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 334 0380, 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:

22 August 2019, 11.00 - 12.00pm, New Register House
The Darker Side of Crime: Homicide in Nineteenth-Century Scotland

W.W.J. Knox, University of St Andrews
Book Online via Eventbrite

Historical interest in violent crime is a fairly recent development in Scotland unlike other countries such as England, France and the US. This is an attempt to shift the focus towards Scotland using the records of the High Court of Justiciary held in the National Records of Scotland. The court papers will be used to address four vital questions: who committed these crimes? who were the victims? what were their motives and what were the outcomes?
Dr Knox  will show how the court papers can be used to explain trends in violent behaviour as well as shed light on deeper issues connected to class and gender in nineteenth-century Scotland.
Time will be given at the end for questions.

30 August 2019, 1.00 -2.00pm, New Register House
Researching Criminal Lunatics: exploring archives

Kathryn Burtinshaw, Professional Genealogist, Director of Pinpoint Ancestry, with Dr John Burt, Professional Genealogist and retired G.P.
Book Online via Eventbrite

This talk focusses on the use of archival resources to research the history of criminal lunatics in Scotland and elsewhere in the UK. Introduced by changes in early 19th century law regarding criminal lunacy, case studies are then explored to illustrate the depth and wealth of archival records. An explanation will follow, detailing how a combination of different record sets help to provide a better picture of the treatment and medical care of criminal lunatics. 

9 September 2019, 1.00 - 2.00pm, New Register House
Royal Celtic Society

Land Reform in Scotland: The History from 1919 until the current Scottish political debate
Professor Ewen Cameron, Sir William Fraser Professor of Scottish History and Palaeography, University of Edinburgh

2019 is the centenary of the Land Settlement (Scotland) Act of 1919.  Prof. Cameron will argue that there is a case to be made that this piece of legislation was the most significant in the history of land reform in Scotland.  It gave additional powers to the Board of Agriculture, established by the Small Landholders (Scotland) Act of 1911.  The Board now had powers to, essentially, nationalise land.  Landed estates of very significant extent were taken into state ownership during the 1920s.  For both financial and political reasons, land reform of this kind fell out of fashion in the late 1920s.  After reviewing the effect of the 1919 Act the lecture will focus on the survival of the idea of land reform in Scottish political debate and its legislative revival following the creation of the Scottish parliament in 1999.

Tickets at door: £5 (£2 Students, Members and Senior Citizens)
For more information about the Royal Celtic Society and their other events please visit the RCS Website.

20 September 2019, 1.30 - 2.30pm, New Register House
Caring for your Family Papers

Gloria Conti and Andy McFarlane, Conservators, National Records of Scotland
Book Online via Eventbrite

Family Papers – letters, books, photographs – are often our most precious possession, but by their very nature they are fragile and easily damaged.

National Records of Scotland Conservators Andy McFarlane and Gloria Conti will be giving a talk on how to care for your family papers, ranging from storage solutions to safe display and handling.

After an introductory talk, the session will be dedicated to questions from the public who are encouraged to bring along items from their own family archives to spark discussion and receive general advice on how to look after them. Sample records and storing material will also be on display.

23 September 2019, 11.00 - 12.00pm, New Register House
Scotland's Population: How is it changing and what are the implications?

Esther Roughsedge, National Records of Scotland, Statistical Promotion and Analysis
Book Online via Eventbrite

This talk will give an overview of the ways in which the population of Scotland is changing. Esther will reflect on the changes in where and how people in Scotland are living, covering population change, birth rates, migration, housing, ageing and life expectancy.

There will be the opportunity to discuss the implications of these changes, and what this information can be used for.

27 September 2019, 1.00 - 2.00pm, New Register House
The Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge (SSPCK): Recovering Education in the 18th Century Highlands

Jamie J. Kelly, PhD Researcher, University of Glasgow
Book Online via Eventbrite

Founded in Edinburgh in 1709, the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge (SSPCK) was a joint-stock charity organisation that aimed to extend education provision in the Highlands and Islands. Schooling in English literacy and Presbyterian doctrine, it was believed, was the means by which Jacobitism and Catholicism would be stamped out in the region, and by which hearts and minds would be won for the post-1690 Revolution settlement and, latterly, the British imperial project.

As the only organisation of its kind operating in the Highlands in the 18th Century—a time of profound social, economic, political and religious change—many scholars have acknowledged the historical importance of the SSPCK.

However, scholars have yet to produce a dedicated study of the organisation rooted in archival evidence. This talk interrogates the established historical arguments surrounding the SSPCK using evidence primarily from the Society’s own archive. As well as re-evaluating the impact of the SSPCK in the Highlands, the talk will explore the extent of education provision in the region prior to the Society’s foundation, and trace the relationships that developed between the organisation and the communities it sought to affect.

3 October 2019, 1.00 - 2.00pm, New Register House
Learning more about ScotlandsPeople

Iain Ferguson, ScotlandsPeople
Book Online via Eventbrite

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

10 October 2019, 1.00 - 2.00pm, New Register House
A System of Maltreatment: Exposing Victorian Coercive Control in the National Records of Scotland

Ashley Dee, History Post-graduate Researcher, Women's History Scotland Committee Member
Book Online via Eventbrite

Ashley Dee will introduce her PhD research on the history of domestic abuse in Victorian Glasgow, paying specific attention to the, today, criminalised behaviour Coercive Control. As the custodian of the archives of Scotland's Court of Session, the National Records of Scotland holds over 400 years of divorce and separation papers. Inside these cases are the stories of thousands of unhappy marriages that Ashley will draw upon.

The talk will begin by introducing the audience to the legal process of getting a divorce or separation in Victorian Scotland. Ashley will then delve into some of the more harrowing tales held by the National Records of Scotland featuring silent treatment, venereal disease, economic control, alcoholism, and neglect.

Due to the nature of this topic, please be aware that this talk may contain some distressing narratives.

5 November 2019, 1.30 - 2.30pm, New Register House
For Baith Plenty and Pleisure: Putting together the Story of the Gardens at Gordon Castle

Christopher Dingwall, Scotland's Garden and Landscape Heritage
Book Online via Eventbrite

Using Gordon Castle as a case study, this illustrated talk will demonstrate how estate archives can be used to help uncover the history of a garden. The story of gardening and planting at Gordon Castle, by Fochabers, goes back more than four centuries. Christopher will tell this story using a combination of estate plans, financial records, memoranda, and other documents held by the National Records of Scotland – a story which involved the relocation of the town of Fochabers. The talk will also explain how understanding the history of the eight acre walled garden at Gordon Castle has helped to inform its recent restoration from a state of neglect to become a productive garden once more.

20 November 2019, 1.00 - 2.00pm, New Register House
Archive fever? A worm's eye view of the NRS and the NRAS

Professor Viccy Coltman, History of Art, University of Edinburgh
Book Online via Eventbrite

In this illustrated talk, Professor Viccy Coltman will offer new and existing readers an introduction to using the resources of the National Records of Scotland and National Register of Archives for Scotland for the purposes of academic research. Drawing on her experience of writing a cultural history of Scotland from the mid eighteenth century to the 1830s, she will give us a ‘worm’s eye’ view of her craft that will include some discoveries, low points and ‘tricks of the trade’.


Talks and visits for groups in further and higher education

We deliver a limited number of specialised talks and workshops for groups of undergraduate and postgraduate students visiting with their tutors to investigate particular topics. Similarly, we can accommodate a small number of visits each year from local history or other specialist interest groups. Such visits are by appointment only.

To make enquiries, please contact: or telephone 0131 535 1354.

Services for Schools

Our Services for Schools is designed to support the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence and National Qualifications in the form of workshops and online resources for Scottish primary and secondary schools.

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.