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Family History Library • 35 North West Temple Street • Salt Lake City, UT 84150-3400 USA
Scotland, Historical Background
Introduction
Effective family history research requires an understanding of the historical events that affected
your ancestors and record keeping. Learning about wars, local events, laws, migrations,
settlement patterns, and economic or religious trends may help you understand family
movements. These events may have led to the creation of records that mention your ancestors.
Your family history research will be more interesting if you learn about the events that shaped
your ancestors' lives.
General History
Some key dates and events in Scottish history are:
843 Kenneth MacAlpin became king of the Picts and Scots. This marked
the first united kingdom in Scotland.
1174 William the Lion surrendered the independence of Scotland to Henry
II in the Treaty of Falaise.
1306 Robert Bruce assumed leadership of a rebellion against English rule.
1314 Robert Bruce defeated the English in the Battle of Bannockburn,
maintaining Scottish independence.
1325 The English recognized Robert Bruce as King Robert of Scotland.
1514 The recording of testaments (wills) began in Scotland.
1600 The calendar changed from the Julian Calendar to the Gregorian
Calendar. See also Calendar Changes.
1603 The crowns of England and Scotland were united.
1608 The Plantation of Ulster in Ireland was established to prevent Irish
revolts against English rule. By 1640 there were 40,000 Scots in
northern Ireland.
1707 The Act of Union between Scotland and England created Great
Britain.
1715 Thousands of Scots supported James Edward Stuart, the “Old
Pretender,” in his efforts to obtain the crown of Great Britain. This
was the first Jacobite rebellion.
1745 Many Scots supported James’ son Charles Edward Stuart, also
called Bonnie Prince Charlie and the “Young Pretender,” in his
efforts of obtain the crown of Great Britain. This was the second
Jacobite rebellion.
1746 The English defeated the forces of Charles Edward Stuart in the
Battle of Culloden. After this battle, the English executed many clan
chiefs and outlawed kilts and bagpipes. These restrictions were
removed in 1782.
1779 The Industrial Revolution began to affect Scotland.
1841 The first census of genealogical value was taken.
1855 Civil registration of all births, marriages, and deaths began.
Scotland, Historical Background
Research Guidance
Version of Data: 02/16/01
2
Church History
Some key dates and events in Scottish church history are:
1552 The General Provincial Council ordered each Roman Catholic parish to
keep a register of baptisms and banns of marriage.
1560 Protestantism was established and the authority of the pope abolished.
Celebration of mass became illegal.
1592 The Presbyterian Church was formally established.
1610 James VI established the Episcopal Church in Scotland.
1638 The Episcopal Church was abolished by the General Assembly of
Presbyterians at Glasgow. Although the government did not recognize
this move, Episcopalians were persecuted. They sometimes hid or
destroyed their registers or did not keep them at all.
1640 An estimated five percent of the parishes of the Presbyterian Church
were keeping records by this date.
1641 Charles I and the English Parliament acknowledged the Presbyterian
Church in Scotland.
1661 The Episcopal Church was reestablished under Charles II.
1690 The Presbyterian Church was permanently restored and became the
Church of Scotland.
1733 Four ministers broke away from the Presbyterian Church and set up the
Secession Church.
1745 The Secession Church divided. The new denominations were known as
the Burghers Church and the Anti-Burgers Church.
1752 Three ministers seceded from the Presbyterian Church and formed the
Relief Church. By 1790, this church had about 150,000 members. The
Relief Church kept its own records.
1783 The government imposed a tax on every christening, marriage, and
burial entry recorded in church records, causing many entries not to be
registered.
1792 The laws against Episcopalians, enacted beginning in 1716, were
repealed, allowing them to freely worship and to keep records.
1700s During the eighteenth century, particularly after 1730, many
nonconformist groups were formed. Many preachers came from
England, but they usually kept only personal records of conversions, and
many conversions were not recorded locally. Prominent among these
groups were the Baptists, Methodists, and Congregationalists
(Independents).
1820 Parishes were required to keep register books.
1829 Roman Catholics were permitted by law to buy and inherit property and
keep records.
1843 Ministers broke away from the Presbyterian Church and formed the Free
Church.
1847 The Secession and Relief Churches combined to form the United
Presbyterian Church.
Scotland, Historical Background
Research Guidance
Version of Data: 02/16/01
3
Historical Sources
The following are a few of the available sources to help provide you with a perspective of the
historical events. Major research libraries may have these books:
• Cook, Chris, et. al. British Historical Facts. This lists key dates, offices, and office holders in
Scottish and English history. (In three volumes covering 1688-1900.)
• Moody, David. Scottish Towns: A Guide for Local Historians. This describes the background
and structure of Scottish towns and discusses sources for researchers.
• Sinclair, Cecil. Tracing Scottish Local History: A Guide to Local History Research in the
Scottish Record Office. This describes local historical records available in the Scottish
Record Office.
• Smout, T.C. A History of the Scottish People 1560-1830.
• Smout, T.C. A Century of the Scottish People 1830-1950.
• Smout, T.C., and Sydney Wood. Scottish Voices 1745-1960.
• Steel, Tom. Scotland’s Story: A New Perspective. This gives a good general overview of
Scottish history.
The Family History Library has many national and county histories for Scotland. There are also
histories for specific periods, groups, or occupations. Histories are listed in the Family History
Library Catalog. Go to What to Do Next, select the catalog, and search for histories on the
country and county levels. Also look for a subject heading such as OCCUPATIONS - HISTORY.
Many bibliographies of history are also available. Look in the Family History Library Catalog
under SCOTLAND - HISTORY - BIBLIOGRAPHY to see the ones available at the Family History
Library.
Local Histories
A local history describes the following information about an area:
• Economy.
• Prominent families.
• Founding of churches, hospitals, schools, and businesses.
Even if a local history does not mention your ancestor, you may find important clues that suggest
other records to search. Local histories also provide background information about your family’s
lifestyle, community, and environment.
Many places have more than one history. There are numerous published histories about Scottish
parishes and towns. Many are available at the Family History Library. Similar histories are often
available at major public and university libraries and archives.
The following three works include histories for each individual parish. The histories were written in
the late 1700s and early 1800s, usually by the minister of the parish.
• Sinclair, John, ed. The Statistical Account of Scotland. (First series, published in the 1790s.)
• The New Statistical Account of Scotland. (2nd series, published in the 1840s.)
• Mather, Alexander S., ed. The Third Statistical Account of Scotland. (3rd series, published in
the 1980s.)
You can find local histories listed in the Family History Library Catalog. Go to What to Do Next,
select the Catalog, and search on the county, parish, and city levels.
Scotland, Historical Background
Research Guidance
Version of Data: 02/16/01
4
Calendar Changes
In 1600 Scotland changed from using the Julian calendar to using the Gregorian calendar. The
Julian calendar began the calendar year on 25 March and ended the year on 24 March. The
Gregorian calendar started the year on 1 January and ended the year on 31 December. Thus,
before 1600, January, February, and the first twenty-four days of March came at the end of the
previous year instead of at the beginning of the next year.
The year 1599 consisted only of nine months: January, February, and March (1-24) 1599 became
January, February and March (1-24) 1600.

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