Family History Research: Student Stories in University Records

Yesterday we shared some staff stories from the Scottish Business Archive, to celebrate ‘Who Do You Think You Are Live’ at the SECC this weekend, so today it’s the University staff and student’s turn and we will be introducing you to some University stories we have uncovered with the help of the University records:

Kate Thomson:

Family photo of Kate Thomson

Family photo of Kate Thomson

Kate Thomson graduated with an MA from the University of Glasgow on 22 June 1914. She was born in Perthshire on October 4th 1893 and was the daughter of James Thomson, a gardener, and Janet McKerracher, a dress-maker.

In her first year Kate studied subjects such as Mathematics and Latin. Kate excelled as a student and she received prizes in Logic and Metaphysics, and a first class certificate in Geography. In 1913-14 Kate also received the Cowie prize and Joseph Black Medal as first in the class for Geology.

Kate Thomson’s medal has been donated to the Hunterian Museum by the family and we found out more about Kate, to add to her University Story profile, by contacting them for more information. They also kindly supplied us with a photograph of Kate. We were able to find out about her studies through a range of our University records including matriculation slips, roll of graduates, and prize lists.

Kate Thomson's Joseph Black Medal for Geology

Kate Thomson’s Joseph Black Medal for Geology

You can see our flickr set for more information on the types of records that are perfect for finding out about past students of the University.

Lauchlan Macpherson:

Lauchlan Macpherson was the janitor, and from 1862 the Bedellus, of the University of Glasgow from 1853 until his death in 1899.

Lauchlan Macpherson, Bedellus from 1862 to 1899, carrying the Mace. Photograph from The University of Glasgow – Old and New, 1450 – 1891, ed. by William Stewart (Glasgow: T. & R. Annan & Sons and James Maclehose & Sons, 1891)

Lauchlan Macpherson, carrying the Mace. Photograph from ‘The University of Glasgow – Old and New’, 1450 – 1891

Lauchlan’s great great grandson visited the archive to find out about his great great grandfather’s role at the University and he was able to look through the senate minutes to find out about the duties and appointment of the University Bedellus. We were also able to retrieve some letters written by Lauchlan concerning his position and wages, and there was a photograph of him in our photographic collection. We even managed to find Lauchlan Macpherson’s own copy of the University Calendar from the session 1873-74 as he had written his name on the front cover.

The Bedellus of the University had an important role in the care and the upkeep of the buildings and the welfare of the students. He was to be:

“in perpetual and watchful attendance at the College Gate, day and night”

and attend to the heating of College (later University) buildings. Other duties involved,

“as Bedellus: Warns Examiners of Time and Place of Examination”, “Carries Diplomas to Professors for Signature”, and “Carries the Mace in Processions”. (GUA4621)

Lauchlan’s great great grandson was delighted with the information he managed to find in the University archives and allowed us to scan some of his family photographs for our blog-post about his visit.


You can read many biographies of past staff and students of the University on our University Story and International Story websites. We would love to hear from you if you can contribute more information about, or a photograph of, anyone who appears on these websites. We are always keen to add more information about past staff and students and to share with us, please e-mail the Duty Archivist at:

Categories: Archive Services

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