A Few Tips to Help You Find Your Scottish Roots
One fact to begin with, and to keep in mind, is that civil registration didn't begin in Scotland until 1855. Before that year births, christenings, marriages, and deaths were recorded mainly in the parish records of churches, when they were recorded. Another Scottish quirk is that there were “regular” marriages and “irregular” marriages. (We'll let that statement lie in mystery here, for reasons of space.)
Among a massive amount of material containing many useful treasures, here are only two books and a few websites that might help you begin your search:
My ain folk by Graham S. Holton and Jack Winch, published by Tuckwell Press, East Linton (1997, 150 pp.). This is subtitled “an easy guide to Scottish family history”. Your Scottish Ancestry : A Guide for North Americans by Sherry Irvine, published by Ancestry.com in 1996 (267 pp.)
Scotland's People is the official online government source of genealogical data for Scotland . It is the source of parish register, civil registration, census, and wills and testaments records. The web address is: http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk .
The UK and Ireland Genealogical Information Service (GENUKI ) is: www. http://www.genuki.org.uk
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints' genealogical site is: www.familysearch.org
Try their “International Genealogical Index” for records of births, christenings, marriages. Keep in mind that records received by the LDS Library from individual family researchers are not verified and may contain errors. The IGI is, however, a helpful shortcut to finding the leads you need.
You can obtain a free starting pack for research from the website or by calling 1-800-537-5971, option 4. It's called “How Do I Start My Family History”.
There are commercial services at www.genealogy.com and www.ancestry.com . The latter also supports a free service, www.rootsweb.com . If you are truly Scottish, you'll forage for all the free information available before beginning to pay for subscriptions. On all of these there are free message boards for surnames. It's really fun to start there—plug in a name you're interested in and find out what others are asking and finding.
SCOTTISH SEARCH STRATEGIES [extracted from an LDS Family History Library publication]
-Step 1. Identify What You Know about Your Family
Begin your research with family and home sources. Look for names, dates, and places in certificates, family Bibles, letters, obituaries, diaries, and similar sources. Ask your relatives for any more information they may have. It is very likely that your second cousin, great-aunt, or other relative already has some family information. Organize the information you find and record it.
-Step 2. Decide What You Want to Learn
Select a specific relative or ancestor born in Scotland for whom you know at least a name, the town or parish where he or she lived in Scotland , and an approximate date when he or she lived there. It is very helpful to also know his or her religion and the names of other family members born in Scotland .
If you do not have enough information on your Scottish ancestor, review the sources mentioned in Step 1.
Next, decide what you want to learn about your ancestor, such as where and when he or she was married or the parents' names. An experienced researcher or librarian can help you choose an objective that you can successfully achieve.
Step 3. Select a Record to Search
First obtain some background information. Then survey previous research. Finally, search original documents.
Background Information Sources . You may need some geographical and historical information. You can save time and effort by understanding the events and places that affected your ancestors' lives.
- Locate the town or place of residence. Examine maps, indexes to place-names, gazetteers, and other place-name finding aids to learn as much as you can about each of the places where your ancestor lived. Identify the major migration routes, nearby cities, county boundaries, other geographical features, and government or ecclesiastical jurisdictions.
-Review local history. Scotland 's history has greatly affected the development of records of genealogical value. If possible, study a history of the areas where your ancestors lived. Look for clues about the people, places, religions, and events that may have affected their lives and the records about them.
- Learn about Scottish [places]. You will need to know about how Scotland is divided into counties and parishes.
- Use language helps. The records and histories of places will usually be written in English, Latin, or the Scottish variation of English. Some helpful sources are described in the “Language and Languages” section of this outline.
- Understand naming patterns. Some families in Scotland followed distinct patterns when naming their children. Understanding these customs may help you find missing ancestors.
Previous Research Sources. Most genealogists do a survey of research previously done by others. This can save time and give you valuable information.
Original Records. After surveying previous research, you will be ready to begin research in original records, many of which you can find on microfilm. These documents can provide primary information about your family because they were generally recorded at or near the time of an event by a reliable witness. To do thorough research, you should search records of:
- Each place where your ancestor lived.
- Each parish of your ancestor's religion in each place of residence.
- The time period when he or she lived there.
- All jurisdictions that may have kept records about him (town, parish, county and country.)
Step 4. Find and Search the Record You are welcome to visit and use the records at the Family History Library. The library is open to the public. There are no fees for using the records. If you would like more information about its services, contact the library at the following address:
Family History Library 35 North West Temple Street , Salt Lake City , UT 84150-3400
Telephone: 801-240-2331 Fax: 801-240-1584
Copies of most of the records on microform at the Family History Library can be lent to Family History Centers worldwide. There are small duplication and postage fees for this service.
Most of the original documents you will need are at government, church, and local archives or in local parish offices. While the Family History Library has many records on microfilm, other records are available only at these archives. You can request searches in their records through correspondence.
You can employ a private researcher to search the records for you. Some researchers specialize in Scottish records. Lists of qualified professional researchers are available from the Family History Library. Some archives and record repositories also have lists of researchers who make searches in their offices.
Suggestions for Searching the Records. You will be most successful with Scottish research if you can examine the original records (on microfilm). In some cases, handwritten transcripts of the original records are available. These may be easier to read, but may be less accurate than the original records.
- Search for one generation at a time. Do not try to connect your family to others who have the same surname who lived more than a generation before your proven ancestor. It is much easier to prove parentage than descent.
- Search a broad time period. Dates obtained from some sources may not be accurate. Look several years before and after the date you think an event, such as a birth, occurred.
- Look for indexes. Some records have indexes. However, many indexes are incomplete.
- Watch for spelling variations. Look for the many ways a name could have been spelled. Spelling was not standardized when most early records were made. You may find a name spelled differently than it is today.
Record Your Searches and Findings. Copy the information you find and keep detailed notes about each record you search. These notes should include the author, title, location, call numbers, description, and results of your search. Most researchers use a research log for this purpose.
Gu Math Theid Leibh !
( wishing you “good luck” in Gaelic and crossing my fingers that it indeed means that!)