11 January 2023
Tracing your Scottish ancestors? Try these ten top tips for finding Scottish ancestors on the ScotlandsPeople website.
If you have Scottish ancestors you’re sure to find the ScotlandsPeople website invaluable. Try these ten top tips for finding ancestors in Scotland within the millions of records on the website.
1. Before you start using the website take time to look at the help and guidance pages where there are lots of helpful tips and information about the records.
2. Be prepared to widen your search by a few years either side. Sometimes ages were not given accurately and information on a death certificate may have been given by someone who didn’t know the deceased that well.
3. When doing a search do not input too much information, such as middle names. If spellings could have varied then use a wildcard like thom*son that will look for all Thomson spellings with or without a ‘p’ or use Name Variants.
4. Don’t assume the forename is spelled the way you expect to find it, and make use of all available tools to widen your search.
5. Especially in Old Parish Records and censuses, there could be variant spellings, mis-transcriptions (by clerks), abbreviations and indexing errors (latter are more prevalent with unusual names, eg Guilio for Giulio).
6. Try to cross-refer between statutory and census records. If the records indicate that there may have been an event in the ‘golden year’ of 1855 seek it out as it will contain lots of information. Valuation rolls can also be helpful in order to establish whether the family are living at the property between census years.
7. If you are looking for the birth record of someone with a common surname and they were born in or before 1911, the census record will include their place of birth. You can narrow the birth search by selecting the County/District the person was born in.
8. If you can’t find a family in the census records try a search of the valuation rolls (1885-1935) where you can search by address.
9. When using ScotlandsPeople, each time you land on a records page you’ll see a search tips page which shows you how to make the most of the search boxes for that particular page. If you prefer not to have the tips simply uncheck the ‘search tips’ box in Advanced Search.
10. If you can’t find your ancestor by name, try a place search. Many ScotlandsPeople records can be searched by place, either by using drop-down lists of parishes, districts, burghs or courts, or via a free text search facility. Read this guide for searching by county, within indexed records, and more.
(image copyright Tuck DB Postcards)
Originally published November 2017. Reviewed January 2023.