National Records of Scotland

Preserving the past, Recording the present, Informing the future

How To Request and Access Our Records

How To Request and Access Our Records

Please ensure you read the following information on how to request and access our records, this forms part of our Conditions of Access:

Requesting records before your visit

  • You can request records stored off-site remotely, using the online document request system, which is part of the NRS online catalogue
  • Once you have identified an item - those off-site will include, near the top, the direction to ‘click here to place an advance order for this record’ . You will then be prompted to add your details and select a date to view the item.
  • You do not require a Reader’s Ticket to place requests for off-site items in advance of your visit. However you must obtain one before you are able to view any records.
  • We require at least three working days’ notice to produce records held off-site. 
  • You can request up to 12 off-site items per day of your visit.
  • Records stored on-site can only be requested in the search room during your visit
  • Please note that original maps and plans cannot be requested for production in the Historical Search Room.  All visits to the Maps and Plans Search Room must be booked in advance, please see the separate Maps and Plans research guide for more details.

Requesting records during your visit:

  •  When you arrive in the Historical Search Room, you will be allocated a seat and staff will retain your Reader’s Ticket. 
  • You can request records stored on site using the electronic ordering system on the computers located in the HIstorical search room. You will need to know your reader’s ticket number, so please make a note of that before you hand it to staff. When you have entered this, please check your name and seat number are correct. Then type the full record reference numbers for each item and submit your request.
  • Document requests may be made up to 3.30pm each day.
  • We aim to produce on-site records within 30 minutes of a request being made.
  • Records must be returned by 4:15pm. A bell will sound to signal the time.
  • You may request up to six on-site items at a time. No more than three of these items will be issued to you at any one time. In the case of papers which have not yet received individual piece numbers, only one bundle will normally be issued at a time.
  • To request items held off-site during a visit, either use your own device or one of the search room computers to access the online catalogue and follow the process outlined above. Please note we require at least three working days’ notice to produce records held off-site.
  • Staff will bring records to your seat in the Historical Search Room.
  • Please do not remove records from your allocated desk or share with other readers. Records must only be moved by staff. 
  • The catalogues and reference books on the open shelves in the search room areas are self-service. Please ask staff for a document request slip to leave in place of any volume removed, giving your name, seat number, date, and please return the volume as soon as possible.

Returning records

  • When you are ready to return records, please alert a member of staff and these will be collected from your desk, checked and returned to storage. Staff members may be assisting other readers and will be with you as quickly as possible.
  • Your reader’s ticket will be returned when all records have been returned and accounted for, or if you leave for a break.
  • You can arrange for records to be kept out for further consultation for up to 5 days by speaking to staff.

Access for Historical Research

  • There is no charge for access to the records for the purposes of historical research; such as genealogy, local history, academic research etc.

Access for Legal Purposes

  • We ask that those wanting to access the records for legal purposes speak to staff first. 
  • 'Legal purposes’ means that you need to find information, for example, to use to prepare a legal case, or to establish something about a property purchase, or a case involving family law; any situation where you need the information to prove or defend a right or claim. 
  • There are statutory fees for the production of certain records, and you may not be able to see privately-deposited records (usually referenced GD but other codes may be used) without the owners’ permission. 
  • If you need copies for a legal purpose, you may need to have these ‘certified’ or ‘extracted’. 
  • For all these reasons, we ask that you let staff know if you are accessing records for a legal purpose so we can best help you identify what you need.

Restrictions on access

  • It may be necessary periodically to withdraw material from public use for reasons such as stocktaking, conservation, display or copying. NRS also reserves the right to withdraw any document in poor or fragile condition.
  • Depending on our agreement with the owners, you may be required to sign a Restricted Access form before viewing records within certain collections. You will be informed of this where such conditions apply.