Family Research – English, Scottish and Irish Genealogy


GROS celebrates its 150th birthday

Scotland’s system of registering births, deaths and marriages is celebrating its 150th anniversary.

At a special General Register Office for Scotland (GROS) Open Day at New Register House in Edinburgh Deputy Finance Minister Tavish Scott said it was a much-admired and much-loved system that continued to evolve to meet the needs of people across Scotland.

Mr Scott said:

“Civil registration was introduced in Scotland on January 1, 1855, and I am delighted to take part in the celebrations 150 years later and to highlight how important this system has been to Scotland’s history.

“The system is continuing to evolve and I recently published proposals to make our system even more accessible and flexible by introducing on-line systems to advertise forthcoming marriages, more flexibility regarding where births and deaths can be registered and increasing choice for couples who wish to marry at sea.

“This is all good news for people across Scotland, and also overseas Scots who want to celebrate their Scottish heritage.”

Registrar General Duncan Macniven added:

“Scotland was well behind the rest of Britain in replacing the old parish registers with a modern system of civil registration. But the present system has worked well for 150 years and we are keeping it bang up to date.

“We probably lead the world in making registration information available to genealogists through our family history website”

The Act introducing the registration of births, deaths and marriages in Scotland took effect on January 1, 1855.

It replaced the system dating from 1551, when the parish churches were supposed to keep a register of baptisms and marriages (and, later, burials).

But the 1801 Census found out that, of the 850 parishes in Scotland, not more than 99 had regular registers, the rest having only occasional entries or no register whatever.

This was replaced in 1855 by the present system where local registrars, supervised by the Registrar General, keep a record of all events, with a duplicate copy at the General Register Office for Scotland in Edinburgh.

Today, records of births, marriages and deaths are stored on a computer in Edinburgh – very different from the leather-bound volumes of 150 years ago.

The demographic statistics are different too:

Scotland’s total population, in the 1851 Census, was 2.89 million, compared with just over 5 million today
Over 93,000 babies were born in 1855, compared to 52,000 in 2003
In 1855, the number of deaths was much lower than the number of births – 62,000, compared to 58,000 in 2003
In 1855, there were 19,680 marriages, compared to 30,757 in 2003
The population of Edinburgh was 260,000 in 1851, compared to 448,000 in 2003

Source-Scottish Executive

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