7 tips for exploring your Scottish roots

Photo by Hans Splinter

Photo by Hans Splinter

Perhaps rather stereotypically, our Scottish cousins have kept their family history records under wraps and the original censuses and parish records are only available to those who will pay.

However, on the plus side, once you do find the record you’re looking for, it can be a mine of information, and really useful as you research your Scottish ancestry.

Here are our top 7 tips for exploring your Scottish roots:

1. The only place you can find original censuses and parish records is Scotlands People (and yes, it does annoy me that they’ve missed out the apostrophe in their website address!). It’s not a very user-friendly site, to be honest, and can prove to be expensive. You have to buy credits (23p each) in order to search the site and view the original documents, and you make no savings by buying in bulk. You are charged one credit to view a page of search results and then 5 credits to see the record you think might be correct – and of course, they’re not always the right ones. There are no transcriptions available for the records.

2. I try only to use Scotlands People for BMD records. This is because census records have been transcribed to Ancestry and Find My Past and it’s much cheaper and easier to search for them there.

3. Find My Past seems to provide much more accurate transcriptions, in the main part. I’ve found numerous errors on Ancestry including a ‘builder’s apricot’ which turned out to be an apprentice and numerous ‘Windowers’ which are inevitably widowers.

4. Scottish parish records generally contain more information than their English or Welsh equivalents. Death records list both the parents of the deceased, for example; and marriage certificates name both parents of the bride and groom. Birth records also include the date of the parents’ marriage, which can be very useful.

5. Don’t forget to look on Family Search. Their records are by no means complete, but you can sometimes strike gold. Again, it will only provide transcriptions though.

6. The National Records of Scotland website doesn’t have any individual records on it, but it does have quite a lot of useful information about Scottish records generally, so if you get stuck with phrase or difficult handwriting, they may be able to help.

7. Scotlands Family provides free access to thousands of shared records from public contributors. Again, there is no certainty that your ancestors will make an appearance but it’s worth a look! Scotland BMD Exchange is similar and offers a free resource for sharing information about ancestors found in Scotland.

Do you have any Scottish Family History resources to share? Please let us know in the comments below.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.