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OPR Deaths & Burials IMPORTANT

Very Sparse Coverage

Of all the OPR records, those of deaths and/or burials are acknowledged to be the most sparsely kept. Since there was no requirement to record these, a great many parishes simply did not bother and of those that did, many have not survived. Often the only record that a death has taken place will be implied in the payment of a fee to the parish for the hire of the mortcloth or pall which was draped over the coffin or the body itself for the funeral.

See Extant OPRs to find out whether death/burial registers exist for the parish in which you are interested. Please also look at OPR Death Years by parish to see the available death/burial event years in the registers.


  • Surviving registers may record the date of death or the date of burial or date of payment for hire of the mortcloth, but only one of these will appear in the index. There is no indication given in the index as to whether the entry alludes to a death or a burial or the mortcloth payment.
  • Some people were not buried in the parish in which they were living. In the Old Statistical Account for Aberdeen, the writer lamented the fact that the figures presented for burials in Old Machar were not accurate because "many who die in this parish are buried in other parishes, but a far greater number are brought from other parishes and buried here. This is owing partly to their forefathers having lived, died and been buried in this parish; and partly to the burial lairs being much cheaper here". (Vol. 19. Pages 176/7)
  • Some people did not use the parish mortcloth for burial. Prosperous and important families may have had their own family mortcloth, some trades paid into charitable funds with their own mortcloth. In parishes where mortcloth dues are the only evidence of burial, such cases might have gone unrecorded. Sometimes there was no charge for use of the parish mortcloth, particularly if the family were poor.

Variable Information

Do not expect too much from OPR death & burial records. The amount of information recorded can be variable and most entries contain very little detail.

More often than not you will find only the name of the person who has died, with a date, and sometimes even just the surname. Such paucity of information can make it extremely difficult to pinpoint the correct person.

In the case of a mortcloth hire, there is usually a record of the payment made. Some parishes had several mortcloths for hire, of varying quality, including a childs one and the fee will vary accordingly.

Sometimes you will find extra information. Besides the name of the person who has died, the date of death and/or date of burial, you may find the name of a relative (e.g. spouse, father), the place or parish of residence, and sometimes the occupation of the person/father/spouse. A few registers will give cause of death and some age at death. There may be more detail recorded on the death/burial of important and well-to-do members of the parish.


Married women Deaths/burials of married women can be referred to in various ways:

  • by their married name, which is unusual in Scottish records outside the census
  • by their maiden name, e.g "Mary Murray, wife of Thos Low, Alyth"
  • merely as Mrs with no first name given e.g. "Mrs Easton", or as Mrs using the husband's name e.g."Mrs William Hackney"
  • simply as someone's wife e.g. "James Murray's wife"
  • as a widow with no first name given e.g. "Widow Graham", or "Relict of Samuel Thom, surgeon in Canongate" or with extra information e.g. "Isabel Reid, widow of the late James Wilkie, Alyth"

Stillborn Children

In the case of a stillborn child or one who has not lived long, there is usually no name given at all, e.g. "a male child", although there may be reference to a parent, e.g. "a child of David Murray". Occasionally other information is included, e.g. "a child of John Murray in Hilton, unbaptized"

OPR Images

OPR images are stored in a JPEG format. There is an option on the "My Details " page to select the size of an OPR image. OPR images are displayed as standard using Lowest image quality, but you may vary the size by selecting from Lowest (lowest quality) up to Highest (highest quality). The highest quality gives the smallest file size and therefore is quicker to view/download.

Header Page

OPR images are scans from microfilm copies of the original registers. When you view an OPR image, click on "View Free Header" to see, at no extra cost, the header page detailing the reference information for the microfilm from which that particular image was digitised .

Image Description

A description of each image incorporating search name, image type and reference number and the date and time that the image was generated, can be found at the top of each image. If you would prefer not to display these details, uncheck the "Image Description Appears In Image" box on the "My Details" page.

Use whatever information you find on an OPR deaths & burials entry to further your search:

  • Any mention of a parent's name can help to pinpoint a birth/baptism.

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