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:

30 October 2018, 12.00 - 1.00pm, General Register House
Hidden histories: the experiences of Scottish prisoners of war, 1914-1918

Dr Tristram Clarke, Head of Outreach, National Records of Scotland
Book Online

From capture through captivity to escape, repatriation, release or death, the experiences of prisoners of war are a lesser-known aspect of the First World War. This talk will take a closer look at some of the themes and characters featured in the NRS exhibition ‘For you the war is over: Scottish POWs 1914-1918’, 22 October – 23 November 2018. Learn more about the exhibition here.

Book Online

31 October 2018, 12.30 - 1.30pm, General Register House
Reassessing Tartan History

Dr Sally Tuckett, Lecturer, Dress and Textile Histories, University of Glasgow
Book Online

The history of tartan is a complex one that touches on rebellion and loyalty, royalty and non-elites, and fashion and function. Its association with Jacobitism and its more recent use as an indicator of national identity means that it is also often ascribed with many romanticised meanings and messages, but its popularity can also be attributed to its versatility and aesthetic qualities. This talk will use the records of William Wilson & Son of Bannockburn, pre-eminent tartan manufacturers of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, to explore how and why tartan became so popular in this period. 

Book Online

7 November 2018, 4.45 - 5.45pm, New Register House
'A very arduous period': the Register Houses at War, 1914-1918

Dr Tristram Clarke, Head of Outreach, National Records of Scotland
Book Online

A small plaque in General Register House commemorates the death in action of just one member of staff. Can he have been the only one to lose his life? This talk will reveal the forgotten story of the men who left for the war, some never to return. It will also explore the remarkable contribution of those who toiled to run the Register House departments in wartime.

Book Online

12 November 2018, 12.00 - 1.00pm, General Register House
Buyer Beware: Shopping for clothes in late 17th century Edinburgh

Professor Maria Hayward, University of Southampton
Book Online

This talk considers how men and women selected clothes and accessories in the late 17th century on several levels including the practicalities of shopping, negotiating the sumptuary law that tried to restrict what individuals could wear, as well and conforming to religious and social attitudes. It will also explore the process from the perspective of the tailors and merchants as they sought to make a living within the boundaries of the law.

Book Online

23 November 2018, 12.00 - 1.00pm, General Register House
500-Year-Old Stationery - The Halyburton Ledger

Peter Dickson, Conservator, National Records of Scotland
Book Online

Book Conservator Peter Dickson from National Records of Scotland (NRS) will present a talk on the Ledger of Andrew Halyburton, the 15th century conservator of the privileges of the ‘Scotch nation in the Low Countries’.

After a brief biography of Andrew Halyburton and his work, this talk will focus on the techniques used in the binding of his ledger, how it speaks to stationery binding throughout the centuries, its conservation and the binding of a facsimile volume.

The Halyburton Ledger facsimile will be on display in General Register House 19 - 30 November 2018.

Book Online

27 November 2018, 2.00 - 3.00pm, General Register House
Exploring Archives: Tales of the Unexpected

Dr Jill Turnbull
Book Online

Dr Jill Turnbull’s special area of interest is the history of the Scottish glass industry, but during long years of research she has developed a passion for the archives themselves and the human stories they contain.
There is an abundance of archives in Edinburgh and other cities and towns in Scotland, many of them full of surprises. Not only are there interesting documents, printed and hand-written, preserved and available for study, there are objects too, each telling their own story and revealing unexpected events in people’s lives over the centuries. Dr Turnbull's talk will illustrate unusual stories about Scots, each containing a surprise discovery, using material from a variety of local sources details of which will be provided.

Book Online

29 November 2018, 2.00 - 3.00pm, General Register House
The Jewellery Craft in Scotland, c.1780-1914 

Dr Sarah Laurenson, Curator, National Museum of Scotland
Book Online

Scotland has a long history of producing jewellery by hand. The country has one of the most geologically diverse natural landscapes in the world. This talk looks at how jewellers of the 19th century crafted objects using materials sourced from the Scottish landscape including precious metals, coloured stones and freshwater pearls.
By exploring museum objects and archival documents - including family papers and business records - the talk will trace the making of jewellery from raw materials in the Scottish landscape, through the workshop and on to the bodies of  wearers. Historical sources reveal a picture of a vibrant and dynamic craft made up of a skilled body of producers who created a wide range of goods, from souvenirs to fashionable novelties to treasured heirlooms. By focusing on the relationship between makers and owners, we see how the desire for Scottish-made jewellery throughout the nineteenth century gave rise to new and revived trades and skills across both towns and rural areas.

Book Online

4 December 2018, 1.00 - 2.00pm, New Register House
Royal Celtic Society
The Heraldry of the Clans
Dr Joe J Morrow, Lord Lyon King of Arms Scotland

The Lord Lyon is the sole King of Arms in Scotland. He is head of the Heraldic Executive and the Judge of the Court of the Lord Lyon which has jurisdiction over all heraldic business in Scotland.  Dr Morrow has been Lord Lyon King of Arms since 2014, and has for nearly 35 years been actively involved in the community and civic life in Scotland.  He was a solicitor and member of the Faculty of Advocates working in both private practice and the voluntary sector.  He is currently President of the Mental Health Tribunal for Scotland.  He has served as Justice of the Peace for the City of Dundee, on the Visiting Committees of HM Prisons, is Chancellor of Moray, Ross and Caithness, and Vice Lord Lieutenant of the City of Dundee.

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

For more information about the Royal Celtic Society and their other events please visit 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

6 December 2018, 1.00 - 2.00pm, General Register House
Dressing the Renaissance Queen: Mary Queen of Scots' Wardrobe

Dr Alison Rosie, National Records of Scotland
Book Online

Magnificence and luxury were the hallmarks of the Renaissance monarch. Clothes and jewellery played an important role in the expression of monarchy. This talk will look at what Mary’s inventories and the Treasurer’s accounts tell us about her clothing and jewellery and what she may have worn during her personal rule in Scotland.

Book Online

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.