Scots Roots


West Lothian Family History Resources

Do you have ancestors who lived in West Lothian? What sort of work did they do?

West Lothian, the second smallest mainland county in Scotland, is located on the southern shore of the River Forth, centrally between Glasgow and Edinburgh, and is made up from what was for many centuries most of Linlithgowshire and part of Edinburghshire.

Linlithgow, birthplace of Mary, Queen of Scots, was once the principal county town but has now been surpassed by Livingston, a new town which started to be built in 1965 and is now the second biggest town in the Lothians after Edinburgh.

West LothianCoal, limestone and ironstone were mined in West Lothian for many centuries but it was primarily a farming county, mainly arable, until the mid 19th century. The landscape and population of West Lothian changed dramatically after 1850 when James Young, a Glasgow born and educated chemist, patented a method for producing oil from coal and opened the world’s first oil refinery near Bathgate. Young later discovered that shale was also oil bearing so he bought up the mineral rights to vast reserves of oil shale throughout West Lothian and, although mining finally ceased in the 1960s, large heaps of spent shale can still be seen dotted around the county. (See Shale Mining in West Lothian for further information.)

Also in the 19th Century, the railways came to West Lothian and the Union Canal passed through on its way from Edinburgh to Falkirk. The building of these took a number of years and many men, often local but also from the Highlands and from Ireland, laboured on their construction.

Recent years have seen a demise in the old mining industries and a rise in electronics, pharmaceuticals, communications and light industry.

If you have ancestors who lived in West Lothian, what sort of work did they do? You can be sure that they will have worked from an early age for long hours and for many years because State pensions and a national retirement age didn’t appear until the 20th century.

There is a wealth of information both locally and nationally to help you discover your West Lothian family history. Here is a selection:

ScotlandsPeople Centre, General Register House, 2 Princes Street, Edinburgh EH1 3YY.  Based in Edinburgh, this is the main centre for researching births, deaths and marriages in Scotland.

West Lothian Local History Library, County Buildings, High Street, Linlithgow EH49 7EZ. Tel: 01506 282491. Books, photographs, maps, newspapers, cencuses, old parish records, valuation and voters’ rolls, exhibitions relating to West Lothian and beyond.

West Lothian Archives and Records Centre, 9 Dunlop Square, Deans Industrial Estate, Livingston EH54 8SB. Tel: 01506 773770. Holds records reflecting the history of local government and the wider community – including minutes, reports, registers, drawings, photographs and plans.

Almond Valley Heritage Trust, Millfield, Livingston, West Lothian, EH54 7AR. Tel 01506 414957. Restored 18th century Livingston Mill and farm together with the Museum of the Scottish Shale Oil Industry.

Annet House Museum, 143 High Street, Linlithgow, EH49 7EJ. Tel: 01506 670677. Exhibitions on the history of Linlithgow including a Victorian garden.

Linlithgow Canal Centre, Manse Road Basin, Linlithgow EH49 6AJ. Tel: 01506 671215. Canal Museum housed in a former stable exhibiting records, photographs and artefacts associated mainly with the Union Canal. Boat trips available.

Bennie Museum, 9/11 Mansfield Street, Bathgate EH48 4HU. Tel: 01506 634944. Provides a flavour of the history of Bathgate, a typical small Scottish Burgh.

West Lothian Family History Society. Holds regular meetings and assists with local family history research.

West CalderOther useful links:

Genuki – West Lothian

Cyndi’s List – West Lothian

West Lothian Message Board

War Memorials

Linlithgow Civic Trust

Linlithgow Heritage Trust

West Lothian GenWeb Project

Scots Roots Research is based in West Lothian and will be happy to search local archives, take photos etc. Please click Scots Family History Research above for further details.

Copyright © Scots Roots Research 2012

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