Using Notable for family history research

A few weeks ago I wrote about using a Linux based laptop for research and documentation.

At the time I suggested that you could use a local install of Notable to keep work in progress notes – I suggested Notable as it keeps notes as a series of Markdown files, making it easy to extract notes later and add them to something else. Notable is available not only for Linux, but also for Windows and the Mac.

So, today I thought I would experiment on using Notable for some family history research and I used the Windows version for this little experiment.

I’d previously used Notable when putting together some notes on the Yelverton case, but not for actual note taking while researching something.

I chose to research a man called John Stiven Moncur. He was born in Dundee in 1830 and died in Pavlovsk, near St Petersburg in 1910, with is profession being given as an engineer. He would have been 80 when he died, so I assume he was retired.

Interestingly, his address was given in the records of British nationals who died abroad as 74 Kalashnikov Quay in St Petersburg.

Kalashnikov Quay was named for the nineteenth century Kalashnikov family of corn merchants, and was renamed Sinopskaya Embankment in 1953.

If you use Google Street view there’s still a nice nineteenth century house at 74 Sinopskaya, so even if he was living in an apartment in the building he must have been reasonably well off.


He was born to Charles Moncur and Isabella Coupar (married women in Scotland did not change their names on marriage in the 1800’s) in Dundee on April 4 1830


Charles and Isabella had married in Tealing in 1814. I can’t say that definitively that Charles was related to my family but there were a number of us in the Tealing area in the early 1800s, so there’s a reasonable probability he’s related to an ancestor of mine.

Charles was quite easy to find and was born in 1784 meaning he’d have been thirty when he married.

Isabella was a bit more difficult to trace. No Isabella Coupar was born in the forty years before the date of their marriage. Isobels and Isabels yes, but no Isabellas.

Isabella died in 1850 and her age was given as 65 suggesting she was born in 1784 or 1785, and there is exactly one Isobel Coupar born in 1784, so I’m guessing Isobel preferred to be Isabella.

Charles and Isabella had a daughter, Marion, who was born in 1817, when both Charles and Isabella would have been 32 or 33. They don’t appear to have had any other children other than John.

Given that John was born in 1830, Isabella would have been 45 when he was born, which is quite old.

I did wonder if John was actually Marion’s illegitimate child, but at 13 or 14 years old she seems a little young to be a mother, even though at that time in Scotland girls could legally be married at 12. 12 was also the age of consent in Scotland at the time, so I guess it’s not impossible.

It’s also probably unknowable.

I havn’t been able to trace John Stiven Moncur – certainly he appears in the 1841 and 1851 censuses as living in Dundee but after that nothing until his probate notice.


I’m assuming he married given that he has beneficiary named Charles Moncur who was probably his son, but I’ve been unable to trace a marriage record

Using Notable, I found it was quick and simple to transcribe my notes

working notes 20221113

and attach screenshots and document images

So I think it might actually be a workable solution for work in progress notes.

If I’ve whetted your appetite for more information on the internals of Notable, I’ve written a more technical post over on one of my other blogs


About dgm

Former IT professional, previously a digital archiving and repository person, ex research psychologist, blogger, twitterer, and amateur classical medieval and nineteenth century historian ...
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