Scotland Statutory Registers - Vital Records
Scotland Statutory Registers [also known as civil registration]
The government records of births, marriages, and deaths in Scotland is known as "Statutory Registers". These records are an excellent source of names, dates, and places of births, marriages, and deaths. Since they are indexed and cover most of the population, these records are important resources for genealogical research.
- 1 Historical Background
- 2 Civil Registration Records and Indexes
- 3 Civil Registration Districts and Their Numbers
- 4 Using the Indexes to Civil Registration Records
Before 1855 only churches recorded birth, marriage, and death information. Civil birth, marriage, and death registrations for Scotland began on 1 January 1855.
After that time, individuals had to report all births, marriages, and deaths to the registrar. A penalty was imposed for failure to register.
Local registrars were appointed in virtually every parish in Scotland. The local registrar kept two registers of all of the births, marriages, and deaths registered in his district. The District Examiner annually examined the registers and sent one copy of the register to Edinburgh. The other copy remained with the local registrar.
The Registrar General at http://www.gro-scotland.gov.uk/ creates nationwide indexes after receiving the records from the local registrars. Indexes will help you find your ancestors’ civil registration records. The indexes are arranged by year and give name, place of registration, and record entry number.
Information Recorded in Civil Registers
A birth record shows:
- Name of the child
- Date and place of birth
- Names of the father and mother (including the mothers maiden name)
- Occupation of the father
- Name of the informant, signature, residence, and qualification (often relationship).
After 1860 the parents’ marriage date and place is also given. If the child was illegitimate, the record does not give the father’s name unless the father gave his permission and acknowledged the child. In that case, the child is registered under the father’s surname and the word “illegitimate” appears after the child’s name.
A marriage record shows:
- Names, ages, and occupations of the bride and the groom
- Marital Status
- Residences of the Bride and Groom
- Place of marriage
- Date of Marriage
- Name and occupation of the bride’s father and of the groom’s father
- The names and occupations of their fathers and whether they were deceased.
- The names and maiden surnames of their mothers and whether they were deceased.
- Whether the marriage was announced by banns or public notice
- Date and place of registration
A death record shows:
- Name of the deceased
- Marital Status of the deceased
- When and where the person died
- Date and cause of death
- Names of parents
- Name and occupation of the father
- Name and maiden surname of the mother
- The informant’s signature, residence, and qualification
- The date and place the death was registered
Births, Marriages, and Deaths in 1855
Certificates of births, marriages, and deaths for 1855 contain information that other years do not contain:
Additional information on an 1855 birth certificate:
- Parents’ birthplace and age
- Parents’ marriage date and place
- Number of children previously born to the mother and whether alive or dead
Additional information on an 1855 marriage certificate:
- Birthplaces of the bride and groom
- Names and ages of both parents
- Name of the person who officiated
- Birth dates of the bride and groom
Additional information on an 1855 death certificate:
- Age at the time of death
- Names of the deceased’s parents
- Place of Buiral
- Birthplace of the deceased person
- Names and ages of his or her children
For more information on civil registration records and laws, see:
Bisset-Smith, G.T. Vital Registration: A Manual of the Law and Practice. Edinburgh, Scotland: William Green & Sons, 1902. (Family History Library book 941 V2b.)
You can find other guides to civil registration records in the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog under:
SCOTLAND - CIVIL REGISTRATION.
Divorces were handled by the courts. For information, see Scotland Court Records.
Civil Registration Records and Indexes
Civil registration records and indexes are available in at least three ways, as follows.
Records and Indexes at the Family History Library and online at FamilySearch.org
The Family History Library has microfilm copies of civil birth, marriage, and death records for the years 1855 through 1875, 1881, and 1891, as well as indexes for 1855-1956. To find the records and indexes, look in the Family History Library Catalog.
Follow these steps to find the indexes and records in the catalog:
- Do a 'Place-names' search for 'Scotland.'
- From the list of topics, click on 'Scotland - Civil Registration.'
- Click on the title of Registers of births, marriages, and deaths, 1855-1875, 1881, 1891; and general index, 1855-1956 and view the film notes. The collection of 4469 microfilms is arranged first by record type then by date, with the indexes listed first.
- Start by searching the indexes for the event and date you desire. The index gives name, place, and record entry number.
- The government has assigned every parish a number. The main page of the catalog entry gives the number for each parish, arranged in alphabetical order. Find the number for your parish of interest.
- From the film notes list, look for your event and county of interest and match up the parish number to find the correct film.
- You may obtain the film by visiting the Family History Library in Salt Lake City or by ordering the film through a family history center near you.
- On the film, turn to the correct parish (arranged in alphabetical and parish number order) and turn to the record entry number. There may be a short index at the first of the parish. If you look for your ancestor in the index, you will see the record entry number again.
You can also find the microfilm numbers by looking in the following source:
- Register of Births, Marriages, and Deaths of Scotland. Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Family History Library, 1987. (Family History Library book Reg 941 V2; fiche 6035516.) This source is arranged first by event, then by county, then by date. At the beginning of each county is a list of the parishes giving their number.
NOTE: Birth and marriage records from 1855 to 1875 have been extracted and appear in the databases Scotland Births and Baptisms, 1564-1950 and Scotland Marriages 1561-1910, which are available through FamilySearch.org in the Historical Records database. Death records have not been extracted and are not indexed on FamilySearch.org.
The information given in the birth and marriage records for 1855-1875 has been extracted and included in a searchable database on www.familysearch.org under 'Historical Records.'
Records and Indexes Available Online at ScotlandsPeople
The civil registration records and indexes are available online at http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk. This is a fee-based website, but the miminum fee of 6 GBP (approx. $10.00; about AU$12.00) gives you access to the database for 90 days, and you have 30 page credits with which you may make searches, see the results, and view documents. (One credit per page of search results viewed and five credits per document viewed.) You may then print a copy of the document at no further cost. It is every much worth the cost. If you are not able to go to the Family History Library to use the microfilms, this is probably a better option for you.
See the article on ScotlandsPeople for a description of the site.
Records Available in Scotland
In Scotland, civil registration records are kept at the local registrar’s office.
Duplicates are kept at the New Register House in Edinburgh. These are open to the public, but you can only have access to the specific records you request.
You can order an official copy of a certificate from the General Register Office in Edinburgh. See their web site at: http://www.gro-scotland.gov.uk/ for more information. If you request a certificate by mail, bear in mind that it may take several weeks to obtain a reply. When you write, send:
- A check or money order in pounds sterling for the current certificate fee or credit card information.
- The full name and sex of the person sought.
- The names of the parents, if known.
- The approximate date and place of the event.
- Index reference, if available.
Civil Registration Districts and Their Numbers
Every parish in Scotland (beginning with the parishes in Shetland in the north and working south through Wigtonshire) has had a number assigned to it to assist with the organizing of records. When civil registration began in 1855, the civil parishes also became civil registration districts, and they had the same identification numbers. The numbers are used to identify parishes in civil, church, and census records. However, in large populated areas, it was necessary for the districts to be sub-divided, and the identification numbers were also sub-divided. For instance, the civil parish and district of Glasgow, Lanarkshire has the number of 644. When the districts were created in 1855, an area of Glasgow called High Church was created as a separate district and given the number of 644/2, indicating that it is part of the greater Glasgow area.
Continue to watch this page for the list of districts and their numbers, which will be added shortly.
Using the Indexes to Civil Registration Records
When searching the indexes, you should be aware that:
- Marriage indexes for females (1855-64) are arranged alphabetically by maiden surname.
- The husband’s surname appears in parentheses.
- Death indexes for females (1855-64) are arranged in alphabetical order under her married surname with her maiden surname in parentheses.
- After 1864, death indexes list women under both their maiden surnames and their married surnames.
- On film, a “Mc” or “Mac” surname may be found in the indexes at the end of the M section. Online, try spelling variations.
- There is an additional index at the end of each filmed yearly index called the "Vide Addenda." This index lists names missed in the regular index. A cross-reference to the Vide Addenda will usually be found in the regular index.
- Some births, marriages, and deaths were registered late. These “neglected entries” cover the period from about 1820 to 1860 and were registered between 1860 and 1868. They are on one roll of microfilm (Family History Libraryfilm 103538).
If you cannot find an index entry, consider the following strategies:
- Surnames are often found under unexpected spellings. Look for variations.
- Events are filed by the date registered, not the date occurred. For example, a birth on 20 December may have been registered in January of the following year.
- Indexes were hand-prepared and may contain spelling and copying errors and omissions.
- A person may have been registered under a different name than was used later in life.
- A woman’s surname in the marriage index may be her surname by a previous marriage.
- Family information (particularly age at death) is often misleading.
- Persons with common names may be difficult to identify in the index.
- An illegitimate child may be registered under the mother’s maiden name.
- Some children were registered as “male” or “female” when a name had not been selected at the time of registration.
- Not every person was registered.