Frequently asked questions about family history
These questions and answers might help you decide which resources to use when researching your family history.
- How do I start researching my family history?
- What kind of records do you hold in the National Library of Scotland ?
- Do you hold records of birth, death and marriage?
- Do you hold census records?
- How much can I research on your website?
- How much research can you do for me?
- Do I have to visit NLS in person?
- What do I need to know before I visit NLS?
- Do you charge any research fees?
- How can I trace living relatives?
1. How do I start researching my family history?
The best place to start is with your living relatives. You should find out as much as possible from them before you start searching any available archives. Our page on starting your research gives some suggestions.
2. What kind of records do you hold in the National Library of Scotland?
We hold a wide variety of material that might help you. See the page on births, deaths and marriages for further details.
3. Do you hold records of birth, death and marriage?
Although we do have some useful material in this area, NLS is not the main source for records of birth, death and marriage in Scotland. Our page on births, deaths and marriages has more information.
4. Do you hold census records?
Although we do hold a copy of the 1881 Census, NLS is not the main source for census records in Scotland. See the census records page for further details.
5. How much can I research on your website?
We have various online databases covering a wide variety of subjects. The Scottish Book Trade Index and Scots abroad databases may be useful for genealogy. You can also consult our main catalogue online. We are constantly adding to our online collections — see our Scottish emigration web feature, for example —so you should check our website regularly for any additions. External family history databases such as FamilySearch and Scotland's People may also be of interest to you.
6. How much research can you do for me?
We can carry out a limited amount of family history research for you. It helps if you can be as specific as possible about the details you need. If we are unable to help, we will advise you of the most suitable organisations to contact. You might find answers to your questions on the page about births, deaths and marriages.
7. Do I have to visit NLS in person?
You do not have to visit NLS in person for a general enquiry, but you may have to if you need to do extensive research.
8. What do I need to know before I visit NLS?
The 'Using the Library' section gives essential information for anyone visiting us, including opening hours, how to get a library card and how to find us. Also online we have access information for people with disabilities.
9. Do you charge any research fees?
We do not charge fees for research, but we will charge for any photocopies we provide. Please see copying services for a list of our prices.
10. How can I trace living relatives?
You can find advice about tracing living relatives on the British Library website.