Our members can search several hundred thousand old Scottish church records in our UK Parish Registers collection. Some go as far back as the 13th century and include baptisms, marriages and burials from such counties as Midlothian, Ayrshire, Lanarkshire and Fife. In all, some 20 counties or localities are covered, including Shetland. Civil registration began recording births, marriages and deaths in Scotland in 1855 – before this year, church registers will be the main family history resource available to you. Even after 1855, some births went unregistered but can often be found in parish records.
While the Church of England has enjoyed many centuries of supremacy in England, Scotland’s ecclesiastical history has been much more fractious, with Catholicism, Presbyterianism and various other groups vying to be the dominant faith in the country. As a consequence, family historians often find that parish registers for Scotland are less unified than those for England and Wales. However, within our Scottish parish registers you can often search records from a variety of different churches. Non-conformist registers are found within the collections we offer for many counties – for instance, there are rare Roman Catholic and Episcopal records for Aberdeenshire.
Although not actually a church record, the Scottish Covenanters Index is another gem. This lists over 26,000 Presbyterians who held to their faith under persecution between 1660 and 1690. While Royalists wanted to force the population into accepting the king as head of the church, Presbyterians swore to a covenant proclaiming Christ as the head of their church. Consequently, many were hunted down and imprisoned or executed. A date and place of birth is given for each covenanter.
Many family historians from England turn to Scottish records when they’re hoping to find a marriage for a couple who they believe eloped. Gretna Green had a reputation for conducting irregular marriages, which may not have been allowed elsewhere in the UK. If you need to search the Gretna Green marriage registers for 1794-1895 you can do so at our site.
Frequently, in addition to baptisms, marriages and burials, the parish records we offer include other miscellaneous entries relating to local matters, such as taxation, wills, real estate transactions and more. North of the border, parish registers are often referred to as old parochial records – OPRs for short. In many areas, local governance was provided by kirks, which operated in a similar way to parishes in England, and their dealings were recorded in the kirk sessions for the region.