Dictionary.com defines gazetteer as simply: “a geographical dictionary.” I have seen, and even reviewed on this site, many books titled Gazetteer. However, The Gazetteer of Scotland, by Rev. John Wilson, may be the first book I have ever seen that hold 100% true to this definition. No maps, that’s an atlas, no legends, no charts, nothing more than terms and definitions. Now, of course, those terms are key, each representing a location. Towns and cities are naturally a part of the book, but so are hills and mountains, lakes and streams, geological formations, parish seats and so much more. Though I find this to be exactly what a gazetteer should include, even the author, ironically, claims the book to be more than the average gazetteer:

“Besides the usual information, as to Towns and Places contained in Gazetteers, it gives Statistics of Real Property, Notices of Public Works, Public Buildings, Churches, Schools, etc.; whilst the Natural History and Historical Incidents, connected with particular localities, have not been omitted.”

Originally published in 1882, this book coincides nicely with the Census of 1881. Likely, every town and village listed in the census is listed in this gazetteer. Some entries give you counts, like Craighead: “place in Campsie parish, Stirlingshire. It has a public school with about 108 scholars.” One entry provides a precise location, with knowledge of a school and employment for 108 individuals. A researcher knows the area existed in 1881, that people were employed there, and now can consider other related records that may still exist to provider further information.

Most entries are short, a few words to a few sentences. There are a few however, such as Glasgow, which take many pages but provide great details and history, like the fact the Glasgow Bridge was on the Clyde at the head of the harbour, was built in 1835, spanned 560 feet at 60 feet wide and cost 37,000 pounds. The city’s water supply is covered, churches are examined, information is direct yet plentiful. At 473 pages, anyone searching Scottish ancestry will likely find this gazetteer both thorough and invaluable.

A copy of The Gazetteer of Scotland can be obtained from Family Roots Publishing; Item #: HBW9007, Price: $24.50.