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Most records used in Scottish research are in English, with some in the Scots language. They may, however, be difficult to read because of unique Scottish words, Latin words, or different handwriting styles.
Occasionally records will also contain Gaelic, often written in English phonetics. In the medieval period, you may also encounter documents in Norn, an early form of Norwegian.
Unique Scottish Words
Some words you will see in Scottish records are not used in English. The following list contains some of the more commonly used Scottish words:
|bairne, bairn||child or baby|
|ilk ("of that ilk")||having a surname of the same place|
|laird||title of landholder|
|main bairn||boy child|
|maid bairn||girl child|
|mortcloth||cloth covering body during burial ceremony|
|natural||often refers to illegitimate off-spring but could be used for legitimate offspring as well|
|new born||usually unbaptized child|
|quwh||(such as who)|
|qlk, quilk, quhilk, quhilck||which|
|resile, resiled||withdrawn (such as an offer of marriage)|
|siclike, sicklike, syklyk||likewise|
|stillborn||born and died same day|
|unquhile, umquil||late, former, deceased|
|vide||see (such as, see page)|
|wmquil, umquil||now deceased|
To find definitions for other words that are unfamiliar to you, you can use one of several Scottish dictionaries:
Craigie, Sir William A. A Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue, from the Twelfth Century to the End of the Seventeenth. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press, 1937-. (Family History Librarybook 403.41 Sco87c.)
Graham, William. The Scots Word Book. 3rd rev. ed. Edinburgh, Scotland: Ramsey Head Press, 1980. (Family History Library book 427.9411 G76s 1980.)
Jamieson, John. A Dictionary of the Scottish Language. Edinburgh, Scotland: William Tait, 1866. (Family History Library book 427.941 J242j.)
Warrack, Alexander. A Scots Dialect Dictionary. London, England: W. & R. Chambers, 1911. (Family History Library book 427.9411 W25s.)
Robinson, Mairi, ed. The Concise Scots Dictionary. Oxford, England: Aberdeen University Press, 1985. (Family Hhistory Library book 427.9411 C748c.)
Some Scottish records may contain Latin. Knowing some Latin will help you read these records. For help with Latin words, see the Latin Genealogical Word List (34077).
Handwriting styles have changed over time. In early records, the handwriting is quite different from what it is today. Visit Scotland Handwriting in Research Topics.
Abbreviations are common in early handwriting. When recorders left letters out of a word, they indicated the fact by using various marks, such as a period, a colon, a tail on the last letter of the word, a curvy line over the word, or a raised letter at the end of the word. Abbreviations can be indicated in many ways, and it is important to study individual writers to see how they made abbreviations.
In Scottish church records, ministers often used only the first letter of the words, for example:
L.S. = lawful son
L.D. = lawful daughter
N.S. = natural son
N.D. = natural daughter
ch. = child
Ch. N. = child named
N. = named
Instead of writing the words father, mother, witness, son, or daughter, the minister may have used f, m, w, s, or other letters.
Dates, instead of being numerical, are sometimes referred to by the name of the feast day or by one of the terms listed below:
|Term||Meaning||current, instant||Same month (Sometimes used to mean "within 30 days" or a month.)|
|penultimate day, penult day||the day before the last day of the month|
|jajvii, jmjvii, mvii||indicates the century, such as 1700s|
|eodem tempore, eod tempore||at the same time (the same date)|
|eodem die, eod die, E.D.||the same day|
|Gods die||God’s day, the Sabbath|
|Feb 1st Sabbath||Exact day of month not stated|
|Feb 2nd Sabbath||Event took place in Feb on the 1st, 2nd, or (whatever) Sabbath in the month|