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Scotland's Greatest Story
National Archives of Scotland

The National Archives in Edinburgh holds one of the biggest repositories for Scottish historical records in the country. If you think of the General Register Office in Edinburgh as the source for the basic skeleton of your family tree (with birth, marriage, death and census records), then consider the NAS as one of your first stops to try and put some flesh onto the  bones. The archives hold an impressive collection of church records (including the non-established protestant churches and the Roman Catholic church); records of the various courts in Scotland including criminal trial papers; deeds and sassiness of heirs;  industrial records; maps and plans; government papers, both pre and post the union with England; and much, much more.


There are two main search rooms at the NAS – General Register House and West Register House, which are about a ten minute walk away from each other on either end of Princes Street (with WRH on Charlotte Square, just off Princes Street). The General Register House contains two main search rooms, the Historical Search Room (church records, government records, early Court records pre 1800, valuation rolls, family and estate papers etc), and the Legal Search Room (public registers and adoption records); and the West Register House, which contains the West Search Room (for maps and plans, court records post 1800, industrial records, and more).


If you live overseas, the NAS have very helpfully put their entire catalogue online at The buildings are open between 9.00am and 4.45pm, and access is free. Should you wish to visit in order to check records, or should you wish someone to attend on your behalf, it is always worth checking in advance whether the documents are stored on site, as many are not and need to be ordered in from storage sites.


Copies can be purchased of many records, subject to their condition, though there are some peculiar rules around what you can and cannot do. On any one visit, you can order up to a maximum of 20 copies to be made there and then, or you can place an order to a maximum of 50 copies if you are happy for the documents to be sent away (usually between 1 – 2 weeks for them to be done for you). Larger orders may require the collection to be microfilmed, if it has not already been so. For more on the copying services visit .


Research work at the National Archives of Scotland is just one of the many services on offer from Scotland’s Greatest Story. Customers have in the last two months commissioned research work into a double murder trial in 1913 for which the father of two murdered children was subsequently hanged (including the shock discovery that some of the children’s body parts are still retained to this day by an institution in Edinburgh); successful research into the Roman Catholic baptismal records to try and find an immigrant family from Ireland which had fled their homeland because of the 19th Century famine; and research into the Perth kirk session records to find one individual who was subsequently discovered to have represented his parish as an elder at the great Disruption of 1843 (where the Church of Scotland split over the issue of patronage).


For more information on how we may be able to help, please visit us at for a free estimate. We look forward to being of assistance!

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