Family Research – English, Scottish and Irish Genealogy


Sources for Family History in the “National Archives of Scotland”

To start work backwards from a known ancestor or yourself. Working from family Bibles, Wills and other certificate will assist you. But beware of family traditions until you have the information to back this up.

There are many books on the subject such as Cecil Sinclair’s “Tracing Your Scottish Ancestors” (HMSO, Her Majesties Stationary Office) which explains everything step by step. The General Register Office for Scotland (GRO(S)) holds Old Parish Records (pre 1855), statutory registers of birth, death, and marriages from 1855 and census returns (1841-1901) and should be your first port of call. These records can be accessed by the use of computer terminals at the General Register.

The main records held by the National Archives of Scotland are as follows;

Wills and Testaments. These date from the 16th century to the present day. Indexes to 1800 are available have been published from the Scottish Record Society. Post 1800 are available in the Historical Search Room. To use these Records you must know the place and date of death.

Sasines and Property Records. The Register of Sasines records the sale and purchase of heritable property in Scotland. These comprise of three sorts “The General Register of Sasines” covering the whole of Scotland (1617-1868), Particular or Country Sasines (c1617-present), Burgh registers (c1681-1963). Notaries protocol books (1469-1936) record Sasine records and other legal transactions of people from all walks of life. Some have been publish by the Scottish record Society. Retours of heirs record the entry of heirs to their property from 1545.

Estate records. This is a record of tenancy and leases (Tacks). You will need to know the farm or estate of where your ancestor lived.

Valuation Roles. This is a list of Proprietors, tenants and occupiers (head of family only) 1855-1975)

Taxation Records. Hearth and Poll Tax records compiles in the 1650’s and arranged by county (some gaps in the record) and 18th century taxation lists (window tax etc)

Court records. Details of Criminals are to be found in the Court of Justiciary. Crown Office precognitions (statements and pre-trial evidence) from the 19th century. Bankruptcies and Civil disputes are seen in the Records of Court of Session it is difficult to use, however bankruptcies are indexed from 1839.

Church Records. These are the Session Records of the Established Church of Scotland. However Records for the Secession and Independent Churches are held though not the Baptist Records. Photocopies of Roman Catholic Records registers are held (18th-20th centuries).

They consist of communion roles, lists of family heads, details of illegitimate births, payments to the poor. Baptisms, marriages and burials.

Burgh Records. These include lists of people, apprenticeships, burgess rolls, craft and guildry records.

Records for early family history. It is very difficult to trace any family back to the 16th or 17th centuries. However the following may help;

The Register of the Great Seal. Which contains Grants of Land from the Crown printed copies 1306-1668.

Register of the Privy Seal. Grants of minor Offices, letters of protection, exemption from military Service, printed 1488-1584 with index

Accounts of the Great Seal of the Treasurer of Scotland. Printed 1473-1580) and the Exchequer Roles printed 1264-1600.

For further details contact the National Archives of Scotland, HM General Register House, Edinburgh, EH1 3YY

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