Finding Records of Your Ancestors in Scotland 1855 To 1901

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If your ancestor lived in Scotland between 1855 and 1901, follow the steps in this guide to find the records of his or her family. These instructions will show you which records to search, what to look for, and what tools to use.

The Research Process Overview[edit | edit source]

Follow these steps to find all members of the family (parents and children) of your ancestor who lived in Scotland between 1855 and 1901:
1. Find information about your ancestor’s birthplace and parents’ names in:

A. Marriage or death certificates in civil registration records.
B. Census records.

2. Find your ancestor’s birth certificate in civil registration records.
3. Find your ancestor with his or her parents and brothers and sisters in census records.
4. Find the marriage certificate for your ancestor’s parents in civil registration records.

How to use this article:[edit | edit source]

  • The Research Process: To see how the process works, review the example on pages 3–11.
  • Finding Places: To learn more about place names in Scotland, see pages 13–15.
  • Records: As you follow each step of the research process, go to pages 16–21 to learn about the record you are searching.
  • Additional Helps: For more information about researching Scottish records, see pages 22–23.

When you have found all members of a family, use the process to find another family. Search for the husband’s or wife’s parents and siblings.

The Research Process - How to Begin[edit | edit source]

Before beginning your research, it is important that you gather all the family information you can about your ancestor. You may find this information in your home, in your parents’ home, and from any other living family members. Also check the Internet to see if others have researched your Scottish family. Here are some Websites to start with:

  • FamilySearch ( is the official family history Internet site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Access to information on this site is free.
  • ( is the largest commercial family history site. Access to the Ancestry World Tree is free, but a fee is required to access other information on the site.
  • OneGreatFamily ( charges for most of its services.
  • Genes Reunited ( is a family history site in the United Kingdom. A fee is required to view detailed information. Record the information you find on family group records and a pedigree chart or in a family history

software program. For example, you can download Personal Ancestral File 5.2 without cost from From your pedigree chart, choose an ancestor who was married or died in Scotland between 1855 and 1901. You must know at least the approximate date and place of the marriage or death of this ancestor. It is helpful to know the name of your ancestor’s husband or wife.

The Research Process -- Example[edit | edit source]

Using the Internet is the fastest and easiest way to find Scottish records. The following pages walk you through this process, using as an example the steps Bridget takes to find the family of her ancestor Thomas Selcraig. Follow these same steps to find your ancestor’s family. Notice in the example that Bridget has listed what she knows about Thomas Selcraig and his spouse, Helen Wilson, on a pedigree chart. She has started a family group record with Thomas Selcraig listed as a child.

Tip: If you don’t know your ancestor’s marriage or death information:

  • Start with a more recent generation. You will learn how to do research, and you will probably discover something you didn’t know about your family.
  • Find the records for the family in the example. This will teach you basic research skills before you search for your own family.

Example: Thomas Selcraig, married in 1891 in Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland. He was married to Helen Wilson. Your ancestor:_____________, married on _________________, in ___________, __________, Scotland. He or she was married to _______________________.

Bridget begins a pedigree chart with Thomas Selcraig listed first. Bridget begins a family group record with Thomas Selcraig listed as a child.

Step 1 Civil Registration[edit | edit source]

Find information about your ancestor’s birthplace and parents’ names. CIVIL REGISTRATION (See pages 20–21.)
A. To find information on Thomas’s parents, Bridget searches for the marriage record of Thomas and his wife, Helen.
B. On the Internet, Bridget goes to This site indexes the births, marriages, and deaths in Scotland from 1855 to the early 1900s. Bridget registers on the site, which requires a fee. She then chooses to search the Statutory Registers of Marriages from 1855 to 1932 for a marriage of Thomas Selcraig to Helen Wilson. Once she finds the entry in the index, she views the image of the certificate and prints a copy of it. (If she could not find the marriage record, she could have searched for Thomas’s death certificate on the same Web site. Death records also give parents’ names.)
C. The marriage record shows that Thomas and Helen were married on December 30, 1891. However, Bridget notices that the last column of the record shows that the marriage was registered on January 4, 1891. This may indicate that the marriage date is recorded incorrectly. Bridget makes a note to verify this information on other records.
D. Bridget records Thomas’s and Helen’s marriage information, ages, and parents’ names, along with the source information (such as the Web site, type of document, year, page number, and entry number). Bridget also notes the occupations and residence listed in the record. She finds that Thomas was married in the St. Andrew District. This will help her search other civil registration records later.

Step 2 Census[edit | edit source]

(See pages 17–18.) A. Bridget looks for census records next, because the census will list a birthplace. She wants to look at the first census taken after Thomas’s marriage. She looks first in the 1891 census, since the marriage certificate shows the marriage was registered at the beginning of 1891. On, Bridget performs a search and locates Thomas in district/parish number 685/2 and enumeration district 13.
B. Bridget prints out a copy of the census image. It shows that Thomas and Helen were married at the time of the 1891 census. This leads her to believe that the marriage date on the marriage certificate (December 30, 1891) is probably incorrect. On her records she changes the marriage date to December 30, 1890. C. Bridget records the following information: (1) Thomas’s place of birth and an estimated birth year (which she figures by subtracting his age from the year of the census), (2) Helen’s place of birth and an estimated birth year, (3) Thomas’s and Helen’s occupations and street address, and (4) the source information. Address Name Age Occupation Where born Index