Historical Articles from Larry Ruickbie Searching for Your
Canadian/Scottish Ancestors Primary Sites and More
Strictly, none of the
following are “Primary Sources”, which would be the very original,
hand-written, time-wearied document; but they are the sources most readily
available to us; and with careful use, can lead back to the true primary
If you can get back with your own sources to 1875 ( re: Scotland) or
earlier, then this site should be your main search tool to start with then
go from there, investigate all areas in this website, and try everything;
the scope of information is mind boggling. Read the help files, FAC’s, and
suggestions on how to use the site.
IGI information on this site is a combination of actual records, and
uploads from LDS members, and others. The detailed records displayed when
clicking on a record from a search will indicate the record type in the
lower portion of the screen.
Any records on Family Search which are in the Censuses and the US Social
Security Death Index can be relied upon as being very likely to be
accurate, ie to show what you would find on the original hand-written
Within the various “International Genealogical” records, check for the
Extracted birth or
christening record for the locality listed in the record. The source
records are usually arranged chronologically by the birth or christening
These records will generally have a similar level of accuracy as the
Censuses etc above.
BUT be very careful of information that has been uploaded by a LDS member
or others, it sometimes may be inaccurate, misleading and someone’s
wishful thinking. But I would also advise that any such items should not
be dismissed as they can be quite factual – just double check to confirm
the information elsewhere.
While there a lot of actual Scottish records here, they are not complete.
The Old Parish Records (1553 to 1854, mainly the Presbyterian Church of
Scotland and its antecedents) are somewhat close to what the Scotlands
People site has, but the Statutory Records (1855 forward) are lacking.
ALL records from the Scottish government stop at 1875 and in some cases as
early as 1865. Searches after this time will only retrieve LDS member
uploads. You see the Scottish government stopped the transfer of this
information when they realized they could make money selling it.
While the LDS records
for Scotland do seem to be almost identical in quantity for the short 20
year SR period they do cover between 1855 and approximately 1875 it should
be noted that it seems that they are NOT so in the OPR period (1500’s to
1854). There seems to be a non-uniform random lack in numbers of OPR
records in the mid 1700 to early 1800 period. The numbers of missing
records is not vast but does require the thorough searcher to also check
the databases at ScotlandsPeople in order to be certain they have turned
all possible stones.
The Census section headed “Census - 1881 British Census” does NOT include
the Scottish section or (all-)Ireland section of that Census, although it
does include those persons from those and other countries residing in
England and Wales on that night.
So the person you seek may not appear in the Scottish section because he
was down in England, so appearing in the English section. Conversely an
English person may be missing from the English section because he was up
One example is Evan Tant working as a Butler in England, whilst his family
are listed in the Scottish section as “Lant” and are all described as
being “Farmer’s wife”, “Farmer’s daughter” and “Farmer’s son”.
You must remember there are no “real” death records here from the OPR
period. Any death record here is a LDS Member upload, and may have been
implied from the rental record of the mortcloth, not an actual record of
the death in the modern sense.
The original LDS transcriptions omitted all “Death Records” of any
variety, as these were not compatible with the LDS reasons for
establishing the IGI. (See the LDS Web Site)
While using this site, don’t use the first screen (“All resources”) that
comes up in the “Search for Ancestors” – go primarily to the IGI search
where you can do much more advanced searching.
Plus always check out your surname with reports from the 80’s census areas
in the UK, USA, and of course Canada. And – once you do find your
ancestor(s) - always look at the household screen, not just the single
person records, sometimes people live away from their original parents.
Make note of marital status, and occupation for each member, including
servants, boarders etc – these are frequently relatives.
Oh and by the way the LDS Family Search site has FREE downloadable family
tree software called PAF which is used by quite a few out there. Its’
handy for viewing the information in GEDCOM files that you can download
after your searches. Further look at their info on their local Family
Search Centers -they are in most major cities, look for the “Church of
Latter Day Saints”, are free to use, and they will give you access to
microfiche files not available on the internet as yet.
CALL AHEAD should you wish to visit an LDS center– you may have to book
time and that applies to most major archives as well. Most centers usually
have a small library where you will be able to learn much more about
searching. The volunteer attendants can also lend useful advice. Films and
other information they do not have on site, can be ordered for a very
minimal fee which covers only their costs. Note that all usually have the
UK 1881 Census CD’s available which do include Scotland on two disks –
Highlands and Lowlands.
BUT these are not the
conventional Highlands and Lowlands of everyday life. Roughly any place
north of the Forth and Clyde estuaries are classified as Highlands, the
rest Lowlands. Glasgow is actually split by the Clyde; but northern
Glasgow is included on the Lowlands disk. If you encounter the first
version of the disks, Sutherland at the north of Scotland was included in
Sunderland down in England. They didnae ken whit th’r daein.
A handy 12 search tricks:
Trick one: make it a standard practice to download IGI files that
were or could be used again. This can be done through the sites facility
to download GEDCOM files, or you can simply highlight the data on the
screen using your right mouse button, copy it, and then paste in into say
a Word document (preferred way) or spreadsheet. The GEDCOMS, if
downloaded, can be viewed with the LDS PAF software or one of the free
viewers mentioned in the listings above, plus if they are your tree you
can import the info into many different family tree software files and
save some typing. Many of the higher end software packages will allow
selective importing of GEDCOM information – this tool is quite handy to
avoid deletion of the duplicated “mother & father” entries in a GEDCOM
containing marriages and multiple children by only bringing in the
marriage, birth and christening information then attaching the family
Trick two: Do a “backwards” search by typing in the parents’ names
on the right and selecting births/christenings on the left. This will, if
the information is there, show all children born to those parents’ names.
Also try the father’s name alone, the mother’s name alone, or the full
name of the father and only the first name of the mother (or vice versa) –
this sometimes counteracts spelling mistakes in the IGI data base. You can
get time selective with this…………….. but first read trick three…….
Trick three: avoiding error messages when you do a time selective
search- without knowing a given name. You really don't need the first name
to search for all “who-evers” born in a certain time period at the Family
Search IGI search facility.
Go to the search area
for IGI info only, and use a "*" (asterisk) for the first name, and then
add your surname, event, etc.
It is not well documented at the site, but it will accept this (*) as a
wildcard for both the given and surnames in the primary input boxes at the
upper left and carry out the search. This little trick avoids getting the
error message usually reported if your try a detailed search without a
first name and reduces the usual overwhelming report of hundreds+ of
names, (or worse - a system error), by allowing selective searches in
time. This works best for given names in conjunction with a “backwards”
search to find a child. NOTE: Using a wild card for surnames MUST be done
on a short time frame most of the time or you will hang the system up, or
get impossible to “get by” error messages – i.e. trim the time, and focus.
This does not work for parent or spouse’s names – just leave the field
Trick four -Note that if the system times out on search, reporting
an error message – immediately do the same search again, it may pop up.
(The LDS and some other systems temporarily save Search results to cater
Trick five: this one really minimizes missing data that is there,
but is spelt strangely, or may reveal other alternates.
This trick involves
seeing ALL marriages or births in a particular area within many years of
time. The IGS data was typed into the system in batches, by parish (or
locality) in chunks of time which may range from 10 years to 100 years.
These batches may reach sizes of 5,000 entries or more. These batch
numbers are displayed in the bottom left area of the IGI detail screen
when viewing a single record – also shown is the date range of the batch.
The area or parish involved will be that shown attributed to the record in
the person’s details above.
Again – you go to the
search area for IGI info only. Using a name you know is in your target
area and time - do a search. (or use a common Scottish name such as Smith,
Baker, Brown, Scott, Reid, Johnson, etc and do a time selective search
with such in the your target county until your get acceptable results).
Once the system has done the search and is displaying the list of names –
pick a record whose detail shows that is a record taken from the actual
parish records (do not pick one that was submitted by a LDS member, or
from non-official source – this will be a batch of mixed records from here
and there in time and place).
…..Okay so now you have
a single record being displayed that has the place, the time period, and
is taken from a real parish or government document. – so you double click
on the batch number and the system will drop back to the IGI search screen
with the batch number and Region already typed in for you. If you tell the
system to do a search only on the batch number all authentic records for
that area and time period will be available. Unfortunately you may have to
step down a number of screens as the list is in “sorta” alphabetic order.
This can take a while –
200 entries per screen, - ie.-going to entry 4680 takes a while…. But keep
your eyes open as you page down each screen so you may hit the “next”
button – sometimes the entries may be mixed up a bit, with a section of
“R’s” in with the “H’s or the like. This trick is involved but sometimes
can bust through a wall.
Also take note that
sometimes right at the back end of a batch there may be a short list of
given name only entries that just might be who you’re looking for. Also
keep an eye out as you step down for surname only entries.
One continuation of this is that by going up or down in the number a few
end digits you will get the batch numbers for other similar events and
time periods in the same locale. This takes a bit of experimenting, but
you’ll see what I mean. Tip - christenings and births start with a “C” and
marriages start with an “M” the trailing digits for the times periods for
each event are “sometimes” the same.
OR – alternatively you can find a whack of the batch numbers here:
I described the long
way first in case this excellent site goes off line. You may find it saves
time to copy and paste some of the lists into a local file for later quick
Trick six – make use of the time selective searches & do them
smartly – this avoids getting thousands of hits, missing hits, and speeds
you up. Using birth dates calculated from reported ages on Census info
should always be at minimum +-2 year search. Births of children can be
minus 2 years to plus 30years from the actual marriage dates. Most people
in Scotland married when they were between the ages of 18 and 35 – start
with this, but some are different.
Trick seven (use this at IGI and everywhere else) – be very
creative in surname spellings. Try imagining the worst, spidery, feint,
hand-writing you have ever seen, some records are a lot worse. While we
all know that names were quite frequently spelt phonetically in the past,
it still remains that the handwriting of some Parish or government clerks
was really bad and some documents are in bad shape to boot. This all leads
to names being truncated or, characters misinterpreted, and the like by
the transcribers. At least 5% of my tree was drawn from records that were
miss spelt or just plain way out there.
Trick eight – Note that when searching for a marriage that the
upper name on the upper left of the input screen is the primary variable,
and does not have to be the male. If you are having difficulty finding the
marriage of two individuals by typing in both names - try searching on
each alone – maybe you’ll find what you are after. Or try the use of the
wild card “*” in the primary variable given name box, with the surname. Or
try this with a full primary and with just the surname of the secondary
person, or just the secondary given name. Try the various mixes of bride
and groom with all these combinations – these sometimes gets past spelling
errors, or incorrect information you have acquired elsewhere. Be creative
- the system will give you an error message if you’ve tried something it
Note older records may not list the wife’s’ name or just her given name.
Trick nine – use your knowledge of nicknames to aid and speed your
searches. The LDS site has most global nicknames programmed into its
search engine but is weak on a few Scottish equals; one that stands out is
the fact that it does not equate Jane, Janet, and Jessie.
Trick ten – It is wise to focus your search when you believe the
person(s) should be listed in a particular county to reduce the number of
hits. BUT, if you don’t find them - Use the widening search circle to
expand and possibly find the file. You might have searched on “British
Isles – Scotland – Peebles” and got nothing so – widen out to “British
Isles – Scotland”, and then to all of the UK, and finally go to the “All
Resources Screen” at the entry to LDS searches and give it a go without
naming a country.
Trick eleven – I have throughout this opus warned about the
immediate belief in, and use of LDS uploads with the possibility of them
being misleading. But sometimes the information they contain may be useful
and point you in the correct direction. BUT - Use them with caution and be
wary of this avenue and confirm all such data elsewhere before adopting it
and going down the path of chasing the wrong people back in time wasting
weeks, months or years of effort. People have, sadly, done just this.
Trick twelve – If your surname is a common one that always produces
hundreds of hits and you are sure of the parish – use all of the above
tricks combined with Batch Numbers to narrow down your search as much as
possible and thereby reduce the sifting.
Plus one such combined
method of tactics retrieves all children born to a father or a mother of a
specific surname without using given names for either parent, or anything
at all for the child. This is very handy for finding a possible marriage
of a female ancestor via finding children born to her – without at first
knowing the fathers name.
Type the batch number
for the parish in the appropriate box. Pick British Isles as the region.
Type the parents surname in the appropriate box and press search – it’s
that simple. This will not work without batch numbers being used.
It sometimes also
brings up illegitimate births on mother surname only searches.
Too bad we can’t do
this on the Scotlands People SR’s……………..
Remember that double
clicking on the batch number in an IGI detail screen will drop you back to
the search screen with the batch number and country already filled in so
you are set to go.
Here are a few examples
of some of the “odd” records that exist:
It took me a while to
find this – it is supposed to be Wilhelmina.
Eventually you will go here to get data to get past a “wall” or speed up
the process. The IGI and other records are quite good but are not
complete. I advise doing lots in other places and save the tough work to
solve here. It’s not really all that expensive but one should be
selective. (30 credits = 6 pounds = approx $15.00 Canadian). But
understand this -To be successful in your search the wallet will have to
be opened some where along the line. This site to me makes more sense for
Canadian/Scottish searching than upping for the cost of yearly
subscriptions to the big boy USA sites which only have portions of what is
here, and are predominantly American databases, not Scottish or Canadian
(which this article concerns itself with).
I would suggest that when you do use this site you do your searches first,
and maximize the records shown by expanding dates to fill a complete
page(s) of report(s). Ie – one entry on a one page report is just the same
charge as 22 records on a one page report.
Also set up an Excel workbook with a sheet for births, a sheet for
marriages, a sheet for deaths, a sheet for each census, and (if your
adventurous) a combination sheet for all 4 of the others to be copied into
(this last sheet takes a bit of time to set up and get all the column
headings correct to accept data from the other three). Every time you do a
search, bring up the “printer friendly view” of each page, highlight the
hard data in it using your mouse, and then copy and paste it into the
applicable sheet – this will become your “family data base” all set to go
in proper columns - which now is storable, editable, expandable, and
sort-able, etc. (will save hours of typing). When you paste this printer
view into the Excel sheet only take the search parameters first and paste
it in (always avoid the little sheet number box), then copy and paste the
main data block over – you will note that the incoming material stays
highlighted – at this time go to the top border of the EXCEL frame where
the column headings are (i.e. A, B, …) and using your mouse adjust the
column widths for each column to suit the size of the data by widening or
shrinking – then go to the drop down menu and under “Format” select “Row”
and “Autofit” - Finally add some border lines if you wish to make the
matrix more readable. Should the printer view be multiple pages only
highlight the actual data area (not the column headings – you already have
them from the first sheet) and paste this added data directly under the
initial paste job. (I know this sounded complex, but it’s not – you try
telling someone how to tie their shoes in writing…)
Make sure that on every sheet you add a column to include the year only of
the event – these you will be typing in – it makes sorting and math
calculations simpler – sometimes the data pasted in looks like a number
but its’ really a label with null value. I would further suggest in
death’s sheet to add a column and have Excel calculate the birth date by
subtracting the reported age from the date of death to approximate a birth
date ( do same with census data).
The time saving power of this data base should not be underestimated -
when combined with “smart” sorts it can save HOURS. (- A quick example –
the report that you get on a census inquiry is name sorted – the data base
you set up will allow a place sort – thereby putting all the families
together, one after another, and if you do a two stage sort by age
descending usually the mother & father will be right at the top of the
The combination page if multiple level sorted sort of puts all the
information regarding a “given name” in one location saving you flipping
back & forth through paperwork (– I‘ve had a few of my people show on the
report with their birth, marriage, census info, then death in a nice, neat
line by line section.)
It should be noted that once you properly register, and get your password
that after your first payment - all your previous paid for images, and
previous searches are available to you at any time thereafter whether or
not your paid for time has expired, or even if you have no credits left –
what you paid for is there for you forever (unless they change things).
Plus note that if your time has expired and you still have sufficient page
credits left - you can use these credits to view images from previous
searches. The only real restriction is that when your “paid for” credits
have expired, you can no longer view NEW advanced searches in the “member”
area. – But the “free” search is still available to all for free.
The June 2005 revision of this website added a new plus in that you can
still perform searches after your time limit expires. You will get a
report on numbers of hits but you can not view the results, but it allows
a free test search before you buy more time. I believe this is a definite
improvement as you can confirm a lot of data from IGI, including the LDS
uploads - without spending a dime by use of EXACT: spelling, year, parish
etc. as seen in the IGI or LDS uploaded record. (Remember this one.)
A quick note about searches – ALWAYS keep track of what you’ve done before
to avoid paying to view the same search twice.
Another nice improvement of the new 2005 site is the “previously viewed
images menu. It does save time down the road searching for an image in the
many search lists you can accumulate. The site will allow deletion of
previous searches, but I advise – don’t do that. I always delete my old
wills stuff as the searches are always free.
Another thing you must realize is that on this site the search will be
carried out exactly on how you spelled the names, no sound-a-likes here
(like at IGI) – and don’t bother with their canned soundex type search –
it is not that good and may return many useless hits– so come armed worth
the variant spellings you wish to investigate. Read the help info in this
regard as the 2005 update has made a LOT of options available here.
Note: Name searches allow wildcards (*?), this is described at the site.
THIS IS A POWERFUL TOOL INVESTIGATE THE POSSIBLITIES. The ? is a wildcard
for single characters, while the * is a wildcard for ANY number of
characters. These may be placed anywhere in the name. It does not cost a
dime to experiment with the use of this as the search costs nothing unless
you view the results – so give it a whirl until you get the idea and what
is produced. They can be used together as well if separated by at least
Ann? – would retrieve
Ann, Anne, Anny…
Ann* - would retrieve Ann, Anne, Anny, Annette, Annett, Annie…
Sm?th – would retrieve Smith, Smyth….
De*nis – would retrieve Denis, Dennis……..
M*cDon?ld would retrieve McDonald, MacDonald, McDonuld, MacDonuld……….
Jan* would retrieve Jane, Jannet, Janet, Janette, Jannete……..
Jes* would retrive Jessie, Jessica, Jessy, Jess………
Wil* would retrieve William, Will, Willie, Willy, Wilhelmina………
But note the system
will not take wildcards alone, and that you must have at least 2 “real”
characters. Yet still it saves a mammoth amount of time and $.
Also get to know how the various searches work. The OPR searches give you
all data – male & female. The SR searches are gender specific on
marriages; you will have to do both. Also sometimes it is much quicker to
do the searches using the “all” options on SR & OPR, then pick from there.
And don’t forget that you can really refine your searches when you are
confident of date ranges and locales to avoid paying for reports from all
of Scotland, and across many years.
Even if you were a seasoned user of this site prior to June of 2005, it is
well worthwhile reading how the “new” site works. It is now possible to do
searches for all children born to certain parents by using the new “parent
fields.” But do note that this will not capture spelling or transcription
errors, and in the case of the OPR’s you may miss those entries where the
mother was not documented. It is wise to occasionally review the help data
as it appears that they are tweaking how the system works every now and
Eventually you will view records in TIFF format, save them ALL on your
local hard drive and rename them to what they are by person-event-date etc
– whatever makes sense to you. When you look at these records, transfer
information to your “data-base” that is not shown on the search reports.
ie. The person’s occupation, age, mother, father, actual date, witnesses
and their relationship if noted, etc…….. This could pay off down the road.
Always read the full image you just paid for, sometimes the other 2 or 3
records on the page may contain useful information. (on one of my marriage
images I found that the sister of the person I looked for was also listed
there – they had a double ceremony that day, - several times a death
register has had information on someone else I was interested in….the
communities were small and the “vital statistic” events were few). Watch
for notes in the margin areas of the record indicating various legal
Always pay attention to the witnesses on a register, you may find
relatives you did not know existed ( a son, a daughter, a niece…….), plus
after a while you will find that some family names seem to pop up over and
over, and they may be a tip to who others might be.
Here’s what is available at this site at time of this article :
Births & Christenings: OPRs 1553-1854 – index only
Births: SRs 1855-1904 - with images
Minor Records (Births) 1553-1904 – index only but coming
Deaths & Burials: OPRs 1553-1854 -nothing (and I see this being a long
Deaths: SRs 1855-1954 Yes – with images
Minor Records (Deaths) 1855-1954 – index only
Marriages & Proclamations of Banns: OPRs 1553-1854 – index only
Marriages: SRs 1855-1929 – with images
Minor Records (Marriages) 1855-1929 – index only
RCE 1855-1954 - nothing
Census 1841 - nothing - but promised
Census 1851 - nothing - but promised
Census 1861 – with images
Census 1871 - with images
Census 1881 - index onlyYes No (but information transcribed)
Census 1891 – with images
Census 1901 – with images
Wills 1513-1901 - with
Under the BDM records searching is possible by surname, qualified by the
Age/Age range (deaths and censuses only)
County and other names depending on the entry (including spouse,
father, mother and mother's maiden name)
Under Wills the search
parameters are bit more limited, but sufficient.
(On my personal wish
list for this site – the ability to search for births, with also the
mothers maiden name as a variable, with optional soundex on both)
Wills at Scotlands
About 5% of the
population left Wills/Testaments; you may get lucky and find one here.
But the Free Search Index can be quite useful, frequently mentioning
relatives, locations etc. It covers Labourers to Lairds, so your ancestors
don’t have to be rich or well-connected to appear here.
Be wary, this site defaults to “Exact Spelling”, where-as most others
require “Exact Spelling” to be selected.
When searching for
wills you can cut down the number of surname hits by searching selectively
on given name, location and date range. The site has a help item to aid
you in which court or sheriff’s office is applicable to which county.
Should you find
multiple entries for a person usually the earliest is the will with heir
information. This is true 80% of the time -with the later documents being
final inventories of assets not covered in the primary testament.
- In the last update of the ScotlandsPeople website you can now view the
Census header sheets for free, and download them if you so wish. Many
times it is just a lead identifier sheet that is quite ugly, but the odd
time they are the original handwritten descriptions by the census taker of
what is in the pages that follow and can be of interest. Who knows – maybe
your ancestor was one of the census workers…I found one of mine.
Some Save $ Tips for Scotland’s People:
With the searches being so spelling specific at this site you may receive
hundreds of hits on a particular search – especially with common popular
surnames. Use what you now to reduce the hits down to a manageable level
before just doing “stab-in the dark” downloads of either the listings or
the records. Make use of the date parameters, the gender parameters, the
location parameters to center on the info that is applicable to your
specific need within reasonable tolerances.
This next technique works well on SR records, since you don’t see the
spouses’ name: Use what you know about a marriage to pinpoint the correct
marriage by running a “wise” search (as mentioned above) on the female -
then a corresponding “wise” search on the male. It will cost maybe a
“credit a piece”. Pull up the “print version” of each and print them or
paste them into a spreadsheet. By manual comparison on the two lists, or
by sorted database techniques on the record number you may be able to find
one male record that matches or sorts out beside one female record –
Think about it – a one page list costs 1 credit. An image costs 5 credits.
Take a chance and do the extra 1 page credit, and avoid hopefully avoid
the “lets try this one” a multitude of times at 5 credits a pop. Odds are
when you do this you’ll download a bunch at 5 credits each before
stumbling onto the one you really want.
I use this technique in
the circumstances mentioned – it does save both time & lots of $.
I also used this same technique in the past for finding a FEMALE death
record by searching on the maiden name, and then the married name(s) to
produce at least two lists to cross reference. BUT -beginning in June of
2005 the site now aids you in doing this cross reference by simply filling
in the maiden and married surnames. Married women are indexed under their
maiden surname and any married surname(s). Enter the maiden surname,
current married surname or previous married surname(s) to refine your
search and the database will return the death of any woman bearing that
particular combination of surnames. Note: Since the index cannot
distinguish between the name-types, you may find e.g. searching for a
married woman named Brown with maiden surname Smith that results appear
for a married woman Smith with maiden surname Brown.
Note that age at death is not recorded in all indexes for deaths occurring
between 1855 and 1865. If you wish your search to include those entries
where age at death is unrecorded, check the "Unrecorded Ages" box. (This
option only works if you specify an actual range. If you do not specify a
range, unrecorded ages are returned by default).
Also pay attention when viewing a downloaded Census image. It’s not
documented at the site, but if a family runs from one sheet to another the
“viewer” may allow you to go back a page and view both, sometimes it will
allow this so ya get the neighbours for free. This option to page forward
and back (whether free or not) can also be used to narrow your hits by
focusing on a person in the family whose birth date you know, and/or one
who has an unusual first name.
Another thing I would mention concerning the 2005 update of this site is
that they have programmed the site to recognize the boundary changes of
parishes across time. Previous searches may have been limited to county
lines. I can attest that it does make a substantial difference from
personal experience – an old search of mine that I revisited concerning
Innerleithen (formerly programmed as Peebles only) had grown substantially
in size since it was now reporting hits from the Selkirk portion as well.
I had to pay for the added pages, but it was worth it – a tip: check your
Regarding OPR death
I have spent some time
reviewing various microfilms and report that the majority of the entries
concerning the passing of an individual may be of low value in the
searching out of family lines.
The level of detail
varies greatly from parish to parish and within each parish from time to
time. The record can be simply the name of an individual and a date with
no referencing ties, or be a name with statements such as “son of”, an
occupation, with a residence name or place. I have never seen a record
that identifies both parents of the deceased – but some might exist. Some
include the mention of purchase of yards of cloth, a coffin…etc. I have
never, as yet, seen an age at death documented. In some parishes sections
of the registers are dedicated to local deaths, while in others they
appear mixed in with the other business affairs– more to document revenue
than to record the person’s vital statistics. In one parish examined,
which GROS identifies as having recorded deaths, the only records I could
find were those of infants who did not survive to be baptized.
Considering all of the
above plus the record time gaps in all parishes it may unwise to count on
this as a “sure fire” solution to a brick wall when they eventually do
become available on line.
Tip – The extracts at
ScotlandsPeople are not cheap even though a bargain compared to some other
countries. A lot of money can be saved, plus possibly much can be learned
by using the Index data from ScotlandsPeople and IGI to make up a
“shopping list” of OPR records you wish to view at an LDS center. Just
confirm that the films are available or order the film(s) and then go to
the centre with your list of names and dates in hand and do quick look ups
of the records. Once you get used to working with the films and viewer
your can look up quite a few records (and transcribe them) in just a few
hours time, and save hundreds of dollars. Should you transcribe the
records (which I recommend) – type them as soon as possible thereafter
while all is still fresh in your mind – this will give you an electronic
copy for use in your family book, plus you might find that some of your
work is confusing or needs confirmation by booking another appointment
while the films are still resident in your locale (they do ship them out
to other cities you know).
Tip – Should you view OPR
microfilms – do take note of similar record formats in and around your
targets’ to see if your record is consistent with the norm. An
inconsistency may reveal a hidden fact (I uncovered an infant death this
way as all other birth records in the time period had both birth and
baptism dates, mine did not have a baptism date (only an obvious blank)
and upon further examination, I did see lightly scrawled sideways in an
adjacent column the word “died”). It is also valuable to note how
spellings and depth of detail may vary by the writer of the records for
future thoughts and investigations. Until I did this myself I had been
puzzled by the way my family surname changed for a decade or so - then
abruptly changed again – it was due totally to the record keeper assigned
within this period – when he changed so did the spelling.
Lastly I again stress
that it is well worth the time to read all the available help information
at ScotlandsPeople. Go to every section, look at every link. It will be
both educational and save you time and money as you go forward. This
section was greatly improved and expanded in 2005, and it appears to be
GOT A LOUSY REGISTER THAT IS
HARD TO READ?
Here’s a free 3 step image enhancement process that I’ve been messing
with. It makes faded registers, or other washed out scanned text, just a
bit easier to read. Although not magic or pretty, it sometimes is just
enough to help decipher faded writing or scanned pencil logs. Back up any
file before you do this to it under another name to retain an original
untouched for comparison.
It uses these 3 free software packages, available on line:
The process is simple after you have the software.
1. Bring the tiff image into B/Works and using the “Heavy Contrast” option
process the file and save it under another file name. It is now a jpeg of
much larger size and is a true black and white image with little grey
2. Load the Kodak
software and bring in the black and white jpeg image by “adding it”. Then
pick “fun effects” and then “colouring book”. This is basically an edge
drawing algorithm which will trace lightly the edges of the characters
thereby darkening and making them a bit bolder. Then accept this image and
then save it under yet a new file name. The image will have grown larger
again by some noise picked up in the tracing process around dots and
3. Now finally bring
this black and white, edge-traced image into the DC-Enhancer with the
controls set as follows:Auto balance at 50%, Colour at 50%, Midtones at
50%, Enh. Details at FULL BLAST, Denoiser at about 75%, and also select
the “Mid-Details”. Then save the result as a new name. The file size will
drop just a bit due to noise removal. Final file is about 15 times larger
than the original as far as disk space goes.
That’s it – compare the final to the original – I believe you will see a
bit of a difference and might just help.
I’ve messed with the Kodak “cartoon” setting as well, but it makes a bit
more noise than the “colouring book”. But works similar might have some
Further – on a few files it may be necessary to experiment with the
various settings of the final DC-Enhance step to produce better results.
(Note: that both Ancestry and Genforum have boards for all countries, and
regions, plus surnames, occupations, military….etc. I have found that
there is much more activity and a higher chance of getting an answer on
the general boards for a country rather than on the county or parish
Remember to use the Search facilities provided on those forums.
When putting up a query
try to be as specific and accurate as possible, with sufficient data to
help those interested in helping. Always review your message to make sure
there are no typos in the dates. And always flag info as uncertain, when
it is to save the reader searching for something or someone that may not
-putting up a message that says: “I’m looking for a John Scot born?,
somewhere in Scotland”, most times will reap few responses……………………..
i.e: What’s better:
1) Looking for John Scot born in Scotland sometime, was in Canada about
2) Looking for John Scot, born approx. 1830 +-2, Presbyterian, in
Edinburgh, a blacksmith, parents = John & Mary, wife = Jane, children =
John, Mary, Jane and William. Known associates = James Downie and
Alexander Scott. Younger brother to James and George. He was in Scotland
in 1851. Documented in Canada 1857. Preferred Chivas Regal straight up
(sorry couldn’t resist).
Use number 2 as a model of an ideal query and supply what information you
can to save everyone time, frustration and $.
Also note that both Genealogy dot com, and Ancestry dot com have surname
boards worth looking at – you may find your surname……..and save a lot of
Useful information may also be gleaned from the “world tree” entries at
Genforum and Rootsweb.
I strongly advise that you use a “pop-up” stopper at Ancestry, Rootsweb
and Genforum – they are quite aggressive, and really are annoying, though
Do NOT include your e-mail address in the main text of the message, this
is making it available for spamming, spoofing and the dreaded “bots”, etc.
Genealogy sites such as Genforum have a special field for your e-mail
address, which is then available in graphics format, which is much more
difficult to capture for spamming etc. On a Genforum posting, click on the
name at “Posted by:” to get that persons address, if available.
If you find a post of interest at a board, it is possible to see all posts
submitted by that person. Clicking on there name will bring up their
entire history, and enable you to read all they have put up, and the usual
threads to answers given or the previous message. This can lead to finding
a helpful hint or better.
NOTE- One last comment
on use of Boards – PLEASE DON’T POST THE SAME QUERY AT MULTIPLE LOCATIONS
ON THE SAME WEBSITE ON THE SAME DAY– IT REALLY TICKS-OFF THE
ADMINISTRATORS and WASTES OTHER PEOPLE’S TIME IN SPENDING THEIR VALUABLE
TIME ON AN ANSWER FOR YOU – WHEN POSSIBLY SOMEONE ELSE HAS ALREADY
ANSWERED IT AT ANOTHER LOCATION – be considerate to your unknown helpers.
Putting the same query on ANOTHER DIFFERENT website is considered OK by
most – or give the query a chance to be answered and then post it
elsewhere – at least a week or more later - on a different regional or
Surname board within that address. This is both acceptable and advisable
as few old (over 3 weeks) stale queries get an answer.
Do remember that the
Administrators are knowledgeable time-generous volunteers and that a lot
of the better answers may actually come from them. They DO have the power
to deny you access, or ERASE your posts should you abuse the privileged
use of their board and the systems.
NEVER FLAME! – Your posts and possibly your e-mail address will be
And – a class act is -
to go back to your multiple queries that are relatively close in time and
post that you’ve got your answer when you get one.
NAS CALM OPAC
is for locating information regarding trials and court actions. There is a
good help file on the menu when you arrive there – take a moment to read
the “ANY TEXT” blurb and perhaps the “DATE” section. These two will give
what most of us need to know on searching for a specific surname or
person, in a specific year or across a range of years.
For example if just the surname in the “any text” area retrieves thousands
of hits, use the given name and surname enclosed in quotation marks (i.e.
“John Smith”) to reduce the results by looking for a specific person. I
would caution though that you should try also sound-a-likes, nicknames,
and aliases as the search engine does not do phonetic or intelligent
Use of the date variable, is straightforward, and allows ranges which is
real handy and a time saving plus databases.
Most users will not use the other optional areas, unless looking for
building plans, or map indexes – which are text only, and to most useless
- unless you are doing research notes in advance of an actual visit to the
One other thing I would mention is - should you find an index entry of
personal interest for a criminal court case – they usually come in pairs
(the pre-trial and the trial with verdict). The gap between the two
usually is within a year, but can be a bit longer.
The verdicts in many trials is of great interest to some people from
Australia as the verdict may indicate “transportation” – which means they
were shipped down under. Or – it may indicate imprisonment for a specified
time – which might help some find a person through knowing they may
possibly be in prison during a census period.
Another thing you may find occasionally in a few civil suites is legal
action being raised in both directions, and many people suing one
When using this site
don’t limit yourself to only using the default search. The “flags” buttons
displayed at the top are other country specific search set ups that have
more specific parameters and use other search engines. The small numbers
in brackets indicate the number of alternate search setups for that
specific country. This site also has a link to a general search site
called Search Navigator with 2 meta-search engines here:
Scotland FreeCen – A MUST VISIT - grows larger continuously – keep
checking it monthly!
This project aims to provide a "free-to-view" online searchable database
of the 19th century Scottish census returns. It is part of the larger UK
Free Census Project (aka FreeCEN).
You’ll have lots to see
here regarding Scotland – HUGE. Maps, links, information, advice…...
General Registrar of Scotland
Spend a good deal of time here, LOOK AT EVERYTHING and learn:
There are many downloadable pdf files regarding information, how to
search, parish lists, how they will search for you, etc…….. The list is
long. A few hours may save you weeks of searching since you’ll have more
knowledge of what’s available and what’s not. Some downloads are worth
printing and throwing into a ring binder for quick reference later. This
is great stuff, factual and free.
Surname Thesaurus – for getting a list of variant spellings – very
This fantastic freebie not only points out alternate spellings but rates
them on the number of times they appear in actual vital statistics. This
helped me find information I would have never found - as the spellings
were so far out there that I would never have tried them and resulted in
clearing up two mysteries and totally smashing an intermediate brick wall.
I use this one a lot. A
word about using this site – use of quotation marks to do advanced
searches does work and will help you. All searches are exact spelling.
Date span is limited but data base is large and is drawn mostly from old
local newspaper announcements.
I use this
constantly.This is a really good site. Although not complete it is
growing. Searches are on exact spelling. Make use of my tip on cemetery
searches here – works great.
Included here are a few
of items of note (but do look around!, there’s more…): 1871 Census
This database contains the names of the heads of households in the
Province of Ontario as they were recorded in April 1871 in the official
enumeration of the population of Canada. The census returns record
personal information such as name, age, country or province of birth,
occupation, ethnic origin and religious denomination.
- Heads of households (not all family will be shown)
- “strays" (people with a different surname living in the household)
- People who died during the previous twelve months
Use of $ as a wildcard is possible, for example: Sm$th for Smith/Smyth,
The 1901 Census offers digitized images of the original census returns,
which record age, nationality, religion, profession, income, education;
etc for every single resident of Canada on 31 March 1901.You can search by
geographic location only. As this is not a nominally-indexed database, it
is not searchable by family name. This is a painstaking process. But
sometimes well worth the effort. Spend some time learning about it at the
site before you venture forth. It is very important to know as close as
possible the location of your target – there are approx. 30,000 pages.
There is an online area pdf file which lists the major areas to help focus
1911 Census of Canada –
NEW - was added in September 2005 – ditto above
If you think you can
use the record index numbers from the 1901 Census on the 1911 census –
forget it – they are totally different. So it’s hunt and peck some more,
but this time have the location index cross reference AND a very handy set
of maps with the areas marked.
Soldiers of the First World War (1914-1918)
Over 600,000 Canadians enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF)
during the First World War (1914-1918). To date, over 800,000 images of
Attestation papers have been scanned and are available on-line.
Soldiers of the South African War (1899 - 1902)
The South African War, 1899-1902 marked the first occasion for which
Canada dispatched troops to an overseas war. A total of 7,368 Canadians
and 12 Nursing Sisters served in South Africa. This research tool brings
together three groups of records pertaining to the South African War: the
service files, medal registers and land grant applications. All are
available as digital images, including hand written letters.
Home Children (1869-1930)
Between 1869 and the early 1930s, over 100,000 children were sent to
Canada from Great Britain during the child emigration movement. Members of
the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa are locating
and indexing the names of these Home Children found in passenger lists in
the custody of the National Archives of Canada.
Immigration Records (1925-1935)
The National Archives of Canada holds immigration records from 1865 to
1935. The names of immigrants arriving from overseas are recorded in
passenger lists. Those arriving from or via the United States are recorded
in border entry lists. The passenger lists for the 1925 to 1935 records
are in this database.
Also included are border entries for individuals whose surname starts with
the letter C.
War Diaries of the
First World War
This database contains the digitized War Diaries of the Canadian
Expeditionary Force (CEF) units. From the start of the First World War,
CEF units were required to maintain a daily account of their “Actions in
the Field.” This log was called a War Diary. The War Diaries are not
personal diaries; rather they are a historical record of a unit’s
administration, operations and activities during the First World War
This database is an index to the four volumes of assisted immigration
registers created by the Toronto Emigrant Office between 1865 and 1883
(series RG 11-3). The registers are a chronological listing of those new
immigrants who were assisted by the government to travel to many different
destinations across southern Ontario. Over 29,000 entries have been
transcribed from the registers. Info from the past
Log in as a “non-academic” user
Read and learn about various areas from the late 1700’s and mid 1800’s
While there are very few persons named, this will give you an appreciation
of the living conditions at those times, and a bit of insight into many
other things. This knowledge can help.
All based on the First and Second Statistical Accounts for Scotland, 1790s
and 1840s, compiled by the parish minister usually – “An eclectic
collection of contents.”
Maybe your Scottish ancestor was an accused witch (just for fun)? – look
-An amusement now but “deadly” serious way back. This link works but the
database is up and down sometimes.
The "Debt of Honour Register" is the Commission's database listing
the 1.7 million men and women of the Commonwealth forces who died during
the two world wars and the 23,000 cemeteries, memorials and other
locations world-wide where they are commemorated. The register can also be
searched for details of the 67,000 Commonwealth civilians who died as a
result of enemy action in the Second World War.
Electric Scotland – a massive site in CANADA - lots of info on
Scotland -look around- Use the local search engine. Has some on line
books, plus links to many other sites. It constantly grows dramatically. I
have made a few contributions here. Also be sure to check out the
genealogy section. Plus if you are searching for a Tartan that is
associated with your family – I’d look here in those sections.
Also - the webmaster is
slowly but surely adding the rare and complete 8 volume set of the
Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland Edited by Francis H. Groome (1892-6)
complete with all maps and pictures – a mammoth reference document
covering all of Scotland. This will be priceless to many researchers when
See also the
upcoming Scottish Studies Foundation information re Electric Scotland!
Every issue of The Scotsman from 1817-1920. All digitized and searchable –
free, but images you pay for – but you can do unlimited searches once you
buy some time - not a lot of money. I found many items for my family.
GOOD! I recommend this site.
Sample of an article
The three GAZETTES in England, Scotland, and Ireland– they list
military promotions, medals, and awards, plus nobility lists and title
bestowments from the King/Queen. You might find a relative here:
The Ellis Island New York database for immigrants to US and maybe
This site has the “best” alternate name search around and it is worth the
visit to learn other possible phonetic combinations (IGI is good also,
Scotland’s Peoples soundex is not real good)
When you search here - search on spouse, maiden names and children’s names
You will have to register here to see a full record – but it’s free and
If you have MWSNAP you can capture the cool certificates it displays re:
Castle Garden Immigrants to USA 1820-1912
TRY THIS – an Ellis
Island alternate – maybe better and with a different date range.
Ingeneas free database and a pay section too…….
Free–Canadian immigration records - on 15,000 immigrants 1801-1849
sometimes worth a look.
Also check out the pay side for a lead on a date – you get a glimpse of
the basic info without paying. -Recommended - even if you do pay, not
expensive, and can save you many hours re: 1901 Census of Canada searches.
This is where you may find some personal info from other peoples' family
trees, this site grows daily. This site has recently gone commercial – but
searching is still free. Rootsweb is bigger, but this site has more
current uploads. Try a few searches – you never know…………
Royal Commission of Ancient & Historical Monuments
You have to register – its free – but for if your looking for old
monuments or registered historic sites, farms, place names, etc. – it is
the BEST place to start – there are actually three separate
databases here - sites, maps and usage data. UNBELIEVABLY HUGE. And some
records come complete with photographs on-line.
Not widely used or talked about – but definitely of use, and grows in size
and quality daily.
A place may be listed on one or other of those sites; or all; or none.
Streetmap is the easier to use; but try multimap or old-map below
if the place does not show up on streetmap. When a place has been located
on any of those, use the information to home in on the preferred map. For
very small places, isolated houses, farms etc, the name does not appear in
the index; but might appear on the map.
Conversely, some farms etc appear in the streetmap index; but not on its
How to take a pinpointed current location back to older maps:
Try the index on streetmap first, if it fails, try multimap, then
Should you locate a place on streetmap, down at the bottom, you will find
the National Grid Co-ordinate.
Copy and paste them into old-maps, changing the "E" to a comma ","; and
drop the trailing N. Select "Co-ordinates" and Search etc.
When the small map appears, select "Enlarged View" in the bottom bar.
You can right-click and save the maps for later use; or use a graphics
screen capture program.
Tip: If you find yourself confused regarding locations and relative
distances between areas of Scotland simply go to any good book store and
buy a current road map of Scotland. It will help to study it and learn the
“lay of the land” - a valuable tool.
The map mentioned at
the start of this section shows the counties of Scotland, also try
surrounding counties when you “think” the search should be in only one
specific area – people do move around a bit, and it only takes a few miles
to be in a new county records area. County names also change –
Linlithgowshire = West Lothian.
Also cross-check in streetmap etc – there are many places called Hillend
County boundaries have been changed over the years; and for some purposes,
some locations are grouped into another county. Two extreme cases are
Berwick upon Tweed at present in Northumberland England; but have swapped
fourteen times into Berwickshire Scotland. The other is Monmouthshire
which has shuttled between England and Wales over the centuries, its
records have to be checked in both countries.
And do also look for
maps at Electric Scotland’s Ordnance Gazetteer section (a work in
progress). These maps are HUGE and hi-res – downloadable.
And yet to come – soon
we all hope – hi definition satellite images of Scotland on Google
Earth. Haven’t tried this yet – why not? You’ll be amazed. Plus it
has current road maps already pasted on. You have to download the free
software. You need a fairly current computer to use this site as it is a
memory hog with all the hi-res graphics.
A note about medal
cards – they rarely have any family information but do indicate the
registration number, rank, core, and possibly enlistment and discharge
dates to help in other searches. Seaman’s medals cards (also here) which
additionally cover WW2 are similar.
Sample WW1 Medal Card
Toronto Star Pages of the Past:
If your relatives were in Toronto this one may help.
It is a pay site – but right now all of 1945 is free.
They have actually digitized (PDF) all the papers from 1894 to 2002.
I have used this myself and report that if you had relatives in the TO
area – try it.
Looking for old, rare
or used books?
Here’s the biggest dealer in the world. I have used this myself – saves
big $, and the service is flawless. Rather than spend full pop, get a
“good” used book you want and have enough left over for 2 more……
This is actually a revised site drawing info from ScotlandsPeople. It’s
worth a visit to try the free searches, and read the helpful information
and sign up for the newsletter.
Glasgow's Mitchell Library is one of the largest public reference
libraries in Europe. It also houses the City Archives. As part of an
ongoing project to make its resources more accessible, a selection of
photographs of the city has been digitized.
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