A VAST new online collection of Scottish Monumental Inscriptions is to be published for the first time, thanks to a grassroots project that saw local volunteers spend hundreds of hours during lockdown painstakingly transcribe details from over a million headstones and memorials across the country. 

Users can now virtually visit the final resting places of ancestors and famous Scots alike to read epitaphs and uncover valuable family and biographical details.

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And while the public’s movements are still restricted due to the coronavirus pandemic, Scots can now take digital tours through the cemeteries and graveyards of Scotland from the comfort and safety of their home.Spanning almost 1000 years of history with records dating back to 1093, this comprehensive digital archive covers over 800 burial sites in 688 parishes across all 34 historical Scottish counties.

HeraldScotland: Flora MacDonaldFlora MacDonald

Inscriptions from some the most famous burial sites in Scotland such as Edinburgh Greyfriars & Canongate Kirkyards, the Dundee Howff, and Dunfermline Abbey Churchyard can now be accessed by family historians and history enthusiasts to gain vivid new insights into the stories behind the headstones.

This revolutionary new resource is the result of a collaborative project between Findmypast and volunteers at 10 Scottish local and national family history societies from across the country.

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Names, dates, locations and other biographical details such as additional family members, occupations, causes of death and more were transcribed and then digitally converted thanks to new technology - creating a national index that unlocks the long-forgotten secrets of Scotland’s dead, searchable online for the first time.

Chronicling the lives and deaths of almost 1.1 million deceased, the collection has been created by merging almost 600,000 newly created records with existing documents to create the largest single collection of its kind.

This collection also includes records of inscriptions found on buried stones, uncovered through archaeological survey with their details recorded for the first time in centuries.

HeraldScotland: The collection also includes records of inscriptions on burial stonesThe collection also includes records of inscriptions on burial stones

In addition, old books and local histories were used to document memorials that have long since been lost due lost to erosion, weathering or simply time itself, allowing researchers to gain unique new insights into the lives of those who lived and died many centuries ago.

Some of Scotland’s most renowned sons and daughters can be found within the collection, including monarchs and their favored courtiers, Covenanters, Jacobites and revolutionaries, not to mention many thousands of poets, artists, musicians, artisans, tradespeople, laborers and more.

Myko Clelland, Regional Licensing & Outreach Manager at Findmypast said: "Scotland is a nation of stories, but so many lie forgotten in cemeteries across the country.

"Through the tireless efforts of local expert volunteers, combined with new technology, these stories can be told for the first time online.

"What better way to bring these tales to life, than to let descendants tell these tales for themselves?"

Notable individuals and memorials found within the collection include:

  • ‘Scotland’s vilest man’, the Wolf of Badenoch, Alexander Stewart, Earl of Buchan, who is said to have died after a chess game with the Devil.
  • The famous Flora MacDonald, known for helping Bonnie Prince Charlie to escape with his life after the battle of Culloden. Her memorial has been replaced after excited tourists slowly destroyed the original stone in their hunt for souvenir chippings.
  • David Rizzio, the murdered courtier of Mary Queen of Scots and rumoured secret father of King James VI.
  • Key Scottish Enlightenment figure Adam Smith, widely known as the ‘Father of Economics’.
  • A wide range of royals from Robert the Bruce himself to Margaret, Maid of Norway.
  • Queen Victoria’s favourite servant, John Brown, the ‘best, truest heart that ever beat’.
  • The irritable, and possibly misunderstood inspiration for a Walter Scott Novel, the Black Dwarf, David Ritchie. He never wore shoes and was avoided by townsfolk, but enjoyed reading Paradise Lost and numerous ballads.
  • The heart of Edward Bruce, Lord Kinloss, buried at Culross Abbey in a heart-shaped silver case clamped with iron between two stones, discovered in 1808 and reburied. He was killed in a duel with Edward Sackville in 1613, and his body was buried in Bergen-op-zoom.
  • The highest paid magician of his time, Sigmund Neuberger, the ‘Great Lafayette’ and his dog ‘Beauty’. Beauty was given to him by Harry Houdini and they were laid to rest together after dying only a month apart from each other. In the 1911 census Sigmund listed Beauty as his daughter and when asked to list any disabilities he may have, he wrote that he was ‘too good’.
  • The families and forebears of many popular Scots, including Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Rob Roy MacGregor.
  • True life inspirations behind Robert Burns’ poems. Mary Campbell, known as ‘Highland Mary’, can be found along with the 'Bonnie Wee Thing’ Deborah Davies.

You can discover more at findmypast.