Cemetery records include:
- Kirk Session records of who is buried where, including plot maps.
- Tombstone inscriptions, also called gravestone inscriptions or monumental inscriptions (M.I.).
Tombstone inscriptions are an important source in family history research. They may include birth and death information, and name of spouse. Women in Scotland are named by their birth surname, even if married. The stones sometimes give more information than the parish burial register or civil death certificate, such as military service, occupation, or cause of death. Tombstone inscriptions are especially helpful for identifying ancestors not found in other records, and often show several generations. Since relatives may be buried in adjoining plots, search the entire record. Gravestone inscriptions might not always be correct, but they often gives clues to other records to search.
Since burial records in Scotland are scarce, gravestone inscriptions are particularly important. Even when burial records exist, gravestone inscriptions might provide information that the burial record does not, such as deaths abroad.
Most cemeteries before 1850 were kirkyards of the Church of Scotland. Even people who were not members were buried in the parish kirkyard, as it was meant to be all-inclusive.
Finding Cemetery Records
To find gravestone inscriptions, you need to know where an individual was buried. The person may have been buried in a kirkyard or a civil (local authority) cemetery—usually near the place where he or she lived or died. A person who died in another part of the country may have been brought to his home parish for burial. You can find clues to burial places in church records, death certificates (1855-1860), newspaper reports, or family histories.
Family History Library
Many Scottish gravestone inscriptions have been recorded and published in printed form. The Family History Library has many of these publications. To find a book or microfilm call number, look in the Family History Library Catalog under:
- SCOTLAND - CEMETERIES
- SCOTLAND, [COUNTY] - CEMETERIES
- SCOTLAND, [COUNTY], [PARISH] - CEMETERIES
If you find a microfilm you would like to view, it can be ordered at a family history center near you for a nominal fee.
Local libraries and societies in Scotland might also have gravestone transcripts for cemeteries in their areas (known as M.I. books, primarily covering local kirkyards). M.I. books are mostly published by family history societies.To find libraries and societies, go to the Wiki articles on Scotland Archives and Libraries and Scotland Societies.
Sometimes a family in Scotland purchased a lair (burial plot). Some of the registers that record these purchases still exist. They may provide valuable information such as the owner’s name and address, date of purchase, names and dates of the deceased, and the relationship to the owner. You may find these registers at the local church; the local registrar of births, marriages, and deaths; a local history library; or the council archives.
Some Online Sites of Interest