Quick Guide to ScotlandsPeople

By Amanda Epperson

Once you have identified a Scottish ancestor, the next step is find him in Scottish records. ScotlandsPeople, the official family history site of the Scottish government, includes records that span a period of over 400 years, making it an excellent resource. This quick ScotlandsPeople guide will get you started.

ScotlandsPeople is a pay-per-view site, so you must purchase credits in order to view images. Credits are £0.25 (about 33 cents) each, and you can buy them in bundles of 30 or 40. Most images cost six credits (about $2) to view. (For more details, see the Charges Page.)

Having said that, you can search the site and view a list of results for free. You just need to create a free account. The index information you can see for free in search results varies by document type. At a minimum, you’ll see the name of the person, the year and the registration district or parish.

Once you identify a record you want to see in detail, click the blue button. You can save the image to your computer—and, helpfully, all images downloaded from ScotlandsPeople include citation information. You can also find purchased documents in your account, where you can organize them in a timeline.

ScotlandsPeople boasts several kinds of records. But you’ll want to start with three basics groups:

Civil Records

ScotlandsPeople hosts all civil birth, marriage and death records (called statutory records in Scotland) that have been kept since 1855. However, not all records are available online due to private restrictions. You can’t access death records less than 50 years old, marriage records less than 75 years old, or birth records less than 100 years old. Many birth and marriage records have been indexed at FamilySearch, but ScotlandsPeople is the only site with an index of death records. We’ve got a guide that covers the Scottish civil registration system and how to use civil records.

Church Records

The site also contains baptismal, marriage and burial records for many denominations: the Church of Scotland, the Roman Catholic Church and several other Presbyterian denominations. The years available vary widely. Some Church of Scotland records date to the 16th century, while many Catholic records do not start until the 19th. Find more details in the Church Register Guide.


ScotlandsPeople has indexes and images for every census from 1841 to 1911. Unfortunately, the index does not display results as complete households. But if two individuals live in the same enumeration district and appear on the same page, they might live in the same household.

Other records available include Wills and Valuations (taxes). For more information see the several Help and Guidance pages.

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