03/03/2014
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An expert guide to the top ten Scottish websites for family history

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What is the best site for Scottish genealogy? Expert genealogist Ian Maxwell presents a guide to the top ten Scottish websites for family history research.

Family history is said to be the second most researched topic on the internet (I’ll let you guess the most popular!) and any search engine will produce hundreds or even thousands of entries if you type in ‘genealogy’. Online sites can prove particularly useful to the beginner who wishes to find out what is available and where the information is held.  

Many sites highlight the main categories of records and provide useful guidance and support.It also enables researchers to get in touch with others holding similar interests through the speed and convenience of email.

Scotland is a world-leader in providing family history information online.The best websites are the following:

1. Scotlands People
The most useful website is ScotlandsPeople, the official government source of genealogical data for Scotland with almost 90 million records to access. Researchers can download images for a fee of the fully indexed Scottish statutory records of births, deaths and marriage from 1855 to 2006, census records from 1841 to 1911 and indexes of the church baptisms, deaths and burials and marriages that took place from 1538 to 1854 and digitised wills and testaments from Scotland's National Archives and Scottish Catholic Archives records.

2. Scottish Archive Network (SCAN)
SCAN is a great site if you are trying to trace the whereabouts of particular record collections because it provides a portal which allows you to search the electronic catalogues of more than 50 Scottish archives.

3. Scots Origins
A source of genealogical data for Scotland which includes an online Scots Origins Discussion Group.

4. Scottish Genealogy Society
The aims of the Scottish Genealogy Society are to promote research into Scottish family history and to undertake the collection, exchange and publication of material relating to genealogy. The Society, based in Edinburgh and run by volunteers, can advise you at all stages in your research.

5. National Library of Scotland
The biggest library in Scotland, the National Library of Scotland has a wide range of genealogical information which should be of interest to family historians.

6. Public Libraries Online
A comprehensive portal listing all of the public libraries alphabetically.

7. Scotlands Places
Scotlands Places is a partnership site created by the National Records of Scotland, the Royal Commision for Ancient and Historical Records for Scotland, and the GIS department of the University of Edinburgh with assistance from the Scottish Government. It is essentially a geographical companion site to Scotlands People, and allows users to search for records concerning a location across various different national databases. The website includes free access to such collections as the 1797 Farm Horse Tax.

8. ScotlandGenWeb Project
Part of the British Isles GenWeb Project this page serves as a local resource index page for Scottish genealogy research. This site provides a link to county pages, provides look-up resources, transcribed data, and an invaluable invaluable guide to family history societies across Scotland.

9. The Scottish Emigration Database
The Scottish Emigration Database currently contains the records of over 21,000 passengers who embarked at Glasgow and Greenock for non-European ports between 1 January and 30 April 1923, and at other Scottish ports between 1890 and 1960. 

10. Registers of Scotland
Registers of Scotland is responsible for compiling and maintaining registers relating to property in Scotland.  Property records are major sources for house and local history and, as property was frequently passed from one generation to the next, also an important genealogical source. Modern property registers can be used to locate living relatives.

         MORE: Find your Scottish ancestors for free on Ancestry

Ian Maxwell is the author of Tracing Your Scottish Ancestors, published by Pen & Sword. The fully revised second edition is a lively and accessible introduction to Scotland's long, complex and fascinating story. It is aimed primarily at family historians who are eager to explore and understand the world in which their ancestors lived.

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