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Statutory Registration-Marriage (Scotland)

Nature of Source

Records and indexes containing information relating to a marriage. 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. Consult the annual abstract reports for general naming statistics.

As in England, the authorities in Scotland had become increasingly concerned with the issue of 'irregular' or 'clandestine' marriages. In England, Hardwicke's Act of 1753 outlawed 'irregular' marriages by stipulating that a marriage could only take place in an Anglican church performed by an Anglican minister and only after the publication of banns. The only exceptions applied to Jews and Quakers. As the Act did not apply in Scotland, English 'runway' couples were able to obtain a valid marriage certificate in the border towns such as Ayton, Chain Bridge, Coldstream, Gretna Green, Halidon Hill, Ladykirk, Lamberton, Mordington, Norham and Paxton. Less well known areas for 'irregular' marriages were the coaching inns in the Canongate district of Edinburgh and South Leith marriages which are transcribed in Marshall' s Calendar of Irregular Marriages in the South Leith Kirk Sessions Records 1697-1818. The English Episcopal Chapels in Scotland during the 19th century also married English runaways.

Please note that the term 'handfasting' is simply another way of describing a wedding ceremony and does not signify a temporary marriage arrangement or refer to a Celtic/pagan ritual.

In Scotland a marriage was considered 'regular' after the reading of banns and if the marriage ceremony was conducted by a minister of the established Church of Scotland. The 1834 Marriage (Scotland) Act extended 'regular' marriages by permitting dissenting clergy to conduct marriage ceremonies. If these requirements were not adhered to the marriage was deemed 'clandestine' and illegal but crucially could be valid in the eyes of the state. Under Scots Law a marriage was considered valid (but not legal) under certain conditions as follows:

§  Both parties declared themselves married in the presence of witnesses.

§  Marriage ceremony followed by sexual intercourse.

§  Simply living together with the status of man and wife - by habit and repute.

Irregular marriages were abolished with the passing of the Marriage (Scotland) Act 1939 which introduced civil marriages with marriages only becoming legal and valid on production of a certificate proving publication of banns or a notice of intended marriage and if celebrated in an office of an authorised Registrar. The only exception to the law were marriages by 'habit and repute'. This anomaly was finally addressed by the Family Law (Scotland) Act of 2006. Irregular marriages were unrecorded in the statutory marriage registers.

Other Scotland Resources
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-Death
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
Deceased's name, sex, marital status, age at death, residence/address and occupation. Date, time and place of death. Cause of death, duration of last illness, doctor's name and informant's name. Spouse's full name (Spouse's name removed from 1856 to 1860 and reinstated in 1861), parent's names including mother's maiden name with occupations and whether alive or deceased.
1855 Only
Deceased's birthplace. Names and ages of children and date of death and age of any children who pre-deceased the parents. How long lived in district.
Up to 1860 including 1855
Place of burial, the name of the undertaker and when the doctor last saw the deceased alive.
name of the undertaker.

Further References

Registration Specific  
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 Marriage) (National Records of Scotland: Research Guides: Irregular Border Marriage Registers) (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)

Online Databases

ScotlandsPeople (The ScotlandsPeople website is the official Scottish Government site for searching government records and archives including Statutory Marriages Index, 1855-2013. The statutory marriages index contains entries from the civil registers of marriages for all Scotland from 1 January 1855; Images of Statutory Marriages, 1855-1943. The image contains the same information you would normally see when looking at the actual record. The index also includes marriages at Queen's Head Inn at Gretna Green, 1843-1862)

The Minor Records
The minor records comprise records of births, deaths and marriages of Scottish persons outside Scotland. The following indexes to marriages in the minor records are available on this site:
Foreign Returns include Consular Returns of marriages of persons of Scottish descent or birth (from 1917), and the Register of Marriages in Foreign Countries, which comprises marriages of Scottish persons (1860 - 1965).
Service Returns (1881-1959) include Army returns of marriages of Scottish persons at military stations abroad. (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)
(Scotland, Marriages 1561-1910. Each record consists of a transcript of the original document that includes references to film and batch numbers to assist in obtaining copies of original documents held at a variety of repositories including courthouses, churches etc) (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')
(Graham Maxwell Ancestry: Paternity Case Search. online searchable database for paternity cases in Sheriff Courts in the south of Scotland)