Scotland Civil Registration

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Scotland Gotoarrow.png Statutory Registers


The government records of births, marriages, and deaths in Scotland is known as "Statutory Registers". These records are an excellent source of names, dates, and places of births, marriages, and deaths. Since they are indexed and cover most of the population, these records are important resources for genealogical research.

Historical Background[edit | edit source]

On 1 January 1855 civil birth, marriage, and death registrations began. Registrars were appointed in every parish in Scotland. The registrars sent one copy of the register to the General Register Office in Edinburgh annually. Before 1855 only churches recorded births-baptisms,proclamation of marriages (banns), and burial or mort cloth rental information.

It was in 2002 that the ScotlandsPeople Website went online, forever changing the method of locating and obtaining these records. Previous to this time it was neccesary to use microfilmed indexes, coorespond with the General Register Office or hire a researcher at the General Register Office. There was also the option of using the microfilm collection of FamilySearch which has filmed records from 1855 to 1875. Now at ScotlandPeoples website one can search the indexes, obtain a digital copy of the record within minutes for a small fee.

Statutory Registers of Births, Marriages, Deaths[edit | edit source]

Birth Record/Certificate[edit | edit source]

A birth certificate records the following facts:
ο Name of the child
ο Gender
ο Date and place of birth
ο Names of the father and mother (including the mothers maiden name)
ο Occupation of the father
ο Name of the informant, signature, residence, and qualification (often relationship).
ο After 1860 the parents’ marriage date and place is also recorded.
Additional information only on a 1855 birth certificate:
◊Parents’ birthplace and age
◊Parents’ marriage date and place
◊Number of children previously born to the mother and whether alive or dead

If the child was illegitimate, the record does not give the father’s name unless the father gave his permission and acknowledged the child. In that case, the child is registered under the father’s surname and the word “illegitimate” appears after the child’s name.

Marriage Record/Certificate[edit | edit source]

A marriage certificate records the following facts:
ο Names, ages, and occupations of the bride and the groom
ο Marital Status
ο Residences of the Bride and Groom
ο Place and date marriage
ο Names and occupations of their fathers and whether they were deceased.
ο Names and maiden surnames of their mothers and whether they were deceased.
ο Witnesses
ο Whether the marriage was announced by banns or public notice
ο Date and place of registration
Additional information only on a 1855 marriage certificate:
◊Birthplaces of the bride and groom
◊Names and ages of both parents
◊Name of the person who officiated
◊Birth dates of the bride and groom
Marriage Laws concerning age in Scotland

Death Record/Certificate[edit | edit source]

A death certificate records the following facts:
ο Name of the deceased
ο Gender, Age and Occupation
ο Marital Status of the deceased
ο When and where the person died
ο Date and cause of death
ο Name and occupation of the father
ο Name and maiden surname of the mother
ο The informant’s signature, residence, and qualification
ο The date and place the death was registered
Additional information only on a 1855 death certificate:
◊ Birthplace of the deceased person
◊ Names and ages of his or her children

For more information on civil registration records and laws, see:

Bisset-Smith, G.T. Vital Registration: A Manual of the Law and Practice. Edinburgh, Scotland: William Green & Sons, 1902. (Family History Library book 941 V2b.)

You can find other guides to civil registration records in the Place Search of the FamilySearch Catalog under: SCOTLAND - CIVIL REGISTRATION.

Scotland BDM Exchange: This is a free resource for Scotland genealogy and Scottish family history. The aim of this exchange is to provide a free resource for sharing information about ancestors found in Scotland.


Divorces were handled by the courts. For information, see Scotland Court Records.

Civil Registration Records and Indexes[edit | edit source]

Civil registration records and indexes are available from four places:

  1. Scotlandspeople Website
  2. Visit the Scotlandspeople Centre - General Register Office in Person
  3. The Local Registrar's Office
  4. : Family History Library : Family History Centers

Records and Indexes at ScotlandsPeople Website[edit | edit source]

Refer to the ScotlandsPeople wiki article
Images and Indexes Available at ScotlandsPeople Website
Births 1855-1910 ◊ScotlandsPeople Website has indexes to 2012
Marriages 1855-1935
Deaths 1855-1960

◊Costs £7 for 30 credits (about $11)
◊Costs 1 credit for each page of index search results and 5 credits to view an image
◊All searches and images viewed are saved indefinitely
◊Though search sessions expire after one year, credits never expire. When you start a new session you will need to purchase more credits, but they will be added to your existing credits.

Visit the ScotlandsPeople Centre - GRO[edit | edit source]

ScotlandsPeople Centre at General Register House In Edinburgh
Images and Indexes Available at ScotlandsPeople Centre
Births 1855-2012 ◊ScotlandsPeople Website has indexes to 2012
Marriages 1855-2012
Deaths 1855-2012
◊Costs £15 per day - plus small fee for downloads and prints
ף15 is about $23
◊Also have access to all the digital images of 1841 to 1911 census
◊Pre 1855 Parish Registers
◊And other records - See the website for details Option for obtaining an official extract or certificate

You can order an official extract or copy of a certificate from the ScotlandPeoples Website; however, a digital scan is sufficient for genealogical purposes.

The Local Registrar's Office[edit | edit source]

Local registrars were appointed in virtually every parish in Scotland. The local registrar kept two registers of all of the births, marriages, and deaths registered in his district. The District Examiner annually examined the registers and sent one copy of the register to Edinburgh. The other copy remained with the local registrar. and its Libraries[edit | edit source]

Family History Library and Family History Centers
Images and Indexes available on microfilm
Births 1855-1875, 1881, 1891 ◊Annual BMD indexes on microfilm from 1855 to 1956
◊Births and Marriages - 1855 to 1875 are indexed on
◊Note: The indexing on FamilySearch may not be 100% complete. See below. 
Marriages 1855-1875, 1881, 1891
Deaths 1855-1875, 1881, 1891
To find the records and indexes, look in the Catalogue

Extracted Records[edit | edit source]

The extracted records found on the website in the Historical Records Collections for Scotland may not be 100% complete. Those records that were already in the IGI (through family submissions) when extraction took place in the 1980's were not duplicated and therefore do not apprear as extracted entries. Those records not in the extraction batches can be found by searching 'All Record Collections' for 'IGI' then selecting to search the 'Community Contributed' data.

Nonetheless, it is estimated that a high percentage of birth and marriage records from 1855 to 1875 have been extracted and appear in the databases Scotland Births and Baptisms, 1564-1950 and Scotland Marriage, 1561-1910, available through the Historical Record Collections. To find the Scotland collections on On the page - on the right side of the screen - click on 'Browse All Published Records'.  Type 'Scotland' in the Search box.  The record collections will be listed in the search results.

WARNING:  before attempting to locate the original source of the information in the extracted record(s), read the relevant 'DearMYRTLE' blog article.

The Microfilm Collection[edit | edit source]

Follow these steps to find the indexes and records in the catalog:

  1. Do a 'Place-names' search for 'Scotland.'
  2. From the list of topics, click on 'Scotland - Civil Registration.'
  3. Click on the title of Registers of births, marriages, and deaths, 1855-1875, 1881, 1891; and general index, 1855-1956 and view the film notes. The collection of 4469 microfilms is arranged first by record type then by date, with the indexes listed first.
  4. Start by searching the indexes for the event and date you desire. The index gives name, place, and record entry number.
  5. The government has assigned every parish a number. The main page of the catalog entry gives the number for each parish, arranged in alphabetical order. Find the number for your parish of interest.
  6. From the film notes list, look for your event and county of interest and match up the parish number to find the correct film.
  7. You may obtain the film by visiting the Family History Library in Salt Lake City or by ordering the film through a family history center near you.
  8. On the film, turn to the correct parish (arranged in alphabetical and parish number order) and turn to the record entry number.  There may be a short index at the first of the parish. If you look for your ancestor in the index, you will see the record entry number again.

You can also find the microfilm numbers by looking in the following source:

  • Register of Births, Marriages, and Deaths of Scotland. Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Family History Library, 1987. (Family History Library book Reg 941 V2; fiche 6035516.)  This source is arranged first by event, then by county, then by date.  At the beginning of each county is a list of the parishes giving their number.

Civil Registration Districts and Their Numbers[edit | edit source]

Every parish in Scotland (beginning with the parishes in Shetland in the north and working south through Wigtonshire) has had a number assigned to it to assist with the organizing of records.  When civil registration began in 1855, the civil parishes also became civil registration districts, and they had the same identification numbers.  The numbers are used to identify parishes in civil, church, and census records.  However, in large populated areas, it was necessary for the districts to be sub-divided, and the identification numbers were also sub-divided.  For instance, the civil parish and district of Glasgow, Lanarkshire has the number of 644.  When the districts were created in 1855, an area of Glasgow called High Church was created as a separate district and given the number of 644/2, indicating that it is part of the greater Glasgow area. 

Lists of Registration Districts available online at:

Using Microfilmed Civil Registration Indexes[edit | edit source]

The Registrar General Office created nationwide indexes after receiving the records from the local registrars.  Indexes will help you find your ancestors’ civil registration records.  The indexes are arranged by year and give name, place of registration, and record entry number.

When searching the microfilm indexes, you should be aware that:

  • Marriage indexes for females (1855-64) are arranged alphabetically by maiden surname.
  • The husband’s surname appears in parentheses.
  • Death indexes for females (1855-64) are arranged in alphabetical order under her married surname with her maiden surname in parentheses.
  • After 1864, death indexes list women under both their maiden surnames and their married surnames.
  • On film, a “Mc” or “Mac” surname may be found in the indexes at the end of the M section.  Online, try spelling variations.
  • There is an additional index at the end of each filmed yearly index called the "Vide Addenda." This index lists names missed in the regular index. A cross-reference to the Vide Addenda will usually be found in the regular index.
  • Some births, marriages, and deaths were registered late. These “neglected entries” cover the period from about 1820 to 1860 and were registered between 1860 and 1868. They are on one roll of microfilm (Family History Libraryfilm 103538).
If you are having trouble finding a person in the indexes at the ScotlandPeople Website, the suggestions here may give you clues as to why they can't be found.

If you cannot find an index entry, consider the following strategies:

  • Surnames are often found under unexpected spellings. Look for variations.
  • Events are filed by the date registered, not the date occurred. For example, a birth on 20 December may have been registered in January of the following year.
  • Indexes were hand-prepared and may contain spelling and copying errors and omissions.
  • A person may have been registered under a different name than was used later in life.
  • A woman’s surname in the marriage index may be her surname by a previous marriage.
  • Family information (particularly age at death) is often misleading.
  • Persons with common names may be difficult to identify in the index.
  • An illegitimate child may be registered under the mother’s maiden name.
  • Some children were registered as “male” or “female” when a name had not been selected at the time of registration.
  • Not every person was registered. 

Wiki articles describing online collections are found at: