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Tips and Hints for Scottish Genealogical Research

Search the GRO(S) on-line!

Scotland GRO(S) on-line indexes

The Scots Origins database contains fully searchable indexes of the GRO(S) index to
  • births/baptisms and banns/marriages from the Old Parish Registers dating from 1553 to 1854,
  • indexes to births, deaths and marriages from 1855 to 1897.
  • One additional year will be added per annum (1898,1899 etc.) to protect the privacy of living persons.
  • An index to census records for 1891 will be provided in the near future;
  • 1881 census data will provided later this year.

    Searching is possible on the following fields:
    • Surname
    • Event type (birth/christening, marriage, death)
    • Sex
    • Forename (or first initial)
    • Year of registration (or range of years)
    • Age (or age range) - deaths only
    • Registration District (Statutory Index)
    • County (Old Parish Register)

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Take plenty of time BEFORE signing on to read about the indexes, play with the demo, and read the FAQ. Then look at the names you're researching and carefully PLAN your searches. :)

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The Reverend Robert Wodrow (author of 'History of the Sufferings of the Church of Scotland' in four volumes originally published in 1828) was repeatedly cited in 'The Scottish Covenanters' by the Reverend James Barr, published in 1947.

Some sources with info:

-Directory of Scots Banished to the American Plantations 1650-1775, by David Dobson, c. 1983, Genealogical Publ. Co., 1002 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, MD 21202. Excellent free catalogs. Order Toll free by calling 1-800-296-3897.

-The Original Scots Colonists of Early America 1612-1783, by David Dobson, c. 1989, Gen. Publ. Co. About 7,000 people. Dr.Dobson lives in St. Andrews, Scotland. He gives the Register of Privy Council vol.& page # on banished people.

-(supplement)The Original Scots Colonists of Early America Supplement: 1607-1707, by David Dobson,c.1998, Gen.Publ. Co., Baltimore.

-Ships from Scotland to America 1628-1828, by David Dobson, c. 1998, Gen. Publ. Co. often tells whether any passengers but not names

-Scots in the Carolinas 1680-1830, by David Dobson, c. 1986, Gen. Publ. Co. He used 1800 census, etc., did the research in Carolinas.

-Scots on the Chesapeake, 1607-1830, by David Dobson, c. 1992, Gen. Publ. Co. He names only those he is positive were from Scotland.

-Scottish-American Heirs 1683-1883, c. 1990, David Dobson, Gen. Publ. Co. Most are 1800s.

-Register of the Privy Council, 1661-1689, provides much about the Covenanters. Thousands of names are seen in the Privy Council records with exactly where the person lived, when jailed, spouse's name sometimes.

-Parish Lists of Wigtownshire and Minnigaff include heads of household and others in home, as well as name of the property, ca 1684, and were compiled in 1940s by William Scott, a serviceman on leave from duty, from lists required to be made by the episcopal ministers and lists thousands of people. The ministers were required to list all in their parish over 12 years of age, to give exact place of residence, and to identify all dissidents and those absent from services as well as those excused from a service, though not all of the ministers would comply, it appears, though to sympathise meant prison, banishment, or death. Names on 1684 parish lists in Wigtownshire and Minnigaff appear in Reg. of PC.

-A History of the Sufferings of The Church of Scotland by the Rev Robert Wodrow, 2 vols., published 1721/1722. The Mitchell Library, Glasgow, may have a copy of the volumes.

-The Martyr Graves of Scotland by Rev. James H. Thomson;

-A novel, Ringan Gilhaize, or The Covenanters, by John Galt, written in early 1800s, publ. by Scottish Academic Press. Extensive notes by editor Patricia Wilson were found in a recent edition of the novel.

-The National Covenant, City of Edinburgh Museums Pamphlet No. 5, which shows a closeup of a tiny part of the 45 in. (1140 cms) square skin on which the original Covenant is written, and which is filled with around 4,200 signatures and initials on both sides. One man wrote "E. Johnestoun with my heart [he drew a heart]."

-Register of the Reverend John MacMillan; Being a Record of Marriages and Baptisms solemnised by him among the Cameronian Societies, s.w. Scotland fr. ca 1706-1751, transcr. and indexed by Miss S. Helen Fields.

-Register of Marriages and Baptisms Performed by Rev. John Cuthbertson Covenanter Minister 1751-1791 with Index to Locations and Persons Visited, by S. Helen fields, publ. 1983, Genealogical Publ. Co., Baltimore. Rev. Cuthbertson lived in PA and traveled to several states in America and kept a register for four decades. It has been estimated that 5,000 families are named.

-History of Galloway, 2 vols., by William Mackenzie, publ. 1841 by John Nicholson, Kirkcudbright, gives history of much of southwest Scotland, includes lists of Covenanters who were fined and the amounts, and other details.

-SCMA/Scottish Covenanter Memorials Association Newsletters are a good source of information. Membership is worldwide. Members care for memorial markers, clean the sites, and make repairs to the hundreds of graves and gravestones of slain Covenanters which are scattered over moors and mountains across Scotland. To join, write to: Mr Geo. Scott, 3 Richmond Terrace, Cumnock, Ayrshire, KA18 1DN Scotland. Numerous services to mark the 300th anniversary of deaths of martyrs in the "Killing Times" were held at various sites in 1980s.

-The General Register Office for Scotland, New Register House, Edinburgh EH1 3YT, Scotland, provides research services. Visitors must be age 16 or over, and should contact the office ahead of time, and arrive in the morning to take a number. Research by post can be undertaken, and a schedule of fees is available. Payment by those outside Great Britain must be made by sterling cheque. In America these can be obtained through the U.S. Postal Service for a fee of about $8.

-Surnames of Scotland, by Dr. George F. Black, 1946, publ. by New York City Library, about 900 pages, sometimes lists those named in Register of the Privy Council. The Register of the Privy Council for 1661-1689 is Series 3 and consists of 14 volumes. Series 2, vols. 1-8 (1625-1660). Series 1 (1545-1625), vols. 1-14.

-Last Words of Saints and Sinners, Kregel Publ., (Grand Rapids, Michigan, I think) 1980s, by Dr. Herbert Lockyer, contains stories about the Covenanters who were executed and their testimonies, extracted from A Cloud Of Witnesses, and The Dying Testimonies Of The Scots Worthies, and Naphtali, My Wrestling.

-Fair Sunshine by Rev. Jock Purves of Scotland, repr. 1982 by The Banner of Truth Trust, P. O. Box 621, Carlisle PA 17013, combines his books Sweet Believing and Fair Sunshine and contains stories.

-Ship Passengers Lists New York, New Jersey, c 1978, Carl Boyer 3rd, has some banished 1685, on ship Henry & Francis which landed in NJ.

-The Scotch-Irish, Charles A. Hanna, ca 1910, publ. Gen. Publ. Co.

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ALL proposed marriages in Scotland had to have the banns called in the local Church of Scotland parish church, even if the marriage was in another church in another denomination. ANY recorded mariage in Scotland was legal, no matter what church or none it was performed in. Many people were married in the home of the bride. The legal requirement for the parish Church of Scotland was the declarationn of the bans, not the marriage ceremony.

The record in the OPR can be the banns plus marriage, or simply the banns being noted, or it can say that the banns were called in the parish church, and the marriage performed at the Catholic church. The OPR film will also tell you which parish each party is resident in, and sometimes the man's occupation. The only information you will get for these in the IGI or OPR-Index would be the OPR parish and a date, so it is always advisable to look out the microfilm and read the actual entry for the marriage(or whatever).

Hand fasting was not really a marriage-- it was for a year and if the couple did not wish to continue living together they could separate. A child of that union was however legitimate. There was also a "marriage' again outside the church, the couple could say with or without witnesses that they took each other as husband and wife. They were legal marriages in the eyes of the state, but not in the eyes of the church. While the law recognised any couple as married if they declared themselves, in front of witnesses, to be married, the church continued to try to get them "correctly" married, and often forced the couple to go through a later church ceremony.

The banns were a legal device to prevent bigamy, so that announcement of the intended marriage allowed those "in the know" to have a word with the minister if there was any hint of bigamy, too close a family relationship, or any other legal impediment.

Irregular marriages of any kind subverted the protective measure that the banns provided, in the days before newspapers and other modern communications.

It is only in places such as court records where a couple say that they are married, that you migth get evidence of the existence of a marriage of any kind. Other couples simply never went through any ceremony, but their children could inherit, as could the "wife" whom the Scottish courts would regard as married "By habit and repute". The phrase "Irregular Marriages" covered marriages in other denominations, also, in such times as there was an established church.

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Last updated March 7, 1999