Researching Your Scottish Family Tree
If you were thousands of miles away from Scotland it used to be very difficult to research your Scottish family tree. But, thanks to the Internet, it has became dramatically easier with the Scottish Records Office providing their database of 20 million records on-line. But that is not the whole story so here are some words of advice on how to go about finding your Scottish roots.
First of all, get as many details as possible from other members of the family - especially the older generation! Getting copies of birth, marriage or death certificates can be extremely helpful but even recollections of names and places can put some of the jig-saw into place.
New Register House
The important thing to remember is that all useful records have been centralised in General Register Office of Scotland> in Edinburgh. (In England lots of the records are still in county records offices, making life a lot more difficult for genealogists!). New Register House holds all the "hatches, matches and despatches" for the whole of Scotland. The births, marriages and deaths are on a computerised database and copies of all the church parish records have been microfilmed and are available for research. A fully searchable on-line index of these records is available at ScotlandsPeople>. The records available are the indexes of all surviving Old Parish Registers of births/baptisms and banns/marriages from 1553 to 1902, indexes to the Statutory Registers of births from 1553-1902, and marriages from 1553 to 1854, indexes to the Statutory Registers of deaths for 1855 to 1925 and an index to census records for 1881, 1891 and 1901 (with images of actual pages for 1891 and 1901). One additional year of births/deaths/marriage index data is added per annum.
The information on the births and marriages prior to 1855 is based on the "Old Parish Records" (OPR) as is the "International Genealogical Index" or IGI (see below).
If you get the opportunity to visit Edinburgh and New Register House you can access all these records if you obtain a "day ticket". Don't worry if you don't know where to start or how to use the records and the local PC database - the staff there are extremely helpful. But do remember that New Register House gets VERY busy in summer and space is limited - on a first come, first served basis.
International Genealogical Index
The "International Genealogical Index" or IGI was produced initially on microfiche by the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints> (the Mormons, but often referred to in genealogy pages as "LDS"). That lists all the births and marriages, by Scottish county and was created from all the available old parish records so entries go back to the 16th century (though with lots of gaps, depending on the records surviving - and how good the minister of the day was at keeping the records up to date!) This is available at the Family History Centres> in the USA and main libraries in Scotland.
Other Major Sources of Scottish Genealogy Information
GENUKI: Scotland> is part of the UK and Ireland Genealogy> project, and there is a vast amount of information including an extensive description of (non-Web) genealogical archives and bibliography of publications on Scottish family history, plus libraries, cemeteries, census information, gazetteers, maps, newspapers etc. Each of the Scottish counties (as structured before the 1975 local government reorganisation destroyed centuries of the traditional counties) is looked after by an expert in that area; the information held is therefore not identical but reflects what is available in a given area.
I would suggest trying to get a copy of a book on genealogy research. Try some of the on-line book stores if you cannot get one locally. "Tracing your Scottish Ancestors" by Cecil Sinclair or "Scottish Roots" by Alwyn James are both good.
You can find more explanations on researching your family tree from various Web sites. However, I would particularly recommend:
- The Scottish Genealogy Links> on this site for more useful Web pages.
- Cyndi's List of Genealogical Sites on the Internet> has 20,000+ URL's on the subject. There is a specific page dedicated to Scottish Genealogical Links> but really the entire set of pages is worth a thorough investigation for anyone researching their family tree.
- Researching Your Scottish Family History> by Joanne Winters provides another helpful introduction for people starting out on this task.
There are also professional firms available who will carry out research for you (for a fee, of course!). If you want the on-line addresses of some of these organisations, see Genealogy Links Page on this site.
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