Statutory register of deaths

Background information

How to search statutory death records

The content of statutory death records

- 1855 register entries

- Examples of statutory death records

- Register of Corrected Entries

Background information

The statutory register of deaths dates from 1 January 1855 when compulsory, civil registration was introduced in Scotland. The records are indexed by personal name.

  • If you need a death certificate for official or legal purposes please go to Certificates and copies for guidance about online ordering. You have to register and login to use this service.
  • If you want to obtain copies for research there are options to view, save and print digital images of 1855-1973 entries and to order official paper certificates of those from 1974 onwards. The 50 year cut-off for viewing images of statutory death records online is in accordance with the National Records of Scotland's policy on protecting the privacy of individuals.

Deaths is a record type in the advanced search category statutory registers and includes the Minor Records of deaths overseas. It covers the following:

  • Statutory register of deaths (from 1855)
  • Air register (from 1948) - deaths in any part of the world on British-registered aircraft where it appears that the deceased person was usually resident in Scotland
  • Consular returns (from 1914) - certified copies of registrations by British consuls relating to persons of Scottish descent or birth
  • Register of births, deaths and marriages in foreign counties (1860-1965) - deaths of Scots with entries made on the basis of information supplied and after consideration of the evidence of each event
  • High Commissioners' returns (from 1964) - records from certain Commonwealth countries relating to persons of Scottish descent or birth plus some earlier returns for India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Ghana
  • Consular and foreign records combined series (from 1975)
  • Marine register (from 1855) - deaths in any part of the world on British-registered merchant vessels at sea where it appears that the deceased person was usually resident in Scotland
  • Service records (from 1881)
    • Army returns (1881-1959) - of Scottish persons at military stations abroad
    • Services Departments' registers (from 1 April 1959) - deaths outside the United Kingdom relating to persons ordinarily resident in Scotland who were serving in, or employed by, HM Forces including families of members of the Forces
  • War registers (from 1899)
    • Deaths of Scottish soldiers in the South African War (1899-1902)
    • Deaths of Scottish persons serving as warrant officers, non-commissioned officers or men in the Army or as petty officers or men in the Royal Navy during the First World War (1914-1918)
    • Incomplete returns of the deaths of Scottish members of the Armed Forces during the Second World War (1939-1945)
  • Printed lists of soldiers who died in the Great War, parts 1 to 80 - entries for Scottish soldiers have been indexed.

Further details are provided in the Minor Records catalogue on the National Records of Scotland website.

  • Appendix 3 of the catalogue refers to the official printed lists for the First World War with the Scottish regiments highlighted in bold.
  • Appendix 4 of the catalogue gives details of the cause of death associated with the codes included in the registers for Royal Navy and Royal Marines war deaths. 

Find out more about returns of deaths at sea (1902-1905) and the records of deaths of seamen serving on British vessels (1909-1974) in the feature article Deaths of Scottish Seafarers.

How to search statutory death records

Go to advanced search - statutory registers - deaths. You have to add search data to the following index fields:

  • Surname - please note that women are indexed under their maiden surname and any married surname(s)
  • Forename
  • Other surname - enter a woman's maiden surname or a previous married surname to narrow your search. The index cannot distinguish between name types, for example, a search for a married woman named Brown with maiden surname Smith returns entries for a married woman Smith with maiden surname Brown. If the maiden and married surnames are the same search on surname and leave this field blank.
  • Mother’s maiden surname - this wasn't included in the statutory index of deaths until 1974. The information is being added retrospectively starting with the early years although you may find it in some later entries as a result of individual record updates. If you enter a name in this field and the information hasn't been included in the index the record will not be found.
  • Gender
  • Year range - records are indexed by year of registration not year of death
  • Age at death - not included in some 1855-1865 index entries, where it is shown as 'U', but is being added retrospectively
  • Birth year
  • County or city or Minor Records
  • Registration district - the drop-down menu displays all districts in Scotland unless a county or city has been selected; and registers and returns if Minor Records has been selected. Please note that not all districts are valid for all years. If a search returns no results for a specific district, try widening the search to 'All Districts' for the county. Find out more in our Parishes and districts guide.

The search form includes tips for each field with links to more detailed research guides where appropriate. You can sort search results by any field except Ref which combines the registration district and entry numbers.

The content of statutory death records

Most register entries contain the following information:

  • Forename and surname
  • Rank, profession or occupation - if you find an unknown term check the glossary - occupations for further information
  • Whether single, married or widowed
  • Date, time and place of death
  • Gender
  • Age at death (except 1855-1865) - ages for these years are being added retrospectively
  • Forename, surname and rank or profession of father
  • Forename and maiden surname of mother
  • Cause of death and duration of final illness - if you find an unknown term check the glossary - medical terms for further information
  • Name of medical attendant who certified the death
  • Signature and qualification of informant and their residence (if not the place of death)
  • When and where registered and signature of registrar
  • Place of burial, name of undertaker and when the doctor last saw the deceased alive (1855-1860)

1855 register entries

In 1855, the first year of civil registration additional information was recorded:

  • Deceased's place of birth
  • How long in the district or parish
  • Children in order of birth, their names and ages

As a result entries cover two pages and are especially valuable to researchers. This example shows entries 211 to 213 from the 1855 statutory register of deaths for the Royal Burgh of Dumfries in the county of Dumfries. Click on the image to view it full size.

Double page from 1855 statutory register of deaths

1855 statutory register of deaths for Dumfries (National Records of Scotland, 1855/821/211-213)

Examples of statutory death records

This example shows entries four to six in the 1901 statutory register of deaths for the district of Carloway in the county of Ross (registration district reference 86B). They record the deaths of three lighthouse keepers - James Ducat Principal, Thomas Marshall second Assistant and Donald MacArthur, Occasional Keeper - who disappeared from the Flannan Islands in December 1900. Their deaths were registered in February 1901 and the date of death is given as 15 December 1900. The entries are indexed under 1901 - the year of registration not the year of death. The words 'no medical attendant' have been crossed out in column six of each entry and the registrar has annotated the left-hand margin of the page with references to these clerical errors. Click on the image to view it full size.

Page from statutory register of deaths

Statutory register of deaths for Carloway (National Records of Scotland, 1901/86B/4-6)

Other examples of statutory death records are:

  • Entry for Robert Louis Stevenson, author, in the foreign register of deaths (National Records of Scotland, 1894/161/FN/23) shown in colour at the top of this page
  • Entry for William Murdoch, First Officer on RMS Titanic, in the feature article Scots on the Titanic
  • Entries for Mary Jane Pritchard (showing the original cause of death) and that of her husband, Edward William Pritchard, who was found guilty of her murder are included in The Glasgow poisoner
  • Entries for Scots who died on the 'Lusitania', in a fishing-boat accident or when on board are included in Deaths of Scottish Seafarers.

Register of Corrected Entries

The Register of Corrected Entries (RCE) - the Register of Corrections Etc from 1966 - records additional authorised information about the death following registration. This usually means further details about cause of death in cases of sudden, accidental and violent deaths. An RCE reference is inserted beside the original entry in the statutory register of deaths. Images of entries with an RCE include a link to the RCE page which is free to view.

In the example for the Flannan Islands lighthouse keepers above there are RCE references beside each entry. This detail from the RCE page for James Ducat shows that the cause of death was probably drowning as his body had not been recovered. The mystery of what happened to the three men has never been solved. Click on the image to view the RCE page.

Detail of RCE entry

Detail from RCE page relating to the death of James Ducat (National Records of Scotland, 1901/86B/4)

Here are more examples of RCEs which relate to:

If you order an official certificate of a death entry with an RCE it will be typed with any corrections or insertions applied.

You may find corrections on a register entry along with notes in the margins of the page indicating which column(s) has been amended and the registrar's initials - as in the example above. These are known as clerical errors and are not RCEs.