We are very lucky in Scotland in that we have such a wealth of resources to draw upon in researching personal family histories. From the Scotland’s People website which offers parish and statutory records dating back to the medieval period, to the digitised historic maps of the National Library of Scotland. We can even access historical tax records at Scotland’s Places and learn about the smallest details of our ancestor’s life.
For the amateur genealogist, websites like Google Maps are also proving to be an extremely useful resource for travelling to multiple locations around the world in the space of an afternoon from the comfort and convenience of your own desk.
So I thought it might be a good idea to put together a series showing locations that had relevance to my ancestors and how many of the buildings have been transformed or disappeared in more recent times.
John McDonald (born 1892)
My Great-Grandfather John McDonald was one of a long line of my family to be born in Springburn, Glasgow. He was born at the height of the British Empire and worked in the locomotive works at a time when Springburn constructed approximity 25% of the world’s locomotives and railways. It declined steeply during the 20th century and nearly all of its fine Victorian buildings have been demolished, leaving patches of grass and flat open spaces full of rubble, where grand buildings and a vibrant community once stood. John McDonald was born at 7 Springvale Place, Springburn in 1892. It took me a while to find this, but I finally found it on a map dated 1913.
It is difficult to understate how much Springburn has been decimated in the last 40 years. My family of MacDonald’s lived in a number of streets throughout the area over 5 generations and most of the area in 2013 would be unrecognisable to them. Reading through forums of former residents of the area shows the horror and disgust of how much has been lost, and how a respectable community has had its pride taken away. The death of the town centre is hardly an isolated incident in Scotland, but the sheer decimation of Springburn is particularly striking. Government and local authorities are currently struggling to find solutions to our empty town centres, which have been absolutely ruined by the disastrous town planning of the 1960s and 1970s.
The obvious theme here is that nearly every site associated with my family and Springburn has been knocked down. Many of the streets no longer exist and all of the industrial sites that they worked at are now gone. It’s a sad indictment on those that were tasked with regenerating communities such as Springburn that they remain broken and soulless. The building of the A803 has been the architectural equivalent of an execution. Nothing is left of the areas affected by this infrastructural project, literally nothing. Just to finalise the point, I’ll leave you with one final pair of pictures which epitomises the area. It really is sad to see so much of my family history bulldozed in the name of ‘progress’.