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Scottish Borders History
Family History Research


These notes outline the main sources
for family history research in the Scottish Borders

Local Records

Local Registrar Offices – Statutory registration of birth, marriage and death came into force in Scotland in 1855 – 18 years later than in England and Wales, but the records give more detailed information. There is no uniformity on how far back local registrars hold records, and if you wish to make searches of the indexes, you are advised to make an appointment in advance. It may be difficult for some offices to provide this kind of service in addition to their normal registration duties.

Borders Archive and Local Studies Centre, Library Headquarters, St Mary’s Mill, Selkirk. Tel: 01750 20842. Archivist Miss R Brown.

Open: Monday to Thursday 9.00 am – 1.00 pm 2.00 pm – 5.00 pm
Friday 9.00 am – 1.00 pm 2.00 pm – 3.30 pm

Appointments are advisable, especially when wishing to use the microfilm or microfiche readers.

The centre provides an opportunity to consult a large reference section of published local history material and original archives.

The collection includes records from the Border burghs, local firms, school logs, valuation books, old maps, individual, family and estate papers, group and society papers, picture postcards and aerial photographs, printed ephemera and local newspapers dating back to the early 19th century.

Copies are held of the census returns 1841 – 1891; old parish records from the four Border counties plus Stow, Falla, Soutra, Temple and Heriot; the International Genealogical Index for the UK and the index to pre 1855 Christenings and Marriages in Scotland – all on microfiche.

Local Libraries in Duns, Hawick and Galashiels have collections largely of a county interest.

Hawick Museum, Wilton Lodge Park Hawick Tel: 01450 373457

Open: April to Sept Mon to Sat 10 am – 12.30 pm 1.30 – 5.00 pm Sunday 2.00 – 5.00 pm

Oct to March Mon to Fri 1.00 – 4.00 pm Sunday 2.00 – 4.00 pm

The Museum holds churchyard records of burial grounds in towns and villages in Roxburghshire, also of Berwickshire tombstones and records of churchyards at Galashiels Old Cemetery, Ladhope, Bewlie, Ettrick Kirkyard and St Mary’s, Yarrow.

Border Family History Society, Secretary Mrs Fay Mackay, Caddonmill, Clovenfords, near Galashiels. Tel: 01896 850264

The Society, established in 1985, cannot assist directly with family research. Its publications programme includes a regular newsletter with articles and queries, a register of members’ interests and records of monumental inscriptions.

National Records

General Register Office for Scotland, New Register House, West Register Street, Edinburgh. Tel: 0131 334 0380. (This is at the east end of Princes Street, up the side street opposite the Balmoral Hotel – not to be confused with the imposing building with the equestrian statue of Wellington outside).

Open: Monday to Friday 9 am – 4.30 pm

The records, held here for the whole of Scotland, fall into three main categories:

  1. Statutory Records of every birth, marriage and death in Scotland since January 1st 1855. Enquirers need to have a good idea of the date of the event they are looking for.

  2. Old Parish Records 1553-1845 of baptisms, banns and marriages, and burials in the Church of Scotland. Kept by the Parish ministers or session clerks, these records are far from complete. A charge was made to have the event recorded, and there was no standard to which clerks were expected to conform. They are very variable in coverage, quality and legibility. Enquirers need to know the name of the parish in which their forebears were baptised, married or buried. A major indexing task is in hand. Records on microfilm.

  3. Census Records 1841 – 1891. The Census records for 1841 and 1851 carry details of many people not covered by the statutory records begun in 1855. Enquirers do need to know where the person they are researching was living at the time of the census. Records on microfilm.

Accommodation in the Search Room is limited. A seat may be reserved in advance and it is advisable to anyone travelling some distance to book ahead.

A general search through the three different types of records costs an inclusive fee of £17.00 per day, ½ day search £10.00 after 1 pm subject to seat availability. Charges as of March 1999. A free leaflet is available from New Register House, giving general advice on the records and on charges for specific searches and copies of individual entries.

Produced by Scottish Borders Tourist Board, Shepherd’s Mill, Whinfield Road, Selkirk TD7 5DT.
Tel (01750) 20555. Fax (01750) 21886. E-mail: sbtb@scot-borders.co.uk