National Records of Scotland

Preserving the past, Recording the present, Informing the future

Family History

Family History

If you are starting to compile your family tree the best advice is to work backwards in time. Start with a person whose full name you know, together with identifying details such as place and date of birth, marriage or death. You will usually find tracing a Scottish line of descent back to 1855 fairly straightforward but going beyond 1855 can be more difficult.

This brief guide covers:  the main records for tracing Scottish ancestors;  where and how you can access them;  and our guides and services to aid your family history research.

Research guides

Our research guides cover all areas of the national archive collections.  The following are the main records for family history research:

We also provide access to:

Access to the records

You can search the records in the following ways:

To protect the privacy of living people there are cut-offs of 100 years for images of birth records, 75 for marriages and 50 for deaths.

There is a statutory fee for access.  We also provide:

Once you have got the outline of your family tree you may like to continue your research in the Historical Search Room.

Further guidance

The Shop page has details of our official guide to tracing Scottish ancestors and other publications to aid your research.

The palaeography page provides information about our online tuition, evening classes and self-help pack on Scottish handwriting.

Useful websites for family historians provides access to online resources and the official records of other countries.