What is on the certificates

Scottish birth, marriage and death certificates contain more genealogical information than is found elsewhere in the world.
The full information is only available on the actual certificate. You will not find all this information on any index, including the LDS's IGI. This source is a useful index telling you where to find the full information. You then need to find out what is on the complete certificate.

Births and baptisms

Birth certificates from 1855 show: However, the Old Parish records from before 1855 may only show the child's and parents' names, date of baptism (not always date of birth), parish of residence and whether the parents were married (but not where or when). Some give the village (in rural areas) and/or the father's occupation. Some give the names of two witnesses. If the parents did not belong to the Church of Scotland, they may not have had the births registered. The registers of other denominations exist, but are incomplete, i.e. they were not all preserved.

Marriages, banns and marriage contracts

Marriage certificates from 1855 show: However, the Old Parish records from before 1855 may only show the date and the names of the bride and groom (and sometimes the two witnesses), with only their parish to identify them. Sometimes the husband's occupation and/or the name of the bride's father are given. Some give the village (in rural areas) or the street address (in cities). If they have common names, it might not be possible to identify who their parents were. (Even uncommon names may not be unique amongst cousins). If the couple did not belong to the Church of Scotland, they may not have had the marriage registered. The registers of other denominations exist, but are incomplete.

Affluent families may have had a marriage settlement - a separate legal document setting out financial provisions. This may give much useful information apart from the names of the parents, such as who was to inherit the bride's dowry if she died childless. These are a very useful source of information, which you will not find online or from any LDS source. Unfortunately, they were not always filed at a Court. This might happen after the husband's death if he died first and the widow wanted to claim her inheritance, or after the wife's death if her property was to go to somebody other than the widower if she died first. If these exist, there will be a record in Edinburgh of the deed being registered.

Some affluent families may have had marriages or engagements announced in the newspaper, giving more details about the parents of the couple than are shown in the Register.

Deaths and burials

Death certificates from 1855 show: However, the Old Parish burial records from before 1855 are rare, and may only show at most the name, date of death and estimated age, and possibly cause of death and/or address. With common names, it may not be possible to tell which was which, even knowing the approximate age. Those who died away from home may not have been recorded at all. Some record only the name of the next-of-kin who paid the bill for the funeral. For infant mortalities, it is common only to have the name of a parent (e.g. Mary Brown's child).

Affluent families may have had a notice in a newspaper, or even an obituary. The date of death may also be found from when a will was executed, or when property changed hands on inheritance. Land transfers are not difficult to trace, given the approximate decade and county.

Census Returns

Census returns for 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891 and 1901 show (listed by street address), the members of each household, with names, ages, relationships, occupations and birth parishes. The 1841 Census shows the occupants and approximate ages, but not relationships or birth parishes.

Other Sources

Note - these sources are incomplete, and there is no guarantee that your ancestors were mentioned in any of them anyway. You have to pay per hour of searching, not by how many I find.
The staff of the places where these records are kept will not do searches for you, and will only supply copies of any document that you already know about. It is up to you to send somebody there to read through the books (which exist only on paper, and usually hand-written).
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