The resources available to an American attempting to trace his family in Scotland inevitably shape how that tracing comes out. The resources are numerous, but often cover only a specific period of time or a specific area. For example, in this work, information will appear more exact for the 1840s than the 1900s simply because the former is more readily accessible than the latter.

The oldest records of births, deaths and marriages are parish registers, records of the Established Churches in Scotland. They can date from as early as the 1500s, but generally commence in the late 1700s. The LDS Church, as part of its continuing genealogical project, has microfilmed those records for most Scottish parishes through the year 1854. A computerized alphabetical index to these registers, also put together by the LDS, extends through to 1871. Both these new (available only since the 1980s) sources are on microfilm and can be rented through the LDS library in Utah.

The significance of the year 1854 is that, the next year (1855), the United Kingdom government began keeping governmental records of births, deaths and marriages; the equivalent of what Americans would know as birth, death and marriage certificates. The U.K. government also compiled a yearly alphabetical index of these records. These indexes give the name of the party or parties, the parish the event took place in, and the certificate page or number of the record. Both the indexes and the original records are available for rent through the LDS. In addition, I have ordered copies of certificates direct from the U.K. There is no overall index (covering multiple years) to these certificates, which makes them difficult to deal with. For example, to find the birth record of Charles Allardice, born about 1899, I had to rent five different films of indexes, to cover 1897-1901, take the names and certificate numbers of all Charles Allardices born in Dundee in those years, and then order the certificates from Scotland one by one until I found the correct one. As can be seen, this process can be both expensive and time- consuming.

For these types of records, the indexes only show the names of the principals involved; for marriage, the names of the husband and wife; for births and deaths, only the names of the born and deceased. The original certificates usually contain far more; names of the parents of the principals, their occupations, addresses, age, etc.

A third major source of information is the British censuses, taken at ten year intervals since 1841. The census entries for 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, and 1891 have been opened to the public and, again, are available on microfilm through the LDS. The LDS has privately compiled an index to the 1881 census, which microfilm has been of great help in research. For other years, to search for a person, I had to rent the census of the entire town/ city/ parish where that person was assumed to live, then go through the handwritten enumeration schedules, line by line, trying to find the right name(s). These census schedules, organized by parish and, within the parish, by residence, show street address, names of residents at that address, age and occupation of the residents, and where they were born.

Outside Scotland, the Scottish records readily accessible and of practical use peter out around 1900. After that date the censuses have not been made public, and the birth/death/marriage indexes contain so many duplicate names as to make a search for a particular person of that name nearly impossible. To go beyond 1900 and flesh out the more contemporary family tree would require a month's stay in Scotland, poking around old cemeteries and haunting the Public Record Office in Edinburgh. One of these days I hope to find the time to do so. Until then, this essay will have to serve.




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Appendix 1
Appendix 2
Appendix 3
Appendix 4
Appendix 5
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