Tips for beginners
Tracing your Scottish ancestry is a fascinating and rewarding hobby and isn’t nearly
as difficult, time consuming or expensive as you might think. From the
17th century onwards, everyone left a paper trail of some kind – it’s just a matter
of finding it. Here are a few tips to get you started.
Begin by talking to your oldest living relatives and making notes of what
they remember about their early lives. Then check your local lending library for
books on family history research. Now you are ready to begin your research in earnest,
commencing with yourself and working backwards.
Refer to the Statutory Birth, Death and Marriage Certificates for all of
Scotland which have been issued from 1855 until the present day and contain
a wealth of information. Your own birth certificate will show your parents’ full
names and more importantly, the date and place of their marriage. With that information
you can find their marriage certificate, which will give you their full names, addresses
and occupations, as well as the full names of your four grandparents. You will then
be in a position to find the marriage and birth certificates of these grandparents
and to continue working backwards until you arrive at 1854.
You can search for Statutory Certificates (which are fully indexed) in person at
both New Register House, Edinburgh, and the Glasgow Genealogy Centre, which is now
situated on the 3rd floor of the Mitchell Library, Glasgow, Tel: 0141 287 8364,
open 9.15 – 4pm Monday to Friday or online at www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk. At New Register House
and the Mitchell Library, all certificates from 1855 to 2011 can be accessed.
However, only births before 1907, marriages before 1932 and deaths before 1957 can
be viewed online. Currently also available online are the indexes to births
1907 - 2006 and deaths 1957 - 2006. The actual certificates cannot be accessed
online, only at New Register House or Park Circus.
The current daily search fees are: Edinburgh - £15. Glasgow £15. Online, payment
is by credit card in multiples of £7. (Sept 2011)
Prior to 1855, births/baptisms, proclamations/marriages and to a much lesser
extent deaths, were recorded in the local Parish Register (or OPR). These
registers have all been microfilmed and there is a names index available on microfiche.
In addition, there is a world-wide index of births and marriages on microfiche,
known as the International Genealogical Index (or IGI), compiled by the Mormon Church.
These two indexes along with the OPR films allow you to find details of your pre-1855
OPR films and indexes as well as Census films are available at the same locations
as the Statutory Certificates and searches are covered by the same fees. In addition,
most reference libraries have the films and indexes for their own area and a copy
of the IGI. Our own
Research Centre has the IGI, the OPR index for all Scotland, OPR and Census
films for all counties in the west of Scotland and many other sources of genealogical
Note: The Old Parish Registers record mainly Church of Scotland information, although
some other denominations are included. Pre 1855 Roman Catholic Records are held
at the National Archives of Scotland, in Edinburgh.
A Census has been held every ten years commencing in 1841 and those up to
and including 1911 are available to the public, with the exception of the
1911 which is only available at New Register House, the Mitchell Library, Glasgow
or online at www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk
They are an invaluable source of information and contain details of every person
living in a household, their ages, occupations and their places of birth. It is
worth bearing in mind that in Scotland, widows sometimes reverted to their
maiden names. Most censuses have searchable indexes and are available at the same
locations. Our Society has the Census films for the same areas as the OPRs.
Using the above sources, you should be able to trace your ancestors back
to around 1750 at least. Once you have mastered the basics, there are many other
sources of information such as records of Wills, Post Office and Trade Directories,
newspaper archives, Poor Law Applications and Register of Sasines (transfer of title
deeds) all of which are readily available.
Last of all, I suggest you become a member of a Family
History Society, where you will get all the help and advice you need.
Gordon Grant. Member No 2894.