Scotland Occupations

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Online Resources[edit | edit source]

Introduction[edit | edit source]

Knowing an ancestor’s occupation can help you distinguish him from other individuals with the same name. The records associated with your ancestor’s occupation could provide information about his or her life and family. Such information could include family relationships or birthplaces. Some apprenticeship records state family relationships, such as parents or father, and indicate movement from birthplace to the place of apprenticeship. Court and land records also list relationships and movements.

History[edit | edit source]

In Scotland, the cities and towns, or burghs, were often established by royal charter, in which case they were called royal burgh Craftsmen and tradesmen who lived and worked within the burghs were called burgesses. The burgesses would often band together into guilds to regulate trade and to protect their members’ interests.

A person could become a member of a guild of burgesses by:

  • Completing an apprenticeship
  • Being the son of a burgess
  • Marrying the daughter of a burgess

The guilds could monopolize business in the burgh and they kept careful records of their members. Records of tradesmen and craftsmen living outside of the burghs generally were not kept.

Record Types[edit | edit source]

Apprenticeship[edit | edit source]
  • Freedom
  • Land
  • Court and probate records.

Time period: 16th century to present

Apprenticeship Indentures[edit | edit source]
  • Dates
  • Name of father
  • Occupation of apprentice
  • Ages and sometimes birthplace
  • Residence
  • Names, addresses and occupation of masters
Apprenticeship Record Books[edit | edit source]
  • Dates
  • Name of apprentice and master
  • Sometimes residence
Records of Freeman[edit | edit source]
  • Dates
  • Name of freeman
  • Father
  • Place of residence
  • Occupation
  • Some lineage linkage
Land or Court[edit | edit source]
  • Sasines
  • Service of heir
  • Deeds
  • Probate and court records give names, dates, and relationships

Accessing the Records[edit | edit source]

National Records of Scotland[edit | edit source]

National Records of Scotland
General Register House
2 Princes Street

The National Records of Scotland houses many guild and burgh records. To learn more about what these records contain and how to access them, visit the Crafts and Trades and Burgh Records research guides.

Scottish Record Society[edit | edit source]

The Scottish Record Society is one of Scotland's oldest historical societies. It has published, and continues to publish, calendars, indexes, and texts of historical records. Many of these records have been digitized and made available online. While most of the volumes require a fee to view, older volumes can be viewed for free.[1]

The Society has published lists of burgesses and guild brethren for Edinburgh, Canongate, Glasgow, and Dumbarton; the apprentices of Edinburgh; and burgh registers. Many books that contain these records have been digitized and are available to view online for free. Visit the Old Series Publications for a list (including links to view) of these free volumes. Electric Scotland has also digitized many of these volumes and made them available online for free. Visit Scottish Record Society for a listing of (and links to) all their digitized books. The Family History Library also has many of these volumes, but most are either available in book or microfilm form. Search for 941 B4sr in the FamilySearch Catalog to see a list of what the Library holds.

In addition to burgess and guild records, the Scottish Record Office also has records of:

  • Doctors
  • Lawyers
  • Architects
  • Railway men
  • Schoolmasters
  • Coal miners
  • Other occupations

A list of the holdings of the Scottish Record Office is found:

A guide to the holdings of the Scottish Record Office is found:

  • Sinclair, Cecil. Tracing Your Scottish Ancestors: A Guide to Ancestry Research in the Scottish Record Office. Edinburgh, Scotland: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1990. (Family History Library book 941 D27s.)

Family History Library[edit | edit source]

The Family History Library has no original occupational records but has many works and indexes relating to occupational records. Look in the Place Search of the FamilySearch Catalog under:


Look also in Smith’s Inventory of Genealogical Sources Scotland (FHL book 941 D23). This is a subject index to items found in selected periodicals, books, films, and so forth in the Library’s collection. This book has been digitized.

A useful source in helping to locate occupational records is:

Raymond, Stuart. Occupational Sources for Genealogists: A Bibliography. 2nd ed. Exeter, Devon, England: Federation of Family History Societies, 1996. (Family History Library book 942 U23rs 1996.) [2]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Scottish Record Society, "SRS: Scottish Record Society," 2018,, accessed 2 August 2018.
  2. The Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Family History Record Profile: Scotland,” Word document, private files of the FamilySearch Content Strategy Team, 1988-2001.