Scotland School Records

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Online Databases[edit | edit source]

Introduction[edit | edit source]

If your ancestor went to one of Scotland’s colleges, universities, or schools, he or she may be in the institution’s enrollment records. Some of these records have been published, notably for the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries. These records may contain valuable information about your ancestor, such as name, birthplace, residence, father’s name, and other biographical details.

Education record types include:

  • schools' admission/enrollment registers
  • headmasters' log books
  • school inspection reports
  • certificate examination registers

History[edit | edit source]

Education has always been important in Scotland. The first education act was passed in 1496, when the King James IV ordered that the eldest sons of barons and free-holders study Latin, arts, and law. In the early 1700s, another education act ordered that a school be established in every parish and would be provided by the local landowners. By the end of the 1700s, most parishes in Scotland had at least one school. Some private schools were set up in the 1700s and 1800s. While some schools provided education for the children of gentlefolk, others only offered basic education. The Education Act of 1872 set up an education system for the whole of Scotland, but its administration was left to the Scottish Education Department (SED) in London. The Education Department remained in London until the 1920s.[1] For more information, see the Education Records research guide on the National Records of Scotland website. In 1872, an education act was passed which made schooling compulsory for children between the ages of 5 and 13. The age was raised to 15 in the mid-1900s.[2]

Universities[edit | edit source]

History[edit | edit source]

Wikipedia has more about this subject: List of universities in Scotland

Scotland's universities developed in three distinct stages: the ancient universities (St Andrews, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Edinburgh) were founded in the 15th and 16th centuries; the plate glass universities (Dundee, Strathclyde, Heriot-Watt, Stirling) raised to university status in the 1960s; and the newest group (Glasgow Caledonian, Napier, Paisley, Robert Gordon, Abertay) elevated to university status in the 1990s.[3]

A graduate was entitled to use post-nominal letters to identify their degree and awarding institution. This table shows the accepted abbreviations of Scotland's universities used in post-nominal letters:

Abbreviation University
Aberd Aberdeen
Abertay Abertay Dundee
Dund Dundee
Edin Edinburgh
Glas Glasgow
GCaledonian Glasgow Caledonian
H-W Heriot-Watt
not abbreviated Napier
not abbreviated Paisley
RGordon Robert Gordon
St And St Andrews
Stir Stirling
Strath Strathclyde

Ancient Universities[edit | edit source]

The term Ancient Universities refers to the seven British and Irish universities which were founded in the medieval and early modern period. Of these, four were established in the Kingdom of Scotland.

St. Andrews[edit | edit source]

Wikipedia has more about this subject: University of St Andrews

Founded in 1410 and is the third university in the British Isles, after Oxford and Cambridge. Main campus located in St Andrews.

James Maitland Anderson collected the names of early graduates in a series of works:

The University's Keeper of Manuscripts and Muniments from 1974 to 1995, Dr. Robert N. Smart, has compiled biographical sketches of almost 12,000 of the students, officers and external graduates of the University named in Maitland Anderson's The Matriculation Roll of the University of St Andrews, 1747-1897 (1905):

  • Robert N Smart, Biographical Register of the University of St Andrews 1747-1897 (2004, St Andrews University Library)

Glasgow[edit | edit source]

Wikipedia has more about this subject: University of Glasgow

Founded in 1451 and is the fourth oldest university in the British Isles.

The University is compiling a searchable database of graduates to 1918:

A list of graduates from 1727 to 1897:

Aberdeen[edit | edit source]

Wikipedia has more about this subject: University of Aberdeen

Founded in 1494 as King's College, Aberdeen. Aberdeen's second university college, Marischal College, was established in 1593. The two were merged in 1860 as the University of Aberdeen.

The names of early graduates and officers can be found in:

Edinburgh[edit | edit source]

Wikipedia has more about this subject: University of Edinburgh

Founded in 1582 as Tonius College. In 1617 renamed King James's College.

An incomplete list of historical alumni (dating to 1587):

Later establishments[edit | edit source]

Dundee[edit | edit source]

Wikipedia has more about this subject: University of Dundee

A university college was opened in Dundee in 1883 as an extension of St. Andrew's University. In the reforms of the 1960s, the college gained its institutional independence as a university.[4]

Accessing the Records[edit | edit source]

Most of the Scottish education records have not been digitized and are only available in print. The National Records of Scotland house school inspection reports, examination results, plans of school buildings, and records of individual schools and schoolmasters. Any other school will likely only be found in local archives. Only a small amount of records have been digitized.

Online[edit | edit source]

Family History Library[edit | edit source]

The Family History Library has very few Scottish school records, but there are some records for larger cities such as Edinburgh and Glasgow. You can find school records in the Place Search of the FamilySearch Catalog under:


References[edit | edit source]

  1. National Records of Scotland, "Education Records", 2018,, accessed 2 August 2018.
  2. GenGuide, "School Records (Education) (including Ireland & Scotland), 2018,, accessed 2 August 2018.
  3. "Higher Education" in Susan Wallace (ed.), A Dictionary of Education, (Oxford University Press, 2009) Print ISBN-13: 9780199212064. Published online: 2009-2012, eISBN: 9780191727443.
  4. Lindsay Paterson, "Regionalism among Entrants to Higher Education from Scottish Schools", (1993) 19 (No. 2) Oxford Review of Education pp 231-255 at p 235.