Family History Day 2014

03/09/20141:19 pm30/09/2014 4:05 pmLeave a Comment

Medal MakingFollowing the Trail

   Children's Workshops at the Library

The third ‘Family History Day’ organised by the John Gray Centre was celebrated by hundreds of locals and visitors from beyond the county last Saturday (30 August 2014) as part of East Lothian Council’s annual Local History and Archaeology Fortnight. It proved a perfect day for many families to commemorate the 100th anniversary of World War One – there was a lot on offer to get to know the real stories behind the Great War.

Interactive storytelling in the library trenches with Angie Townsend and Nicola Wright in the morning were a huge success, with groups of young soldiers queuing to hear about  the story of an ordinary Haddington based family who went to war and their brave adventures.

Storrytelling in the TrenchesSeargent Angie with a Visitor to the Trenches

Lots of creative youngsters made their own poppies, silver and gold medals inspired by those worn by army officials. Code-cracking trail activities throughout the John Gray Centre, facilitated by the ever helpful Soldier Bill, stimulated the imagination of children and their parents alike!


The John Gray Centre was visited by nearly 500 people throughout the busy day. Adults had a chance to enjoy a talk and workshop on researching military ancestors by our popular speaker and educator Ruth Boreham, which was followed by special behind-the-scenes tours of our extraordinary archive collections.

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Archivists Fran and Ruth were showing off some of the most treasured records in the archives. If you would like a glimpse into our amazing collections click here Archive Collection and if there’s anything you’d like to see in person, pop in and ask them about it.

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A military historian Ken Nisbet was our Star Speaker this year and he gave some invaluable tips on researching your World War One ancestors.  Through his own research Ken has discovered he has over 40 relatives who were killed in the war.  He then gave an overview on the best places to find records, both online and in the archives, but perhaps most importantly  where to start your research at home.  For example, you can learn a great deal just by taking a closer look at family photographs – not only do they give clues about rank and medals won but marks on the sleeve can even indicate the number of times a soldier was wounded…

We were granted special permission by Scotland’sPeople to offer free access to this fantastic resource throughout the day and many locals benefited from meeting two of East Lothian’s registrars who were ready to share their knowledge and skills. They expertly guided  everyone through the process and helped with a lot of individual research.

At the end of an action-packed day there was a chance to meet and join the Friends of the John Gray Centre and other family history groups. Over a cup of coffee and delicious cake specially designed to celebrate the occasion, we chatted about ideas for improving the John Gray Centre and ways to get involved. The ‘Ideas Forum’ held in the Star Room, was a perfect way to express views, suggest new initiatives and share skills.

If you’d like to join the Friends of the John Gray Centre, contact us at: [email protected] or email [email protected] to find out more.

This is the third year round that we organised the Family History Day at the John Gray Centre.  It is indeed a wonderful opportunity to meet people, make connections, learn about our town, its history and people. We are already talking about the next year’s programme. Let us know your thoughts!

Written by Ola Wojtkiewicz - Modified by HelenB

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