Coverage of the Old Parish Registers
Coverage of the Old Parish Registers
The Old Parish Registers cover the period from 1553 to 1854 but the standard of record-keeping varied considerably from parish to parish and from year to year. Registers for some parishes start in the early 19th century and in a few no records survive. It's unlikely that any parish achieved 100% coverage. There are a number of reasons for the defects and gaps in the registers:
- No standard format for recording the information;
- Registration was not compulsory and in some places was slow to become established;
- Carelessness on the part of the session clerk or minister and lack of supervision;
- Some members of non-conformist churches (“dissenters” ) objected to registering with the Established Church although the Old Parish Registers do include people of other denominations who were resident in Church of Scotland parishes;
- The Stamp Duty Act of 1783 (23 Geo III c 67) introduced a fee of three pence on ‘the registry of burials, marriages, baptisms and christenings’ with a penalty of five pounds for those who refused to pay - it was repealed in 1794;
- Rapid urbanisation in the 19th century saw the role and influence of the Church diminishing in the large towns and cities - evidence of low registration rates in these areas was a key factor in the introduction of compulsory civil registration;
- Damage to volumes or pages caused by, for example, damp storage conditions, rodents or fire.
Although civil registration was introduced in 1855 you will find some entries for that and later years in the Old Parish Registers. Most are also recorded in the statutory registers of births, deaths and marriages - a few are not.
In 1872 the Registrar General of Births, Deaths and Marriages produced a guide to the Old Parish Registers that had been transferred to his custody and those held locally at the time. It is made available as a portable document format with bookmarks to the first page of each county and the index of parishes. PDF files require Acrobat Reader. Download Acrobat Reader free .
Detailed list of the Old Parochial Registers of Scotland (8.8 MB pdf file)
This search room guide is based on the 'Detailed list'. It was first produced in 1975 and is kept under revision. Please note that it provides covering dates only. To check for any gaps in the records for a particular parish you should consult the 'Detailed list'.
The 'List of OPRs' records the number of volumes of the Register of Neglected Entries (1801-1854) or RNE per parish; provides cross-references to appendix one which lists kirk session records containing pre-1855 birth, death and marriage entries; and includes references to indexes and transcripts held in the ScotlandsPeople Centre's Reference Library.
The old names of some counties are given in brackets.
|OPR 1-56||Shetland, Orkney, Caithness, Sutherland|
|OPR 57-119||Ross and Cromarty, Inverness|
|OPR 120-167||Nairn, Moray (Elgin), Banff|
|OPR 250-322||Kincardineshire, Angus (Forfar)|
|OPR 460-491||Kinross, Clackmannan, Stirling|
|OPR 492-551||Dunbarton, Argyll|
|OPR 552-575||Bute, Renfrew|
|OPR 661-673||West Lothian (Linlithgow)|
|OPR 674-701||Midlothian (Edinburgh)|
|OPR 702-725||East Lothian (Haddington)|
|OPR 758-811||Peebles, Selkirk, Roxburgh|
|OPR 855-901||Kirkcudbright, Wigtown|
Appendix 1: kirk session records (our reference CH2) containing pre-1855 birth, death and marriage entries
Appendix 2: kirk session and other material found in the Old Parish Registers
Appendix 3: miscellaneous records containing entries from non-conformist churches relevant to the Old Parish Registers