The statutory registers comprise the official records of births, marriages and deaths in Scotland from 1 January 1855 when civil registration replaced the old system of registration by parishes of the Established Church (Church of Scotland). From 1855, registration became compulsory, regardless of religious denomination, and followed a standard format for each record type. More information was required in order to register an event, particularly at the start of the new system.
1855 death records show the date, time and place of death, deceased's name, sex, marital status, age and occupation, cause of death, duration of last illness, doctor's name and details of the informant. In addition, they show the usual residence, the deceased's place of birth, spouse's name, parents' names, occupations and whether they were deceased, names and ages of children or age and year of death if the child pre-deceased the parent. Up to 1860, the place of burial, the name of the undertaker and when the doctor last saw the deceased alive, were also included. As with births and marriages, this amount of detail had proved difficult to maintain. The deceased's birthplace was removed from 1856, as were the names of any children. The spouses name was also not required from 1856, but was reinstated in 1861.
Example of an 1855 death image
See Images for a detailed breakdown of the information you can expect to find on Statutory death entries in any given year.
Statutory Deaths Index
The Statutory Deaths Index contains entries from the paper indexes to the civil registers of deaths for all Scotland, from 1855 until 2009.
The index does not include the full date of the event because only the year was captured when the indexes were compiled, although the full date is present on register entries themselves.
The old paper indexes for the years 1855 to 1865 did not record the age at death, although it is present on the actual register entries. The NRS is gradually adding the missing ages to the indexes.
Images of Statutory Deaths
Images of Statutory deaths from 1855 to 1960 are available to view on this site. A digital image is a scan of the microfiche copy of the original register page containing the entry in which you are interested. It therefore contains the same information you would normally see when looking at the actual record. Images are Crown copyright; however, they are not official copies. If you wish to have a certified, legally admissible copy of the specific register entry in which you are interested, you will need to order an extract. See Extract Orders in Customer Information.
Example of a statutory death image
You may occasionally come across records with a note in the left margin 'RCE' or 'Reg. Cor. Ent.' followed by a volume number, page number and date. RCE stands for Register of Corrected Entries, or, after 1965, Register of Corrections, Etc. If, after an entry in a register had been completed, an error was discovered or some other amendment was required as a result of new information, the original entry could not be altered. Instead, each registrar kept a Register of Corrected Entries in which such amendments were written, originally after they had been approved by a sheriff. Corrections might be to name, residence, identity, or as a result of a precognition from a procurator fiscal giving additional or amended information on cause or circumstances of death. When an extract certificate is issued of an entry to which an RCE relates, the extract must reflect the amendments recorded in the RCE.
Images of RCEs are now available here on ScotlandsPeople. Please read the help on RCEs before viewing them.
The following is an example of an RCE relating to an accidental death, in this case a victim of the Tay Rail Bridge disaster, December 1879:
Death entry showing RCE reference in left margin Please note the entry for the death of one of the guards on the train also appears on this page.
Use the information gleaned from a statutory deaths entry to further your search. The age recorded for the deceased can narrow down the search for their birth, but bear in mind that all the information in the entry is dependent on what the informant knew about the deceased. Look up the names of the deceaseds parents in the marriage index. Use the details of the informant to confirm any relationship with the deceased. Use the addresses of both deceased and informant to confirm census details and track remaining members of the family in earlier census returns. Remember that place of death and usual residence may not be the same. Use the date of death to check for gravestone inscriptions, newspaper obituaries, or a will.
The Minor Records
The minor records comprise records of births, deaths and marriages of Scottish persons outside Scotland. The following indexes to deaths in the minor records are available on this site:
Air Register (from 1948) includes deaths on British-registered aircraft, where it appears that the deceased was usually resident in Scotland.
Consular Returns (from 1914) comprise registrations of death by British consuls relating to persons of Scottish descent or birth.
Foreign Returns (1860 - 1965) the Register of Deaths in Foreign Countries, which comprises deaths of Scottish subjects, entries being made on the basis of information supplied by parties concerned and after due consideration of the evidence.
High Commission Returns (from 1964) relate to the returns of death of persons of Scottish descent in certain Commonwealth countries.
Marine Register (from 1855) includes deaths on British-registered merchant vessels at sea, where it appears that the deceased was usually resident in Scotland and deaths at sea of Royal Navy and Royal Marine personnel during wartime, including Royal Naval Reserve, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve and RNLI. Cause of death for RN personnel was recorded in the register as a number (1, 2, 3 or 4). Find out more
Service Returns (from 1881) include Army returns of deaths of Scottish persons at military stations abroad (1881-1959), and Service Departments Registers of deaths outside the United Kingdom of persons ordinarily resident in Scotland who are serving in or employed by HM Forces, including families of members of the Forces (from 1959).
War Returns include registers of deaths of Scottish soldiers in the South African War (1899-1902); Scottish persons serving as Warrant Officers, Non-Commissioned officers or Men in the Army (not officers) and Petty Officers or Men in the Royal Navy in World War I (1914-1918); Scottish members of the Armed Forces in World War II (1939-1945).
To search the minor records indexes for deaths, go to the statutory deaths search form and select Minor Records from the Counties/City/Minor Records drop-down list. The screen will refresh with the available minor records displayed in the District drop-down list.
Images of Minor Record deaths are available here on ScotlandsPeople up to 1960. For index entries after 1960, you may wish to order an extract to see the full details of the register entry. See Extracts for more information.
The following sample images illustrate the type of information found in the Minor Records:
Marine Register 1
Marine Register 2
War Returns: South African War; World War I; World War II