From ecclesiastical records to egg cups – Episcopal Church records

The records of the Scottish Episcopal Church – Diocese of Aberdeen and Orkney were deposited with the University of Aberdeen Special Collections Centre in 1983. The collection comprises the pre 1865 Records of the Diocese of Aberdeen and the post 1865 United Diocese of Aberdeen and Orkney. The records contained with the collection include registers, minutes, accounts, correspondence and a variety of miscellanea. Since their initial deposit the collection has expanded and now consists of over 330 volumes and 61 boxes of material. In 1983 the material was surveyed by the National Records of Scotland in two surveys. Researchers only had these original surveys to locate material within the collection and whilst these surveys are very comprehensive they are not complete. The collection needed to be fully catalogued to ascertain the full extent of the collection and to allow researchers to more easily access the material.

egg cup
Bishop Jolly’s Egg Cup

When I started cataloguing the collection, almost a year ago, I am ashamed to say my knowledge of the Episcopalian Church and its history was fairly poor. Luckily, my job was made a great deal easier owing to the existing surveys and supporting research, such as David M. Bertie’s, ‘Scottish Episcopal Clergy 1689-2000’ (Edinburgh: Clarke, 2000). The new catalogue (MS 3320) has been based on the existing arrangement of the NRAS survey from 1983 and is arranged by congregation and then by record type therein. The papers of the St Andrew’s Cathedral had been extracted at an earlier date and are now under a separate reference number (MS 3499).

The collection contains a wide variety of material from 47 individual congregations and the general Diocese. Sacramental registers of births, marriages and deaths are not held for every church. The coverage for each church varies from very scant holdings to fairly comprehensive sets of records. The variety of material is vast ranging from more traditional records such as registers, minutes and accounts to a number of more unexpected and usual items.

Bishop Jolly’s Cufflinks

My personal highlights include: An egg cup used by Bishop Jolly; Bishop Jolly’s silver cufflinks; and a photograph of a World War Two Nazi planes bombing Lerwick, by R. Williamson. The collection also includes a small piece of plaid fabric that is attributed to have been worn by Bonnie Prince Charlie on the Isle of Skye. These items, whilst not traditional ‘records’ add an additional dimension and richness to this collection.

Piece of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Plaid

Whether unexpected or traditional the records within this collection will be a valuable resource for a variety of researchers across many disciplines. The catalogue is almost complete with the last few records being finalised. We hope to make this catalogue available by the end of March 2018, so keep an eye on our social media for any updates.


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