Scotland Established (Presbyterian) Church Records

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The Scottish government did not begin general registration of births, marriages, and deaths until 1855. Prior to that date, church records are the prime source for family information. If you have Scottish ancestry, you must become familiar with, and learn to use, Scottish church records.

A local church unit is called a parish. There are three main types of parish records:

Parish Registers

Parish registers, also known as “Old Parochial Records,” contain records of:

  • Births or baptisms
  • Marriages or proclamations
  • Deaths or burials.


Births/baptisms may include:

  • Name and surname of the child
  • Birth and/or baptism date and place
  • Parents’ names, including the maiden name of the mother

Births/baptisms may include:

  • Child’s placement within the family and indication of legitimacy
  • Father’s occupation and residence
  • Names of witnesses


Marriages generally include:

  • Names of the bride and groom
  • Date and place of marriage/proclamation

Marriages may include:

  • Proclamation of intent to marry
  • Residences and groom’s occupation
  • Marital status
  • Names of fathers
  • Names of witnesses


Deaths/burials generally include:

  • Name
  • Date and place of death or burial

Deaths/burials may include:

  • Occupation
  • Age at death
  • Names of relatives
  • Residence
  • Mortcloth dues (fee paid for the use of the funeral cloth or pall draped over the casket'

Blotter Registers

Blotter registers are draft copies of parish registers.

Kirk Session Records

Kirk session records are the business records of the parish and include records:

  • Poor
  • Matters of discipline
  • Other things the parish officers dealt with

If your ancestors are not in the records 

If you do not find your ancestors in the Established Church of Scotland registers, this may indicate that:

  • Your ancestors were members of the Established Church but their events were not registered.
  • They were registered but the records have been lost over time.
  • They were nonconformists (members of other religions).

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