Family history website Findmypast today announced a new collection of 10.7 million records indexed from Scottish Old Parish Registers and other surviving church records.
The collection, consisting of local church records of baptisms, marriages, burials (as well as related records) joins over 200 million other Scottish records added to Findmypast since 2019, making it the largest Scottish ancestry records collection now available online, according to the company.
The records date from 1561 to 2017, providing 150 years more coverage than the Old Parish Registers currently available on the Scottish government website ScotlandsPeople, which only covers records before the start of civil registration in 1855. The records also include a range of religious denominations, which, considering adherence to the established church was as low as 30% in some parts of Scotland, may help family historians uncover records not available on ScotlandsPeople. In many cases records are also more comprehensively indexed so that searches can include occupations, where available, useful for searches involving common names. Baptisms can also be searched using just the names of parents – helpful for finding children who may not be recorded in other records.
The records were transcribed by volunteers from nine Scottish family history societies: the Scottish Genealogy Society and the Fife, Highland, Dumfries & Galloway, Renfrewshire, Lothians, Lanarkshire, Glasgow & West of Scotland and West Lothian Family History Societies.
Myko Clelland, regional licensing and outreach manager at Findmypast, said: “We are honoured to work with such a large number of outstanding organisations to make Scottish family history accessible worldwide. This has enabled Findmypast to not only illuminate the lives of influential Scots who have played pivotal roles in history, but also tell the stories of ordinary and often overlooked people who, through centuries of effort, have shaped the world we now live in and are responsible for everything we know and love as Scotland today.”
As well as the Church of Scotland, the records cover nonconformist churches including the Episcopal Church, Free Church and United Free Church, whose records were not previously available online.
They also include unique records such as ‘irregular marriages’ from kirk session records, which were not officially recorded by the parish registers and conducted without a ceremony (including the irregular marriage of Robert Burns to Jean Armour in 1788); mortcloth rentals, which record deceased Scots who were too poor to afford a proper burial and had to hire the cloth that was placed over their coffin; and ‘ringings of the burial bell’ for those who were too poor to afford a mortcloth and paid for the bell to be rung in their memory.
Many famous individuals from Scotland’s history can be found in the records. For example, the records show that author Robert Louis Stevenson (pictured above) was baptised in Edinburgh on 5 March 1851 under his birth name of Robert Lewis Balfour Stevenson.
A year earlier, Alexander Bell was also baptised in Edinburgh on 18 September 1849 at the age of two. He went on to be celebrated as the inventor of the telephone.
Among the marriage records can be found the marriage of John Witherspoon and Elisabeth Montgomerie on 14 August 1748 in Beith, Ayrshire. Witherspoon, a Presbyterian minister, emigrated to America with his family in 1768, where he became known as the president of the College of New Jersey (now known as Princeton University) and the only active clergyman among the signatories of the Declaration of Independence.
Less famous, but notable people within the collection include Scipio Kennedy, a slave taken as a child from Guinea in West Africa and brought to Scotland in 1702. Granted his freedom in 1725 he is recorded in 1728 fathering a daughter, Elizabeth “by fornication” with Margaret Gray. Later that year he married Margaret and they went on to have seven more children whose baptisms are included in the collection.
Frances Wright, an early feminist, socialist, abolitionist and social reformer can also be found in the baptism records in Dundee, 1795. She emigrated to the US and became a campaigner for universal education and equal rights among other things.