How to start - a very basic guide by Irene Macleod
Dear Beginners & Researchers
The first thing to do is to ask as many older people in your family questions about their parents and grandparents. Write all this down and keep it, even if it does not make sense ...it may be useful in 20 years time. Borrow and copy as many certificates of births deaths and marriages, and photographs of the older generation as you can. Modern scanners and colour photocopiers make great copies of the old black and white prints.
Then you need to buy or borrow a book about Scottish ancestor tracing, for example, "Discover your Scottish Ancestry" by Holton and Winch ISBN 0-7486-1864-3.
In Scotland statutory registration started in 1855. In that first year the certificates recorded a great deal of information, from 1856 - 60 less was called for and then from 1861 to the present day the certificates are almost unchanged.
>From a birth certificate you should get the names of the baby, parents, father's occupation, an address ( a street if in a town, but sometimes just the name of the village) name of the informant, and (except from 1856-60) the date and place of the marriage of the parents.
>From a marriage certificate you should get the ages, addresses and occupations of the bride and groom, the names of both their parents and fathers' occupations, the date and place of marriage, and the names of the witnesses.
>From a death certificate you should get the name, age, address and occupation of the deceased, and the name of their spouse (except from 1856-60), the deceased's parents' names, cause of death and the informant's name and relationship to the deceased (if any).
The extra 1855 information consists of:- 1) death certificate - the names and ages of all the deceased's children as well as the deceased's birthplace and how long he had lived in the area. 2) marriage certificate - the birthplaces of the couple. 3) birth certificate - the ages of the parents and the number and gender of other children they'd had (but not their names).
BDM records for Scotland have been centralised in Edinburgh and historical ones are available online. Internet access has been limited to birth records over 100 years old, marriage records over 75 years, and death records over 50 years as well as 100 year old census records. Scotlands People - GROS Online Indexes ..... this is a fee paying site. It charges a minimum of £6 for 30 credits which are valid for 48 hours. This enables you to search the indexes and download images. A full explanation is on the site at the link 'registration and costs'
For the years 1855 - 1875, and 1881 and 1891 the Mormon Church family history centres have got microfilms of the books of certificates available to hire. They also have films of the indexes of birth, deaths and marriages for these years and more, (but nothing later than 1898) In the USA it is possible to order photocopies of certificates for these years (1855 - 1875 and 1881 and 1891 from Salt Lake City a little more cheaply than from Edinburgh. The 1881, 1891 and 1901 Census index and images are also on the Scotlandspeople website, and the earlier censuses should be indexed and online soon.
The LDS family history centres also have films of all the available Scottish censuses. They were taken every 10 years from 1841 to 1891. One census, that of 1881 for the whole of England Wales and Scotland, has been transcribed and indexed.. it is available on a set of CDs and a lot of listers have them and are willing to do look-ups. The census gives ages occupations relationships and birthplaces, apart from the 1841 which just gives a list of people in the house their approximate ages (rounded down to the nearest 5 years for those over 15), the occupation of the head of household and whether or not each person was born in the county (a much bigger area than the parish). Indexes of the 1851 and 1861 census for Ayrshire are available to buy on CD from the East Ayrshire FHS, and the Freecen project to put census records online is underway at http://freecen.rootsweb.com/cgi/search.pl
Pre-1855 'certificates' from the online Scotlands People site are just photocopies of the entries in the parish records ...they give very little information. Much cheaper to look at the film at your LDS centre if possible although the LDS do not have a complete set of all OPRs.
"There has to be something somewhere"
I'm afraid the short answer to that plea is 'No, there doesn't. Not if he lived and died before 1855.' Searching for your Scottish Roots before 1855 can be difficult and if your ancestor emigrated before 1841 it can be very difficult. Before statutory registration started on 1 Jan 1855, the parish records (OPRs) consist of baptisms, marriages and burials kept by the minister of each parish. If you are very lucky, you may find someone in your family with a Bible in which births etc. were recorded pre-1855.
There is a book called 'Key to the Parochial Registers of Scotland' by V Ben Bloxham published in 1970 with the help of the Genealogical Society of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Later Day Saints (LDS). This indicates the condition of the surviving records for each parish. There are frequent gaps. Burials are often totally missing. There are various causes for this. Sometimes the volumes have not survived, succumbing to the mice or the damp; sometimes the incumbent cleric was not diligent in recording events in his parish. The history of disruption in the Scottish Church, the splittings and the joining ups, the rise and fall of factions and sects, have also contributed to the lack of records. Even when a volume of baptisms or marriages survive, you may not find your ancestor there; perhaps the minister forgot to enter him, or his parents had him baptised at another church whose records have not survived.
So where do you turn? Having traced your ancestor back from the 21st century you will have found him in one of the 19th century census and have an idea of his year of birth and the place he was born in. So you have a parish to look in. It is very important if you have an ancestor born before 1855 who survived to die post 1855 that you find their death certificate. This certificate gives the name of the deceased, their age, their occupation, the name of their spouse (but not in 1856-60 inclusive) the place of death, their father and his occupation and whether deceased, their mother including her maiden name and whether deceased, the cause of death and whether they were seen by a medical attendant and lastly the name of the person providing the information and their relationship if any to the deceased. Death certificates issued in 1855 also gives the birthplace of the deceased and how long they had lived in the area in which they died and the names and ages of all the deceased's children.
For ancestors who died before 1855, the 1851 census is the first place to look and then the 1841 one, which although it is not as informative as the later ones will at least give you an idea of age and the county of birth. Armed with this information you then start looking for their baptism or the marriage of their parents (if known) in the OPRs. The easiest place to start is with the LDS' familysearch site on the net. They have a huge, easily searched database of pre-1855 Scottish events. However two points to remember. Firstly it is not complete and secondly some of the data (especially in the ancestry file) is not reliable. It is extremely important to look at the film of the original entry in the OPR. Not only can you check the accuracy of the date but you can also occasionally find other information. These films can be hired through the LDS or seen at large libraries. The fee-paying index at the Scots Origins site is the most complete OPR index but the computer is very picky about spelling. Remember that pre-1855 'certificates' are only photocopies of the OPR entry. OPR information is entirely at the whim of the clerk who wrote it. The minimum information for baptisms is the name of the child, the date of baptism and the name of the father, but often you get the name of the mother, the birth date and the village or farm. Sometimes you get the names of godparents. Once I found an entry stating the baby's grandfather was godparent. For marriages the minimum is the names of both parties, their parishes and the date of proclamation. Proclamation is the announcing from the pulpit of the couple's intention to marry and if the couple lived in different parishes this had to be done in both parishes, hence the frequent IGI entry of two apparent marriages in different parishes of the same couple. Usually the original entries will make it clear which parish the marriage took place in. Sometimes you get the occupation of the groom and rarely you get the name of the bride's father. Burial records, even when they exist, are the least informative. The minimum is the name of the deceased and a date. Sometimes for children you get the name of the father and an age. Occasionally you get a cause of death and the name of a spouse.
Once you get earlier than the 1841 census then it becomes more problematic. A lot depends on where your ancestor lived and the condition of the surviving records and much depends on his name. In the 19th century a naming pattern became popular in Lowland Scotland where the first son was called after the father's father, the second son after the mother's father and the third son after the father; the first daughter after the mother's other, the second after the father's mother and the third after the mother. Now if you have a couple who married in 1810 and called their first four children Samuel, Charlotte, Peter and Henrietta then the chances of picking out the grandparents are fairly high, but if on the other hand they called the first four children John, Mary, Thomas and Jean! And it is most important to keep in mind that the naming pattern was neither universal nor compulsory. There is some truth in the idea that you can only tell for sure that they used the naming pattern when you have found all four grandparents.
An important source for pre-1855 ancestors are the MIs (gravestone inscriptions) More and more of these are being transcribed and published. Normally the inscription has the name, the date of death and the age with the wife buried under her maiden name. But the raising of a stone over the grave was not compulsory. There are many, many graves where either there was only a wooden marker, which has vanished or there never was any marker. Some late 19th /early 20th Century records of who was buried where survive in the custody of the local authority but these are unpublished and one usually has to know the date of death of one occupant of a grave site (lair) to be able to find out who else was buried there.
Another way of finding your ancestor is to look for a will or testament. Wills are kept in the National Archives of Scotland in Edinburgh and can be accessed online at http://www.scottishdocuments.com Searching the index is free but image downloads cost £5 per will.
If you find an ancestor in a census with the occupation 'pauper' then it is worth looking for a Poor Law Application. A PLA was the 19th century equivalent of applying for social security and the inspectors were just as eager to make sure you had no other means of support as they are nowadays. PLAs vary enormously in the amount of information collected. It can be a little as "Widow Jones given two shillings to buy meal" to a form giving the applicant's date and place of birth and marriage, names and occupation of parents; spouse's name, occupation, date of death and names of parents; names, ages of children and the names of their spouses and the number of their children, the reason for the inability for the applicant to work and the outcome of the application. PLAs are mostly in the custody of local libraries and archives.
There are records such as Sasines (mostly covering the changes of property/land ownership) hearth and poll tax records, rent records, etc but they are really beyond the scope of this guide. The Scottish PRO do a good book on using the National Archives of Scotland to trace your ancestors.
What you must keep in mind when you are searching pre-1855 is that the records are not complete. Just because you find a John Thomson born in the right parish around the right year does not mean he's yours. Just picking the nearest possibility from the IGI is the best way of having a family tree which traces back to an ancestor who died at the age of 6! However if you find this John Thomson born to a mother called Jean Johnstone and your John Thomson calls his second daughter Jean Johnstone Thomson then you can be fairly sure you've got the right one. Once I found a death certificate of an unmarried woman where the informant was her 'grandnephew in law.' This man's wife's grandfather had died in 1848 but the death certificate proved that he must be a brother of the deceased unmarried woman, and another branch was added to the tree.
If you can trace back (with proofs for each generation and no 'probables')to the early1700s without having a land owning family, then you've done pretty well. To get earlier than that you need luck as well as perseverance.
One last tip. If you hit a brick wall, put it aside and concentrate on another branch. Sometimes a brick wall turns out to be glass when you look at it afresh. Besides, if it was easy it wouldn't be as much fun, would it?
Our thanks go to Irene for allowing us to publish her guide.
Other places for information...
The Ayrshire Mailing List specifically for Ayrshire, you can subscribe to it from the Ayrshire GenWebPage or access the Ayrshire Mailing List Archives from there as well.[URL below].
Ayrshire Family History Societies the main ones covering Ayrshire all have web sites which are listed on the Ayrshire GenWebPage [URL below]. All welcome new members. Other FHSs listed on the Ayrshire GENUKI [URL below]
Ayrshire Local History Units The LHUs are East, North & South Ayrshire, all are listed on the Ayrshire GenWebPage. [URL below] All three have the OPRs, Census Records, Trade Directories, MIs [headstones], Valuation Rolls and other indexes. For a full list of records held at each LHU visit the Ayrshire GenWebPage. The email and snail mail addresses for the libraries and historians are there as well.
Ayrshire Archives Centre Records of Ayr County Council from 1890 - 1975. Education records 1873 - 1919 & 1919 - 1930. Records of educational trusts from 1718 - 1973. Parish records including Poor Relief and records relating to Cunninghame Combination Poorhouse 1854-1930, Maybole Combination Poorhouse 1865-1910 and Kyle Union Poorhouse 1860-1977. Established and secessionist church records 1615- 1983.
Estate Records including Hamiltons, Welbeck, Woodburn, Kennedys, Dunlops, Holmes. Business records. Societies & Organisations and many other records. Linked from the Ayrshire GenWebPage [URL below].
Ayrshire GenWebPage A resource for individuals researching their Scottish ancestors who originated in this county.
GENUKI Ayrshire This site is a must for anyone researching in Ayrshire. You will find information on the county of Ayrshire and its towns and parishes. Other items covered are Archives and Libraries, Bibliography, Cemeteries, Census, Church Records, Civil Registration, Court Records, Description and Travel, Genealogy including Look-ups, Glossary of Scots Terms, Military History, Military Records, Names, Personal, National Archives of Scotland, Newspapers, Occupations, Population, Societies & Taxation.
An 1837 description of the county is given in this extract from Pigot's Directory for Ayrshire. The transcript was provided by Keith Muirhead from the Sunshine Coast of Queensland.
The Ayrshire Page Genealogy and Family history with Ayrshire Families Data & Ayrshire Born - Foreign Buried. Plus photographs of most of the towns of Ayrshire.
Ayrshire Surnames Database The aim of the Ayrshire Surnames Pages is initially to provide a source of Ayrshire surname interests which are being researched via the Internet by people all over the world. Through the list the viewer may establish links with others who are researching similar surnames. This is capitalising on the initial work done by Stephen Browning who first set up the database then continued by the late Iain Kerr before being transferred. As a secondary aim, it is hoped to link with the pages to provide Ayrshire information of interest and use to family historians with roots in Ayrshire.
The Mormon FHCs have copies of the civil registration certificates on film, Old Parish Records, Census Records, County Resources etc. etc. There are 2 different kinds of photocopies of events you can get from the LDS..... one from the PARISH RECORD fiche [if you have an entry on the OPR FICHE and do not want to order in the whole parish film for just one entry], for the years up until 1854, they are $2 US per copy. From CIVIL REGISTRATION films ie.: 1855-75 + 1881 and 1891, they are 25 cents US, per copy, you can order eight on one form, minimum charge for an order is $2 US. To find out your nearest LDS Family History Centre
Other Mormon Information This will answer many questions related
to LDS Records for Scotland
Scottish Research Outline
Family History Library The local Family History Centres can borrow any microfilm or microfiche. To find out the holdings of the Family History Library visit LDS Family Search At the first screen press the button marked "custom search". On the next screen you will see the "Family History Library Catalog" as one of the options. Select that. Then when you get the search screen for the FHLC put in your place name. Then when you've selected which place name, you will get a list of topics under that. Choose whichever records you are interested in.
If you want to find out any Registrars name and address you can find details of all Registrars offices in Scotland at the GROS Web site, the index to which can be found at Registrars Offices Look under R for Registrars and you will find Directory of Registrars and when you click on this link it will take you to a Directory of All of the Scottish Registrars of Births Marriages and Deaths, which includes the address and telephone number and usually the name of the registrar.
Professional Researchers based in Ayrshire & Edinburgh
Ayrshire-Roots Based in Ayrshire Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
R O O T S Consulting Services (Scotland) Based in Ayrshire. Email: email@example.com
The Tree House Based in Edinburgh. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Genealogical Services Email: Helen@genealogicalservices.co.uk
Non-Established Church Records are in the National Archives of Scotland [was Scottish Record Office and re-named in January 1999]
It was quite common for members of a non established Church to be married in the established Church, but for their children not to be Christened in the established Church and the baptisms not to appear in the OPRs. The main Collection of non established Christenings/Marriages are held in the National Archives of Scotland in Edinburgh e-mail: email@example.com The South Ayrshire Archives at Craigie, Ayr also hold records of Birth/Marriage for some non established Churches in Ayrshire, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Free Church of Scotland records are at the National Archives of
Scotland in Edinburgh. These are free to access yourself or you will need
to hire a researcher. The Free Church was formed in 1843 (around half
the population switched to it at the time). If the family belonged to
the Free Church, the baptisms would not be in the IGI or OPR Index for
the period 1843-1854. There are lists to some of the Free Church baptisms.
You will need to check and see what is available from the Scottish Genealogical
Society [URL below].
LDS Film Numbers by Tim Millar Some of what you may find on the
LDS Family Search website
There will also be a number of a roll of film that you can order from your LDS FHC to view the image of the original records. For example an 1820 birth in Kilmarnock, AYR, is Batch #C-11-597-6 (written as C11619), 1789-1854, film (called "source call no.") #1041387 and there is also a Printout call No. 6900234, and this is a fiche (always begins with a "6") which includes the specific event in microfilm of records extracted from the original records in a computer printout format.
The fiches are available, for example, as "Marriages in Kilmarnock Parish", or "Births & Christenings in Fenwick Parish" - or for all of Ayrshire in larger sets.
When you do a search, and view one or more of the results, you will see these source references on the page. If you click on the film number you will see the catalog description of the film. This is the number that you will need at your FHC to order the film for viewing - not the batch number.
LDS data also contains millions of records of events submitted by LDS members and others based on their own personal research. These may have other patterns of Batch Numbers, based on the type of source and how they were microfilmed. If you click on the film numbers shown in Family Search you will see that these may be called "Patron sheets" or several other descriptions of "Ordnances" such as "Sealings", "Endowments", etc. which are Mormon rituals.
You will not necessarily find specific "proof" of an event by relying on these LDS Ordnances as some are based on family trees submitted by relatives and others who may or may not have carefully documented primary evidence. If you order these films, you will probably not find sources as specific as the Church of Scotland parish record books, or the Scottish Statutory Registration.
You should always consider the IGI and Ancestral file entries as clues, not proof by themselves. They are a guide to help you locate original source material. Once you get deeper into a particular family or region, you may want to keep certain films on Indefinite Loan at your FHC to view frequently for specific details. I have complete sets of census and OPR films for the parishes I am researching so I can look at the actual entries whenever necessary. Remember, you're looking at films of documents written 100, 200 or 300 years ago and not everything will be legible or 100% accurate.
Ask your FHC for a copy of publication #31024, the Resource Guide called "Finding an IGI Source". Finally, ask your FHC to see the "Parish and Vital Records List" fiche set. Read the Introduction. Then go to the Parish you want and you will find the complete list of Batch Numbers with corresponding fiche and/or film numbers. The above examples are for Scotland, but there are similar patterns for material in other areas.
LDS Resources by Tim Millar Each LDS Family History Centre has a basic issue of material. Normally Ancestral File, IGI and the Catalog of material available to order from the LIBRARY in Salt Lake City are available on CD-ROM, and there is a fiche version of the catalog. There are no films or fiches of actual resources at the FHC unless a patron has ordered them on Temporary or Indefinite Loan, or the FHC has ordered them (see below).
The catalog will help you find out what you may order from Salt Lake City. It's like an Interlibrary Loan. Fiches come automatically on Indefinite Loan for the minimal fee charged. Films come for one month, and you may renew for two more months by paying two more monthly fees - after which those films are on Indefinite Loan. If not renewed, the films go back to SLC promptly so that the local FHC isn't charged.
Patrons who are actively working on ancestors in a particular parish (Kilmarnock or Galston, for example) often elect to pay for census and Old Parish Record (OPR's) to be on Indefinite Loan so that they and others will have access whenever they want at the local FHC.
In addition, if the FHC is large or has generous patrons, they *may* order certain frequently-requested material on Indefinite Loan - such as the Scottish Statutory Registration Index films. But this is an option subject to local church funding and the generosity of patrons. Many FHC's may elect to "stock" various materials of local interest.
Before you go to your local FHC, call to find out their hours and the availability of their film/fiche readers and computers. Some FHC's are very small and have limited space and hours.
Other important websites for information...
If you would like to return to the Ayrshire GenWebPage
If you would like to return to the Ayrshire Page
If you would like to return to Ayrshire Online - Family History
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