Scotland Old Parochial Registers (OPR)Edit This Page
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The old parochial registers are the records of the Church of Scotland including registers of births/baptisms, marriages/proclamations, and deaths/burials. The birth/baptism and marriage/proclamation information in the registers has been extracted and created into searchable databases that serve as indexes to the records. The index was first created on microfiche and later became available on computers and on the Internet.
Old Parochial Registers Index on Microfiche
The Old Parochial Registers (OPR) Index is an index of about 10.5 million names listed in Church of Scotland (Presbyterian) parish registers. The index consists of 1,147 microfiche and contains entries dating from the late 1500s through 31 December 1854. Information in the index includes given name(s), surname, parents or spouse, gender, christening or marriage date and place, and source information. It is available at the Family History Library and most Family History Centers.
The index on microfiche is arranged by county. For each county there are four indexes:
- Baptisms arranged by surname
- Baptisms arranged by given name
- Marriages arranged by surname
- Marriages arranged by given name
There is also an addendum that is arranged not by county but covers the whole country in one. It contains entries missed from or added after the original index was created.
Using the OPR Index on Microfiche
Church of Scotland records (old parochial registers) are an excellent source for information on names, dates, and places of births and marriages. They are the best source of family information before 1855 which was when civil registration began in Scotland. They may include as much as 60 percent of the population of Scotland during that time.
You can use the Old Parochial Registers Index to:
- Search for a christening or marriage date for an ancestor.
- Search for the spouse or parentage of an individual.
- Identify a specific parish where your ancestors lived.
- Possibly extend your pedigree lines.
The Old Parochial Registers Index does not include:
- Every kind of Church of Scotland record. It only indexes christenings and marriages. Burial records, for example, are not indexed.
- Anyone who was not recorded in the registers.
- Anyone recorded in registers that no longer exist.
- Anyone who was recorded in registers of churches other than the Church of Scotland.
Steps to Follow When Using The Old Parochial Registers Index:
- Select a county.
- Select the index.
- Find the name.
- Copy the information.
- Find the original source.
Step 1. Select A County
Since the Old Parochial Registers Index is arranged by county, you will first need to know the name of the county you wish to search.
If you do not know the county, talk to a Family History Center staff member for help.
Step 2. Select The Index
At family history centers, the Old Parochial Registers Index is found in the DOS system. The center volunteers can assist in finding the records. You don't need the library call numbers or fiche, as the index itself is on the computer.
At the Family History Library, you can find the library call numbers for the Old Parochial Registers Index in the Family History Library Catalog. Search the Locality section of the catalog for the name of the county in Scotland, then for the subject of church records — indexes. The catalog sometimes uses the title Index to Old Parochial Registers.
- Four types of indexes were created for each county.
- Given name index to christenings
- Surname index to christenings
- Given name index to marriages
- Surname index to marriages
Select the type of index you wish to search according to the event (christening or marriage) you are seeking.
People in some areas of Scotland followed the practice of patronymics in naming their children. This caused the surname to change in each generation. For example, Alexander the son of Donald Campbell may have been named Alexander McDonald. For this reason it is sometimes easier to find a person by his or her given name. If you are unsure of a person's surname, use the given name index.
The names in the Old Parochial Registers Index are in alphabetical order in each index. See Figure 1. There are hundreds of entries on a microfiche, but only the first name on the microfiche is shown on the label. In the example in Figure 1, the name Thrid, Mary is found on microfiche 0020 because Thrid comes after Thomson but before Webster in the alphabet. The name Tait, Marie is on microfiche 0019.
There are three microfiche addenda containing 31,000 entries (FHL fiche 6025610). Search the addenda if a name you expect to find does not appear in the county indexes. Christenings are on addenda fiche 0001 and 0002, marriages on fiche 0002 and 0003.
Step 3. Find The Name
Once you have selected a microfiche, begin searching for the name you want. Names are listed in alphabetical order. All surnames which begin with Mac, Mc, and M' are filed as if they begin with Mac. The columns read from left to right on the microfiche. If there is more than one entry for the same name, they will appear in order by event date, from earliest date to the most recent.
Can't Find A Name?
If you are unable to find your ancestor's name in the Old Parochial Registers Index, consider the following:
The name may be spelled differently. Look for spelling variations, initials, or nicknames.
It may have been listed in a different county. Look in the index for nearby counties.
Your ancestor may not have belonged to the Church of Scotland. Search the church records of other denominations.
Your ancestor may not have been recorded in the registers. Investigate other kinds of sources like census or probate records.
The name may have been missed during extraction. Search the addenda. If you still do not locate a name you expect to find, search the original parish register.
The christening or marriage may have been registered several years after the event. Search later years. Try records after 1854 for a possible delayed registration if the event occurred after 1800.
Step 4. Copy the Information
When you find an entry, copy all the information given. This includes the individual's name(s), parent(s) or spouse names, date of the event, place of the event, miscellaneous information, and the source reference number. The information in the "miscellaneous" column is generally a frame number (for example, FR348). The frame number leads you to the page where the original entry appears on the microfilm. The frame number is given in the index when the entry in the parish register was recorded out of chronological order. The frame number appears on the microfilm above each page of the parish register.
When an entry has been marked with a ß (beta) it indicates that the entry has been evaluated. This means that the information in the index does not match exactly the information that appeared in the original register. An example of an evaluated entry is a name change. A name change may occur when the original register listed an occupation instead of a name, such as Andrew, son of "James Thrift Bedell." The information in the entry was evaluated and a name was assigned. In this case, when the entry was evaluated, it was determined that "Bedell" was a church officer's occupation. The family name was Thrift. The Old Parochial Registers Index then shows Andrew Thrift, son of James Thrift and Catharin Bruce.
Step 5. Note the FR number, if given
Enlarge the image above and you will see a column headed 'Miscellaneous' which occasionally has a notation like 'FR
Step 6. Find The Original Source
The information from the original parochial register may help you:
- Verify and understand the information in the Old Parochial Registers Index.
- Find more information such as the husband's occupation, or the family's residence.
- However, records vary in their content, so not all registers contain additional information.
The OPR Index on Computers and the Internet
A computerized version of the index is available at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. Much of the same data is included in the 'Historical Records Collection' on the free website www.familysearch.org. The specific collection titles are:
An index to the records is also available on www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk. This is a fee-based website.
How To Find The Source
To find the original entry, you must first obtain the source microfilm number. Following are two methods for finding the film number:
Method 1: Using Source Batch Numbers
The Old Parochial Registers Index provides a source batch number for each entry which can be used to locate the microfilm of the original register. These batch numbers are used like batch numbers from the International Genealogical Index (IGI) For instructions on how to use source batch numbers to obtain the source microfilm number, refer to the separate resource guide, Finding An IGI Source (31034).
Method 2: Using the Family History Library Catalog
You may wish to use the Family History Library Catalog to find the source microfilm number. The Family History Library Catalog is online at www.FamilySearch.org.
- Town or parish: [PARISH NAME FROM THE INDEX]
- Topic: CHURCH RECORDS
- County/Province: [COUNTY NAME FROM THE INDEX]
- Country/State: SCOTLAND
For example, to find the name highlighted in Figure 2, Mary Thrid, christened in 1747 in Auchterhouse, Angus, type Auchterhouse in the town or parish field and Angus in the county/province field.
Find the record for the Church of Scotland parish registers and choose the film that covers the time period of your entry. The catalog lists two sets of film numbers for the original registers. The first set of films has the frame numbers mentioned in Step 4. The second set of films listed as "Another filming" does not contain the frame numbers.
Searching the Source Microfilm
Usually you can find the event recorded in chronological order on the microfilm. If the index lists a frame number, however, the event is listed out of chronological order. Find the event by looking for the frame number. The frame number is found above each page on the film. Births are usually separate from marriages. Record the information you find.
Holdings in Scotland
A copy of the Old Parochial Registers Index and the originals of the church registers are housed at the following address:
- General Registrar's Office
H.M. General Register House
Edinburgh EH1 3YY
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