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Tips for researching your Scottish family tree

VisitScotlandNikkiVisitScotlandNikki Member, VisitScotland Staff
edited June 2017 in Understanding Scotland
Many of us love the idea of being able to trace our ancestors back through history and discover where we came from, what our name means, and how our relatives used to live.

It can be really fascinating - but it can be a challenging search sometimes.

Have you researched your family tree in Scotland and uncovered some interesting stories?

What tips would you give someone who is just starting to look?

Check out our ancestry eBook for starter tips and all the places in Scotland you can visit to see for yourself what life was life hundreds of years ago.


  • VisitScotlandMurielVisitScotlandMuriel Member, Moderator, VisitScotland Staff
    Scotland's People is the National Records of Scotland located at the East End of Princes Street. For £15 a day you can have access to all the records held there, births, deaths and marriages. You can also search online for free but not all records have been converted to digital format.
  • antisbarrantisbarr Member
    Start by asking the older folk in your family about names, dates, locations and anecdotes.
    Find out if there is a local Family History Society and join that.
    There is loads of information out there on the net and by joining organisations like , Ancestry or Genes Reunited and by using the Scotland's People site you will soon build a good picture of your ancestors and where and how they lived.

    Once you'll be hooked !!!!!!!!!
  • JWGJWG Member ✭✭
    If anyone is looking to trace any family connections with Orkney I would recommend getting in contact with the Orkney Family History society, email [email protected] or visit
  • FofomaFofoma Member ✭✭✭
    Cemeteries! They are a wealth of information however you do have to know where people are buried. My Grannies family come from Morayshire and I found loads of information from Moray Council's  Heritage website
  • VisitScotlandAmandaVisitScotlandAmanda Member, Administrator, Moderator, VisitScotland Staff
    Love this story from Ian Walker about his passion for helping others find out about their ancestry. As a kiwi with Scottish heritage I can definitely relate to the part when he said visitors feeling like they're "coming home" when they arrive here - I felt this myself!

    Kiwi gal, relocated to Scotland. 
  • Catriona_MCatriona_M Member ✭✭
    I`ve been doing my family tree. My husband`s mum is from Islay . I can`t wait to go and visit the place where she grew up. He also has an ancestor a McArthur, who fought and died at Culloden! I`m so glad I married him!
  • VisitScotlandAmandaVisitScotlandAmanda Member, Administrator, Moderator, VisitScotland Staff
    @Jemy this thread might be of some interest to you!
    Kiwi gal, relocated to Scotland. 
  • JemyJemy Member ✭✭
    This is great! I have hit a wall with my family tree. Annandales is my Scottish family but need to get into one of these record centers to get beyond a wall I hit. 

    How do you find out which clan your family was a sept of? I have reached out to a couple of clans from Dumfries and Galloway which is where my family name comes from but haven't heard back. 
  • munroekomunroeko Member ✭✭
    My grandmother was born in Perthshire and, using the marvelous ScotlandsPeople, I have traced her ancestors back to the late 1700s in Perthshire and Edinburgh.  With my last name, I am pretty sure my grandfather was of Scottish descent too but I have not had luck tracing his ancestors back to Scotland.

    I have been to Scotland several times but will be there this summer for the first time in 17 years (and I am JUST A LITTLE EXCITED).  We'll be in Edinburgh and driving around Perthshire to many of the sites and towns of my grandmother's ancestors.  

    Any suggestions as to how to find cemetery records in Perthshire?  I'd love to find any family sites but vacation time is precious so I am hoping to find some solid evidence of graves before I go looking.

  • bacbac Member ✭✭
    Looking for info on ancestral family by the name of McFaul or McPhail, etc. believed to be from Inverness area.
  • bacbac Member ✭✭
    Interested in info on ancestral family name McCorkle, MacCorkle.  That ancestral male came over to USA in the 1760's.  
  • PJMPJM Member
    Im interested in information on the family name Galloway. Any suggestions on how to find the clan?
  • VisitScotlandLiamVisitScotlandLiam Member, Administrator, Moderator, VisitScotland Staff
    Hi @PJM I managed to find some info about Clan Galloway that you can see here!
    Lead vocalist & rhythm guitarist for The Bright SkiesSpotify, Twitter, Facebook, SoundCloud, YouTube.
  • Through my family tree research, I've been able to trace an ancestor back to Aberdeen. A kind person on one of the many Scottish ancestry pages on Facebook did some research online with a membership she had, and was unable to find any mention of my ancestors. So that's too bad, but perhaps I can try elsewhere. I have another branch on my mother's side that I may try to trace back now!
  • LbrisboisLbrisbois Member
    I have been searching for information about David Baillie born about 1435. His father was William Baillie laird of Lamington. I hope to find information on him when I get to Scotland in September.  The farther back you go the records get harder to find..
  • I am looking for an ancestor named MacHill (Not sure about the spelling) who most likely, like hundreds of young scotsmen, went to Sweden sometimes around 1650 to fight the Danes for  the king of Sweden. Any input would be appreciated ! 
    The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese
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