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.
- Child's full name and sex
- Date, time and place of birth
- Parents' full names, father's occupation, mother's maiden name
- Date and place of parents' marriage (not betwen 1856 & 1860, and not always accurate)
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.
- Date and place of marriage, and religion for a church wedding
- Full name, occupation, age and address of bride and groom
- Parents' full names, fathers' occupations, mothers' maiden names (usually accurate, but don't count on it)
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).
- Full name and occupation of the deceased
- Details of marriage (if any, not always accurate)
- Date and place of death, and usual home address (if different)
- Age at death (not always accurate)
- Cause of death
- Parents' full names, father's occupation, mother's maiden name (not always accurate - not always known to the informant).
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 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.
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.
- Aristocracy and Landed Gentry may have kept all sorts of records, passed down with the title or property, which may have been deposited in the National Archives at some point.
- Newspaper announcements of births, marriages, engagements, obituaries and deaths may contain extra information that is not on the official records. (Down to the colour of the bridesmaids' dresses).
- Wills and testaments may give much information about the family of the testator, as well as the property bequeathed. Many may have a complete inventory drawn up after the death.
- Some families may have a family history written by (or for) some distant ancestor at a time when this was fashionable. (These may not always be 100% accurate, and were often produced to flatter the pretensions of a rich man). Many of these were published in a very small limited edition, and sometimes the only copy left is the one in the National Library of Scotland.
- Some families may have been tenants or employees on an estate whose records have been preserved by their landlord's family.
- Tenants' names may also appear on Valuation Rolls produced for Land Tax purposes - though only the head of the household would be named.
- Non-conformist Church Registers that are availabe include Baptist, Congregational, Episcopalians, Free Church, Methodists, Roman Catholic, Quakers, Unitarian, United Free Church and many of the other short-lived Presbyterian splinter-groups. Some are very incomplete. Some may contain lists of members or communicants. These are not necessarily kept in Edinburgh, but if not then the Register House can obtain them.
- Kirk session minutes (of all denominations) may mention many parishioners, though they tend to deal mainly with the parents of illegitimate children. There may be details about where newcomers have moved from, or where emigrants were aiming for.
- Parish Poor Relief records give details of orphans, infirm and elderly, from the days before the Welfare State.
- Electoral Rolls between 1832-1918 listed a person's qualification to vote - i.e. that they owned or rented property over a certain value. These were not always preserved.
- Many Royal Burghs preserved records of their burgesses, and many guilds preserved records of their members. These may give many details about the person's admission to the organisation, their apprenticeship, their relationship to existing members, etc.
- Some professions - particularly medical Doctors and Ministers of the Church of Scotland, kept full records of all their members.
- Trade Directories list anyone running a business in the larger cities, from 1750s. They may give more specific details about your ancestor's occupation than other sources. They may even have an advertisement for his business.
- Some employers, particularly the railway and coal mining companies, kept records of employees. After nationalisation, these were collected by British Rail and the National Coal Board. After privatisation, they were deposited in the General Register House.
- School and University Old Boys' Directories may give many details about the later careers of their alumni.
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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