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). Eight categories of records are indexed by personal name: civil registers, church registers, census returns, valuation rolls, legal records, prison registers, employment 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 our Image Library.

Categories of records indexed by personal name

Special categories of records

Chronology of record keeping in Scotland and records in the site

Categories of records indexed by personal name

Statutory registers

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

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.

Church registers

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

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

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.

Prison registers

Prison registers were maintained by each Scottish prison and record details of prisoners who were in custody, both tried and untried. They recorded daily admissions to prisons. Read more about prison registers and how to search them. Currently, registers from Perth Prison are available on this site.

Employment records

Employment-related records available on this site currently include lightkeepers' registers, and index cards of the Scottish Women's Land Army. Lightkeepers' registers record staff who were employed by the Commissioners of Northern Lighthouses (Northern Lighthouse Board). Registers currently available on the website cover the years 1837 to 1921. The index cards of the Scottish Women's Land Army are the most complete surviving record of individuals who served in the Scottish Women's Land Army or Timber Corps during the period 1939 to 1950.

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 5000 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 were unable to support themselves.

Records not indexed by person but searchable by place

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.

Special categories of records

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 2005-2008 may be viewed via the Virtual Volumes system. Read more about these papers in our guide to Scottish Cabinet records.

Chronology of record keeping in Scotland and records in the site

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

1703 - Earliest Roman Catholic registers of baptisms, marriages, burials and other events

1707 - Union of Scottish and English parliaments

1733 - Earliest other church registers of baptisms, marriages, burials and other events

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