The task of unearthing your family history in Scotland is made easier by the records kept by the National Records of Scotland (formed by the merger of the General Register Office for Scotland (GROS) and the National Archives of Scotland). The National Records of Scotland are based at West Register House in Edinburgh.
The registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages was made compulsory in 1855, and the National Records of Scotland hold these records, as well as earlier parish registers.
Their ScotlandsPeople website allows you to search the parish register, civil registration and census records for Scotland – there are approximately 40 million records including a fully searchable index of Scottish births from 1553-1903, marriages from 1553 to 1928 and deaths from 1855 to 1953, plus indexed census data from 1881 to 1901.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), also known as the Mormons, have copied vast amounts of information into their databases, including the parish registers for Scotland, which is available through their FamilySearch website.
The website of David R Wills features an extensive list of parish numbers and microfilm numbers to help you while doing Scottish research at any LDS Family History Centre worldwide.
The GENUKI: Scotland genealogy website is a vast mine of useful information for tracing Scottish ancestors. It features a county-by-county guide of where to find different kinds of records, a list of libraries and archives in each area, and contact details for the local family history societies.
Another website that gathers together useful links is the Scottish page of Cyndi’s List.
Many books have been published on the subject, and a “must have” is the National Archives of Scotland‘s own Tracing Your Scottish Ancestors: The Official Guide. It gives an overview of all the material held in the Archives, and leads you step-by-step through the processes necessary to find your ancestors.
If the thought of finding your ancestors is a little daunting, there are several companies that specialise in helping. Ancestry.com is one of the best known companies, which gives you access to nearly 2 billion names.
There’s also a UK arm of the company called Ancestry.co.uk offering access to the following censuses:
The Origins Network can give you access to over 400 million names, and their specific Scots Origins section now offers some free services including enhanced IGI searching and extensive place name searching, in addition to a “Sighting service” which allows access to original Scottish documents from 1700 up to 1990.
Another well-respected genealogical research company is OneGreatFamily who have an introductory 7-day free trial for you to try out their database.
Genes Reunited is the UK’s foremost family history site with 9 million members, and offers you the chance to create your family tree online and search for your ancestors in 671 million family trees, as well as in census, birth, marriage, death and military records. It is also designed as a community site so that you can interact with other members and seek advice from the UK’s largest family history community.
An interesting new development in genealogy is the research into the genetic origins of individuals. Using DNA testing, it is possible to identify where your ancestors came from and their ethnic background.
ScotlandsDNA is a company that provides DNA ancestry testing services, and they can test men’s YDNA to trace your fatherline, mtDNA to trace your motherline, and even whether or not you carry the gene for red hair!
The links below will take you to some of the websites mentioned above.