Scotland Civil Registration

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The government civil registration records of births, marriages, and deaths in Scotland are known as "Statutory Registers." These records are an excellent source of names, dates, and places of births, marriages, and deaths. Since these vital records provide details which can prove connections to next-generation ancestors, and they are indexed and cover most of the population, these records are important resources for genealogical research.

Online Records[edit | edit source]

Historical Background[edit | edit source]

Prior to 1855, Church Records are the primary genealogical source for Scotland, recording baptisms, marriages and burials. These registers are often of limited detail.

On 1 January 1855 civil birth, marriage, and death registrations began, known as "Statutory Registers". The old civil parishes and boroughs became Registration Districts by which the records were organised. Registrars were appointed in every parish in Scotland. The registrars sent one copy of the register to the General Register Office in Edinburgh annually. Divorces were not covered until 1984.

It was in 2002 that ScotlandsPeople (the primary website for Scotland research where you can search civil registration, census records, parish records, and probate indexes and view the images for a fee) went online, forever changing the method of locating and obtaining these records. Previous to this time it was necessary to use microfilmed indexes, correspond with the General Register Office, or hire a researcher at the General Register Office. There was also the option of using the microfilm collection of FamilySearch which has filmed records from 1855 to 1875. Now at ScotlandsPeople one can search the indexes and obtain a digital copy of the record for a small fee within minutes.

Content of Statutory Registers of Birth, Marriage, and Death Certificates[edit | edit source]

Births[edit | edit source]

A birth certificate records the following facts:

  • Name of the child
  • Gender
  • Date and place of birth
  • Names of the father and mother (including the mothers maiden name)
  • Occupation of the father
  • Name of the informant, signature, residence, and qualification (often relationship)
  • After 1860 the parents’ marriage date and place is also recorded.

Additional information only on a 1855 birth certificate:

  • Parents’ birthplace and age
  • Parents’ marriage date and place
  • Number of children previously born to the mother and whether alive or dead

If the child was illegitimate, the record does not give the father’s name unless the father gave his permission and acknowledged the child. In that case, the child is registered under the father’s surname and the word “illegitimate” appears after the child’s name. The use of word "illegitimate" was ended in 1918.

Marriages[edit | edit source]

A marriage certificate records the following facts:

  • Names, ages, and occupations of the bride and the groom
  • Marital Status
  • Residences of the Bride and Groom
  • Place and date marriage
  • Names and occupations of their fathers and whether they were deceased.
  • Names and maiden surnames of their mothers and whether they were deceased.
  • Witnesses
  • Whether the marriage was announced by banns or public notice
  • Date and place of registration

Additional information only on a 1855 marriage certificate:

  • Birthplaces of the bride and groom
  • Names and ages of both parents
  • Name of the person who officiated
  • Birth dates of the bride and groom

Deaths[edit | edit source]

A death certificate records the following facts:

  • Name of the deceased
  • Gender, Age and Occupation
  • Marital Status of the deceased
  • When and where the person died
  • Date and cause of death
  • Name and occupation of the father
  • Name and maiden surname of the mother
  • The informant’s signature, residence, and qualification
  • The date and place the death was registered

Additional information only on a 1855 death certificate:

  • Birthplace of the deceased person
  • Names and ages of his or her children

For more information on civil registration records and laws, see:

Bisset-Smith, G.T. Vital Registration: A Manual of the Law and Practice. Edinburgh, Scotland: William Green & Sons, 1902. (available on

You can find other guides to civil registration records in the Place Search of the FamilySearch Catalog under the heading: SCOTLAND - CIVIL REGISTRATION.

Divorces[edit | edit source]

Divorces were handled by the courts. For information, see Scotland Court Records.

Accessing Scotland Statutory Registers[edit | edit source]

Civil registration records and indexes are available in a few places:

  • ScotlandsPeople - only website with searchable index and online images
  • Visit the Scotlandspeople Centre - General Register Office in Edinburgh. Records are available to search in person
  • The Local Registrar's Offices - records are available to search in person
  • FamilySearch Catalog - contains digital images for civil registration indexes and records

ScotlandsPeople[edit | edit source]

Refer to the ScotlandsPeople wiki article
Images and Indexes Available at:
ScotlandsPeople Website
Births 1855-1916
  • ScotlandsPeople Website has indexes to 2016
Marriages 1855-1941
Deaths 1855-1966
  • Costs £7.50 for 30 credits or £10.00 for 40 credits
    Free to search and view basic details such as name, year, and registration district.
  • Images cost 6 credits each to view. Once you have paid for an image you can view it again without additional cost. *
  • Credits expire after two years, but can be used across different browsing sessions

You can save an image or search to your account, or download an image to your computer

ScotlandsPeople Centre[edit | edit source]

Visit in person ScotlandsPeople Centre at General Register House In Edinburgh
Images and Indexes Available at ScotlandsPeople Centre
Births 1855-2016
Marriages 1855-2016
Deaths 1855-2016
  • Costs £15 per day - viewing records is free, but small fee to download or save records
  • Also has access to many other genealogical records, see the National Records of Scotland website for more details

Local Registrar's Offices[edit | edit source]

Local registrars were appointed in virtually every parish in Scotland. The local registrar kept two registers of all of the births, marriages, and deaths registered in his district. The District Examiner annually examined the registers and sent one copy of the register to Edinburgh. The other copy remained with the local registrar.

FamilySearch[edit | edit source]

Family History Library and Family History Centers
Some images and Indexes available digitized
Births 1855-1875, 1881, 1891 Index to BMD registers from 1855 to 1956
Images of BMD registers from 1855 to 1875, 1881, and 1891.
Collection is incomplete. See below.
Marriages 1855-1875, 1881, 1891
Deaths 1855-1875, 1881, 1891
To find the records and indexes, look in the Catalogue in the parish they lived in

Extracted Records[edit | edit source]

Some of these records have been extracted and are available to search on the FamilySearch Historic Records for Scotland page. The extracted records may not be 100% complete. Some of the records were not extracted from the IGI and so must be found in the IGI. To find, search the IGI on FamilySearch and select "Community Contributed."

Nonetheless, it is estimated that a high percentage of birth and marriage records from 1855 to 1875 have been extracted and appear in the databases:

The Digitized Collection[edit | edit source]

Follow these steps to find the indexes and records in the catalog:

  1. Do a "Place-names" search for "Scotland."
  2. From the list of topics, click on 'Scotland - Civil Registration.'
  3. Click on the title of Registers of births, marriages, and deaths, 1855-1875, 1881, 1891; and general index, 1855-1956 and view the film notes. The collection of 4469 microfilms is arranged first by record type then by date, with the indexes listed first. All of these microfilms have been digitized and the images available online.
  4. Start by searching the indexes for the event and date you desire. The index gives name, place, and record entry number.
  5. The government has assigned every parish a number. The main page of the catalog entry gives the number for each parish, arranged in alphabetical order. Find the number for your parish of interest.
  6. From the film notes list, look for your event and county of interest and match up the parish number to find the correct film.
  7. Click on the camera icon to the right of the microfilm #. This will take you to the images that can then be searched to find the right entry. The parishes are arranged in alphabetical and parish number order. There may be a short index at the first of the parish. If you look for your ancestor in the index, you will see the record entry number again.

You can also find the microfilm numbers by looking in the following source:

  • Register of Births, Marriages, and Deaths of Scotland. Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Family History Library, 1987. (Family History Librarybook Reg 941 V2; fiche 6035516.) This source is arranged first by event, then by county, then by date. At the beginning of each county is a list of the parishes giving their number.

Civil Registration Districts and Their Numbers[edit | edit source]

Every parish in Scotland (beginning with the parishes in Shetland in the north and working south through Wigtonshire) has had a number assigned to it to assist with the organizing of records. When civil registration began in 1855, the civil parishes also became civil registration districts, and they had the same identification numbers. The numbers are used to identify parishes in civil, church, and census records. However, in large populated areas, it was necessary for the districts to be sub-divided, and the identification numbers were also sub-divided. For instance, the civil parish and district of Glasgow, Lanarkshire has the number of 644. When the districts were created in 1855, an area of Glasgow called High Church was created as a separate district and given the number of 644/2, indicating that it is part of the greater Glasgow area.

Lists of Registration Districts available online at:

Search Guidance[edit | edit source]

When searching the digitized indexes on the FamilySearch Catalog, be aware that:

  • Marriage indexes for females (1855-64) are arranged alphabetically by maiden surname.
  • The husband’s surname appears in parentheses.
  • Death indexes for females (1855-64) are arranged in alphabetical order under her married surname with her maiden surname in parentheses.
  • After 1864, death indexes list women under both their maiden surnames and their married surnames.
  • A “Mc” or “Mac” surname may be found in the indexes at the end of the M section. Online, try spelling variations.
  • There is an additional index at the end of each filmed yearly index called the "Vide Addenda." This index lists names missed in the regular index. A cross-reference to the Vide Addenda will usually be found in the regular index.
  • Some births, marriages, and deaths were registered late. These “neglected entries” cover the period from about 1820 to 1860 and were registered between 1860 and 1868. These records are on microfilm but have been digitized and the images put on the FamilySearch Catalog.

If you are having trouble finding a person in the indexes on ScotlandPeople, the suggestions here may give you clues as to why they can't be found.

If you cannot find an index entry, consider the following strategies:

  • Surnames are often found under unexpected spellings. Look for variations.
  • Events are filed by the date registered, not the date that it occurred. For example, a birth on 20 December may have been registered in January of the following year.
  • Indexes were hand-prepared and may contain spelling and copying errors and omissions.
  • A person may have been registered under a different name than was used later in life.
  • A woman’s surname in the marriage index may be her surname by a previous marriage.
  • Family information (particularly age at death) is often misleading.
  • Persons with common names may be difficult to identify in the index.
  • An illegitimate child may be registered under the mother’s maiden name.
  • Some children were registered as “male” or “female” when a name had not been selected at the time of registration.
  • Not every person was registered.

Wiki articles describing online collections are found at:

Overseas and Military Civil Registration[edit | edit source]

For guidance in searching for Scottish ancestors who were born, married, or died overseas, please see the "Overseas and Military Civil Registration" section under England Civil Registration.