House and building history
Statutory registers (1855 onwards)
The addresses given in the registers are often of private houses where people were born, died or married, but they may also be of hospitals, poorhouses, hotels and other premises. Bear in mind that marriages may have taken place not in a church but in a private house, hotel or other place. You can check the identity of a building by using its address to search the valuation rolls or post office directories.
Read our guide on statutory registers
Census returns (1841-1911)
The census is essentially a snapshot of the people in a household on a given night and can provide details of a particular family and anyone else who happened to be in the house at the time, for example, servants, lodgers, or visitors. It can also supply useful information about how families lived, for example, how many rooms with one or more windows a dwelling contained.
Read our guide on census returns for more information and examples of these records.
Search census returns.
Photographic and image research
Photographs are a rich source for researching the history of buildings and architecture and they can also reveal how people lived.
Search the image library for images from the National Records of Scotland's diverse collections.
Once you have exhausted the above, read our guide on photographic and image research for suggestions on how you can continue your research online.
If you are interested in the history of your house, you can use valuation rolls to see who lived in your property and who owned it. You can also use the rolls to research the history of buildings such as shops and businesses of all kinds, churches, schools, hospitals, railway stations and even lighthouses.
Sometimes improvements or additions made by a tenant in commercial premises are entered separately from the entry for the rented property, indicating their commitment to their business.
Consult our guide on valuation rolls for further information about these records.
Indexes and images of valuation rolls for 1855, 1865, 1875, 1885, 1895, 1905, 1915, 1920, 1925 and 1930 are available to search on this site.
The most detailed inventories list the moveable property of the deceased, for example, money, household furnishings, personal possessions, and so on. Until the early nineteenth century some inventories name the rooms in which the moveables were kept. In this way you can discover more about how and where people lived.
Look at our guide on wills and testaments for further information about these records.
There are many other sources available in the National Records of Scotland (NRS) which can help you research the history of buildings. Read the NRS' guide on buildings and consult the NRS' online catalogue to continue your online research.