Surnames, histories and biographies

If you are interested in finding out whether your surname is of Scottish origin you should consult sources such as:

  • 'The surnames of Scotland: their origin, meaning, and history', by George F Black. (New York: New York Public Library, 1979.)
  • 'The Oxford names companion', by Patrick Hanks, Flavia Hodges, A D Mill, and Adrian Room. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.)


Family histories at the National Library

We have a large selection of published family histories in our collections. You can identify relevant titles by checking the following publications:

  • 'Scottish family histories', by Joan P S Ferguson. 2nd edition. (Edinburgh: National Library of Scotland, 1986.)
  • 'Scottish family history' by Margaret Stuart and Sir James Balfour Paul. (Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd, 1930.)


Biographical dictionary

If your ancestor was prominent in their profession or was notable for any other reason they may merit an entry in a biographical dictionary. One of the main sources is:

  • 'Oxford dictionary of national biography' edited by H C G Matthew and Brian Harrison. Revised edition. 61 volumes. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.)

If you have a general library card, you may be able to access the online version of this dictionary from your home or work computer. See eResources (formerly called licensed digital collections) or ask reading room staff for details.


Family history main page

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