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Genealogy. Finding your Scottish Ancestors Part II

Updated on September 8, 2012

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A beginner's guide to researching your Scottish ancestry on-line on “pay per view” sites.

This hub is Part 2 of a two part series aimed at helping beginners find their Scottish ancestors. If you haven’t already, I highly suggest you read “Genealogy: Finding Your Scottish Ancestors Part 1, A beginner's guide to researching your Scottish ancestry on-line for free.”, before you move on to the suggestions in this hub.

At some point, when all free leads have been exhausted, you will be forced to make a decision to end your search or turn to paying sites to further your research. I chased down every possible free lead I could before I decided to pay for records so I felt good about my decision and knew I wasn't paying for records I could get for free because I had done my homework.

As stated in Genealogy Research Rules, always view the original record when it is available. It will help you confirm, correct, connect or rule out individuals found on the free sites.

You want to be relatively (no pun intended) sure it is your ancestor’s record before you pay to view it and all the free records should have helped you narrow down your search. Most genealogist and family historians, myself included, have a limited budget and opt to spend each dollar wisely. It is with that in mind that I write these hubs.

1.) ScotlandsPeople: The official government site for Scottish family history records includes original copies of BMDs, census records, old parish records, Roman Catholic Church records, wills and testaments, and more. It is free to register and search but the purchase of credits is required in order to view search result details and documents. Personally, if I had to do it all again I would start with the ScotlandsPeople website as that is the only place you can get original documents of all BMD & Census records on-line.

Tip #1: When you do a search there are 25 results per search page. It costs 1 credit per page to view. If your search comes back with 27 results you will use a credit to view a page with only 2 names. Sometimes rerunning the search and shaving off a year or two from the beginning date and/or ending date will drop it under the 25.

Tip #2: I found my ancestors in Glasgow on the 1841 Census straight through to the 1881 Census. From my free research I knew that they had immigrated to the US in 1886 per the 1900 US Census. I did a broad search on ScotlandsPeople for Births, in Glasgow, with just the Surname and chose 1830 to 1890 as search dates. It gave me three pages of results of which I had to use up three credits to view all three pages. I then did the same with marriages and deaths. By doing this I avoided running multiple searches on each family member that would have used up a lot of credits for a one name result. I had all the records pertaining to the family surname for that city and time period that I could keep referring back to as I followed my leads. The broad search also allowed me to find others in the same parish or district with the same last name who were possibly related.

Tip #3: An awesome feature on ScotlandsPeople is that when you view the search results there are two buttons as the bottom [View as Grid] and [View on Map]. By default it is set to [View as Grid] but if you run a search and click [View on Map] a map will open with each record flagged on the map. A search for your ancestor may result in 20 individuals with the same name, by viewing them on a map you can see which ones are in the area you've traced your family to and which ones are probably not your ancestor.

2.) The UK version of Free to register and search the database but if you want to view the details of the records you will have to sign up for their 14 day trial or become a paying member. Note: If you have an account you only have access to records in the US. You can opt to try the World Deluxe 14 day trial or upgrade your subscription to their World Deluxe subscription which includes access to the UK.

3.) Free to register and search, but requires a "pay as you go" option or a subscription. It's main collection of records is for England and Wales but it also has Scotland and Ireland records.

4.) Scots Origins: Features a Free IGI search, a Free Scottish Place search, family history articles and discussion on Scottish history. In order to search any other collections you must sign up for a 72 hour, a month or a year subscription. Viewing documents requires the purchase of vouchers. The ‘Free Place Search’ helps you find the county and district for the place entered, per the 1881 census. This is helpful in narrowing down where your ancestors were born or lived.

5.) AncestorsOnBoard: Free to register and search but you have to pay with credits to view a transcription or to view the original document. The site is a sister site of Find my Past and holds official passenger lists and documents of over 24 million records from ships sailing from the UK to destinations worldwide. Remember: The common mode of transportation from one country to another was by ship. Departing countries rarely kept track of who left, it was the destination countries that kept track of those entering.

There is no doubt that the website is the website to use to view original documents of BMD, Census and other original records for Scotland. Although the records have been heavily transcribed by both and to make the information available to you, is the only place on-line you can view and print copies of the originals. I have found errors in transcriptions on both and that were only caught because I paid to view the original. If you are only interested in direct line ancestors (father, mother, grandfather, grandmother) you may not wish to pay to obtain in-direct line ancestors (uncles, aunts, cousins). That is a personal choice and personally, I didn't obtain in-direct line ancestors right away. I waited until all direct line leads were exhausted and then I went back and paid to view in-direct line records in the hopes of finding more details or a new lead on my direct line ancestors.

There are many websites to choose from and you could spend weeks Googling all of them, and at some point you probably will. Whether you are doing this for fun, a school project or you are serious about dedicating the time to research your family tree for the long haul, the eight websites mentioned in Finding your Scottish Ancestors Part I and II are a good starting point to begin the journey of researching your Scottish Ancestry and should provide many leads to follow. Happy hunting!

Do you have Scottish Ancestry in your family tree? Do you have tips you would like to share or suggestions for a Genealogy hub you would like to see? I would love to hear from you.

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