I am a genealogist based in Scotland and have been running my own business, Our Scots Genealogy Research for many years. Tracing your family history gives you an insight into what defines you as a person, and there will be puzzles surprises along the way. Finding answers to your questions usually leads to more questions, but it is fascinating and satisfying. Not to mention highly addictive! I love the thrill of hunting down elusive ancestors and I feel fortunate so be working in a job that really fires me up.
You can find my website at Our Scots Genealogy Research.
I’ve put together some basic answers to Frequently Asked Questions which I hope will help you, but please contact me if your question is not covered.
It’s all online isn’t it?
How far back in time would you be able to go?
What services do you offer?
I know I’m related to a famous historical figure – can you prove the connection?
Other FAQ’s can be found on my website at Our Scots Genealogy Research, or feel free to contact me.
Some Scottish genealogical records can be accessed online, but the majority can only be viewed by visiting in person – this is where having someone local “on the ground” can be make a big difference.
Most of the Scottish records which are vital to a family historian are held centrally in Edinburgh at National Records of Scotland, where I carry out the bulk of my client research work. Occasionally it is necessary to visit other repositories to access their collections -National Library of Scotland, St Andrews University Special Collections Department, cemeteries or Local Archives Centres, for example.
How Far Back Can You Expect to Trace?
So what can you realistically hope for? Here’s a sweeping generalisation – it is usually possible to trace some lines of a family back to the mid-1700’s, however some families can be traced further back in time, and some come to a dead end. We are dependent on the availability of records – some records have not survived to the present day.
Statutory Registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages began in Scotland in 1855 and Scottish certificates contain a lot of detail compared to similar documents from other countries. I have access to all Birth, Death and Marriage Certificates, including those most recently registered with GROS. Official Census records began in 1841 and a Census was taken every 10 years from then on. The most recent publicly available Census information is from 1911.
Prior to Statutory Registration, we mainly rely on the Church of Scotland Old Parish Registers for records of Birth/Baptism and Marriages, along with a very few Death records. There were no guidelines issued as to which details should be recorded, so the content of these registers varies from Parish to Parish. These records are not complete – some have fallen prey to fire, damp or mice. There are also similar records for Roman Catholics and some other Churches, and many other records where your ancestors may be mentioned.
The likelihood of finding your Scottish ancestors is also affected by factors such as whether they lived in a big city or in a small village, what their occupations were, their general level of wealth – did they own land, leave Wills or were they able to afford headstones? Were they law-abiding or did they get into trouble?
I can retrieve a copy of a record from a local repository; carry out a small or large genealogy project tailored to your aims and objectives, once we have agreed a research plan and budget; offer guidance and advice by email or phone; photograph a headstone, Church or house for you; and just about anything else relating to family history. Please contact me to discuss your particular project.
Famous Historical Figures
I am sometimes asked to prove a connection between someone’s ancestor and Robert the Bruce, Rob Roy or another famous Scottish person. Family anecdotes can contain valuable clues, but the information may not be correct. As mentioned above, research is dependent on there being relevant records in existence, so it is only possible to follow the paper trail until it runs out. It is unwise, not to mention time-consuming, to start this type of research using a published genealogy of the famous person and try to connect their descendants to your ancestors. I would always advise to trace your own ancestors, and see where the research led. The trail may stop well short of the desired “target” person, however all the information and documents obtained for you would relate to your own family.
My website is at Scottish Genealogist or you can contact me by email – firstname.lastname@example.org.