In this week's Kith and Kin, Peter Munro from the Borders Family History Society, shares memories of learning 'imperial' measures and how the society can help build and understand their family history...


I’m pleased to announce that Borders Family History Society has decided to resume its normal Spring opening hours.

So, our archive and search room at 52 Overhaugh Street, Galashiels (the corner of Overhaugh Street and Bank Close) is now open for queries and research from 10am to 4pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays. If those times don't suit you, please make an alternative appointment and we'll try to find volunteers to help you.

To do that, either phone us on 01896 750387 during our working hours or use the Contacts page on our website,, select Archive Appointment Request and fill in your details. Please regard appointment requests as tentative until confirmed by us – sometimes, we won’t be able to find volunteers.

What can we help you with? Most people that I’ve met want to find out about grandparents or great-grandparents or even further back than that. Some people want help building their family tree. Other queries have included trying to confirm or find out more about a family story, wanting to find out where a family member went after their life in the Borders or more usually, where they came from before they arrived in the Borders. Perhaps you have an artefact that you want to know more about? Do you have old documents that you need help reading and understanding? Several people have brought things to show us (for example, stamps, banknotes, wage slips); wondering whether they are clues to their family history.

Last week, I discussed the usage and meaning of the word ‘score’. When I was at school in the late fifties and sixties, the back cover of exercise books included all the information on the old “imperial” or pre-metric measures that school teachers expected every pupil should know. These included linear measure, troy and avoirdupois weight, imperial dry measure, grain measure, hay and straw weight, square measure, cloth measure.

Troy weight was used for precious metals, jewels, and apothecaries and there were 12 ounces to the pound. Avoirdupois weight was used for everything else and had 16 ounces to the pound.

These two measures were printed side by side. You might think, as I did for many years after I finished school, that the troy pound must be the same as the avoirdupois pound and that as there are 12 troy ounces to the pound, a troy ounce would weigh more than an avoirdupois ounce; that is one and a third avoirdupois ounces equalled one troy ounce.

Although a troy ounce does weigh more than an avoirdupois ounce, it’s not one and a third avoirdupois ounces because the troy pound is lighter than the avoirdupois pound. It seemed obvious, because we learned French at school, that avoirdupois meant “to have weight” and that troy weight came from the French city of Troyes.

However, even that is probably not correct.

In my article, last July, I said that almost every town, city and ecclesiastical jurisdiction in the early Middle Ages had its own coins. Similarly, many cities had their own measures; for example, there was Paris Troy, Amsterdam Troy and Bremen Troy!