Understanding Scottish Geography

The History and Geography of Auld Scotia

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Understanding Scottish Geography

Post by Girouxtr » Mon Sep 18, 2017 4:32 pm

I reside in the United States but have learned through my genealogical research that my paternal ancestors are from Scotland, which is very exciting to me. I am however completely ignorant to the geography of Scotland and feeling very overwhelmed trying to understand the differences between terms such as; towns, isles, burgss, shires, counties, parishes, etc. etc. Many of these terms are not used in the U.S. For example one record says my ancestor was born in Forres, Moray. Another record says Moray, Elgin. I have no idea if these are the same place. Can anyone recommend a good source (online or in book form) where I could learn to understand these things? The only thing I believe to be true are that my ancestors were from the Highlands. Common places I have come across are Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Elgin, Moray, Nairn, Foress, Braemar. (Are these all close to one another....geographically speaking?)
Any help you can provide would be most welcome.
Thank you,

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Location: Moray

Re: Understanding Scottish Geography

Post by Moray_Lass » Mon Sep 18, 2017 8:19 pm

Hi Tracy

Just replied to your other post

This might help understanding the geography side of the area you are interested in.

Thing to remembers is Morayshire, Moray and Elginshire are all the same place. Now-a-days we'd call it Moray, used to be Morayshire (think Hobbit for the Shires ;-)), alternatively it could be called Elginshire a long time ago - Elgin being the main town in Moray, a Market Town (technically a Cathedral city, just to confuse you more). Forres is about 10 miles from Elgin, and Alves is in the middle - all along the main road - A96. Moray(shire) is the County (political administrative area), as was Nairn(shire), Inverness(shire), Aberdeenshire. Nairn was the main town in Nairnshire, now absorbed into Highland Region. Parishes are administrative area associated with churches. I'm sure someone will be along with a clearer explanation :oops:


Braemar is a little further away

Hope that sort of gives you a start.

Parental -
Moray, Bellie/Boharm:- Symon, Thomson, Davidson, Gordon, Laing, Dick, Thom, Geddes.
Banffshire, Rothiemay:- Lobban, Symon
Maternal -
'Finechty Flett's'
Banffshire:- Flett, Taylor, Wood, Lorimer, Falconer

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Re: Understanding Scottish Geography

Post by WilmaM » Mon Sep 18, 2017 11:57 pm

You really just need a good map!
Or maps...
The National Library of Scotland are the best place to start, they have a brilliant set of old maps which overlie modern maps http://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/#
Or http://maps.nls.uk/

Google the place names then you can locate them and you'll soon get to know your way about. I've lived here all my life and love my country and its geography, but still need the atlas index at times!

Any specific questions do post on here, we'll do our best to point you in the right direction.

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Location: Scotland

Re: Understanding Scottish Geography

Post by runmerry » Tue Sep 19, 2017 8:53 pm

Local Heritage services in Moray


Do keep going back every so often, there's more being added to it weekly.


Sorry Moray Lass just noticed you had pointed the way in another post but being a volunteer I like to keep reminding people about it!!

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Location: Perthshire

Re: Understanding Scottish Geography

Post by rossm » Thu Sep 28, 2017 9:23 pm


Just to add to the list of suggestions given so far:


This site explains a lot of the terms, including all the alternative historic names for Counties, Parishes etc., and has a handy search function to find placenames. I tend to use it in conjunction with the NLS site that Wilma has already provided a link to.


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