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Updated 10 June 2005

Bill Lawson
Biography & Links to Published Work

Bill Lawson at Home in the Hebrides Bill Lawson has been specialising in the Family and Social History in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland for over forty years, and is widely recognised as an authority in the area.

Bill Lawson was born in Stirling (Scotland) and raised in Ayrshire. He gained a law degree at Glasgow University and at the same time qualified as a Chartered Surveyor. It was just in to his first year at university that he came up to the Western Isles and there began a passion for the islands and their families, all his subsequent holidays being spent there.

As he wandered around with a back-pack, he came to know the islands intimately, learnt the Gaelic language and, especially talked to the people about their history and family relationships. In this way he amassed records of oral history which would otherwise have been lost. He visited off-shore islands long empty and mapped and recorded the history of the people who had once lived there.

It was while he was still at what is now Paisley University establishing a surveying course, and then lecturing Law there for 18 years that his reputation spread as an authority on Western Isles families. He visited record offices in his free time and amalgamated the records with the oral history gathered in the islands, until he had compiled some 17000 family tree sheets of island families.

As his reputation spread abroad the demand on his time was such that he had to decide between the academic life and a permanent move to the islands. This he did in 1981 when he was successful in obtaining a job running a European funded development programme for five years. When that finished he moved to a school and schoolhouse in Harris which had closed a few years before. He spent the next few years converting the building and opened a genealogical centre there in 1990 run by himself and his wife, Chris, who comes from Lewis.

In 1989 Bill did his first Croft History book on Sheshader in Lewis as a present for his wife. From that grew Bill Lawson Publications and the number of titles to date is 31, all of them written and published in the Old Schoolhouse and printed in Stornoway by Essprint Ltd so that all the work is done within the islands. Hundreds of people make the journey to Northton each year to see the Lawsons and their staff. They come from all over the world to seek information on their ancestors. In the centre are all the records, papers and books relating to the islands that Bill has been able to get.

He lectures regularly on genealogy and visits Canada most years where he lectures around the country. His overseas genealogies are still growing as he searches out island families and they now amount to around 12000 for the main island emigration areas of Canada, Australia and the United States.

Professional Research

    To make inquires about professional research in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, contact Bill or Chris Lawson at

    Or by mail at:
    The Old Schoolhouse Northton (Taobh Tuath)
    Isle of Harris HS3 3JA

    Or by phone or fax:Phone & Fax 01859 520 258
Books authored by Bill Lawson Global Gazette articles authored by Bill Lawson

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