Scotland - Death - 1559-1840
The following sources are listed in the order most likely to help you find a record of death in this time period.
Search family sources to determine an approximate place and date of death.
Were you successful?
If yes, do you have a known place of residence and a date of death? If yes, proceed to Church of Scotland records below.
If no, there are two possibilities: either you have only an estimated place and date, or you have no date and place at all. If the former, go ahead and proceed to Church of Scotland records below. If the latter, proceed to Testaments below.
Church of Scotland: Church records
Church records are the christenings or baptisms, marriages, and burials recorded in registers by church officials at the time of an event. Death or burial records usually give only the name of the deceased and the date of burial. Sometimes the date of death and the deceased's age, residence, and parent or spouse's name may be given. A widow's burial record may give her maiden name. Church of Scotland parish registers are often missing burial records. Sometimes mortcloth dues (a fee paid for use of a funeral cloth) were recorded instead of burials.
Accessing the records
For more information about Church of Scotland records and how to access them, click here.
Monumental Inscriptions: Cemeteries
Many parishes do not have surviving burials records. Many did not record burials in the first place. Monumental or gravestone inscriptions may be a substitute.
Transcriptions of monumental inscriptions are available for many parishes. The Family History Library has many transcriptions in booklet or microform. Look in the Family History Library Catalog for your place of interest and the topic of Cemeteries. The place could be a parish or a county. If the place is something else, such as a town or village, you should search for the place in a gazetteer to determine the parish and county it is a part of. For more information, go to the article on Scotland Gazetteers.
If the Family History Library does not have transcriptions of monumental inscriptions for your place of interest, you may wish to contact the family history society for the area in Scotland where the place is located. The society may have made a transcription of the monumental inscriptions for your parish or they may have someone who would be willing to visit the cemetery for you if you are not able. For more information, go to the articles on Scotland Cemeteries and Scotland Societies.
Beginning in the early 19th century, larger towns established non-denominational or municipal cemeteries in which anyone could be buried. Some transcriptions of monumetal inscriptions have been made for these cemeteries also. If they are available at the Family History Library, they will be listed in the catalog in the same manner as above. Some may be available only at archives in Scotland. For a list of archives with their contact information, look in the directory of the Scottish Archives Network.
Nonconformists: Church records
Anyone who did not adhere to the teachings of the Established Church of Scotland was considered a nonconformist or a dissenter. Nonconformists could also include people who belonged to religious organizations that broke from the Established church. Nonconformist groups kept separate records. In these records you may find baptisms, marriages, minutes of meetings, communion rolls, records of the poor, and other records of value.
Nonconformists were usually buried in the parish churchyards, and therefore could be listed in existing parish burial registers, but beginning in the mid- to late-18th century, many nonconformist churches started their own burial grounds. They may have kept their own burial registers.
Accessing the records
For more information on nonconformist church records and how to access them, see the article on Scotland Church Records.
Kirk Session: Church records
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.
Accessing the records
Most Kirk Session records are only available at the National Archives of Scotland in Edinburgh.
Testaments: Probate records
Testaments are records of the settlement of a person's estate when they die. Testments are like wills except they could not be used for transfering land, only for transfering personal property, such as household furniture, from the deceased to their heirs.
For more information, go to the article on Scotland Probate Records.