Tombstone inscriptions are an important source in family history research. They may include birth, marriage, and death information. They 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. Since relatives may be buried in adjoining plots, search the entire record.
To find tombstone inscriptions, you need to know where an individual was buried. The person may have been buried in a church, city, or public cemetery—usually near the place where he or she lived or died. You can find clues to burial places in church records, death certificates, or family histories.
Tombstone inscriptions might not always be correct, but they often gives clues to other records to search.
Many Scottish tombstone 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 Catalogunder:
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 of the area might also have tombstone transcripts. Since burial records in Scotland are scarce, tombstone inscriptions are important. Even when burial records exist, tombstone inscriptions might provide information that the burial record does not.
Most cemeteries before 1850 were connected to the Church of Scotland. Even people who were not members were buried in church cemeteries of the parish in which they lived.
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.