Biographies of individuals mentioned in the papers of Alexander Carmichael (1832-1912), folklorist, antiquarian and exciseman.

  • Kirsty Stewart (Creator)
  • Donald Stewart (Creator)
  • Andrew Wiseman (Creator)
  • Scott Broderick (Creator)
  • Stephen Hall (Creator)
  • Lynne Bulmer (Creator)
  • Aimee Shaw (Creator)



Alexander Carmichael (1832-1912) collected folklore from several hundred individuals in Gaelic-speaking areas of Scotland over a period of approximately 50 years. Carmichael's recording practices are particularly significant because, unlike many of his collecting peers, he wrote down the names of the individuals from whom he collected, their age, occupation, place of residence, and often the individual from whom they themselves had heard the item recorded. This allows us to build up a detailed picture of 'individuals with lore' in the Highland communities Carmichael visited: their identity and status, how they might be related to each other, and how they were related to individuals recorded later on in the twentieth century by, among others, John Lorne Campbell and collectors from the School of Scottish Studies. For the islands of Uist and Barra in particular, this gives scholars a 150-year database of singers and storytellers, a resource unequalled anywhere else in the world with which to investigate the circulation, variation, and alteration of popular culture in local communities. It hardly needs to be stated that such information is of vital interest to inhabitants of the townships visited by Carmichael: many of them are direct descendants of his informants.

Using the Encoded Archival Context (EAC) standard short biographies were created of individuals mentioned in his field and transcription notebooks, whether they were his direct informants, people from whom his informants had learned their traditions or who were mentioned to him. Using the University of Edinburgh Archives' Authorities Database, a unique reference number is assigned to an individual, the sources used to identify the individual listed, a short biography of the life of the individual is given and biographies of family members linked. There are currently 175 biographies although the database is continually being added to. The system can be adapted to incorporate organisations and families. All members of the team worked on the biographies although much of the work was carried out by volunteers.
Date made available23 Jun 2011
PublisherUniversity of Edinburgh

Cite this