, Bridgend Prestonkirk, Phantassie, east Linton. And the red house Musselburgh
    This is relevant to the family history of the Moffat. Logan, Outerson and McCowat families who emigrated form these areas to Australia about 1909

    Mary-Ann Baker

  7. peter blyth says:

    Hi i came across your site while checking out the village where my ancestors came from , innerwick, his name was alexander frazer , his parents were john (shoe maker)and margret frazer (millworker), her mother was a macintosh , this was around 1830 , i dont know much but it looks an interesting place for a visit, accept i am in Australia!!,thanks for your site, any info about the area is worth having. regards peter.

    1. HelenB says:

      Hi Peter,
      Great to hear from you. Very glad this looks like an interesting start for you. We have more information at the John Gray Centre about Innerwick (and other East Lothian towns and villages), and we are planning to gradually put up more info about them all in the ‘Places’ theme on the website (see top of banner). Keep an eye open – and in the meantime, why not explore the map, where you’ll see lots of archaeology sites and finds highlighted, and be able to layer historic maps over the modern map?
      Hope this helps!

  8. Wendy McFadden says:

    Apologies, didn’t edit the above suggestion fully before hitting “post”!

  9. Wendy McFadden says:

    Could there be a possibility of a timeline under a separate link, noting all important events in the area, e.g. battles; births of noted people; visits of Royalty throughout history etc as well as more general events affecting society in general, e.g. wars; industrial revolution; inventions etc.

    I think this would be very useful for children and schools in particular but also interesting for anyone studying family history who can relate to allow them to relate to what was going on in the county and country at the time.

    1. HelenB says:

      That’s a great suggestion Wendy, thanks! We will definitely work on creating something like this (though it won’t be ready very soon, I’m afraid). I may be in touch to discuss some of the details with you!

  10. Veronica Wallace says:

    Could we have a page on Newspapers giving the names of those held and a little info about them, eg. dates covered, and names of those which are indexed.

    1. HelenB says:

      Hi Veronica, I’ve added a page with the complete list of newspapers held at the Local History Centre, and a note of which indexes are on this website. Click the link in left-hand sidebar to ‘Historic newspapers at the John Gray Centre’. Hope this helps!

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