Many visitors interested in genealogy in Scotland come here from all over the world hoping to trace their Scottish ancestors. The mistake made by most is not doing the groundwork on Scottish roots before leaving home!
The first lesson in genealogy is to begin with yourself and your spouse, your parents and your spouses parents. Speak to them and write down everything they know about the family history. Make sure you ask for:
There are now a so many genealogy sites on the internet which can get you off to a good start that it is a shame to come to Scotland without some preparation. Just go on any search engine and search for 'genealogy' and you will see what I mean.
There are countless genealogy sources online, ranging from individual family pages to official government sites, although youll be lucky to track down your entire family tree by web- based research alone. You will find hundreds of indexes that point you in the direction of original records.
Many local authority and other libraries hold microfilm of local Parish records which can usually be viewed free of charge.
Once youve exhausted family sources, you can then turn to official genealogy records and, if you can find them, other peoples family trees that link with yours. This is where the internet becomes useful. Information sources on the net fall broadly into two types those that are complete in themselves where you can find names and relationships, and those that are simply lists of genealogy resources. Many of the list-based resources are free and are maintained by enthusiastic individuals. One of the best-known list-based resources is the comprehensive Cyndis List (www.cyndislist.com / genuk.htm). This is run by Cyndi Howells, who is an - American, though her web pages include a lot of data dedicated to UK genealogy sources. Even if your interest is wholly within the UK, Cyndi can point you to UK government facilities, parish records and surname lists.
Try website 'Researching Scottish Family History' for assistance with your family history project.
The principal genealogy source for researchers in the UK is the Family Records Centre, which is run jointly by the General Register Office (GRO) and the - Public Record Office (PRO). It is based in London and keeps records of civil registrations, such as indexes to certificates of births, marriages and deaths in England and Wales since 1837. It also includes the census returns for England and Wales from 1841 to 1901. As well as all this, it has information on certain parish registers, which are the source of information on births, marriages and deaths prior to 1837. Unfortunately, these are not yet available for searching online and indexes are available only on microfiche.
The Scottish Records Office indexes, however, are available online at 'Scotland's People'. This will cost you about £6 for 24 hours access time and allows you to search the Scottish genealogy indexes from 1855 to 1901. The SRO will also supply copies of the original ocuments for about £8 a time.
Indexes for old parish records from earliest records (about 1550) through to about 1870 are available online from the Latter Day Saints Familysearch index. I have found this site extremely useful as it allows you to search for an event by a combination of: name, birth, death or marriage, country, and date. It also allows you to limit the search by specifying names of other family members. Once a date and place for an event has been found, you can then get down to the serious business of investigating Old Parish Records.
Census are extraordinarily useful in genealogy, recording all members in every house on the census night. They identify the head of the household, all family members and their relationship to the head, ages (often approximate), occupations and places of origin. Sadly, you cant examine these records online - yet!.
If you have time, visit the Scottish Records Office at West Register House in Edinburgh's princess Street. For a fee of about £18 you get computer access to all the statutory records of births, deaths and marriages and can examine microfilm copies of original documents.
You can get similar access to the same database at Glasgow's Family Search Centre at Park Circus. The fee is only about £12 but the microfilm is restricted to records from the old Strathclyde region.
If you have found any events on the Latter Day Saints index for the Strathclyde region, then go to the Glasgow Mitchell Library family history room where you can see all the old parish records free. The Mitchell Library also has microfilm of old Glasgow & Strathclyde newspapers and of the census from 1841 to 1901 for the same region.
Most main libraries in Scotland hold records of Old Parish Records (OPRs) and census for their own area. Stirling Library (just 14 miles from Callander) has OPRs for this area and census microfilm for the whole of Scotland in their genealogy room. The Mitchell Library in Glasgow has microfilm records for the whole of the old Strathclyde region including the Clyde estuary islands - Bute, Arran, The Cumbraes, etc. Some libraries also hold the LDS index on microfilm or on computer.
If you come looking for ancestors without first doing your internet homework, all is not lost as it is possible to access the internet using public resources:
Assume you start with your own grandparents - look up their marriage certificate. If the event was between 1855 and 100 years ago and in Scotland you can use http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk . If it was later than 100 years ago then you may need to work at West Register house in Edinburgh. When you obtain the certificate details, you will find the ages of the individuals who married, their addresses and the names of both of your great grandparents.
Now use an index to find the births of your grandparents - you can calculate which years to look in from the ages given on the marriage certificate. The birth certificates will give the names of both sets of great grandparents, their ages, sometimes the date of the parents marriage and an address.
The information you now have will allow you to look up your great grandparent's marriage and from their age at marriage, their birth documents.
This procedure will work all the way back to 1855. This was when statutory records started in Scotland. Prior to 1855 you need to use the Old Parish Records (OPRs) which by their nature are not so reliable as the information - if any - depended upon the efficiency of the kirk session clerk.
Once you get to the OPRs, you can use either the West Register House search facility or use the internet to find the event and then look up the microfilm in the appropriate local library. Remember to check with the library before travelling.
Sometimes you may find that someone was born and married prior to statutory records. In this case, if the person died after 1855 you may find a death entry which will give the names of the parents - to add another generation to your record.
If you get stuck, and you cannot find - for example a birth, don't forget the census. If you have an address for the person, look up the address in the nearest census year (every 10th year from 1841 to 1901 is available - 1911 coming soon!), and you can find out:
All of which will allow your research to proceed further.
If you find a death record, you are sometimes given the location of a burial. Local authorities usually hold cemetery records. You may find the burial place either from records or from deduction knowing the place of death. If you can find a burial place then do visit it - grave stones can sometimes provide several generations of valuable information.
Other helpful sources