National Records of Scotland

Preserving the past, Recording the present, Informing the future

Events, Talks and Visits

Events, Talks and Visits

We host a variety of events, talks and visits, including lectures on historical themes and records, introductory talks on family history, school workshops and visits by groups in further and higher education and evening classes in palaeography. The seminar facility at New Register House Dome can be booked for meetings and conferences.

Talks and visits

National Records of Scotland talks programme

All NRS talks and events are free, except for ScotlandsPeople sessions as noted, and they take place in General Register House or New Register House. Please see our location map. Places can be booked during office hours (Monday to Friday, 9.00 – 16.30) via the General Register House Reception on 0131 535 1314, or by following the 'Book Online' links below.

Please be aware, we ask visitors to register for our talks by following the 'Book Online' links below. However due to last minute cancellations there are often additional spaces available on the day. In this instance, any additional spaces are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.

For further information call the Reception or email:

20 August 2018, 1.00 - 2.00pm, General Register House
"No Vote, No Census": Using the 1911 census as a form of protest in Scotland

Ruth Boreham, Independent Researcher
Book Online

The 1911 census was seen by both suffragettes and suffragists as an opportunity to protest against a government that refused to grant them the parliamentary vote, despite decades of campaigning. Women were urged to boycott the census by spoiling papers, refusing to give information, or by avoiding their usual residence.

There has been some work done on the census returns in England, but what happened in Scotland?  In this talk Ruth Boreham will discuss her research into the topic using the National Records of Scotland Scottish census records and archival documents. Examining the different ways in which these records where used as a tool of protest – some wrote ‘suffragette’ as their occupation, some came together for the night with entertainment, others refused to be recorded -  join Ruth to discover some of the names of  those who campaigned for women’s suffrage in Scotland.

Book online

22 August 2018, 2.00 - 3.00pm, New Register House
'Building the New Jerusalem': Religious Dimensions of Women's Suffrage, Citizenship and Protest in Scotland

Dr Lesley Orr, University of Edinburgh
Book Online

Throughout the long campaign for women’s suffrage and broader feminist claims in Scotland, many of the movement’s leaders and activists were women of religious faith. They drew on their beliefs and values to make the case for equal rights and citizenship, and many became vocal critics of patriarchal Church traditions and practices in Presbyterian Scotland. Attempts were made to engage institutional church support for the Cause, and in 1912 a Scottish Churches League for Women’s Suffrage was established. Reactionaries railed against ‘the unholy sisterhood’ while more progressive Presbyterian ministers extolled the potential virtues of enfranchised women. Both constitutionalist and particularly militant campaigners often experienced and articulated the campaign as a spiritual movement with a gendered vision of social transformation. And for some women, this was carried into the war years as a feminist commitment to pacifist war resistance.

Drawing on sources including material in the National Records of Scotland, this talk will explore some of the key people, events and tensions involved in the complex, many faceted religious dimensions of the suffrage movement in Scotland, with reference to contrasting women including Lady Frances Balfour and socialist militant activist Helen Crawfurd.

Lesley is a feminist historian and activist who has written about women and Presbyterianism, the Women’s Peace Crusade, and the history of Women’s Aid in Scotland.

Book Online

23 August 2018, 11.00 - 12.00pm, General Register House
Discovering Edinburgh's first New Town at Register House: sources and revelations on architects and builders

Anthony Lewis, Curator of Scottish History of Glasgow Life
Book Online

The names of some of the architects of Edinburgh’s New Town may be familiar, James Craig, Robert Adam and Sir William Chambers, but what about the tradesmen and builders who worked and honed their craft over 30 years constructing the New Town? In this talk Anthony Lewis, curator of Scottish History at Glasgow Life, will cover how archives can reveal the realities and ambitions of the architects and builders who planned and constructed Edinburgh’s first New Town from 1767 to the 1790s. Drawing upon several types of archives accessible at NRS, General Register House – a fitting testament for a building which was purpose built to house archives to be studied, and in many ways symbolises the improvements and expansion Edinburgh City yearned for.

Book online

30 August 2018, 11.00 - 12.00pm, General Register House
After Suffrage: Feminism in interwar Scotland

Dr Valerie Wright, Research Associate, Economic and Social History, University of Glasgow
Book Online

It is traditionally assumed that after the partial enfranchisement of women in 1918 the women’s movement in the UK became moribund. Nothing could be further from the truth. The campaign for equality continued with suffragists and suffragettes continuing to work in a variety of women’s organisations in campaigns to improve the lives of women of all backgrounds. New organisations were established which focused on ‘active citizenship’ and encouraged women to use their votes as well as demand an extension of the franchise to all women. One such organisation was the Edinburgh Women’s Citizens Association (EWCA), a non-party explicitly feminist organisation which supported female candidates in local and national elections. It was affiliated to the Scottish Council of Women’s Citizens Assocations (SCWCA), which had branches throughout Scotland. The records for both the EWCA and SCWCA are held in the National Records of Scotland. In this talk I will discuss how these archive materials can be used, along with other sources, to find out more about the campaigns and demands of feminists in interwar Scotland, with a focus on Edinburgh.

Dr Valerie Wright serves on the steering committee of Women’s History Scotland and is a co-author and curator of ‘The Women’s Suffrage Movement in Scotland, 1867-1928: A learning Resource’ available at

Book online

12 September 2018, 1.00 - 2.00pm, New Register House
Royal Celtic Society
Tartan as a Jacobite Symbol

Lieutenant Colonel Peter MacDonald TD, Head of Research & Collections for the Scottish Tartans Authority (STA), and a serving full-time Reserve Officer with the Surgeon General's Dept.

Tartan was used as a Jacobite emblem during the ’45 and its symbolism is discussed during the Highland Revival following the Repeal of the Act of Proscription; with reference to the Moy Hall Plaid and the Ancient Caledonian Society Coat recently acquired by the Scottish Tartans Authority.

Tickets at door: £5 (£2 Students and Senior Citizens)

For more information about the Royal Celtic Society and their other events please see the RCS Website.

11 October 2018, 1.00 - 2.00pm, New Register House
Royal Celtic Society
The Book of the Club of True Highlanders and the Littlejohn Album - From Inverlochy to Invercharron: wherein lies the truth about shinty?
Dr Hugh Dan MacLennan

Dr Hugh Dan MacLennan’s family lived for a time virtually on the site of the Battle of Inverlochy, where the Society of True Highlanders was formed in 1815. His first language was Gaelic; his first degree at Glasgow University and his subsequent PhD at Aberdeen University, where the Littlejohn Album is now held. He is a Professional Fellow in the Academy of Sport, University of Edinburgh and was the first ever Sportswriter in Residence at the National Library of Scotland. He broadcasts on sport in Gaelic and, sometimes, English.

Tickets at door: £5 (£2 Students and Senior Citizens)

For more information about the Royal Celtic Society and their other events please see the RCS Website.

5 December 2018, 2.00 - 3.00pm, New Register House
Learning more about ScotlandsPeople

Iain Ferguson, ScotlandsPeople
Book Online

Iain Ferguson from ScotlandsPeople will introduce the service and provide some helpful hints and tips for ancestry-hunting on the ScotlandsPeople website.

There will be time given at the end for questions. 

Book Online

Talks and visits for groups in further and higher education

We deliver a limited number of specialised talks/workshops for groups of undergraduate and postgraduate students. To make enquiries, please contact: or telephone 0131 535 1354.

Schools programme

For information on school visits and workshops, visit the Scottish Archives for Schools website or contact our Education team at

Evening Class

Archivists from the NRS run evening classes in palaeography on behalf of the University of Edinburgh's Office of Lifelong Learning. This practical course in Scottish Handwriting covering the period 1500-1700 takes place at General Register House.

New Register House Dome Seminar Facility

The New Register House Dome is a unique venue, purpose-built to house the Scottish birth, death and marriage records dating back to 1553. The Dome Seminar Facility can be booked for meetings and conferences.