Scots Roots

Scots Family History Research

If you have Scottish roots, there is a wealth of information available to help you trace your Scottish ancestors – either in person by visiting the Scotland’s People Centre in Edinburgh or online via the internet. The number of websites on Scottish genealogy research providing details of births, marriages, deaths, burials etc. seems to grow daily although, it should be added, many of the most worthwhile are pay-to-view.

Eliza & Grace GillonCompulsory civil registration of births, marriages and deaths started in Scotland on 1 January 1855. Prior to 1855 the Established Church of Scotland was responsible for keeping parish registers.

Scottish statutory birth, marriage and death certificates from 1855 onwards have been digitised and can be searched (but note that some of the more recent records cannot be viewed online for reasons of data protection). These certificates can provide lots of useful information to aid your Scottish genealogy research – men’s occupations, women’s maiden names, addresses, parents’ names, cause of death etc.

Most of the pre-1855 old parish records have also been digitised and can be searched but here much depends on the standard of record keeping in individual parishes and on how regularly your Scottish ancestors went to church. Sometimes a fee was charged for recording an event, so people often just didn’t bother. Old parish records don’t provide as much information as statutory records, usually recording baptisms and the proclamation of banns rather than births and marriages. Entries for deaths are often just a name and a date so it’s not easy to be sure you have the right person. However, on the positive side, some parish records go back as far as the 16th century.

Scottish census records have also been made available. The first official national census of the population was taken in 1801 but it contained mainly facts and figures and no details of individuals. The first census to be useful for family history research was taken in 1841 and thereafter every 10 years. Censuses from 1841 to 1911 can currently be viewed. Censuses are very useful for Scots family historians and record the address, names of family members, ages, occupations, where born etc.

If you intend to start delving into your own Scottish roots, you should start by writing down everything that you already know, incorporating anything gleaned from relatives, certificates, family bible, obituaries etc. Add photographs, if possible. Now you should be in a position to either continue your research online (or on your next visit to Scotland) or hire someone else to do it for you.

Some useful Scottish genealogy sites:


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