Many good instructional books are available but one of the most comprehensive and reader-friendly is Dr. Bruce Durie’s Scottish Genealogy. This book guides us expertly through all aspects of Scottish genealogy and includes tips on research organization, a Scots legal glossary, Gaelic language, letters and pronunciation, and has an extremely helpful section on paleography.
Kathleen B. Cory: Tracing Your Scottish Ancestry, 3rd edition, has useful appendices containing a glossary of occupations, terms and contractions found in Scottish records and census returns. Included is an alphabetical list of parishes, counties and commissariats we need to know when hunting for testaments or inventories.
Rosemary Bigwood: The Scottish Family Tree Detective, contains excellent information on Scots law and understanding Scottish legal documents, also website links to archives holding Scottish material.
Chris Paton: Researching Scottish Family History, a slim volume packed with essential information.
Sherry Irvine: Your Scottish Ancestry (Revised): A guide for North Americans. Available also on Kindle.
National Archives of Scotland: Tracing Your Scottish Ancestors, contains information on traditional and online sources along with researching vital records and wills.
All of the above are currently available inexpensively from Amazon in paperback.
Browse the extensive and world-class Scottish Archives, noted as the best in Canada, held at Guelph University (McLaughlin) Library. The Scottish Studies Foundation has donated $10,000 to the project of digitizing the Scottish archives held at Guelph, and this includes over 300 books. The University provides borrowing access to all members of the Wellington Community for most of the other historical and genealogical volumes we’d otherwise need to buy. Community borrower cards are available for free. You can fill out an application at the Ask Us desk. This will allow you to take out 20 books at a time.
Family History Centres
FHCs are branches of FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/) and the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints (LDS). Their stated goal is to provide worldwide resources to assist everyone in the research and study of genealogy and family history by free personal one-on-one assistance, and by providing access to genealogical records online They offer free access to many subscription genealogical websites such as:
- 19th century British newspapers
- Newspaper Archives
- Ancestry.com (Library Edition)
- MyHeritage (Library Edition)
- Fold 3
Our closest Family History Centres are in Brampton at the corner of Bovaird Drive and Bramalea Road (phone 905-799-3214), and Kitchener at 10 Lorraine Ave. (phone 519-741-9591). Free access to their computers, subscription sites, library holdings, microfiche readers and helpful staff is provided.
FamilySearch Affiliate Libraries also provide access to a vast number of digital records that are not available outside a Family History Centre. The Guelph Public Library has become a FamilySearch Affiliate Library! With this new licensing, patrons now have access to approximately 400 million original records (in a digital format) that would normally be restricted. Access is only available through the main branch, located at 100 Norfolk St, Guelph.
The International Genealogical Index (IGI)
The IGI is a family history database listing genealogical details of millions of names of deceased people, including the Scots. These details were provided from two sources, the contributions by community members submitted to the LDS (unreliable), and church records separately indexed for the LDS by two separate community volunteers and compared for accuracy. The latter contributions are identified by a batch number (representing which batch of specific parish records the information came from) and are generally reliable as sources which lead us to authentic primary sources of verification. Understanding these batch numbers permits us to manipulate them. If, for instance, we have verified from Scotlands People that Martha Weir was born in Edinburgh Parish on 25th September 1787, the daughter of Thomas Weir and Margaret Inglis, we can obtain the same information from IGI but with a batch number [C11981-7] which enables us to find Martha’s siblings, previously unknown to us. We enter Martha’s batch number and only the surname Weir in the IGI batch number search line, press ‘submit’, and scroll down the list of candidates to find all children born in that time period in Edinburgh Parish with parents named Thomas Weir and Margaret Inglis. We then repeat the process but change the batch number either up or down one digit [C11981-6 and C11981-8] to discover children born before or after Martha’s batch was indexed. Each child thus found must then be verified with a copy of the record from Scotlands People, but the IGI batch numbers are extremely useful in providing verifiable clues to complete families.
Note: Scottish telephone numbers start with a zero, e.g. the General Register Office for Scotland’s phone number is 0131 556 7255. Phoning from Canada, dial 1 for long distance, then 44 for country code, then the number given but omit the first zero, therefore 1-44-131-556-7255.
Birth, Marriage and Death
Scottish Records after 1855 are usually found through Scotlands People, https://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk) the official genealogy resource. Subscription online is ₤7 (approx. $13.00 depending on exchange rate) for 30 credits which we spend as we retrieve desired documents. Scotlands People allows us to examine Statutory Registers, Old Parish Registers, Catholic Registers, Census information from 1841-1911, Valuation Rolls of 1895, 1905, 1915, and 1920, Wills and Testaments and Coats of Arms. It also allows free viewing of previous searches and previously viewed images, which is great for those of us with less than perfect memory! Records prior to 1855 [Old Parish Records] can involve a hunt if we don’t know the parish our ancestor came from. A good source of information is The Parishes, Registers and Registrars of Scotland, published by the Scottish Association of Family History Societies https://www.safhs.org.uk
Note: It is more common to discover baptism, dates of marriage banns, and dates of rental of the burial cloth (mortcloth) than it is to find actual birth, marriage and death dates.
Scotland’s family (http://www.scotlandsfamily.com lets us click any county to find a location map for all parishes within that county. This site has been updated, and boasts that its aim is “to point you to free online data and information in diverse Scotland family history records, wherever you live in the world.” This includes ships and passenger lists, information re Scottish marriages, surname origins, a Scots dictionary, gazetteer and information re DNA testing. Maps are easily accessible from many sources on the internet, but a very useful Scottish site is:
https://www.scottish-places.info/counties/countymaps7.html. This map appears focused on Caithness area, but you can shift it around with your mouse to any area of Scotland. Once you get to the area of interest, you can move the slider on the left side of the map up close to the top; this switches it over to the “historical” mode in a black and white version where you can find small villages and communities that no longer show up on modern maps.
The Gazetteer for Scotland https://www.scottish-places.info offers a free subscription and members enjoy maps, timelines of Scottish history, and a search engine providing information about any Scottish place or location.
National Library of Scotland: https://www.nls.uk
Scotland’s Places: www.scotlandsplaces.gov.uk
National Archives of Scotland: https://www.nrscotland.gov.uk
Scottish Genealogy Society: https://www.scotsgenealogy.com
The Association of Scottish Genealogists and Researchers in Archives: https://www.asgra.co.uk/
Scotsman Newspaper Digital Archive: https://britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/titles/the-scotsman
Gazetteer for Scotland: https://www.scottish-places.info
Scottish Special Interest Group, Ontario Ancestors: https://scottishsig.ogs.on.ca
Our thanks to Sheila Watt, Wellington County Branch, O.G.S. Member 26399, for preparing this list, August 2015. Updated August 2022.