George Fraser Black (1866-1948)

George Fraser BlackGeorge F. Black was elected a corresponding member of Society on 4 January  1884. In April 1888 he was
elected to an Honorary Membership — a position he held until the Membership list of 1895. His designation at the time of election had been 'Antiquarian Museum, Edinburgh'. In 1891 he was appointed Assistant to the then Keeper Joseph Anderson, a position he held until he resigned in 1896, for better prospects in the United States of America.

He was employed in the service of the New York Public Library where he was a noted bibliographer and historical scholar: He retired about 1931 after 35 years distinquished service.

The range of his scholarship was immense but in the 'wider world' he is perhaps now most often known for his
scholarly production on The Surnames of Scotland. The book is on the origin, meaning and history of Scottish
surnames. The core of this work is a listing of over 8000 names, each with a concise history and cross-references. It has remained continuously in print since first published in 1946 and serves as a valuable tool for genealogists, historians, or anyone with a general interest in Scotland.

With Joseph Anderson, he had taken part in an 1888 survey of all Scottish Local Museums — see reference
below. Black specifically dealt with the following Dumfries and Galloway Museums:

  • The Observatory Museum, Dumfries.
  • The Museum of the Natural History and Antiquarian Society, Dumfries
  • The Museum in the Town hall, Kirkcudbright
  • The Grierson Museum, Thornhill

Respecting the Grierson Museum this survey took place whilst Dr Grierson was still alive - recognizing that experience, and following Grierson's death in 1889 he,
along with Joseph Bisset, was asked to undertake a complete re-display of the Museum. Black's paper in our Transactions for 1893-94 reflects that re-display and
utilises the numbering system of the newly printed catalogue.


Articles within the Society's Transacions

  • Notes on the National Collection of Antiquities in the Museum at Edinburgh (mention only), Series II, Vol.4, p8
  • Notes on the Ancient Bronze Implements and weapons in the National Museum of Antiquites in Edinburgh (summary only), Series II, Vol.4, p45
  • The Ancient Lake Dwellings [Crannogs] of Scotland (summary only), Series II, Vol.4, p94
  • The Ruthwell Cross, Series II, Vol.4, p123
  • Notice of Antiquities found in Dumfriesshire, and now preserved in the National Museum in Edinburgh, Series II, Vol.6, p207
  • Holywood Abbey, Series II, Vol.7, p126
  • Notice of various Antiquities found in Dumfriesshire, and now preserved in the National Museum in Edinburgh, Series II, Vol.8, p91
  • Notice of Principal Scottish Antiquities in the Grierson Museum, Thornhill, Series II, Vol.9, p108

Articles & Publications elswhere

  • Report on Local Museums in Scotland, obtained through Dr R H Gunning's Jubilee Gift to the Society [of Antiquaries of Scotland] by Joseph Anderson and George F. Black in PSAS, Vol. XXII, 1887—88, pp.331–422.
  • Catalogue of Dr Grierson's Museum, Thornhill, compiled by Geo. F. Black, Museum of Antiquities, Edinburgh, and Joseph Bisset, A.R.C.S., Lond., Edinburgh, Printed at the Courier & Herald, Dumfries, 1894.

The illustration above (by courtesy of the Trustees of the National Museums of Scotland) shows George Black in the Society of Antiquaries Collections when stored at the Royal Institution, on the Mound, Edinburgh, c.1890. © The Trustees of the National Museums of Scotland


Created 27 January 2009 by J. Williams