National Records of Scotland

Preserving the past, Recording the present, Informing the future



This guide covers secondary sources, some dating from the early 19th century, that can support your research in our archive collections. They are available in our Reference Library and in other major libraries.

  • For details of our current publications relating to archives please go to the Shop page
  • For online access to our statistical publications please go to the Statistics and Data area of this website. 
Downloadable Resources

Produced for the Declaration of Arbroath's 700th anniversary, this booklet provides an introduction to this unique document. It explains the context of its creation in the 14th century, what it achieved at that time and its history in the National Records of Scotland (NRS). 

Declaration of Arbroath Booklet (English) (1.02 MB PDF)

Gairm Obar Bhrothaig (1.01 MB PDF)

The Declaration of Arbroath: An illustrated activity booklet

A partnership project between NRS and Historic Environment Scotland (HES), this booklet, featuring illustrations by the writer and artist Andrew Redmond Barr, is aimed at primary school age pupils and other young learners. It explains the link between the Declaration of Arbroath and Arbroath Abbey and the role they play in Scottish history and identity. Learners can find out about the Declaration and use their imaginations to draw, design and create. They can also colour in the illustrations.

The Declaration of Arbroath: An illustrated activity booklet (English)  (5.8 MB PDF)

Gairm Obar Bhrothaig: Leabhran obrach le dealbhan (5.8 MB PDF)

The Declaration of Arbroath: An illustrated activity booklet Teachers' Notes (187 KB PDF)

Investigating the Sealants of the Declaration of Arbroath

This resource, produced in partnership with HES, with original research provided by University of Strathclyde’s genealogical postgraduate programme, allows P7/S1 pupils studying the Scottish Wars of Independence to investigate the individuals who attached their seals to the Declaration of Arbroath.  The resource comprises: information about the Declaration, teachers’ notes, a set of sealants' information sheets, and a student task sheet.

Information about the Declaration of Arbroath (799 KB PDF)

Investigating the sealants of the Declaration of Arbroath Teachers' Notes (819 KB PDF)

Declaration of Arbroath sealants' information sheets (3.7 MB PDF)

Declaration of Arbroath sealants' student task sheet (1.5 MB Word document)

Scottish Handwriting 1500-1700: a self-help pack

A step-by-step guide to reading the handwriting of old Scottish documents using facsimiles, mainly from the National Records of Scotland's (NRS) archives. This is an updated version of the original kit, created in partnership with the NRS and the Scottish Records Association (SRA). A physical copy is also available to purchase from the ScotlandsPeople online store.

Scottish Handwriting 1500-1700 a self-help kit (digital version) (52.3 MB PDF)

Annual Report of the Keeper of the Records of Scotland

These publications provide information about the work of the National Archives of Scotland (formerly the Scottish Record Office).  The last eight reports are published here in portable document format. PDF files require Acrobat Reader. Download it free Get Acrobat Reader.

Record-related publications

Gordon Donaldson's 'The sources of Scottish history' is a comprehensive guide to both records and works of reference. It discusses central and local public records, church records and their descendants, private records and other materials. It also describes bibliographical, biographical, topographical, chronological and other publications and contemporary narrative sources. It was initially published privately in 1978 and only later was it offered for public sale. Consequently it will be available only in larger libraries and in specialist history collections.

Two long-standing societies are still active in the field of publishing archival material.

Their publications, and those of other Scottish historical and related clubs and societies, are listed in D and W B Stevenson, 'Scottish texts and calendars: an analytical guide to serial publications (Scottish History Society and Royal Historical Society, 1987).

Still of use for their lists of publications of Scottish state papers are:

  • C S Terry, 'A catalogue of the publications of Scottish historical and kindred clubs and societies and of the volumes relative to Scottish history issued by His Majesty's Stationery Office, 1780-1908' (Glasgow, 1909)
  • C Matheson, 'A catalogue of the publications of Scottish historical and kindred clubs and societies and of the papers relative to Scottish History issued by HM Stationery Office, including the reports of the Royal Commission on Historical MSS, 1908-1927' (Aberdeen, 1928).

Other publications about our records are:

  • 'Accounts of the Masters of Works: for building and repairing royal palaces and castles'  Two volumes, 1529-1649. Edited by Henry M. Paton et al. (Edinburgh, Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1957-1982)
  • 'Compota Thesaurariorum Regum Scotorum Accounts of the Lord High Treasurer of Scotland' also called 'Accounts of the Treasurer of Scotland'.  13 volumes, 1473-1580. Edited by Thomas Dickson et al. (Edinburgh, HM General Register House/Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1877-1978)
  • 'Rotuli Scaccarii Regum Scotorum. The Exchequer Rolls of Scotland'.  22 volumes, 1264-1600. Edited by John Stuart and George Burnett et al. (Edinburgh, HM General Register House, 1878-1908)
  • 'Registrum Magni Sigilli Regum Scotorum. The Register of the Great Seal of Scotland'. 11 volumes, 1306-1668. Edited by John Maitland Thomson et al. (Edinburgh, Scottish Record Society, 1984)
  • 'Registrum Secreti Sigilli Regum Scotorum. The Register of the Privy Seal of Scotland'.  8 volumes, 1488-1584. Edited by M. Livingstone et al. (Edinburgh, HM General Register House/Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1908-1982)
  • 'Acta Dominorum Concilii. Acts of the Lords of Council in civil causes'.  3 volumes, 1478-1503. Edited by George Neilson et al. (Edinburgh, HM General Register House/Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1839-1993)
  • 'Acts of the Lords of Council in Public Affairs'.  One volume, 1501-1554. Edited by Robert Kerr Hannay (Edinburgh, HM General Register House, 1932)
  • 'The Register of the Privy Council of Scotland'.  16 volumes 1545-1691. Edited by John Hill Burton et al. (Edinburgh, HM General Register House/Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1877-1970)
  • 'The Acts of the Parliaments of Scotland'.  11 volumes with two volumes of indices and 1 later suppressed volume dated 1124-1707, which contains various items of parliamentary business, including minutes, orders of council and session and some statutes omitted from the previous 11 volumes.