Seallam!, Northton Heritage Trust and Bill Lawson


The genealogical resource centre at Co Leis Thu? is based on the research carried out over many years by Bill and Chris Lawson, who are internationally known as authorities on genealogy on families from the Western Isles of Scotland. Virtually every household in the Outer Hebrides in the last 200 years has been researched, and a resource bank of over 30,000 family tree sheets has been gathered, together with details of many families who emigrated to Canada, USA, Australia, etc.  Family tracing in the Outer Hebrides has always proved difficult, due to the scarcity and poor quality of formal source material, but from the resource available at Co Leis Thu? it is usually possible to chart families back to the generation born c1750-80 - and frequently much farther.  The resources of Co Leis Thu? have been donated to the Northton Heritage Trust, and is now situated in the Seallam! Visitor Centre.


Sources: Census returns 1841-1901 (1851 and 1901 now indexed), Old Parish Registers (Church of Scotland and Roman Catholic), Estate Papers (including Rentals), Emigration Lists Government Papers and other published sources.  Information can also be obtained from Civil Registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages.

Oral Tradition: Written records are generally late and of variable quality in the Western Isles, but oral tradition was always strong here and, since it is preserved in Gaelic, which is still in normal usage here, it is more comprehensive and often much more reliable than many more formal sources in English.  Oral tradition includes patronymics, song, story, and preservation of family relationships.

Emigrant Families: Many visitors to the Islands are disappointed in tracing their families here due to lack of information of the family after emigration.  Useful data would include the island of origin, the place of original emigrant settlement, local census entries, family naming patterns etc.  With information of this type, it is usually possible to trace the village from which a family emigrated, and to make links with relatives remaining there.


Museum/archive address

Seallam! Visitor Centre, Northton, Isle of Harris, HS3 3JA


01859 520 258





Opening hours

Geographic coverage

Wednesday-Friday 10am-5pm

Islands of Lewis, Harris, North Uist, Benbecula, South Uist, Barra and their associated islands as well as information about Western Isles emigrant communities.


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