Scottish Genealogy

Dunottar Castle_LOCIntroduction

In the United States alone, more than four million people can claim Scottish ancestry and another four million claim Scots-Irish roots. Whether your Scottish ancestors emigrated from the Highlands of Scotland or the Ulster province of Ireland, you will find an abundance of genealogical and reference material within our collections.

Books pertaining to Scottish genealogy and the history of Scotland can be found throughout the library. Although there is not one central location for Scotland, the International Collection located on the first floor of the library contains the largest concentration of books regarding Scotland, falling under the call numbers of CS460-CS479 and DA780-DA890. To discover all the library at NEHGS has to offer, search the online library catalog.

How-To Guides

Tracing Your Scottish Ancestors: The Official Guide created by the National Archives of Scotland
NEHGS, 7th Floor Reference CS463 .C53 2011

Scottish Ancestry: Research Methods for Family Historians, revised 2nd ed. by Sherry Irvine
NEHGS, 1st Floor International Collection CS463 .I78 2003

A Genealogist's Guide to Discovering Your Scottish Ancestors: How to Find and Record Your Unique Heritage by Linda Jonas & Paul Milner
NEHGS, 7th Floor Reference CS463 .J66 2002

Tracing Scottish Ancestors by Simon Fowler
NEHGS, 7thfloor Reference CS463 .F68 2001

Jock Tamson's Bairns: A History of the Records of the General Register Office for Scotland by Cecil Sinclair NEHGS, 1st Floor International Collection CS464 .S56 2000

Researching Scots-Irish Ancestors: The Essential Genealogical Guide to Early Modern Ulster,1600–1800 by William J. Roulston
NEHGS, 1st Floor International Collection CS448.U45 R68 2005

Searching for Scotch-Irish Roots in Scottish Records, 1600-1750 by David Dobson
NEHGS, 1st Floor International Collection CS464 .D64 2007 Family History Research Wiki. Family Search offers several online guides to Scottish research and records, including “Finding Your Ancestors in Scotland before 1855” and “Finding Records of Your Ancestors, Scotland 1855-1901.”

Vital Records

Vital records for Scotland can be divided in two categories: pre-1855 and post-1855. Pre-1855 vital records were recorded and kept by parish churches. Known as Old Parish Registers, these registers consist of births, marriages and marriage banns, and some deaths. Old Parish Registers exist not only for the Church of Scotland. Pre-1855 vital records for other faiths, recorded by their respective churches, are also referred to as Old Parish Registers. NEHGS has Church of Scotland Old Parish Registers available on microfiche. They are indexed and searchable on several websites including and

An Act of Parliament required civil registration beginning in 1855. Civil registrations post 1855 to nearly present day have been indexed and digitized, and are available on the website The Family History Library also has microfilmed the index to civil registrations from 1855-1956.

Glasgow cathedral_Cornell UnivChurch Records

Church of Scotland

Old Parish Registers – Records of births, marriages, and deaths were kept by individual parishes between the years 1553-1854. These records are indexed by surname and given name. Old Parish Register indexes are available at NEHGS on microfiche:

  • CS477.A1 S87: Surname index to christenings in old parochial registers to 1855
  • CS477.A1 G58: Given name index to christenings in old parochial registers to 1855
  • CS477.A1 S872: Surname index to marriages in old parochial registers to 1855
  • CS477.A1 G582: Given name index to marriages in old parochial registers to 1855

Detailed List of the Old Parochial Registers of Scotland
NEHGS, Rare Book Collection CD1098.A2 A2 1872 (request at 7th-Floor desk)

Kirk Session Records – Kirk session records are the minutes of parish meetings that were held by the minister and church elders. These sessions kept records of the poor seeking help from the parish, parentage of illegitimate children, and other church business. They also may contain the records for births, marriages, and deaths not recorded in the parish registers. Few kirk session records have been published:

Session records of selected parishes are also available on microfilm from the Family History Library. Currently the National Archives of Scotland (NAS) is undertaking the digitization of kirk session and other Church of Scotland records from the 16th century to 1901.

Catholic Church Records

The Catholic Church was the established church in Scotland until the Scottish Reformation during the 1650s. The earliest Catholic records date from 1703. Records from the early part of the 18th century are few, with most dating from the late 18th century. Records of the Catholic Church include births, deaths, and marriages. They may also include sacramental dates, sick visits, and lists of parishioners. The Catholic Archives of Scotland have indexed and digitized all records in their holdings prior to 1855 and most after. All digitized records are available on The Family History Library also has several parishes available on microfilm.

Scottish Catholic Parents: And Their Children, 1701-1705 by Frances McDonnell
NEHGS, 1st Floor International Collection DA760 .M22 1995

Non-Conformist Church Records

Other religious denominations, often called Non-Conformists, existed in Scotland. Episcopalians, Society of Friends, Baptists, the Free Church, Methodists, and the Reformed Presbyterian Church are just a few. Several books on the Non-Conformists have been published. Records of many of the Non-Conformist churches are also available from and the website.

Scots Episcopalians at Home and Abroad, 1689-1800 by David Dobson
NEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks E184.S3 D72 2011

Sufferings of Early Quakers: Ireland, Scotland and Wales, including Monmouthshire & Shropshire, 1653 to 1691 by Joseph Besse
NEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks BX7630 .B42 v.5

Jewish Records

The first Jews arrived in Scotland during the 17th century, mostly as students, teachers, and craftsmen. The first Jewish communities did not become established until the late 19th century. The Scottish Jewish Archives Center has preserved synagogue member lists, register books, and other information regarding the Jewish community in Scotland. Information about their holdings can be found at

Alloway Kirk_Cornell UnivBurial and Cemetery Records

Deaths occurring after 1855 are recorded in civil registrations. However, few deaths were recorded in the Old Parish Registers prior to 1855. Kirk session records are often the best source for information regarding deaths. Deaths recorded in the parish kirk sessions are in the form of rental payments for use of a mortcloth. A mortcloth was used by the family of the deceased to cover the casket. Each parish owned their own and would rent them out to families. The death would be recorded in the form of a rental payment and by family name. Occasionally, the location of the burial would also be noted. Deaths recorded in kirk session records are not complete.

Cemetery records of modern cemeteries are generally held by each individual cemetery. is a good resource for cemeteries located in Scotland. Monumental inscriptions of ancient cemeteries have been published and are available in book form in the 1st Floor International Collection at NEHGS. CDs of monumental inscriptions of selected parishes can be found on the 4th Floor at NEHGS. Many individual genealogical and historical societies have undertaken the task of transcribing monuments and indexing cemeteries. The Scottish Family History Association maintains a list of local member societies with links to their websites.

The Edinburgh Graveyard Guide by Michael Turnbull
NEHGS, 1st Floor International Collection CS477.E2 T87 2006

Pre-1855 Gravestone Inscriptions in Inverness District edited by Alastair G. Beattie and Margaret Beattie
NEHGS, 1st Floor International Collection CS477.I58 P74 1993

Census Records

The first census was taken in Scotland in 1801 and taken every ten years after that. The 1841 was the first census which includes name, age, occupation, and place of birth. Census records are available for every census for the years 1841-1911.

Tracing Your Ancestors Using the Census: A Guide for Family Historians by Emma Jolly
NEHGS, 1st Floor International Collection CS.415 .J65 2013
Includes an introduction to using census records and information on less-well-known census records.

Edinburgh 1851 Census compiled by N.R. & S. Carstairs
NEHGS, 1st Floor International Collection CS477.E2 E35 1993

NEHGS has census records and directories of various towns and parishes in Scotland available on microfiche. To learn which places are included in the collection, search the NEHGS online library catalog for Scotland census or Scotland directory.

Scottish boys_NYPLImmigration

Records of those who emigrated from Scotland to the United States and around the globe are available in many forms. NEHGS has many works devoted to Scottish emigration. and are good sources for passenger lists and manifests for those arriving in the United States. has a collection of passenger lists leaving the United Kingdom 1890-1960.

Selected works available at NEHGS:

Directory of Scottish Settlers in North America by David Dobson
NEHGS, 5th Floor E184.S3 D63

The Original Scots Colonists of Early America by David Dobson
NEHGS, 5th Floor E184.S3 D64 1989

Scots in the USA and Canada, 1825-1875 by David Dobson
NEHGS, 5th Floor E184.S3 D647 1998

A Dictionary of Scottish Emigrants to Canada Before Confederation by Donald Whyte
NEHGS, 7th Floor Reference F1035.S4 W49 1985

Scotch Irish Pioneers in Ulster and America by Charles Knowles Bolton; foreword by Marie Daly
NEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks E184.S4 B6 2013

Ulster to America: The Scots-Irish Migration Experience edited by William R. Hofstra
NEHGS, 5th> Floor Stacks E184.S4 U48 2012

Sergeant George Jones_IWM CollectionsMilitary Records

Scotland maintained its own army until 1707. Until then an army was only called up as needed. Few records exist prior to 1707, but lists of officers were maintained. The Exchequer Rolls of Scotland contain muster rolls of the Scottish Army containing name and rank. The rolls are held at the National Archives of Scotland and have been published in book form. A copy of the entire work is available online at

After 1707, when the kingdoms of England and Scotland were unified, the Scottish military fell under the administration of the British Army. Records for the British Army are held the National Archives U.K.

The Naming & Numbering of Scottish Regiments of Foot Cavalry & Militia by David W. Webster
NEHGS, 1st Floor International Collection DA767 .W43 2002
This book contains the names and numbers not only of the regular Scottish regiments, but also the irregular, militia, rifle volunteers, and yeomanry.

The Brave Sons of Skye: Containing the Military Records (Compiled from Authentic Sources) of the Leading Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers, and Private Soldiers whom "Eilean a'Cheo" Has Produced by John MacInnes
NEHGS, 7th Floor Stacks CS479 .M2 1899

The Exchequer Rollsof Scotland = Rotuli Scaccarii Regum Scotorum edited by the late John Stuart and George Burnett
NEHGS, Rare Book Collection DA757 .E1 1878 and online at

Wills and Testaments

Those searching for a will or testament of an ancestor from Scotland should remember that there was no legal requirement for individuals to make a will. Even for those who died intestate, their families often did not go to court. Many settled family affairs amongst themselves. The Commissary Court was responsible for recording wills and testaments until 1823. In 1824, Commissary Courts were abolished and the duty of recording wills and testaments was taken over by the Sheriff’s Courts. The Scottish Archive Network offers an in-depth guide to the wills and testaments of Scotland, including links to other sites offering information on wills and testaments. NEHGS has many Commissary records available in print in the 1st Floor International Collection. These records are part of the Scottish Record Society Series.

Selected Commissary Court Records

The Commissariot Record of Glasgow: Register of Testaments, 1547-1800. Register of burials in the Chapel Royal or Abbey of Holyrood house, 1706-1900
NEHGS, 1st Floor International Collection CS460 .S4 v.7

The Commissariot Record of Orkney and Shetland. Register of testaments edited by Francis J. Grant
NEHGS, 1st Floor International Collection CS460 .S4 v.21

Scotland_British libraryMaps and Atlases

The Phillimore Atlas and Index of Parish Registers edited by Cecil Humphrey-Smith
NEHGS, 7th Floor Reference CS415 .P54 2003

A Genealogical Atlasof Scotland Compiled from Original Maps by David E. Gardner, Derek Harland, and Frank Smith
NEHGS, 1st Floor International Collection G1826.E1 G3 1962

The Gazetteer of Scotland by John M. Wilson
NEHGS, 1st Floor International Collection DA869 .W5 1882

Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Graphic and Accurate Description of Every Place in Scotland edited by Francis H. Groome
NEHGS, 1st Floor International Collection DA865 .G87 1903
Includes Illustrations, maps, and population figures.

Surname Research

The Surnames of Scotland: Their Origin, Meaning and History by George Fraser Black
NEHGS, 7th Floor Reference CS2345.B55 1946

Scottish Surnames by Donald Whyte
NEHGS, 7th Floor Reference CS2435 .W49 2000

The Scots in Ulster Surname Map: The First Scottish Migrations to Ulster, 1606-1641
NEHGS, Technical Services Map Case G5793.U4 2008 S36


The published genealogies represented in the following works are only a fraction of what is available. Individual family genealogies with links to Scotland or Ulster can be found on the 7th Floor at NEHGS. In addition, the Scottish Genealogy Society has published many family histories in its publications. Please search the NEHGS online library catalog by particular surname.

Scottish Family Historiescompiled by Joan P.S. Ferguson, assisted by Dennis Smith and Peter Wellb Ferguson
NEHGS, 1st Floor International Collection CS478 .F372 1986

Scottish Family History:A Guide to Works of Reference on the History and Genealogy of Scottish Familiesby MargaretStuart
NEHGS, 1st Floor International Collection CS463.S78 1979


NEHGS has a very good selection of periodicals regarding Scotland. Individual clans and families may also have their own journal. To discover if a specific clan or family has its own journal or publication, please consult the NEHGS online library catalog.

Scottish RecordSociety. Publications
NEHGS, 1st Floor International Collection CS460 .S4

Scottish Record 1969-Society. New Series.
NEHGS, 1st Floor International Collection CS460 .S4 n.s.

The Scottish Genealogist, published by the Scottish Genealogy Society
NEHGS, 1stFloor International Collection CS460 .S35

Highland Family History Society Journal
NEHGS, 1st Floor International Collection CS460 .H55

Scottish-American Genealogist
NEHGS, 1st Floor International CollectionCS460 .S3

The Scottish Antiquary, or, Northern Notes & Queries
NEHGS, 1st Floor International Collection DA750 .S2

Scottish Notes and Queries
NEHGS, 1st Floor International Collection DA750 .S3

Familia (Ulster Genealogical & Historical Guild)
NEHGS, 1st Floor International Collection CS440 .F36

Irish Historical Studies: Joint Journal of the Irish Historical Society and the Ulster Society for Irish Historical Studies
NEHGS, 1st Floor International Collection DA900 .I63

Journal ofScotch-Irish Studies

Coat of armsClan and Heraldry Research

Scotland's Historic Heraldry by Bruce A. McAndrew
NEHGS, Vault CR512 .M33 2006 (request at 7th Floor reference desk)

Scottish Heraldry: An Invitationby M.D. Dennis
NEHGS, Vault CR1652 .D46 1999 (request at 7th Floor reference desk)

Scottish Clan & Family Encyclopedia by George Way of Plean and Romilly Squire
NEHGS, 1st Floor International Collection DA880.H6 W39 1998

The Clans and Tartansof Scotland, 5th ed. by Robert Bain 5th ed.
NEHGS, 1st Floor International Collection DA880.H76 B3 1976

The Clans of the Scottish Highlands: The Costumes of the Clans text by James Logan
NEHGS, 1st Floor International Collection DA880.H76 L7 1980

Tartan for me!: Suggested Tartans for Scottish, Scotch-Irish, Irish, and North American Surnames with Lists of Clan, Family, and District Tartans by Philip D. Smith
NEHGS, 1st Floor International Collection DA880.H76 S55 1998

The Tartans of the Scottish Clans by James D. Scarlett
NEHGS, 1st Floor International Collection DA880.H76 S37 1975

Handwriting– Maintained by the National Records of Scotland, the site offers tutorials in early historic Scottish documents for the years 1500-1750. A free one-hour tutorial on reading old Scottish handwriting is available to download. More advanced classes and tutorials are available online for a fee.

Websites Pay per view. This is the official site for the government of Scotland and a major source for Scottish resources and records. It is run by the National Records of Scotland and the Lyon Office. The site offers access fully-indexed Old Parish Registers, civil registrations, wills, census records, coats of arms, and other documents. An initial surname search is free, but credits must be purchased to view actual documents. Free site. Paid subscription; available at the NEHGS library.

Findmypast Paid subscription; available at the NEHGS library. Offers a place search based on the 1881 census, which can be used to determine the parish and town where a specific place is located. This site also has the Militia Attestations Index 1860-1915.

The National Archives of Scotland Free online catalogs of records held at the NAS, finding aids, and guide to online research for Scotland. Paid subscription; available at the NEHGS library. Enter the name of a town and learn what records are available. Records include historic tax rolls, Ordnance Survey Name Books, Burgh registers, archaeological and architectural sites, and historical maps and plans.

The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland

The National Archives U.K. Guides and finding aids for military personnel and regiments in the U.K., including Scotland.

Scottish Archives Network Free website providing tools to understand the records of Scotland. Free general website for Scottish research. This site includes a forum, a list of Scottish Family History Societies, and links to other resources available online and in Scotland. It also contains a comprehensive explanation of the Scottish Census, including the enumerators’ instructions. Free. Links and information to free sites for Scottish research. Free. Offers information on Scottish genealogy and links for Scottish research, including county and town genealogical societies. Free site with links to current newspapers published in Scotland. Pay per view or subscription. Digitized newspapers from all over Britain, including Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The Court of the Lord Lyon Official heraldry office of Scotland. The Court is responsible for all matters relating to heraldry, coats of arms, and genealogy.

The Registry of Tartans A register of tartan designs maintained by the National Records of Scotland.

The Stair Society Information and articles on Scottish law dating back to the 15th century.


The Scottish Genealogy Society

The Scottish American Society

The Scottish Record Society

The Ulster-Scots Society of America

The Scotch Irish Society of the United States

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