You can use ScotlandsPeople to access a wide range of records kept by the Scottish Government, churches and courts of law (see our Record guides A-Z list for details). Six categories of records are indexed by personal name: civil registers, church registers, census returns, valuation rolls, legal records and poor relief and migration records. They can be searched in different ways. You can search them free of charge and pay for copies using credits or vouchers. The exceptions to this are the Highlands and Islands Emigration records (within the 'Poor relief and migration records' category) and the 1881 LDS transcribed census records (within the 'Census returns' category). These can be searched and viewed for free.
Three special categories of records (our image library, maps and plans collection, and the records made available through the Virtual Volumes system) can be searched and viewed for free in different ways as below. You have to pay to save images from the Image Library and from Virtual Volumes.
Categories of records indexed by personal name
Statutory registers are official records of births, marriages and deaths, which have been kept in Scotland from 1855 onwards. In the late twentieth century registers of divorces, dissolutions, civil partnerships were also kept. The registers can be searched by personal name but some modern records are closed. Read more about statutory registers.
Census returns are lists of people living at each address, giving ages, places of birth and other information about them. Censuses have been taken every 10 years in Scotland and census returns survive from 1841 onwards. They have been indexed and can be searched by personal name. Read more about census returns.
On ScotlandsPeople you have access to the archives of the Church of Scotland, the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland and some other denominations. Church registers of births and baptisms, marriages and burials survive from 1560 onwards in Scotland. Read more about church registers.
Valuation rolls are lists of the owners, tenants and occupiers of buildings and other properties. They were compiled by county and burgh assessors in Scotland annually from 1855 until 1987. Read more about valuation rolls and how to search them. Valuation rolls are lists of owners and occupiers of buildings and other properties in Scotland from 1855 onwards. Search valuation rolls or read the guide on valuation rolls.
Legal records available on this site include wills and testaments, soldiers' and airmen's wills, coats of arms, and the records of First World War military appeals tribunals. Read more about legal records. On this site legal records mainly refer to registers and other records from Scottish civil, criminal and church courts. They include wills and testaments, coats of arms, soldiers' and airmen's wills and Military Service Appeal Tribunal records.
Poor relief and migration records
The Highland and Island Emigration records, which are the first set of digitised migration records available on ScotlandsPeople, list the assisted passage of nearly 5,000 emigrants to Australia between 1852 and 1857.
This category will eventually contain images of the poor relief records that have been deposited with the National Records of Scotland. People received poor relief if they needed help to support themselves.
On this site you can also search some records by place, notably maps and plans (see below under 'Special categories of records') and church court records.
Kirk session and other church court records
Records of Church of Scotland kirk sessions, presbyteries and synods can be viewed via our Virtual Volumes system. You can search for records relating to a place, records created by a specific record creator (such as a named kirk session or presbytery), records created between certain dates, or for a specific record by its NRS catalogue reference.
Photographs and illustrations
For archive photographs, illustrations from historical records and images of important documents, visit our Image Library.
Maps and plans
National Records of Scotland holds more than 170,000 maps, plans, architectural and engineering drawings, and digital copies of a selection of several thousand of these can be viewed on this site. Read more about maps and plans and how to search for them.
Scottish Cabinet records
Historic records of the Scottish Cabinet dating from 2005-2006 may be viewed via the Virtual Volumes system. Read more about these papers in our guide to Scottish Cabinet records.
1127 - Earliest written document (royal charter) in National Records of Scotland
1164 - Earliest state papers in National Records of Scotland
1293 - Earliest records of the Scottish parliament
1513 - Earliest registers of wills and testaments
1513 - Earliest maps and plans
1538 - Earliest Old Parish Registers of baptisms, marriages and burials
1560 - Reformation in Scotland
1672 - Public Register of All Arms and Bearings (coats of arms) in Scotland begins
1707 - Union of Scottish and English parliaments
1800 - First recorded attempt to make a photograph
1801 - First census in Scotland
1841 - Earliest surviving census returns for all households in Scotland
1850s - Earliest photographs in our Image Library
1855 - Civil registration of births, marriages and deaths begins
1855 - Valuation rolls begin to be kept for counties and burghs
1857 - Earliest soldiers' wills registered (later soldiers' and airmen's wills)
1914-1918 - First World War, conscription introduced in 1916 and Military Service Appeals Tribunal Records survive for 1916-1918
1929 - Local Government (Scotland) Act makes major changes to the way burghs are included in valuation rolls
1940 - Registrars begin performing civil marriages
1975 - Counties and burghs abolished for local government purposes
1984 - Register of divorces begins
2005 - Register of civil partnerships begins
2014 - Registration of same-sex marriages begins