Combing The Heather For Your Scots


Contributing Writer
Janet Wahlberg

Last month we talked about researching in Scotland. This month I will share more specific research tactics. As with all research, there are many on-line sources that can be used. A couple that I like to use are Scotland’s People, Find My Past, the, Clans, Cyndi’s List and of course Family Search & Ancestry. We also have resources specific to Scotland at the Hall House.
Scotland’s People is probably my favorite. There is a cost involved. You can search the index for free and then need to buy credits in order to view the records.There are several categories to use as you search for your family; Statutory Regisiters (government records), Old Parish Records (records from the Church of Scotland), Catholic Registers, Census Records, Valuation Rolls and then a grouping of “free search records (soldiers’ wills, wills & testaments, and Coats of Arms). By searching the Statutory Records, I was able to take my family back two generations. These are government records that were established in 1855 to replace the old system of registration by the parishes in the Church of Scotland. From 1855 forward registration became compulsory regardless of the denomination and followed a standardized format.
Death records for 1855 and later show the date, time and place of death, deceased’s name, sex, marital status, age and occupation, cause of death, duration of last illness, doctor’s name and details of the informant. In addition, they show the usual residence, the deceased’s place of birth, spouse’s name, parents’ names, occupations and whether they were deceased, names and ages of children or age and year of death if the child pre-deceased the parent. Up to 1860, the place of burial, the name of the undertaker and when the doctor last saw the deceased alive, were also included.Over time these requirements were modified somewhat.
Marriage records for 1855 and later give full name, age, marital status, occupation, usual residence, date and place of marriage, name and occupation of father, name and maiden name of mother, and names of witnesses and the officiating clergy. They also include the birthplace and number of former marriages of each spouse (plus the number of children by those marriages).
Birth records for 1855 and later were very detailed and are a terrific resource. In addition to details about the child (date, place and time of birth, full name, sex), the parents’ names (including maiden surname of mother), father’s occupation, name of informant. It also included the date of the parent’s marriage as well as their place of birth.
As you can see, these records can be invaluable if the person that you are researching was born, married or died after 1855 in Scotland. I was able to locate the maternal and paternal grandparents of my paternal great grandmother as well as additional details of their lives.
Find my Past has excellent resources for Immigration and Emigration records. My success story here is finally finding evidence that my paternal grandfather did indeed come to Canada twice. I simply put in his name, birth date and birth place and up popped a nice list of records with his name in them. Their site is very easy to navigate.
If you know or suspect that your family is from the Highlands, you might want to take a look at the site. There is much general information about the clearances as well as some personal stories. I have used it primarily to learn more general information as my connection to the Highlands is a bit tenuous.
Take a look at these resources and also just type in genealogy research in Scotland to see what might come up. You might try locating the historical societies in the various counties in Scotland by typing in genealogy research in (insert name of county) as they may have additional resources.
See you next month for a look at non-population census records.
To read Janet Walberg’s previous genealogy columns or to delve deeper into her writings and insights for searching out and recording your own family’s genealogy, please go to and visit Janet’s own web page.