Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland and the and seat of the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government. (Both parliament and government are currently semi-independent of the government of the United Kingdom based in London, England. See the references in Wikipedia and elsewhere for details.) The city is located in the southeast of Scotland on the southern shore of the Firth of Forth. It had a population of nearly 500,000 in 2011.
For genealogical purposes, Edinburgh was a parish--an area for which entries of births, marriages and death were made--according to Civil Regulations since 1855, and for the Church of Scotland prior to that date. It was located in the former county of Midlothian which disappeared in 1975 following the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1974. The parish had an area of 137.1 sq. km (52.9 sq. miles) and included, in addition to the original parish of Edinburgh, a number of communities which were parishes in their own right until being absorbed into the conurbation. The City of Edinburgh is now a unitary Council Area indicated in blue on the map above. Counties and parishes are no longer entities of Scottish government structure.
The main parish developed around the Church of St Giles, situated on the High Street in the Old Town of Edinburgh. The parish church has records for births and marriages dating from 1595. The Church of St. Giles was the principal church of many places of worship that served the original parish.
The parishes of St. Cuthbert's (also known as the West Kirk) and Canongate (the area east of the Old Town including Holyrood) were added to Edinburgh at sometime during the 19th century. (The exact dates have not been found.)
More notes about St Cuthbert’s
The parish church has records for births dating from 1573, for marriages from 1744 and for deaths from 1740.
More notes about Canongate
The parish church has records for births dating from 1564, for marriages from 1564 and for deaths from 1565. Canongate was absorbed into Edinburgh in 1856, along with another community further east named Portsburgh.
"The burgh of Canongate, being a village to Edinburgh is governed by a baron baillie, and two resident magistrates annually chosen by the Town Council of that city. Their jurisdiction extends beyond the bounds of the parish, to the east side of the Pleasance, and to the town on North Leith.” (From the Statistical Account of Scotland 1791-1799, Vol II).
Other parishes that became part of Edinburgh
Further parishes, which were usually also independent burghs, were added to Edinburgh over the century and a half 1850-2000. Some of these parishes were located in the county of West Lothian. Each of these has its own page on WeRelate.
The earliest known human habitation in the Edinburgh area is from Cramond where evidence was found of a Mesolithic camp-site dated to c.8500 BC. Traces of later Bronze Age and Iron Age settlements have been found on Castle Rock, Arthur's Seat, Craiglockhart Hill and the Pentland Hills.
By the time the Romans arrived in Lothian at the end of the 1st century AD, they discovered a Celtic Britonnic tribe whose name they recorded as the Votadini. At some point before the 7th century AD, the Gododdin, who were presumably descendants of the Votadini, built the hill fort of Din Eidyn or Etin. Although its exact location has not been identified, it seems more than likely they would have chosen a commanding position like the Castle Rock or Arthur's Seat or Calton Hill.
In 638 AD the Gododdin stronghold was besieged by forces loyal to King Oswald of Northumbria, and around this time control of Lothian passed to the Angles. Their influence continued for the next three centuries until around 950 AD, when, during the reign of Indulf, son of Constantine II, the "burh" (fortress), named in the 10th-century Pictish Chronicle as "oppidum Eden", fell to the Scots and thenceforth remained under their jurisdiction.
The royal burgh was founded by King David I in the early 12th century on land belonging to the Crown, though the precise date is unknown. By the middle of the 14th century, the French chronicler Jean Froissart was describing it as the capital of Scotland (c.1365), and James III (1451–88) referred to it in the 15th century as "the principal burgh of our kingdom". Despite the destruction caused by an English assault in 1544, the town slowly recovered, and was at the centre of events in the 16th-century Scottish Reformation and 17th-century Wars of the Covenant.
In 1603, King James VI of Scotland succeeded to the English throne, uniting the crowns of Scotland and England in a personal union known as the Union of the Crowns, though Scotland remained, in all other respects, a separate kingdom. In 1638, King Charles I's attempt to introduce Anglican church forms in Scotland encountered stiff Presbyterian opposition culminating in the conflicts of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. Subsequent Scottish support for Charles Stuart's restoration to the throne of England resulted in Edinburgh's occupation by Oliver Cromwell's Commonwealth of England forces - the New Model Army - in 1650.
In the 17th century, the boundaries of Edinburgh were still defined by the city's defensive town walls. As a result, expansion took the form of the houses increasing in height to accommodate a growing population. Buildings of 11 storeys or more were common, and have been described as forerunners of the modern-day skyscraper. Most of these old structures were later replaced by the predominantly Victorian buildings seen in today's Old Town.
In 1706 and 1707, the Acts of Union were passed by the Parliaments of England and Scotland uniting the two kingdoms into the Kingdom of Great Britain. As a consequence, the Parliament of Scotland merged with the Parliament of England to form the Parliament of Great Britain, which sat at Westminster in London. The Union was opposed by many Scots at the time, resulting in riots in the city.
By the first half of the 18th century, despite rising prosperity evidenced by its growing importance as a banking centre, Edinburgh was being described as one of the most densely populated, overcrowded and unsanitary towns in Europe. Visitors were struck by the fact that the various social classes shared the same urban space, even inhabiting the same tenement buildings; although here a form of social segregation did prevail, whereby shopkeepers and tradesmen tended to occupy the cheaper-to-rent cellars and garrets, while the more well-to-do professional classes occupied the more expensive middle storeys.
During the Jacobite rising of 1745, Edinburgh was briefly occupied by the Jacobite "Highland Army" before its march into England. After its eventual defeat at Culloden, there followed a period of reprisals and pacification, largely directed at the rebellious clans. In Edinburgh, the Town Council, keen to emulate London by initiating city improvements and expansion to the north of the castle, re-affirmed its belief in the Union and loyalty to the Hanoverian monarch George III by its choice of names for the streets of the New Town, for example, Rose Street and Thistle Street, and for the royal family: George Street, Queen Street, Hanover Street, Frederick Street and Princes Street (in honour of George's two sons).
In the second half of the century, the city was at the heart of the Scottish Enlightenment, when figures such as David Hume, Adam Smith, James Hutton and Joseph Black were familiar figures in its streets. Edinburgh became a major intellectual centre, earning it the nickname "Athens of the North" because of its many classical buildings and reputation for learning, similar to Ancient Athens. In the 18th century novel The Expedition of Humphry Clinker by Tobias Smollett one character describes Edinburgh as a "hotbed of genius".
From the 1770s onwards, the professional and business classes gradually deserted the Old Town in favour of the more elegant "one-family" residences of the New Town, a migration that changed the social character of the city. According to the foremost historian of this development, "Unity of social feeling was one of the most valuable heritages of old Edinburgh, and its disappearance was widely and properly lamented."
19th and 20th centuries
Although Edinburgh's traditional industries of printing, brewing and distilling continued to grow in the 19th century and were joined by new rubber works and engineering works there was little industrialisation compared with other cities in Britain. By 1821, Edinburgh had been overtaken by Glasgow as Scotland's largest city. The city centre between Princes Street and George Street became a major commercial and shopping district, a development partly stimulated by the arrival of railways in the 1840s. The Old Town became an increasingly dilapidated, overcrowded slum with high mortality rates. Improvements carried out under Lord Provost William Chambers in the 1860s began the transformation of the area into the predominantly Victorian Old Town seen today. More improvements followed in the early 20th century as a result of the work of Patrick Geddes, but relative economic stagnation during the two world wars and beyond saw the Old Town deteriorate further before major slum clearance in the 1960s and 1970s began to reverse the process. University building developments which transformed the George Square and Potterrow areas proved highly controversial.
Since the 1990s a new "financial district", including a new Edinburgh International Conference Centre, has grown mainly on demolished railway property to the west of the castle, stretching into Fountainbridge, a run-down 19th-century industrial suburb which has undergone radical change since the 1980s with the demise of industrial and brewery premises. This ongoing development has enabled Edinburgh to maintain its place as the second largest financial and administrative centre in the United Kingdom after London. Financial services now account for a third of all commercial office space in the city. The development of Edinburgh Park, a new business and technology park covering , west of the city centre, has also contributed to the District Council's strategy for the city's major economic regeneration.
In 1998, the Scotland Act, which came into force the following year, established a devolved Scottish Parliament and Scottish Executive (renamed the Scottish Government since July 2012). Both based in Edinburgh, they are responsible for governing Scotland while reserved matters such as defence, taxation and foreign affairs remain the responsibility of the Parliament of the United Kingdom in London.
For more information, see the EN Wikipedia article Edinburgh., especially the sections “Geography” which discusses the various neighbourhoods of Edinburgh, “Demography” (particularly the “Historical” subsection, “Religion” (on Church of Scotland and non Church of Scotland Christian denominations), and “Governance” and “Economy”.
Sources for Old Parish Registers Records, Vital Records and Censuses
Further Sources of Reference
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