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Statutory Registration-Death (Scotland)

Nature of Source

Records and indexes containing information relating to a death. Statutory registration became compulsory in 1855 for all births and deaths and regular marriages for all religious denominations. The regulations came into force from January 1st 1855 following the passing of the Registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages (Scotland) Act 1854. Scotland is divided into Registration Districts (originally amounting to 1027 but now significantly reduced) for the purposes of recording events with registrars acting as the official in charge.

By the 19th century the standard of record keeping by the Kirk authorities had deteriorated with the result that fewer entries of baptism, marriage and burial were being registered in the Old Parish Registers and some were lost completely. A number of factors contributed to this state of affairs such as fewer people being as observant in the established Kirk and the industrial expansion of urban town and cities where the Kirk had less influence. The growth of nonconformist sects also resulted in fewer registrations of vital events. After a number of delays and much argument between the church and secular authorities, a system of state registration was finally enacted.

The Act established the General Register Office for Scotland (now merged with the National Archives of Scotland to form the National Records of Scotland) together with the position of a Registrar General based in Edinburgh and local registration districts based on parish boundaries. Certificate copies are forwarded to the General Register Office in Edinburgh from which annual indexes covering all of Scotland are compiled. A certified legally admissible copy of a register entry is known as an extract and can be ordered online at ScotlandsPeople. The actual certificate is given at the time of the birth, marriage or death.

  Some statutory register entries had to be amended whilst leaving the original intact, with these so called corrected entries kept in the Register of Corrected Entries. Always check to see if an entry is marked in the left margin with a note. The McKirdy Index of Scottish Death Records 1855-1875 which alphabetically lists records from the statutory death registers is available to view at the ScotlandsPeople Centre and the National Library of Scotland. Also look for funeral and death notices and obituaries, often found in local newspapers, for evidence of a death. Consult the annual abstract reports for general naming statistics.

Other Scotland Resources
Cemetery, Burial Ground & Crematoria Records

Census Returns
Clan & Tartan Records
County & Local Histories
Court Records
Directories, Trade, Professional, Telephone & Street
Electoral Registers or Burgess Rolls
Emigration Records
Hearth Tax
Heraldic Coats of Arms & Seals
Kirk/Church Sessions
Land Tax Assessments & Returns
Maps & Gazetteers
Militia Lists
Monumental/Memorial Inscriptions
Newspapers, magazines & journals
Old Parish Registers-Baptisms (OPRs)
Old Parish Registers-Burials (OPRs)
Old Parish Registers-Marriages & Proclamations (OPRs)
Passenger Lists
Pedigrees and Family Histories
Poor Law Records
Registers of Deeds (Books of Council and Session)
Retours of Services of Heirs
Sasines, Registers of
Statistical Accounts of Scotland
Statutory Registration-Birth
Statutory Registration-Marriage
Surname Origins and Distribution
Valuation Rolls & Stent Rolls
Wills/Testaments and Inheritance

Where Found

ScotlandsPeople Centre (The ScotlandsPeople Centre is the official government resource for family history research with indexes and images from the official statutory register of births, marriages and deaths dating back to 1855. Other related records include the Register of Corrected Entries, Minor Records of Births, Deaths and Marriages Overseas and the Adopted Children's Register from 1930. ScotlandsPeople Centre is a partnership between the National Records of Scotland and the Court of the Lord Lyon. The National Records of Scotland was created on 1 April 2011 by the amalgamation of the National Archives of Scotland and General Register Office for Scotland)
The Mitchell Library Genealogy Centre (Statutory Birth, Death & Marriage Records for the whole of Scotland)
Local Registrar offices
Local libraries (Digital indexes)
Society of Genealogists (Scotland Resources)
LDS FamilySearch Centers (Copies of indexes)

Period Covered

1855 - Onwards

Genealogical Value

All Years
Full name, age, birthplace, marital status, occupation and residence/address of bride and groom. Date and place of marriage. Name and occupation of bride and groom's fathers and mother's maiden name and whether alive or deceased. Names of witnesses and the name and religious affiliation of the officiating clergy.
1855 Only
Bride and groom birthplaces and details of previous marriages of bride and groom with details of any children by previous marriages. Bride and bridegroom birthplaces restored from 1972.

Further References

Registration Specific  
Grundy, Joan. A Dictionary of Medical & Related Terms for the Family Historian: Federation of Family History Societies, 2006  Buy Now on Amazon
Sheila M, Spiers. The Parishes, Registers and Registrars of Scotland: The Scottish Association of Family History Societies, 1993 Buy Now on Amazon
Family History Guides  
Adolph, Anthony. Tracing Your Scottish Family History: Collins, 2008 Buy Now on Amazon
Bigwood, Rosemary: The Scottish Family Tree Detective: Tracing Your Ancestors in Scotland: Manchester University Press, 2007  Buy Now on Amazon
Clarke, T. Tracing Your Scottish Ancestors: The Official Guide: Birlinn, 2012  Buy Now on Amazon
Cory, Kathleen B. Tracing Your Scottish Ancestry: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2009 Buy Now on Amazon
Durie, Bruce. Scottish Genealogy: The History Press, 2012  Buy Now on Amazon
Durie, Bruce. Documents for Genealogy & Local History: The History Press, 2013 Buy Now on Amazon
Hamilton-Edwards, Gerald. In Search of Scottish Ancestry: Phillimore, 1983  Buy Now on Amazon
Holton, Graham & Winch, Jack. Discover Your Scottish Ancestry: Internet and Traditional Resources: Edinburgh University Press, 2009 (Preview available from Google Books)
 Buy Now on Amazon
James, Alwyn. Scottish Roots: From Gravestone to Website: The Step-By-Step Guide to Tracing Your Scottish Ancestors: Luath Press, 2005 Buy Now on Amazon
Maxwell, Ian. Tracing your Scottish Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians: Pen & Sword, 2009  
Paton, Chris. Researching Scottish Family History: The Family History Partnership, 2010  Buy Now on Amazon
Stewart, Alan. My Ancestor was Scottish: Society of Genealogists, 2012  Buy Now on Amazon
Tovey, Helen. My Scottish Ancestry: Lomond Books, 2011  Buy Now on Amazon
Concise Scots Dictionary: Edinburgh University Press, 1999 (Preview available from Google Books) Buy Now on Amazon
Lynch, Michael. Oxford Companion to Scottish History: OUP Oxford, 2011 Buy Now on Amazon
Moffat, Alistair & Wilson, James. The Scots: A Genetic Journey: Birlinn, 2011 Buy Now on Amazon
Richards, Eric. The Highland Clearances: Birlinn, 2013 Buy Now on Amazon
Scots Dictionary: Collins, 2014 Buy Now on Amazon
Timperley, Loretta R, (ed). A Directory of Land Ownership in Scotland c 1770: Scottish Record Society, 1976 Buy Now on Amazon
Torrance, Richard D. Scottish Trades, Professions, Vital Documents & Directories: Scottish Association of Family History Societies, 1998 Buy Now on Amazon

Websites (National Records of Scotland: Research Guides: Birth, Death and Marriage Records) (National Records of Scotland: Research Guides: Statutory Registers of Births, Deaths and Marriages) (National Records of Scotland: Research Guides: Register of Corrected Entries) (National Records of Scotland: Research Guides: Minor Records of Births, Deaths and Marriages Overseas) (ScotlandsPeople Guide: Statutory registers) (ScotlandsPeople Guide: Parishes and districts) (University of Glasgow: Scottish Way of Birth and Death) (Listing of free resources for deaths, burial records and monumental inscriptions) (The Scottish Association of Family History Societies: Burial Grounds. A list of more than 3,500 known burial grounds in Scotland organised by county and parish) (National Library of Scotland guide to resources in Scotland and online which give access to records of births, deaths, and marriages) (Registration Districts in Scotland: Introduction) (The Establishment of Civil Registration in Scotland, by Dr Anne Cameron) (Listing of free resources) (Ancestry Solutions: Civil Registration: Content, commencement date, indexes and how to obtain civil birth, marriage and death certificates) (Birth, marriage and death records) (Period Approximation Chart, adapted from "Basic Course in Genealogy," Vol.II, by Derek Harland. Use to calculate the approximate date of a birth, marriage or death) (Old medical terms) (National Records of Scotland: Old Parish Registers-Cause of Death: list of medical terms collected from various 18th and 19th century sources including the Old Parish Registers) (Birthdate Calculator: Calculate birth date from death date and age on tombstones and death certificates) (Funeral Cards Online) (Free Obituaries On-Line: Links to obituaries, death or funeral notices mostly from newspapers across the world with a focus on Canada) (Researching Funeral Home Records) (Links to resources dealing with funeral homes and funeral cards)

Online Databases

ScotlandsPeople (The ScotlandsPeople website is the official Scottish Government site for searching government records and archives including Statutory Death Index, 1855-2014. The Statutory Deaths Index contains entries from the paper indexes to the civil registers of deaths for all Scotland from 1 January 1855; Images of Statutory Deaths, 1855-1968. The image contains the same information you would normally see when looking at the actual record)

The Minor Records
The minor records comprise records of births, deaths and marriages of Scottish persons outside Scotland. The following indexes to deaths in the minor records are available on this site:
Air Register (from 1948) includes deaths on British-registered aircraft, where it appears that the deceased was usually resident in Scotland.
Consular Returns (from 1914) comprise registrations of death by British consuls relating to persons of Scottish descent or birth.
Foreign Returns (1860 - 1965) the Register of Deaths in Foreign Countries, which comprises deaths of Scottish subjects, entries being made on the basis of information supplied by parties concerned and after due consideration of the evidence. 
High Commission Returns (from 1964) relate to the returns of death of persons of Scottish descent in certain Commonwealth countries.
Marine Register (from 1855) includes deaths on British-registered merchant vessels at sea, where it appears that the deceased was usually resident in Scotland and deaths at sea of Royal Navy and Royal Marine personnel during wartime, including Royal Naval Reserve, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve and RNLI. Cause of death for RN personnel was recorded in the register as a number (1, 2, 3 or 4). Find out more
Service Returns (from 1881) include Army returns of deaths of Scottish persons at military stations abroad (1881-1959), and Service Departments Registers of deaths outside the United Kingdom of persons ordinarily resident in Scotland who are serving in or employed by HM Forces, including families of members of the Forces (from 1959).
War Returns include registers of deaths of Scottish soldiers in the South African War (1899-1902); Scottish persons serving as Warrant Officers, Non-Commissioned officers or Men in the Army (not officers) and Petty Officers or Men in the Royal Navy in World War I (1914-1918); Scottish members of the Armed Forces in World War II (1939-1945)
(Scotland and Northern Ireland, Death Index, 1989-2013. This collection is a compiled index that covers approximately 45% of the total deaths that occured in this time period. This index does not include the General Register Office reference information) (Inverclyde Library: Intimations: The Watt Library index of family history notices, 1800-1918. The index contains over 100,000 local births, marriages and deaths as seen in the pages of the Greenock Advertiser, Greenock Telegraph and other local papers originally from the historic county of Renfrewshire) (Ayrshire-Roots: Ardrossan & Saltcoats Herald BDM Intimation Database, 1856-1969. Indexed entries of birth, marriage and death extracted from the Ardrossan & Saltcoats Herald) (Great Britain Births and Baptisms, 1571-1977; Deaths and Burials, 1778-1988; Marriages, 1797-1988. The datasets include Scottish civil registration records. The site incorporates the data formerly known as the International Genealogical Index and also data formerly sold on CD as the British Isles Vital Records Index. The former Ancestral File and Pedigree Resource File can be found under the heading of 'Family Trees')