Scotland has always been a bit mysterious up the northern tip of the British Isles. It’s managed to be rugged and removed but also welcoming to those who venture there.
The world knows a few key Scottish motifs – the bagpipes, kilts, the thistle and haggis – and a handful of Scots who have left their mark in history such as Robert the Bruce, Mary Queen of Scots, William Wallace, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Robert Burns . That only makes the place all the more intriguing. Whether you grew up hearing tales of your Scottish great-grandparents or were surprised by the results of a DNA test, if you know you have Scottish heritage, you are bound to want to know more about it. But
where to start?
The best place to start researching your Scottish genealogy is close to home. Start writing out a family tree and gathering as many details as you can about the people you do know about. Note their full names, date and place of birth, names of any siblings. If you have an idea of when your Scottish ancestors came to your country or what part of Scotland they came from, that can also help you hone in on the right Scottish records.
A trip to Scotland isn’t very practical right now with the pandemic raging, but the good news you can begin your search anyway. Some records are available online, and they are great place to start. Professional genealogists and genealogy organizations can help, but you can find a lot yourself in the comfort of your own home.
Scottish Genealogy Resources Online
A wide variety of records exist that can help you piece together the Scottish branch of your family tree. The staples of genealogy are birth, marriage and death certificates. But these are not your only tools. Census records can show you where people lived, and who lived with them. Ship’s passenger lists, graves, church archives and military records are also vital links to follow.
The National Library of Scotland has an excellent website outlining which groups hold which records and how to get started. It’s full of good advice and historical context to make sense of your search. This website has a search feature to find graves. You can search by location or enter a surname to
see details of indexed graves bearing the surname.
The Scottish government operates an amazing office called Scotland’s People. Based in Edinburgh, it is part of the National Records of Scotland. Currently the bricks and mortar office is closed to visitors, but the website has a fantastic amount of information. You can search for ancestors by name to find records of births, marriages and deaths from 1855 onward. Census records from 1841 and some church records from as far back as 1560 are also available. Australians of Scottish descent can also check migration records from 1852 to 1857, the period when the government assisted people to leave following the economic crisis and Highland Clearances.
Once you know where in Scotland your ancestors came from, you can also start researching their town online. You can find local history, photos and more that will give you an idea of what life was like for your ancestors before they left Scotland. It might even help you find the perfect Scottish gift like a piece of Celtic jewelry!