History hunters can now virtually search Dundee’s most fascinating cemeteries thanks to a brand new archive.
Volunteers from Tay Valley Family History Society and Dundee-based online archive Findmypast have worked hard throughout the coronavirus pandemic to gather epitaphs and memorial inscriptions from Tayside burial grounds to create Scotland’s Monument Inscriptions database.
Some of the burial grounds featured in the new database include Dundee Howff, the Eastern and Western cemeteries in Dundee, Broughty Ferry and Errol.
The inscriptions from Tayside are joined by over a million others spanning 1,000 years of history from over 800 burial grounds across Scotland to create one of the most comprehensive databases of its kind.
Dundonians can now use this database to take a virtual tour of their ancestors’ final resting places, as well as search for major historical figures including kings and queens, Jacobites and covenanters, and major Scottish figures such as Flora Macdonald and Adam Smith.
Myko Clelland, regional licensing and outreach manager at Findmypast, said: “This project really started in lockdown because people were stuck inside with a little more time on their hands.
“Volunteers from Tay Valley History Society have painstakingly gone through all the cemeteries to get all these records together.
“People can search for a lot of former provosts, those who died in the Siege of Dundee, and there are a few sad tales in there too.
“There is also the very first burial in the Howff.
“People can now uncover these ancestors who have almost been forgotten.
“It has now been brought to life, which couldn’t have been possible without the hundreds of people putting hours and hours of work into this.”
Some of the notable names in Dundee Howff include Robert Davidson who fought at the Siege of Dundee and died in 1651.
There is also James Halyburton who served as Dundee provost for 33 years and died in 1588.
Mr Halyburton was a noted protestant reformer and commanded troops against England throughout the 1500s, including the capturing of Broughty Ferry Castle in 1548.
He also opposed the marriage of Mary, Queen of Scots to Lord Darnley and after being captured by the queen was almost executed as a result.
Also in the Howff is the grave of a 13-year-old Nicol Godin from Haverdegrace in France who was sent to Dundee by his parents in 1648 but caught a fever on arrival to Scotland.
Meanwhile, in Dundee Western Cemetery is the grave of James Bowman Lindsay, a Scottish inventor who died in 1862.
His innovations are said to include the incandescent lightbulb, submarine telegraphy and arc welding.
Lloyd Turton Price, a noted surgeon who died in 1933 also lies in this cemetery – he worked as chief consulting surgeon at Perth Royal Infirmary, Forfar Infirmary and Dundee Dental Hospital and set up a special orthopaedic unit in Dundee during the First World War.
Also in this cemetery lies a bookseller called James Chalmers who died in 1953 and was said to have invented the adhesive postage stamp.
Peter McBride from Tay Valley Family History Society said the database was the culmination of decades of hard work by the society’s dedicated volunteers.
He said: “Back in the late ’90s we started to go round the graveyards in the Tay Valley areas, so parts of Fife, Perthshire and Angus as well as Dundee.
“We got all that information together for Findmypast during lockdown – the first batch we sent to them included 40,000 records.
“Some of the graveyards in Tayside have huge numbers.
“For example at Rosehill Cemetery in Montrose there are over 10,000 records and the one in Errol has up to 9,000 records.
“There are some smaller cemeteries as well so the one in Broughty Ferry for example only has a couple hundred names.
“I have just finished looking at some records that date back to the 17th century which is very unusual because the sandstone in this area tends to wither down, some of them are just a lump of stone in the ground now.
“But others like Tealing Cemetery have been extended over the years so some people in there only passed away in the 1950s and families in Errol have added to their graves as the generations have moved on.
“We get a lot of visitors from America and Australia coming to look at their ancestors’ graves and although that gives them a great deal of satisfaction this database will no doubt make it easier for them.”
The database, which is now the largest single collection of its kind, also includes records of the inscriptions found on buried stones which have been uncovered through archaeological surveys for the first time in history.
Some of the most notable individuals included in this new collection includes the Wolf of Badenoch, Alexander Stewart, the Earl of Buchan, who was described as “Scotland’s vilest man” and is said to have died after a chess game with the devil.
The famous Flora Macdonald, known for helping Bonnie Prince Charlie escape with his life after the Battle of Culloden, is also included.
Her memorial was replaced after tourists slowly destroyed the original stone in their hunt for souvenir chippings.
Also included is King Robert the Bruce, Scottish Enlightenment figure Adam Smith, and David Rizzio, the murdered courtier of Mary, Queen of Scots and rumoured secret father of King James VI of Scotland.