- Getting Started
- Statutory Records 1855-Present
- Old Parish Registers 1553-1854
- Catholic Parish Registers
- Register of Neglected Entries 1801-1854
- Census Records up to 1911
- Miscellaneous Records
- Wills and Testaments 1513-1925
- Valuation Rolls
- Coats of Arms 1672-1910
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- Directories, Registers, Electoral Rolls
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- Visiting Scotland
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List of the Old Parish Registers
Marriage entry from OPR, 1847This list of Old Parish Registers (OPR's) is based on the printed 'Detailed List of the Old Parochial Registers of Scotland' published in 1872. It provides the covering dates for the events in each register volume and does not reflect gaps of periods of months or years within the OPR's. The list also includes: — references to indexes and transcripts held in the Library. — cross-references to Church of Scotland records held by the National Records of Scotland containing pre-1855 birth, death and marriage entries (reference CH2). The appendix is annotated to show where the National Archives of Scotland material supplements the OPR's. — Register of Neglected Entries references. These refer to a volume(s) of the Register of Neglected Entries, 1801-54. This register was compiled by the Registrar General after statutory registration was introduced in 1855. It consists of births, deaths and marriages proved to have occurred in Scotland between 1801 and 1854 but which had not been entered in the OPR's. The RNE entries are found at the end of the appropriate parish register entries.
List of OPR's by parish within each countyThe list is arranged alphabetically and there is an index of place names. Clicking on each link will open an Adobe Acrobat portable document file (pdf).
Church of Scotland records in the National Records of Scotland (Scottish Record Office) containing pre-1855 birth, death and marriage entries.
Kirk session and other material found in the OPR's.
Miscellaneous records containing entries from Non-Conformist churches relevant to the OPR's.
Do the OPRs contain every birth, marriage and death record from 1553 to 1854?
Unfortunately no and there are many reasons for this.
The Parish Register does not exist
— Not every parish began taking records from the mid 1500's. Registration was slow to catch on in places and in some parishes it took a hundred or sometimes two hundred years for any sort of registration to take place. Details of dates where records are available for each parish are listed above.
— Because there was no central repository for the registers, over the centuries some of them have inevitably been lost, misplaced or stolen. Of those that didn't go missing some suffered due to poor storage conditions and it was not unusual for volumes to rot away in damp rooms, be eaten by rodents or destroyed by fire.
Many births deaths and marriages were not recorded in the registers
— Registration was not compulsory and so inevitably some people did not go to the bother of registering their important life events with the church. When you consider also that it usually cost money to register you can understand why many people felt there were better ways to spend what little money they had.
— Carelessness, laziness and inconsistency of recording on the part of the clerks or ministers can explain why some entries in the registers were never made. It could be the result of drunkenness or simply misplacing loose papers. This unfortunately was not a rare occurrence with the pre 1855 registers and can explain many missing entries and peculiar ones like this baptism record for 1704.
1704 Baptism record (click to enlarge)
— Members of non-conformist churches were sometimes reluctant to register with the established church, so that's something to consider if you have evidence that ancestors belonged to one of these churches. The NAS holds Kirk session records for the Church of Scotland, Free Church, and various dissenting ('seceding') congregations. They also hold records of the Scottish Episcopal Church and copies of the records of baptisms, marriages and burials for Roman Catholics before 1855.
— The registers only usually recorded official baptisms, banns of marriage and burials in the churchyard. Many people for a number of reasons chose to live their lives outwith the eyes of the church so if a child was not baptised or a couple chose not to get formally married and if a person died outwith the parish these events would not normally be recorded.
— Rapid urbanisation in the 19th century saw the role and influence of the church diminishing in the large towns and the low registration figures in these areas was one of the reasons compulsory registration began in 1855.
OPRs, by event
Further information on particular events is available by clicking on the following links:
All of the event years that have been recorded are listed in the ScotlandsPeople website.