Births, deaths and marriages

Family history

There are several useful resources in Scotland and online which give access to records of births, deaths, and marriages.


FamilySearch is a free searchable database available on the web. It includes the International Genealogical Index (IGI), and offers access to many millions of international records of births, marriages and baptisms. It may also give you names of a person's siblings, parents and spouse.

Much of the information relating to Scottish people was originally taken from the old parish registers. To use this resource, you will need a surname and forename.

FamilySearch was started and is maintained by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Records of births, deaths and marriages

If you are coming to Edinburgh to see Scottish birth, death and marriage records then you should visit the General Register Office for Scotland , which is the official source for these documents. For those unable to visit in person, some of the records, covering the 16th to early 20th centuries, are available (for a fee) on the Scotlandspeople website. National Library of Scotland registered readers can buy discounted vouchers for the Scotlandspeople website at our Enquiry Desk.

Sources before and after 1855

The recording of births, deaths and marriages — known as statutory registration — began in Scotland in 1855. Before 1855 the records for members of the Church of Scotland were known as the 'old parish registers'. We have indexes you can consult in the National Library of Scotland, while you can see the registers at the General Register Office for Scotland.

For pre-1855 records relating to members of other churches, the National Archives of Scotland or individual church headquarters may be of some help.

Old parish registers index

The old parish (church) registers only cover members of the Church of Scotland. They were lists made by the ministers of a church congregation and the details of baptisms, marriages, deaths and burials that took place within it. Broadly defined, a parish was the moral, educational and religious centre of Scottish daily life, and was usually focused around the church.

We hold a microfiche index to the old parish registers for Scotland. These registers, which are held by the General Register Office for Scotland (GROS), were produced up until 1854 and provide details of:

  • Dates of births, baptisms and marriages
  • Proclamations of marriages, deaths and burials.

The indexes we hold at the National Library cover births, baptisms and marriages only.

Other organisations

The General Register Office for Scotland website provides a list of parishes and registration districts that are available. The old parish registers are not complete for all dates for the whole of Scotland. Different parishes tended to collect different levels of detail in their records.

Local public libraries in Scotland may also have microfilm copies of the old parish registers covering the area you are interested in.

Scottish Parish Records

Scottish Parish Records is is a resource on CD-ROM which is available for use within the National Library of Scotland. Despite its title, it includes records taken from a variety of sources, such as parish records, covering:

  • Scotland (General)
  • Scotland North
  • Scotland South
  • West Lothian, Midlothian.

Many of the records are taken from published works by the historical clubs and societies held in the Library. The resource is useful for searching across many publications at one time. It may be worthwhile searching each section for records of your ancestors due to a crossover of locations.

Types of records contained in Scottish Parish Records:

  • Parish registers: e.g. 'Register of baptisms, Roman Catholic congregation, St Andrew's Parish, Braemar, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, 1703-1757'. [Transcribed by] Archibald Strath Maxwell.
  • Family papers: e.g. 'The Binns papers, 1320-1864'. (Concerning chiefly the Dalyell family). Edited by Sir James Dalyell of Binns ... and James Beveridge.
  • Testaments: e.g. 'The commissariot record of Hamilton and Campsie. Register of testaments, 1564-1800'. Edited by Francis J Grant, etc.
  • Protocol books (i.e. records of dealings with dependents, etc.): e.g. 'Protocol book of Sir Robert Rollok, 1534-1552'. Edited by William Angus.
  • Records of monumental (gravestone) inscriptions: 'Monumental inscriptions, Templars Park Priory, Maryculter, Kincardineshire, Scotland, 1716-1946'. Compiled by A Strath Maxwell.
  • Records of Writs (such as wills, as ordered by a court or the law): e.g. 'Calendar of writs of Munro of Foulis, 1299-1823'. Edited by C T McInnes.

The McKirdy Index

The McKirdy Index is a microfiche resource available in the Library which alphabetically lists records from the Statutory Death Registers of Scotland. We hold the indexes for the following locations:

  • Bute 1855-1875
  • Lanark 1855-1856
  • Sutherland 1855-1875
  • Kinross 1855-1875
  • Clackmannan 1855-1875.

Browse by name

The index is ordered by surname and then forename alphabetically by these areas. It lists:

  • Name
  • Age
  • Occupation
  • Spouse — which may be parents, sibling or marital partner
  • Parish
  • Year of death.

Ancestor's occupation

The McKirdy index has limited information and has relatively few entries compared to a resource such as FamilySearch. However, it may be useful for more specific information, such as the occupation of an ancestor.


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