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Old Parish Registers

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The Old Parish Registers (OPRs) comprise the records of births & baptisms, banns & marriages and deaths & burials kept by individual parishes of the Established Church (Church of Scotland) before the introduction of civil registration in 1855.

Since launching the OPRs on line, we occasionally find OPR entries that have been missed or are within the Kirk session records. As these are reported we will work to get them added to the database. Thus, if you don't find your ancestors this time, it is always worth searching the following year in case they have been added to our database.

The parish minister or the session clerk usually assumed responsibility for maintaining the registers, but since there was no standard format employed, record keeping varied enormously from parish to parish and also from year to year. As a result, the information may be sparse, unreliable and difficult to read. The oldest register dates from 1553 (baptisms and banns from Errol, Perthshire), but although there was a requirement from 1552 that parishes record baptisms and marriages, many did not commence until much later, and some more remote areas only have registers from the early 19th century. Some registers have been lost or destroyed and the condition of the surviving 3500 is variable. The National Records of Scotland holds the surviving original registers.

Registration in Church of Scotland's registers was costly and unpopular, so many people did not bother to register events at all. Although details of some non-conformists can be found in Established Church registers, many members of other religious denominations chose to have events registered in their own churches. In addition, rapid urbanisation during the 19th century contributed to the diminishing influence of the Church and a decrease in registration in these areas. It was estimated at the time that as few as 30% of events actually occurring were being recorded for some urban parishes.

Civil registration started in 1855, however in a small number of districts the local registrar was not in place at the very beginning and therefore there are a small number of events that are recorded in Old Parish Registers but are not featured in our statutory records. In order to access the OPR records that exist after 1854, insert 1854 in both the from and to year range box. The system will return all results for 1854 plus any returns for the years after 1854.

To find out more about the types of OPR records, select one from the right menu.

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