Old Parish Registers

The Old Parish Registers, 1538 to 1854, are the most important source for tracing your Scottish ancestors before the introduction of civil registration in 1855.

What do I need to know before I start?

Try to find out:

  • name (s)
  • approximate dates(s) of birth, marriage or death
  • location of event(s)


​What records can I find in the Mitchell: Registrars, Special Collections and Glasgow City Archives?

The Old Parish Registers (OPRs) of births/baptisms, banns/marriages, and deaths/burials kept by individual parishes of the Established Church (Church of Scotland) have been digitally imaged. Copies of these images for all of Scotland, together with a full index, are one of the many resources available as part of the the National Records of Scotland, which you access in the Registrars within the Mitchell on payment of a daily fee.


Special Collections holds microfilm copies of Old Parish Registers for a number of areas in Scotland which can be accessed free of charge.


There are gaps within the OPRs. The earliest record is for 1538, but only a few records pre-date 1600. Many are much later.


To find out what registers survive, you should check ScotlandsPeople. In theory, registration was compulsory for all denominations, and while you may find records of other denominations, a high percentage of members of other churches through principle did not register their events within the records of the Established Church.


There was no standard form of entry and lack of regular inspections means that the information contained in the original registers are varied and can often very scant.


The best baptismal registers record:

  • name of child
  • name of the father and usually name of mother under maiden name
  • occupation of father
  • residence
  • date of birth and/or baptism
  • witnesses to baptism


The best marriage registers record:

  • name of bride and groom
  • occupation of groom
  • fathers’ names
  • where married and by whom
  • residence, assume home parish if does not say
  • witnesses
  • proclamation and/or marriage date (assume proclamation date if does not say)


There may be two entries if the couple belonged to different parishes.


Burial registers are the least well-kept and few survive. The registers may record:

  • date
  • name
  • residence
  • disease
  • location of burial, lair


The City Archives holds the records the original records for the Church of Scotland and those churches which had seceded from the established church in the 18th and 19th centuries, as well as for many other denominations. You should check the kirk session records for:

  • birth, marriage and death entries engrossed in the minutes
  • cases of irregular marriage
  • pre-1855 registers, particularly in seceding churches, as their records were not part of the OPRs


In addition, the records of other denominations held by the City Archives include many pre-1855 registers.


What records can I see online?

Images of the OPRs can be purchased on the ScotlandsPeople website. Access to this website is also available in Registrars Genealogy Service on payment of a daily fee of £15,

They are indexed on Ancestry and Findmypast, which are both available in all Glasgow Libraries

Databases of the following lists of pre-1855 baptisms from the City Archives are available online:

St Andrew's By-the-Green Episcopal Church, Glasgow: by father's surname
St Andrew's By-the-Green Episcopal Church, Glasgow: by year

Church of Scotland (mainly seceding churches) and Episcopal Churches: by father's surname
Church of Scotland (mainly seceding churches) and Episcopal Churches: by mother's surname

These databases are incomplete so please contact the City Archives for further information.


What other resources will help me find information?


Registrars Genealogy Service


0141 287 7655


Special Collections


0141 287 2988

In this guide