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Ancestry Scots and Irish

Updated on January 11, 2021

Creating a Family Tree

After spending years thinking about it, I've finally made a start at creating a family tree, which I think is a great thing to hand down to your children. My mother was really interested in this, and wrote a journal of her earliest and personal memories of her childhood in 1920s Scotland, which is in many respects a vanished world now. It's only when you start to construct a family tree that you realise how much has already been forgotten, and how little you really know about your own ancestors. That's the case in our family, anyway. If I was Lord Bath, with my ancestral seat at Longleat, I could easily trace my family line back to the Tynnnes of 1560, the Norman conquest etc, - but I'm not, and our family seem to have been normal folk with fairly humble occupations. Most of them seem to have worked the land, or being involved in running an inn in Ayrshire. When you think of the pre-industrial era, there were not that many options.

One of the best Christmas gift ideas could be a subscription to a genealogy site - especially for someone who has recently retired and maybe has some more spare time, as well as a real interest in family history. As you can buy credits as well as subscriptions it may be worth considering this - an unusual and thoughtful gift idea.

Update - I now have a subscription to and I'm finding it really impressive in many ways, and very user-friendly as a resource. You have to sign up - monthly rate is £12.95 in the UK, which might be all you need for a quick raid into your family's past, maybe a Viking raid if you have Norwegian ancestors. As there is a free 14-day trial you could even just use that - but it's pretty addictive! Almost the best thing, apart from the clear software implementation and good graphics, is the link to other people's trees that can save a lot of time and also provide confirmation of doubtful or inaccurate data.

So an inexpensive but very thoughtful gift idea is to print out a family tree for all your relations. You could mount it on a poster too - just a great and unexpected present.

Oct 2010 - I've been using again, as they have been advertising new databases as sources for information. Firstly, I was pleased to find all the family tree construction from a year earlier was still in place. From my point of view, the records are still incomplete, as I have to use different sites for 1911 census and some Scottish records - but I really think the software is great.

I have one major criticism of the site. In what appears to be a desperate move to add content, historical events have been added, and bizarre and totally incorrect family records whereby someone has a child at the age of three!

Here's the result - some branches of my tree go nowhere beyond the 1850s, but I have traced my maternal line in Scotland back to an ancestor born in 1499!

Overview and Tips

It's easy to bring mistakes into your family tree, and a real pain to correct them. Mine still has many inaccuracies. When I use information I will usually try to cross-reference with scotlands people, as they have a better range of original documents, including original parish records which predate the modern statutary records, which only go back to the Victorian era. It's best of all if you have birth and marriage certificates as these hold the most accurate information, and these can be ordered in many cases.

Fife landscape 2008
Fife landscape 2008

Consulting the Oracle

When I saw on the news that the 1911 census was available online, I thought it looked interesting as a starting point. I tried You need to buy credits to search in detail, so it's not a free service. It seems well designed, and user-friendly.

Then I followed a link to, to follow the Scots side of my family, with very little info to go on, not even full names. If you have middle names and addresses this will be a lot easier than it was for me. There is a link to this site below - I think it's really helpful. The 1911 census has been released for Scotland.

Does it work? - yes, it is brilliant! You have a choice of subscriptions, but I have been a bit cautious and bought Pay-as-you-go credits: least expensive package costs £6.95, and for the £10 spent so far I have downloaded birth certificates and marriage certificates, plus various census entries which provide a story of my ancestors back to great-grandfather in 1851. It was quite emotional, because these are handwritten entries (and quite difficult to decipher in some cases). I had no idea of the life of our forebears, but there are clues in flowing longhand, and a brief glimpse into a different world.

Update- at a total cost of £18 I have now traced my grandfather's line back to 1751 through a combination of parish birth, death and marriage certificates, and all of these are viewed as copies of the original document. Down loaded in jpg form, you can zoom in to read difficult handwriting.These documents are impressive!

Making it personal

If you were thinking about visiting Scotland to follow up your family history, having some research in place first could be really helpful, as well as a way of getting you off the beaten track. I've now been to my mother's old homes in Fife and Glasgow, and it has really created a shared interest for us. We even knocked on the door, and the folks were kind enough to show my mother round a house she hadn't seen since WW2 - she'll never forget it. Next time, I'm definitely going to look for my great-grandfather's house. This is a way to bring history alive.

So I would encourage you to follow up your own family history - I'm finding it very rewarding so far.Scotlandspeople (link below) is a great resource, I'd recommend it very highly. 

Census information

Once I had sketched out some basics of my family tree I filled in some blanks by using census returns. In my case I tracked family from 1841 to 1901 in ten year intervals. The fact that people were far more static in one area helped.

Another avenue is to use emigration records: I found the original steamship entries for my grandmother, who sailed to China via Hong Kong in 1914. Using Canadian records I should be able to trace her homeward journey too. 

Other links for English and Welsh families, which link to 1901 and 1911 census sites. Have used this extensively, but prefer scotlandspeople for its ease of use and photo resources. is one I haven't tried yet because it seems expensive, but it may be extremely productive. The National Archives at Kew looks promising too - you can order copies of certificates there.

Update - I've just ordered a duplicate marriage certificate from the GRO (General Registry Office) in the UK. They send it in 3 days, at a cost of £7 - which I think is really good value. From this you can obtain addresses, names and occupations of parents, age of both parties. Very useful evidence to avoid mistakes in your family tree.


Having used the site for 2 weeks free trial I feel happy to endorse it, it has really worked well for me.Here are some of the good things about this site:

  • A video tutorial to get you started
  • Well designed family tree software
  • Established trees from members save a lot of time
  • Member connect facility
  • Good search engine - though you still need basic info
  • Very user friendly

I have now traced some Scottish ancestors back to 1660, mainly from the help given by other members, who have been generous in sharing their information. What has worked for me has been using Ancestry for the basic info, and then using to research old parish records at £6 for 30 credits. Although I've now spent maybe £150 in all, it's been good value and you could save on this by using first instead of last as I did.

Irish Ancestry

My maternal grandmother was Irish, red hair, quick temper, the lot!

Irish ancestry is problematic, in part because of a change of ownership in the 20th century, and partly because a fire in 1922 destroyed many of the records.

The National Archives of Ireland have just published the 1911 census online - and what a terrific job they have made of it! It's free to search and works brilliantly. The 1901 census is also available, and free.

Using this census I have tracked down my great-grandmother and father, their address complete with number of windows and outbuildings - also whether they could read and write (not a given) Although a transcript is provided, you can also see a PDF of the original image.

The website address is


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