Discover Vital Details
Among the first Scottish genealogy records you’ll use are records of births, marriages and deaths, kept most recently by the government, and before that, by the church. You can access both online:
Government registration of vital events, called statutory registers, began Jan. 1, 1855. At first, officials were supposed to record very detailed information, a practice that proved hard to maintain, so the requirements were scaled back. Starting in 1856, birth records provide the child’s name, date and place of birth, the father’s name and occupation and the mother’s maiden name. The date and place of the parents’ marriage was added in 1861.
Count on Censuses
Every 10 years since 1841 (except 1941), Scotland has taken censuses recording everyone by name. These records are closed to the public for 100 years, so the 1911 census is the most recent one you can view.
Probe into Probate Records
Probate records concern the distribution of a deceased person’s estate. Until 1868, Scottish law stipulated that real estate should go to the eldest son or, if there was no son, to any daughters equally, and then to the surviving spouse. A property owner couldn’t write a will to bequeath land or other goods, but could leave personal property to heirs by means of a testament. Testaments may provide a date of death, as well as names and residences of heirs, relationships and estate inventories. Because strict rules governed the distribution of personal property, however, there was often no need to name a widow, widower or children. Nobility, merchants, tradesman and other members of the middle and upper classes made most testaments. I haven’t found testaments for any of my Scottish ancestors, but it’s worth seeking them, regardless of your ancestors’ social standing.
Picture the Places
Because Scotland has nationwide indexes to all its major records, you don’t usually need to know exactly where your ancestors lived to research your family history. But once you discover the names of their cities, villages, parishes and small settlements, you can learn a lot about those places using online maps and gazetteers. Scotlands Family <www.scotlandsfamily.com> has good maps of Scotland, including county maps showing parish boundaries.
Ancestry.com <ancestry.com> $: census transcriptions; indexes to birth, baptism and marriage records; message boards
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