Where Do I Start Searching?
Look at the material you have collected so far. Where you start to search will be governed by the information you have already accumulated and how far back that information extends.
The principal sources of information available concerning Scottish ancestry and where to find them are explained on the next few pages, beginning with Statutory Records.
Statutory Records of Births, Marriages and Deaths
Most people will begin searching here. Compulsory civil registration of births, marriages and deaths began in Scotland on 1 January 1855. Before this date, responsibility for maintaining registers fell to the Established Church.
1855 certificates were very detailed but that detail proved difficult to sustain and the amount of information required for registration of a birth, marriage or death was reduced. However, Scottish certificates are still more detailed than their English counterparts. For example, besides the names of both parents, birth certificates, in 1855 and from 1861, include the date and place of the parents' marriage, allowing you to find the marriage certificate more quickly. Marriage certificates show the names of both parents, including the maiden surname of the mother, and death certificates record the names of the parents of the deceased.
Work backwards through successive generations using the information found on each certificate.
National Records of Scotland, HM New Register House, Edinburgh
- houses births, marriages and deaths for the whole of Scotland. See NRS for more information. Indexes of Scottish births (1855-2009), marriages (1855-2009) and deaths (1855-2009) and images of births (1855-1911), marriages (1855-1936) and deaths (1855-1961) can be viewed here on the ScotlandsPeople website.
- hold local area records and may have computerised access to indexes and images for whole of Scotland.
For more information on searching statutory records, see Record Types & Examples.