Monday, October 21, 2013

Saving Money When Searching ScotlandsPeople

Several years ago I decided to document the various lines of my McKinlay family that came to Thornliebank, Renfrewshire, Scotland sometime between 1838 and 1841. That meant I would need to make use of ScotlandsPeople to locate the images of birth, marriage, death, and census records. I won't divulge exactly how much I spent looking up records but it was less than a one week trip to Scotland ... although not by much. Yet ScotlandsPeople is still one of the more affordable sites that charge you to get and see images of the records. However, I did learn some lessons on how to save money when searching ScotlandsPeople.

Census Records

For the 1841 to 1891 decennial census records you can make use of FamilySearch to locate individual family members. However, much of the information on the census has not been transcribed. If the person wasn’t born in Scotland then the birth location may have been left blank. Additionally the index doesn’t have all the family members listed in the transcription so it makes it very difficult to make sure it is the right person based on their family. Also the specific details on what page to find the record in ScotlandsPeople are not in the index.

If you have a subscription to Ancestry or have access to a library or archive with the Institution/Library version of Ancestry you can access transcriptions of the 1841 to 1901 decennial census records. The index includes all the people in that household. The transcriptions have all the information from the census and the index includes the parish number, enumeration district, page and line number so you can easily find the record on ScotlandPeople.

Findmypast is much like Ancestry except that the results don’t place the person in question in context within the household. This makes it difficult to transcribe the household in the correct order.

ScotlandsPeople is the gold standard since it includes all the available decennial census records (1841-1911) and the associated images. If you can find them in Ancestry or Findmypast then you know they can be found on ScotlandsPeople. However, unlike Ancestry and Findmypast where you have a subscription, on ScotlandsPeople you pay for each image that you haven't viewed previously.

Birth & Baptism Records

FamilySearch has transcriptions for both statutory and old parochial registers in the "—Scotland, Births and Baptisms, 1564-1950" collection. The statutory registers cover the period between 1855 to 1875 plus 1881 and 1891. There are also some records outside of those years. You can also order microfilms to view the documents to verify the transcriptions. As a plus, you can look for people in the statutory records based on the names of parents. This feature is not readily available on ScotlandsPeople. Even better … FamilySearch is free.

Search for people using FamilySearch and then, by knowing all the details from the search results, you can focus in on the right person on ScotlandsPeople using much fewer credits than just using ScotlandsPeople by itself.


The Scotland, Marriages, 1561-1910 collection on FamilySearch has both the old parachial and statutory registers covering the same years as the birth and baptism collection. FamilySearch allows you to search the OPR marriages on the name of the father. This is not readily available on ScotlandsPeople. However, not all parish records have the father’s name included in the transcription. Not everything on the original record has been transcribed by FamilySearch so looking at the image on ScotlandsPeople is critical.


Only ScotlandsPeople have the death records available. There are no other sites with transcriptions of all the death records.

Tip When Using ScotlandsPeople

If you search on a surname, a date range, and a district/parish you will probably get a very long list. However, that list can save you money over time. Copy and pasting the results into Word or Excel gives you a useful checklist as part of your research log and to do list. Since ScotlandsPeople keeps track of your searches you can also refer to that search under the "Previous Searches" tab and click on the names of the people found to view the images. It won't save you a lot of money but a credit here and a credit there may mean you save enough to view another image.

1 comment:

  1. Don't forget about FreeCEN which has good coverage for many Scottish counties for 1841-1861.

    Deceasedonline may be helpful with burial information for some areas of Scotland. Sometimes there's more info in burial records than death records.