Starting your family history research

You should start your family history research by working backwards from what you already know.

Record your own details — date and place of birth, marriage, spouse and children — and then those of your parents, siblings and grandparents.

You can confirm this information by checking the post-1855 birth, death and marriage records at the General Register Office for Scotland or on the Scotland's People website. These records will also provide details such as maiden names, occupations and addresses.

Family memorabilia

Your family may have a collection of memorabilia that can provide further information. This could include items such as:

  • Birth, death and marriage certificates
  • Diaries
  • Newspaper cuttings
  • Letters
  • Photographs
  • Military and educational records.

Living relatives can also be a source of family history. However, you should always try and confirm any stories that you are told.

Books and societies

You can find books on tracing your family history in most large bookstores and public libraries. These can provide you with details of sources that you may not have thought about.

You might also find it useful to join your local family history society. A list of Scottish societies can be found at the Scottish Association of Family History Societies.

Follow every clue

How successful your research is can depend upon a number of factors. Records may not have survived or may be incorrect. Literacy levels, social status and the mobility of your family may make tracing individuals more difficult.

Remember to write down any information that you find and where you found it. Be methodical and follow every clue. This will enable you to create a fuller picture of your family and its place in history.


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