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Previously…Scotlands History Festival

Previously… Scotland’s History Festival goes from strength to strength

Date : 27/10/2014

This year boasts 18 days of tours, talks, plays, walks, music, celebrations and discoveries across a range of topics and themes, as well as a dedicated family history day.

What is Scotland’s History Festival?

Previously… Scotland's History Festival is a series of events and exhibitions for all ages, in the form of seminars, workshops, lectures, films, tours and even career fairs, happening in multiple venues across Scotland over 18 days in November. 

This year's festival is based around four themes: Scots in America, World War I, Jock Tamson's Bairns, which explores the varied cultures and roots of Scotland’s people, and Feisty Women, which looks at the stories of the women who have shaped Scotland’s history. 

For the first time in its four-year history, the festival has a day devoted to family history events on Saturday 15 November. Festival volunteer Lisa Fernie from Scotland’s History Festival explains: “The ‘Chasing Your Tale’ day in Edinburgh brings together a series of events aimed at those keen to trace their roots, with activities for beginners as well as more seasoned genealogists.

"The Mitchell Library in Glasgow is also hosting a 'Who Do You Think You Are?' style session with the comedian Frankie Boyle on 14 November, which is very exciting," Lisa told us.

Why is Scotland the best place to host a history festival? 

Scotland boasts some of the best and most comprehensive history records you are likely to come across. Not only that but we have lots of experts keen to help source, interpret, investigate and generally assist anyone who's interested in their family history.

As well as this, Scotland has a rich cultural identity which appeals to its widespread diaspora and means the festival has a broad appeal.

Why you need to know about Previously… Scotland’s History Festival

Ancestral tourism is big business for the Scottish economy. 

Add to that the enormous Scottish diaspora around the world. In the American Community Survey 2008 by the US Census Bureau an estimated 5,827,046 Americans claimed Scottish ancestry. It’s estimated that 403 million Scottish descendants around the world could be encouraged to visit to trace their roots. And with so many spectacular historical buildings around Scotland to stimulate the imagination, getting a feel for where their ancestors lived can make it a wonderfully enjoyable visit to Scotland!

And this means year-round opportunities for tourism operators. 

So get to know a little about what your visitors are looking for and familiarise yourself with the basics. If they’re starting out on their trail, it can be confusing to find the right sources and easy to get caught out with costs. The National Libraries of Scotland can help to source information quickly and at low cost. 

This year, Previously… will be running beginners workshops with guided searches of the Scotland's People website, and introductions to the resources available in the Scottish Genealogy Centre, National Library of Scotland and National Archives. There will be talks on understanding the language and handwriting in old documents, how to enhance your research beyond names, dates and places, as well as World War I related activities via Edinburgh’s War Hub at Central Library and a look at the stories of the soldiers, sailors and airmen laid to rest in Edinburgh’s cemeteries. 

The Previously… festival is growing in popularity year on year: each year has seen a 30 per cent increase in visitors and last year saw 10,000 visitors attending organised events. Many of those came from far and wide specifically for the history festival. 

Every day between 13-30 November there will be dozens of events and activities to choose from.

Where is the Previously… festival happening?

This year Previously… events are taking place in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Stirling, Dunfermline, St Andrews and Moffat. 

"We now have more than 80 local partners working with us across Scotland, which means that we've been able to expand from our Edinburgh base. Hopefully we’ll reach even more people this year," says Lisa.

Further reading

You can find out everything you need to know about Previously… Scotland's History Festival, not least a full listing of what's on and when from the Previously website.

Read our Intelligence Guide on Ancestral Tourism.

Get more hints and tips on the VisitScotland Ancestry pages.