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How do I trace my Scottish ancestry?

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Genealogy is a very popular activity on the Internet and Scotland has some of the best kept and easily searched ancestral records in the world, if you are researching Scottish Genealogy to trace your ancestors from Scotland, then it is probably quite a lot easier than you would think.

General Register Office (GRO)

All the records for births, marriages and deaths in Scotland are held at

New Register House
West Register Street
Tel: 0131 334 0380
Fax: 0131 314 4400

Scotland's People

This is an online pay-per-view database of indexes from the genealogical records of the GRO(s). It costs 6 pounds for 30 page credits. Each page consists of a maximum of 15 search results. Further credits can be bought in 30 page increments for a further 6 pound charge each time.

There is a link to online rates of exchange, although these are provided as a guide only and charges will be made at the exchange rate current at the time of the actual payment processing.

About the index

The database contains fully searchable indexes of the GRO(S) index to births/baptisms and banns/marriages from the Old Parish Registers dating from 1553 to 1854, plus the indexes to births, deaths and marriages from 1855. Birth records over 100 years old are available, marriage records over 75 years and death records over 50 years. One additional year will be added per annum to protect the privacy of living persons. However, more recent records can be obtained by ordering directly from the GRO.

Searching is possible on the following fields:

Event type (birth/christening, marriage, death)
Forename (or first initial)
Year of registration (or range of years)
Age (or age range) - deaths only
Registration District (Statutory Index)
County (Old Parish Register)

Searching is also possible on other names which are mentioned within a particular record. This includes spouse's name, father's name, mother's name and mother's maiden surname, depending on the entry.

Current data includes

Births & Christenings (1553-1901) Old Parish Register Index & Statutory Register Index. Marriages (1553-1901) Old Parish Register Index & Statutory Register Index. Death records (1855-1926) Statutory Register Index 1881 Census. 1891 Census + images. 1901 Census + images. So if you are looking for the 1901 Census data for Scotland, this is your place!

Extract Ordering

An extract is a transcription of all the information held as an entry in the original records held by GRO(S). Entries themselves often contain additional information that is not held within the indexes and can be of historical interest.

Extracts of the original entries in the GRO(S) records can be ordered directly from the database. Extract orders are processed by GRO(S) and sent via ordinary mail as paper documents. They are very efficient indeed and the certificates will be with you in days or weeks (contrast the US where for New York records it takes 10 months).

Extracts of entries not accessible via the online database can be ordered directly from the GRO(S) website by printing off a form and either faxing or mailing it.

For further details about the GRO(S), visit their website.

Manual searches or searches by post

If you use New Register House you have to know what you want because it is a bit bureaucratic and you have to order each item individually and one at a time. So it is tedious work, but naturally rewarding. The censuses only started in the 1800s so it is very difficult to track back earlier. Other records at Register House permit further research. In particular a computer driven search of parish registers can be very productive, very quickly.

Western Isles

If your ancestors are from the Western Isles, there is a service there run by Bill Lawson in Harris called "Co leis thu" which may turn up information not at New Register House.

An Seann taigh-sgoile, An Taobh Tuath, Na Hearadh, HS3 3JA Scotland Phone: 01859 520258

There is a book published by HMSO (Her Majesty's Stationery Office) called "Tracing your Scottish Ancestry".

"Surnames of Scotland" by Black gives the general history of surnames, together with spelling variations and the earliest occurrences in written texts.

Another useful address or two:
Scottish Ancestry Research Society
296 Albany Street, Edinburgh
Tel 0131 556 4220

Scottish Genealogical Society
15 Victoria Terrace,
Edinburgh EH1
Tel 0131 220 3677

Ancestral Scotland
A genealogical tourism site. Doesn't contain records but does contain data on parishes, counties and surname distribution as well as associated local information and resources of use.

Further Information

There is a newsgroup soc.genealogy.britain which may also be of use. If you don't find what you want there, also try the more general newsgroup soc.genealogy.misc

Scottish sites

Find my Scottish Ancestors. Helping you to trace your Scottish family history and build your family tree. Specialises in research using sources from Scottish archives. Professional service - free initial consultation.
We have been tracing Scottish family trees for over 22 years - longer than any other Scottish research firm.
Specialist in Ancestral Visits to Scotland

Scotland Marriage Records
Directory of Scottish marriage records from online resources for genealogical research.
Follow in the footsteps of your Scottish ancestors with a luxury tour of Scotland.

Scottish Genealogy information
includes some interesting components such as a linkable outline of Scottish history at

the Scotland GenUKI pages at:

GENUKI includes a beginners guide, and general information on all sorts of subjects, including such items as the location of parishes, obsolete occupations, the addresses of local Family History Societies, archives, libraries and other useful institutions, and surveys of which records have survived - and where they can be found. There is a section for each country, and this is then sub-divided into its assorted parishes. Most counties now have associated surname-interest lists. On the GENUK site is an introduction to Scottish Family History

People looking for Genuki should only use this URL

This lists several other books and gives a description of using both New Register House and the Scottish Record office.

Scottish Genealogy Consultants (Gordon Johnson)
and also Carole Wilson mailto:

Scottish Family Search is here to help you locate your Scottish ancestors. SFS provides a quality service for all kinds of family research. Whether your ancestors came from Scotland in recent times or in the past then we can help trace them.

Genealogy FAQ

Scottish Family Research

Scottish Family Research is a professional genealogical service agency based in Edinburgh.

The Statistical Accounts of Scotland

The two Statistical Accounts of Scotland, covering the 1790s
and the 1830s, are among the best contemporary reports of life during the agricultural and industrial revolutions in Europe. Learn more about the area in which you or your ancestors have lived, or use this key source to study the emergence of the modern British State and the economic and social impact of the world's first industrial nation.

Based largely on information supplied by each parish church minister, the old (first) Statistical Account and the New (second) Statistical Account provide a rich record of a wide variety of topics: wealth, class and poverty; climate, agriculture, fishing and wildlife; population, schools, and the moral health of the people.

General sites

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Q-HTML V3.4 by Craig Cockburn created this page on 06-Jan-2012 at 16:39:39