Thursday, June 4, 2009

Mailing Lists and How They Helped Me

I have seen recommendations from other GeneaBloggers about joining mailing lists to help in their research. I decided to check them out so I went over to RootsWeb to see what they had. I found one pertaining to one of my areas of research, the Scotland-Angus list so I decided to join. I haven’t posted anything as yet and so far the messages received, although very interesting, don’t pertain to any of my family. However, I did check out the archived messages and there was a very interesting post regarding the Dundee police force saying that if you had an ancestor who was a member of the force you can contact the Tayside Police force’s museum and they might have your ancestor’s work records.

The Tayside Police was formed on the 16th of May 1975 and is made up of a number of smaller City, Burgh and County Constabularies (namely Angus, Dundee City and Perth and Kinross), which over the course of more than 150 years have successfully merged together to form the present Tayside Police Force.

My great grandfather, Robert Burnett (my mother’s maternal grandfather), was a member of the Dundee Police force in the late 1890’s and early 1900’s. The 1891 Scottish Census lists him as a Police Constable and according to his death record he retired as a Detective Inspector. Unfortunately, I don’t have any record of when he joined the force.

Fortunately, the person who posted the message on the mailing list also gave the website to the Tayside Police Force. I logged on and found their History and Museum section, which gives a brief history. You can contact the museum by filling out an online form with your request. There is a warning on the site that the email is not monitored 24 hours a day. The form is only for contacting the Force Museum and comments will be sent directly to museum staff. I filled out the form with the details that I knew of John Burnett and hoped for the best. That was on May 23rd.

On May 30th I received a reply from the website co-ordinator saying that they had received my email and that it had been forwarded to the Museum Curator who may be able to help. So far so good – at least I got a response! The same day I got another email from the curator himself, Mr. Willie MacFarlane, saying that with the information I had provided he was fairly sure that they should have some record of my great grandfather and unless it had been removed from the file, there should be a black and white photograph of him when he joined the Force. He mentioned that he would attend to the matter on his next visit to the Museum. I was very excited to learn that there might be a picture of him as I don’t have any pictures at all of any of my great grandparents.

Today, not two weeks since my original request, I received a very exciting email from Mr. MacFarlane. He found my great grandfathers work record – a very detailed one at that. Here is what he provided:

Dear Alana:- Further to our emails to each other I now have some information on your great grandfather.

John Burnett PC No. 128 was 22 years of age when he joined the former Dundee City Police on 24th November 1884. Formerly he had been employed as a warehouseman. He was single and lived at 37, Stirling Street, Dundee. He stood at 5ft 9 and1/2 inches in height and was born in Kincardine-shire.

On 19th May 1898 he was promoted to Sergeant, and then on 3rd June 1908 he was promoted to Det Officer and then on 16th May 1914 he was promoted to Det. Inspector. On 24th November 1920 he resigned from the Force on medical grounds and was awarded a pension of £198 3/- pa. He died at Dundee Royal Infirmary on 2nd March 1923. His widow Helen Marshall or Burnett received a widow's pension of £40 pa.

John Burnett was clearly well thought of and in fact he received a reward of 5/- for his part in the arrest of a Sarah Milne who had stolen jewellery on 13th February 1896.

You will be pleased to know that we do have a photograph of John Burnett in uniform and once this has been developed I will sent it to you by land mail.

Best wishes

Willie MacFarlane Hon. Museum Curator.1

How exciting is that! I can’t wait to get the picture and will post it as soon as it arrives.

According to the 1891 Scottish Census Robert Burnett and his family were living at 5 Stirling St. and in 1901 were living at 36 Carmichael. However, they must have moved back to 37 Stirling Street, as that was his residence at the time of his death.

So, I’m going to join those other GeneaBloggers and recommend joining a mailing list. 95% of the time the messages may be irrelevant, but that 5% could just be the missing link you are looking for.

Source 1: Willie MacFarlane , " Constable John Burnett". e-mail to Alana Farrell, sent 04 June 2009.


  1. I just love it when things like this happen!

  2. WOW Just like that and there is information....It will be really exciting when you get your picture.

    I have met members of my family that I did not know existed. They were also searching for family. I would love to find some of them in Germany or Ireland

  3. Alana, please stop by my blog and pick up your award. I enjoy your blog!