A gazetteer is a dictionary of place-names. Gazetteers describe towns, villages, parishes, counties, rivers, mountains, population, and other geographical features. The place-names are generally in alphabetical order, similar to a dictionary.
Gazetteers may provide more information about towns, such as:
- Distance from nearby places.
- Religious denominations.
- Major manufacturing works.
- Canals, docks, and railroad stations.
- Seats of landed-gentry families.
You can use a gazetteer to find the places where your family lived and to determine the civil and church jurisdictions over those places. Gazetteers are also helpful for determining the county jurisdictions used in the Family History Library Catalog.
A sample gazetteer entry might be "Burrelton, a village in the parish of Cargill, near the Woodside railway station, 13½ m. NE of Perth. It has a post office under Coupar-Angus, and a Free church."
Many places in Scotland have the same or similar names. A gazetteer can help you identify the most common spellings and the counties that have a place by that name.
There are some very good gazetteers available online that are helpful in finding the place where your ancestors lived. They are:
Vision of Britain
To use this resource, click on the link and then on the first page. Then go to Step one: Select a location. In the location you need to identify the city. It will come up with one or more choices to choose from. Next you have your choice as to what you want to know. At the bottom on the right hand side it gives you a choices of maps.
For instance, by putting in "Paisley," the following choice of kinds of maps was displayed:
- 20 Century: New popular
- 19th Century: OS First Series (Ordnance Survey)
- 1930's: Land Utilisation
- 2003: Digital Chart of the World
At the bottom of the home screen, you may also click on Expert Search. On the next screen, select the "Descriptive gazetteer search," then you may search for a place of interest to see a gazetteer description from Francis H. Groome's Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland, the 1885 edition.
This website also has a searchable, printer-friendly copy of Groome's Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland, an 1890's edition.
This site has an interactive map and a clickable map. You can click on any of the areas and it will take you to that area. It will give you information on the area as well. You can also go to the Alphabetical Listing and choose from the place listings there.
Gazetteer for Scotland
On this site, by clicking on the link, an interactive map is displayed. You have the following choices:
- Maps and Places
- History Time-line
- Search pages
When you can click on any area of the map, it will take you to that area. If you click on the Maps and Places option, it takes you to a map where you click until you locate your area of interest.
For example, if you want Paisley, click on the Orange area and it will take me to that area. Next, by clicking on Renfrewshire and then Paisley, it will tell you about the place. The explanation is similar to the Ordnance Survey discription for the place.
For other information on maps see the "Scotland Maps" section of this outline.
Other Helpful Gazetteers
Groom, Francis H. Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland. 6 vols. Edinburgh, Scotland: Thomas J. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, 1883-6. (Family History Library book Ref 941 E5g; fiche 6020391-411.) This set of gazetteers alphabetically lists place names as they appeared during the 1880s. A brief description includes distance from other nearby places, name(s) of the church denomination(s) in the area, historical background, and the civil district.
Wilson, John. The Gazetteer of Scotland. Edinburgh, Scotland: W. & A. K. Johnson, 1882. (Family History Library book Ref. 941 E5j; film 990430 item 14; fiche 6026374.)
The Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog lists gazetteers and similar place-name guides under:
GREAT BRITAIN - GAZETTEERS
SCOTLAND - GAZETTEERS
SCOTLAND, [COUNTY] - GAZETTEERS
In 1974, Scotland’s county boundaries were realigned, and many counties were renamed. For some research purposes, such as correspondence, you may need to identify modern county names for the area where your ancestors lived. Knowing the modern names is also helpful if you wish to find an ancestor’s town on a modern map. A good atlas and gazetteer showing modern county names is:
Mason, Oliver. Bartholomew Gazetteer of Places in Britain. Edinburgh, Scotland: John Bartholomew & Son, 1986. (Family History Library book Ref 942 E5ba 1986.) Places are in alphabetical order. The town descriptions in the gazetteer will tell you where to find each locality on the maps included in the book.
- http://www.genealogical.com/products/Lewiss Gazetteers of England Ireland and Scotland/7270.html