How to trace your ancestors at Aberdeen City & Aberdeenshire Archives
Find out how to trace your Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire ancestors with our guide to family history resources at Aberdeen City & Aberdeenshire Archives.
After exploring the census records and civic and parish registers of births, marriages and deaths– available through ScotlandsPeople – Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire Archives’ collections can help you discover more about ancestors from the north east of Scotland.
The archive holds a variety of church records, including the Kirk Session records of Church of Scotland churches in Aberdeen, and Free Church, Methodist, Congregational, and Episcopal churches across the region. The archive’s website provides further information on the Church Records held. Online access to other Kirk Sessions records is also available in the searchrooms at both branches.
The archive holds burial records for a number of burial grounds in the north east: more information is available on the archive’s Burial Records webpages. Digitised versions of records relating to Aberdeen City burial grounds can be viewed on the pay-per-view site Deceased Online, which can be accessed in both searchrooms.
The archive holds records relating to the application of the ‘new’, post 1845 Poor Law system throughout the north east, including general registers of the poor and registers of applications for relief. A guide to the Poor Relief Records is available on the archive’s website. Digital copies and indexes to the poor relief registers can be viewed at both branches. Please note that some access restrictions apply to these records under the Data Protection Act.
The archive’s Education Records are a great source for tracing your north east ancestors’ school career back to 1872, when schooling was made compulsory in Scotland. The archive’s holdings include admission registers, which include details of when pupils joined and left the school, and log books, which give a picture of day to day life at a school.
See the archive’s Education Records webpages for more information (and a handy map showing the locations of schools across the region). Please note that some access restrictions apply to these records under the Data Protection Act. Local education institutions, including Robert Gordon’s College, Robert Gordon University and the University of Aberdeen, also hold records about their former students.
The archive also has a variety of Electoral Rolls for Aberdeen City, the counties of Aberdeen, Banff and Kincardine, and the Grampian Region: see the archive’s Electoral Rolls webpages for information and date ranges. The archive’s Tax lists, or 'stent rolls', for the Burgh of Aberdeen date back to the 15th century although the first comprehensive series of property taxation is the Police Commissioners' rent rolls, which run from 1795 to 1859/60. Similar lists of those liable to pay Assessed Taxes in the County of Aberdeen also survive for the period of 1799-1832.
The archive holds Valuation Rolls for Aberdeen City, the counties of Aberdeen, Banff, Kincardine and Moray, the Grampian Region and various burghs: see the archive’s Valuation Rolls webpages for a full list and the date ranges covered.
Burgh records contain a wealth of information relating to individuals living within burghs. Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire Archives have a comprehensive collection for the Burgh of Aberdeen and nineteen Burghs in Aberdeenshire.
Indeed, Aberdeen’s burgh registers are the oldest and most complete in Scotland, and were added to UNESCO’s ‘Memory of the World’ register in 2013 because of their historical significance to the UK.
The archive’s collections are split across two branches: the Town House in the centre of Aberdeen, and Old Aberdeen House. Please contact the archive for guidance on which branch to visit.
Both branches hold a range of reference books on local history in the region, including some copies of Post Office Directories for Aberdeen City (more are available online through the National Library of Scotland).
Other local resources include the NHS Grampian Archives, which hold records for more than 100 north east hospitals and health organisations, and the University of Aberdeen Special Collections Centre, whose collections include a range of family and estate papers and Episcopal Church records.
The Aberdeen and North East of Scotland Family History Society may also be able to help with your research. The Routes to Your North East Roots website also provides useful guidance on family history research in the region.
Old Aberdeen branch: Old Aberdeen House, Dunbar Street, Aberdeen, AB24 3UJ. Telephone: 01224 481775. Searchroom open: Mon to Wed, 9.30 – 16:30
Town House branch: Town House, Broad Street, Aberdeen, AB10 1AQ. Telephone: 03000 200 292. Searchroom open Wed to Fri, 9.30 – 16:30.
(Images from top: boys fishing at Aberdeen harbour; Shuttle Court, Aberdeen (1927); section of crowd at Aberdeen beach; Union Street, March 1972)