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National Library of Scotland Post Office Directories Collection

Doing some research in/about/for Scotland? The National Library of Scotland has the Scottish Post Office Directories site at http://digital.nls.uk/directories/index.html. This site has over 700 digitized directories spanning 1773 to 1911.

The directories are browsable so you can, if you wish, page through them, but searching is available as well. I found the online browser mechanism slow, but the NLS also offers the ability to download the directories. And that is why I have a copy of “Pigot & Co.’s new commercial directory of Scotland for 1825-6” sitting on my desktop, but man, that 169MB was a slow download. (You can also download high-quality individual pages as well, if you don’t have hours to hang around.)

Search allows you to search the first several letters of a last name, a place, and a year. (There is an advanced search as well but I thought the basic search enough, as long as you can narrow down by year or place.) A search for Cal, covering 1871-1889, found 821 results. Results are presented in a gallery with a thumbnail of the relevant directory, and a link to take you to the page where the partial name is found. Click on that link for a larger version.

What you’ll get depends on the directory. Looking at the Inverness County Directory from 1887 I found names, addresses, and yearly rent or values, while looking at the County Directory of Scotland from 1872, I found names, addresses, and in many cases occupations. For the most part the scans were excellent and easily readable, but I did have a problem with the “Royal national commercial directory and topography of Scotland” from 1872, as it was pretty faded. Downloading a high-resolution single page fixed that, however.

If you just want to get a sense of what’s available in the collectoin, the NLS has put together a few goodies for you. There’s a pointer to several pages of advertising in a Glasgow directory, a page from the 1809 Dundee directory, and a directory title page. An about the directory section gives you a good overview of what you might find (and why it might be wrong.)

A fascinating collection. Worth a browse but I recommend downloading anything you want to do a lot of research on.

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