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Church of Scotland: Church records
The Church of scotland was the 'state' or 'established' church in Scotland from 1690 onward. It was Presbyterian in form. Individual church units are called parishes. Parish church records fall into two primary categories: parish registers and Kirk session records (see below).
Parish registers contain the christenings or baptisms, marriages, and burials recorded in registers by church officials at the time of an event. Marriage records usually give only the names of the bride and groom and the date and place of marriage. Residences and the husband's occupation may be given. Most church records date from the time of establishment, but some date earlier. The earliest known records date from 1553.
Click here to read more about Church Records.
Indexes: You should begin by looking for your ancestor in an index. All of the extant marriage records have been indexed. Read more about Indexes and how to access them in the article on Church Records.
Accessing the records
For more information about Church of Scotland records and how to access them, click here.
Information about extant church records for a particular parish can be found in the Wiki on that parish's information page. In the search field above and to the left, type in the name of the parish and click on Search.
Kirk Session: Church records
Kirk is the Scottish word for church. The Kirk session is the lowest ecclesiastical court of the Presbyterian Church, held on the parish level. It consists of the minister and a number of elders of the parish. The records deal with the business and organization of the parish and discipline of members. They may include lists of communicants, accounts of money paid to the poor, testimonials of persons moving from one parish to another, and details about illegitimate births and alleged fathers. Christening and marriage information is sometimes included.
Kirk session records may exist and may fill in gaps in the parish registers. Whether or not you found your ancestor in the marriage records, you may learn more about them from Kirk session records.
Accessing the records
Most Kirk session records have not been microfilmed and therefore are not in the collection of the Family History Library. Those few that are will be found in the library's catalog under the town or parish of interest and the topic of 'Church records.'
Information about extant Kirk session records for a particular parish can be found in the Wiki on that parish's information page. In the search field above and to the left, type in the name of the parish and and click on Search.
Most Kirk session records are held in the collection of the National Archives of Scotland (NAS) and are classed with the reference number of CH2. Click here to search the Archives' online catalogue.
If you find that the records are available at the Archives, you will need to visit in person or you may wish to hire a professional researcher to search the records for you. The Remote Research page on the NAS website provides a list of researchers.
Nonconformist Records: Church records
If you do not find your ancestor in an index to the records of the Established Church of Scotland it may be because he/she was a 'nonconformist.' Anyone who did not adhere to the teachings of the Established Church of Scotland was considered a nonconformist. For our purposes we will divide nonconformists into two basic categories: seceders and dissenters.
- Seceders were people who left the established Church of Scotland and formed other presbyteries. These include those known as the United Presbyterian Church and the Free Church of Scotland.
- Dissenters were people who belonged to religious organizations other than Presbyterian. These include Baptists, Methodists, Episcopalians, Catholics, etc.
Nonconformist groups may have kept records of members. These can include baptisms, marriages, minutes of meetings, communion rolls, and other items of value.
Read more about nonconformist churches in the article on the Scotland Church Records Union Lists.
Information about extant nonconformist church records for a particular parish can be found in the Wiki on that parish's information page. In the search field above and to the left, type in the name of the parish and click on Search.
Accessing the records
Not many nonconformist church records are available on microfilm and therefore are not in the collection of the Family History Library. Those records that are will be listed in the library's catalog under the town or parish of interest and the topic of 'Church records.' Some of the few records available at the library are included in the various indexes to church records. Read about them in the article on Church Records.
Most nonconformist church records are held in the collection of the National Archives of Scotland (NAS) or other repositories in Scotland. Other repositories can include regional archives, denominational archives, or individual churches. Contact information for other archives may be found in the directory of the Scottish Archives Network.
If you find that the records are available at an archive, you will need to visit in person or you may wish to hire a professional researcher to search the records for you. The Remote Research page on the NAS website provides a list of researchers.
Death Certificate: Civil registration
If you cannot find your ancestor's marriage in church records, and he/she died in Scotland after 1855, you should look for a civil registration death record.
Civil registration is the government registration of births, marriages, and deaths beginning 1 January 1855. In these records you may find the name of the deceased; his or her cause of death, death date and place, rank or profession, marital status, sex, age, spouse's name, father's name and rank or profession, and mother's name and maiden name; and the signature, relationship, and residence of the informant. Civil registration death records cover most of the population and are indexed countrywide. Use the general index to identify and obtain a copy of a death certificate.
Read more about civil registration records.
Accessing the records
The general indexes, and the records for the first twenty years, are available on film at the Family History Library. They are listed in the Family History Library Catalog under the place of Scotland and the topic of Civil Registration. The correct record title is "Registers of births, marriages, and deaths, 1855-1875, 1881, 1891; and general index, 1855-1956."
Indexes and images of records are also available on the ScotlandsPeople web site (fee-based, pay per use).
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