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Family history advice from the ScotlandsPeople Centre


Iain Ferguson, manager at the ScotlandsPeople Centre, offers his advice on making the most of a trip to the family history centre, whatever your level of expertise.

The Scotland's People Centre is the largest Scottish family history research centre which has records dating back almost 500 years. Here, Iain shares his tips for making the most of the wealth of records kept here.

What's the best starting point for a new visitor to the Centre?

We recommend that customers speak to relatives to find out as much as they can before their visit.  It is also worthwhile reading the ‘Getting Started’ pages on our website. A great feature at the Centre is that customers can view modern day birth, death and marriage records which can be a useful starting point for family history research. Our staff offer help, hints, tips and advice, especially for new customers.

The search fee for the Centre is £15 for a full day or part day.  Bookings can be made by calling, emailing or visiting the Centre.

What are the most useful records for family history beginners?

The key family history resources for beginners are the statutory births, marriage and death records, census returns and the Old Parochial Registers. 

Tracing your ancestry is addictive and after you have compiled your family tree you can add foliage to it by researching the other records of the National Records of Scotland. The Historical Search Room in General Register House gives access to government, court, church, and private records, maps and much more. Admission to the search room is free but visitors need to obtain a reader’s ticket. For more information visit the National Records of Scotland website

And what records DOESN'T the Centre hold?

• Birth, marriage and death records registered in England and Wales.

• Military service records

Can staff provide any advice to a visitor who's hit a brick wall with their research?

Staff are always happy to give advice to customers who cannot find that elusive record. They can also help with deciphering words on documents and advising visitors on other sources of information that may help them with their research. 

What do first time visitors need to bring along?

You should bring a pen and some paper to write on so that you can record the information that you may find. You can also bring a laptop or tablet to record information; we have plug points available on each desk. If you wish to save images you should bring a memory stick. 


ScotlandsPeople Centre and the Historical Search Room are open weekdays, excluding some public holidays, between 9am and 4.30pm.

ScotlandsPeople Centre, HM General Register House, 2 Princes Street, Edinburgh, EH1 3YY; tel: 0131 314 4300; e-mail: website.

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07/03/2014 Share this story   Share on Facebook icon Share on Twitter icon Share on Pinterest icon Share on Google Plus icon Share on Linked In icon Share via Email icon

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