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Scottish Records


  • Scottish Records

    Finding a Scottish ancestor often throws up different challenges even for the most seasoned researcher. As the legal system varies, so does the way in which records are kept and thus how you access them.

    This guide attempts to show you what the differences are, what you are likely to to be able to find and how to track them down. Where will I find the records

    General Register Office for Scotland
    HM New Register House
    EH1 3YT, Scotland

    Houses births, marriages and deaths for the whole of Scotland. See GROS for more information.

    The GROS can supply copy extracts for all events from 1855 to the present day. Charges vary according to the level of service selected ("standard" applications should take 5 working days, "priority" applications are supplied on a sameday/nextday basis).

    Full details of current charges and service options are available by visiting Family Records Information at the GROS website.

    Local Register Offices

    Unlike their English and Welsh counterparts the local offices within Scotland have a digitised records system. This allows most of the local registrars to supply copies for any event, regardless of whether it is within their district or not.

    In effect it means that as well as ScotlandsPeople and the GROS there are over a hundred locations where you can obtain a copy certificate for family history purposes.

    Links to the council registration services can be found by clicking any county name from the Scotland County Index .


    Click image for larger versionName:	Scotpeople1.jpgViews:	1Size:	14.7 KBID:	1276652Indexes and images of Scottish births (1855-1906) and marriages (1855-1931) and death records (1855-1956) can be viewed on the ScotlandsPeople website.

    The images of parish registers, census returns and certificates can be downloaded from the site instantly for the cost of a few credits.

    Instant results and at less cost than English/Welsh versions mean that Scottish ancestry can (with some careful searching and a little thought) be quicker and cheaper via ScotlandsPeople. Searches are free, the results and images are accessed on a "pay per view" basis. Credits are purchased and these credits are used as "payment".

    Further details can be found at Modern Certificate Application Methods on the General Register Office for Scotland website.

    Visual Introduction to ScotlandsPeople

    A Case Study: The Simpsons

    Scottish Parish Registers and Certificates


    Births before 1855

    The level of record keeping varied and some records contain little detail. You could find the name of the child, whether legitimate or not, date of birth and/or date of baptism, father's name, mother's name and maiden surname, place or parish of residence, occupation of the father and names (and sometimes occupations) of witnesses. On the other hand, you may find that the mother's name is not recorded, the sex of the child may not be recorded, or the name of the child may be ambiguous.

    Births after 1855

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    From 1855, registration became compulsory regardless of religious denomination and followed a standard format. When the system began, there was more detail required and records from 1855 give details about the child (date, place and time of birth, full name, sex), the parents' names (including maiden surname of mother), father's occupation, name of informant and relationship to child. An 1855 birth certificate also contains information on siblings, the ages and birthplaces of both parents, their usual residence and the date and place of their marriage. However, following 1855, the detail about siblings and the additional information about the parents was removed. The place and date of the parent's marriage was reinstated in 1861.

    Over the course of time the details recorded on Scottish birth records has changed slightly. The register used to record the information has remained largely unchanged and an example of the column headings is shown below:

    From 1855 to the present day

    All birth certificates should include the following information:
    • Name
    • Sex
    • Date of birth
    • Time and place of birth
    • Name (and maiden surname) of mother
    • Name, rank, profession or occupation of father (if named)
    • Informants' details
    • Date and place of registration
    Certificates issued in 1855 only Also have the following additional information
    • Mother: age and place of birth
    • Father: age and place of birth
    • Siblings: the number and gender of parents' other children are recorded, whether living or deceased

    Date and place of parents' marriage is recorded on certificates in 1855 and from 1861 to the present day.

    Marriages before 1855

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    The amount of information recorded in OPR banns & marriages records can be variable and most entries contain very little detail. You may find the date(s) of the proclamation of intended marriage and/or date of marriage, names of bride and groom and their parish of residence, sometimes the occupation of the groom and occasionally the name of the bride's father. Otherwise, as in the example, you may only find the names of the bride and groom recorded.

    Marriages after 1855

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    The details recorded on marriage certificates has changed little over the years, to find out what information relates to a specific time period see the list below.

    From 1855 to the present day

    The following information should be recorded:

    Bridegroom and bride
    • Name and marital status
    • Rank, profession or occupation
    • Residence
    • Date and place of marriage
    Parents of the couple
    • Name, including maiden name of mother
    • Rank, profession or occupation
    • Parent alive or deceased
    • Signature of witnesses (from 1922 onwards the addresses of the witnesses is also included)
    • Date and place of registration plus signature
    Form of Marriage
    • Established Church of Scotland, Free Kirk, Licence etc.

    Bridegroom and Bride
    • Age of the couple are recorded
    1972 to date

    Bridegroom and Bride
    • The date and place of birth are recorded
    Certificates issued in 1855 only may also show the names of any children of the couple by former marriages.

    Scottish Marriage Banns

    The interim act of the general assembly of The Church Of Scotland. The proclamation of banns came into operation on Friday 9th August 1879.

    Its chief provisions are:-

    1. That a residence of 15 clear days in a parish shall qualify for proclamation. Instead of 6 weeks as formerly.
    2. That proclamation of banns shall, in ordinary cases be on two separate Sabbaths.
    3. That it shall be in the power if the minister but in no case obligatory on him, to complete the proclamation of banns on a single sabbath in the case of persons who are well known to him and where there is no lawful impediment to the proposed marriage - in which case however the certificate shall not be issued till 48 hours after proclamation
    4. That the fee for proclamation of banns and certificate shall in no case exceed two shillings and sixpence

    Deaths after 1855

    Death certificates following 1855 are probably the most useful of all the certificates. As well as the usual details of the deceased, you will also find the name of the spouse and the names of the parents, including the maiden name of the mother, even though they may all have been long gone!
    Click image for larger versionName:	Scottishdeath1873.jpgViews:	1Size:	39.2 KBID:	1276651

    The information recorded on a death certificate and the dates of any changes are detailed as follows

    1855 to present day
    • Name
    • Gender
    • Marital Status
    • Rank, profession or occupation
    • Date, time and place of death
    • Age at death
    • Cause of death
    • Parents: name, occupation and "alive or deceased"
    • Doctor: name of doctor certifying the death
    • Informant: Qualification and signature
    • Date and place of registration plus signature of registrar
    • Doctor: when last saw deceased alive
    • Burial: Place and name of undertaker
    1855 Only

    Details of the deceased included this additional information:
    • Place of birth
    • How long in the district
    • The name and age of any surviving children or death details of children who died before their parents
    Odds and Ends

    Details of the deceased were changed as follows:
    • Date of birth 1966 to date
    • Duration of disease 1855-1964
    Spouse details were recorded as follows:
    • Name of spouse 1855 and then 1861 to present
    Informant details were recorded as follows:
    • Residence of informant 1855-1965 then 1972 to present

    Scottish Wills and Testaments

    ScotlandsPeople: Wills & Testaments
    Scottish Census Returns

    ScotlandsPeople: Census Returns

    Back to Scotland
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