Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland Genealogy

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Parish #685-1

This is a guide to the history and major genealogical records of Scotland as they pertain to the parish of Edinburgh. To learn more about how to use these records to search for your ancestors, go to the Scotland: Research Strategies.


EDINBURGH, a city, the seat of a university, and the metropolis of the kingdom of Scotland, situated in longitude 3° 10' 30" (W.), and latitude 55° 57' 29" (N.), about a mile (S. by W.) from Leith, 40 miles (S.S.W.) from Dundee, 42 (E. by N.) from Glasgow, 44 (S. by E.) from Perth, 55 (W. by N.) from Berwick-upon-Tweed, 92½ (N. by W.) from Carlisle, 109 (S. W. by S.) from Aberdeen, 156 (S. by E.) from Inverness, 270 (N. E.) from Dublin, and 392 (N. N. W.) from London; including the suburban parishes of St. Cuthbert and Canongate. The see of Edinburgh, originally founded by Charles I. in 1633, and to which the ancient collegiate church of St. Giles was appropriated as the cathedral, continued till the Revolution, when the city contained only six parishes; it is now the seat of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and of the presbytery of Edinburgh, and comprises seventeen civil parishes, besides which there were until recently twelve quoad sacra or ecclesiastical parishes. The parish of the High Church is wholly within the city, under the pastoral care of two ministers. The church is a portion of the cathedral of St. Giles. There are also places of worship in the city for members of the Free Church, United Secession, and Relief, for Reformed Presbyterians, Original Seceders, the Society of Friends, Baptists, Wesleyans, Independents, Jews, and Unitarians; an Episcopalian chapel, dedicated to St. Peter, and two Roman Catholic chapels.[1]

The New Statistical Account of Scotland (pub. 1834-45) offers uniquely rich and detailed parish reports for the whole of Scotland, covering a vast range of topics including history, agriculture, education, trades, religion and social customs. The reports, written by the parish ministers, are available online at http://edina.ac.uk/stat-acc-scot/. Click on ‘Browse scanned pages’ then search the parish reports for your parish of interest. Also available at the Family History Library.

History of the Cannongate section of the city is available on Royal-Mile.com.

Scotlands People: An Important Online Source

ScotlandsPeople is one of the largest online sources of original genealogical information. If you are researching UK genealogy, your Scottish ancestry or building your Scottish family tree, they have more than 100 million records to look through.

The comprehensive choice of Scottish records includes:

  • Statutory Registers
  • Old Parish Registers
  • Catholic Parish Registers
  • CPR Others
  • Census
  • Valuation Rolls
  • Soldiers’ Wills
  • Wills & Testaments
  • Coats of Arms

For more detail on exact record availability, see Availability. For examples of the records available, see Record Types and Examples. More information on the site, its contents, and instructions for using it can be found in the ScotlandsPeople Wiki article. Indexes may be searched for free, and there is a small pay per view fee to see the actual digitized record.

Census Records

The library also has a collection of census surname indexes for different places within Midlothian Click here to see a table listing these other census surname indexes that are available at the library.

Church Records

The Established Church of Scotland was Presbyterian. Read more about church records.
Here are the pre-1855 records that exist for this parish.

Established Church—Old Parochial Registers

Click here[low quality link] to go to the FamilySearch Catalog entry for the Established Church records for the Edinburgh parishes, covering the years 1595-1854.

Condition of Original Registers—

Index: For an index to these records, see Scotland’s People website, a pay-for-view website. The Scottish Church Records Index is also still available at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.  Some records may be indexed in the International Genealogical Index.  

Births: From December 1731–January 1759, the record has not been extended, but a draft or scroll record exists, in twelve volumes (18–29, inclusive), embracing the period January 1729–December 1758. Otherwise the register has been very carefully kept throughout. Except in entries of illegitimate births, mothers’ names are not recorded until January 1608. There are indexes to the record from 1759.
Marriages: There are no entries July 1694–January 1696. Prior to the former date, most of the entries contain merely the names of the parties and the trade or profession of the bridegroom. After January 1696, the name and designation of the bride’s father are usually recorded. March 1729–January 1759, the record is only in draft or scroll, in two volumes (47, 48). There is a copy of the portion January 1820–March 1821 and there are indexes to the record from January 1759.
Deaths: The records of the Greyfriars’ Burying Ground for 1658–1854 are in the custody of the recorder of the Ground. The records of Dean Cemetery for 1846–1854 are in the custody of the registrar of St. George’s District. [For the records of the Calton Burying Ground, 1719–1854, see the parish of South Leith in this binder.]
Source: Key to the Parochial Registers of Scotland, by V. Ben Bloxham, pub. 1970. British Book 941 K23b.

Established Church—Kirk Session Records

The Kirk session was the court of the parish. The session was made up of the minister and the land owners and business men of the parish, chosen to serve on the session. The Kirk session dealt with moral issues, minor criminal cases, matters of the poor and education, matters of discipline, and the general concerns of the parish. Kirk session records may also mention births, marriages, and deaths.

Here is a list of the surviving Kirk session records for this parish:

Click here to see a list of the kirk session records for the various Edinburgh parishes.

Nonconformist Church Records

A nonconformist church is any church that is not the Established church. Read more about nonconformity in Scotland in the article on the Scotland Church Records Union List.

Click here to see a list of the pre-1855 nonconformist churches and their records for the various parishes

Cemetery Records

  • Ellery, Craig.  Dean (Edgehill) Cemetery & Dean Parish Church, Edinburgh: monumental inscriptions.  Edinburgh: Scottish Genealogy Society, 2011.  Indexed.  (FHL book 941.445/E1 V3e)

Headstone photos and index for one cemetery provided by BillionGraves

of Edinburgh.

Civil Registration Records

Government or civil registration of births, marriages, and deaths (also called statutory records) began on January 1, 1855 in Scotland. Each parish has a registrar's office and large cities have several. The records are created by the registrars and copies are sent to the General Register Office in Edinburgh. Annual indexes are then created for the records for the whole country.
See the article on Scotland Civil Registration for more information and to access the records.


Courtesy of the National Library of Scotland, Post Office Directories are avilable online. The directories available for Portobello are:

1889-1895: These are available in either PDF format or viewable online.


1773-1912: These are available in either PDF format or viewable online. (Some years are missing)

Poorhouse Records

There are six poorhouses in Midlothian:

Probate Records

Edinburgh was under the probate jurisdiction of the Commissary Court of Edinburgh until 1823, and since then has been under the Sheriff's Court of Edinburgh. Probate records for 1513- 1901 are indexed online at www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk. You must register on the website but use of the index to probate records, called 'Wills & Testaments,' is free. You may then purchase a copy of the document or, if the document is before 1823, it will be on microfilm at the Family History Library. To find the microfilm numbers, search in the library catalog for the 'Place-names' of Midlothian and the subject of 'Probate records.' Then click on the link to the records of the Commissariat of Edinburgh.

The library also has some post-1823 probate records for Midlothian. Look in the library catalog for the 'Place-names' of Midlothian and the subjects of 'Probate Records' and 'Probate Records - Indexes.'

Read more about Scotland Probate Records.


1885 Scottish Burgh Maps: Edinburgh Eastern Section | Edinburgh Western Section: Courtesy of London Ancestor

Ordnance Survey Maps of Edinburgh for 1893-1894 available at National LIbrary of Scotland.


  • 1759-1760 - The Edinburgh Chronicle at Google News - free.
  • 1772-1829 - The Edinburgh Advertiser at Google News - free.
  • 1801-1808 - Edinburgh Weekly Journal at Google News - free.
  • 1867-1869 - The Edinburgh Evening Courant at Google News - free.


  1. Lewis, Samuel A., A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland (1846), pp. 361-392. Adapted. Date accessed: 11 April 2014.

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