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Tracing Your Scottish Ancestry through Church and State Records (Paperback)

A Guide for Family Historians

Family History P&S History World History > UK & Ireland > Scotland

By Chris Paton
Imprint: Pen & Sword Family History
Series: Tracing Your Ancestors
Pages: 176
Illustrations: 40 mono
ISBN: 9781526768421
Published: 20th November 2019
Last Released: 3rd February 2023


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Despite its Union with England and Wales in 1707, Scotland remained virtually independent from its partners in many ways, retaining its own legal system, its own state church, and its own education system.

In Tracing Scottish Ancestry Through Church and State Records, genealogist Chris Paton examines the most common records used by family historians in Scotland, ranging from the vital records kept by the state and the various churches, the decennial censuses, tax records, registers of land ownership and inheritance, and records of law and order.

Through precepts of clare constat and ultimus haeres records, feudalism and udal tenure, to irregular marriages, penny weddings and records of sequestration, Chris Paton expertly explores the unique concepts and language within many Scottish records that are simply not found elsewhere within the British Isles. He details their purpose and the information recorded, the legal basis by which they were created, and where to find them both online and within Scotland's many archives and institutions.

"Clear, concise and full of suggestions and help, this is an ideal book for anyone beginning to explore the Scots family tree. For those who have done the basics and are looking for less well-known records, this book also offers a wide range of ideas and links to sources."

Society of Genealogists

As featured in

Who Do You Think You Are May 2023

As featured in

Family Tree

Featured in the

Cumbria Family History Society Newsletter

If you have Scottish Ancestry and you have enthusiasm for researching your ancestors then this book can guide you to the resources that will help you find your missing relatives. As for myself, with my own Scottish ancestry, although I had doubts about the value of this book to start with, I now realise the differences between Scotland’s records and the rest of the UK, and those differences alone would justify the publication of this book.

Glamorgan Family History Society

One of the strengths of Tracing Your Scottish Ancestry through Church and State Records is that the author provides the historical contexts in which records were made and how each category developed over time, thus making the book engaging and informative, especially for family historians beyond Scotland. Overall, this is a useful and very readable introduction to Scottish records, with many case studies to assist the reader, but there is also much in it that may be new to more experienced family historians.

The Local Historian, journal of the British Association for Local History

Mr. Paton writes clearly, based on experience with the records, providing lots of practical guidelines on how to find what is needed in them. He also provides the political or legal background to make the records and their contents understandable. The book itself is laid out for the ease of researchers. The table of contents provides the chapter titles and all the sub-headings, making finding a topic easy. The index itself is more extensive and thorough than most indexes to books in this series, adding value to its usefulness. The book also highlights what can be found online and what researchers will need to research in Scotland.

The scope of the book includes records of the Church and the State, the primary producers of records in Scotland. Researchers at all levels of experience with Scottish ancestors will find easy to follow suggestions and guidance in this book. It is thus highly recommended for anyone doing Scottish research.

Read the full review here

Milner Genealogy

I thoroughly recommend that anyone with Scots heritage get hold of Tracing Your Scottish Ancestry Through Church & State Records as I am sure you wont be disappointed by it!

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Nosey Genealogist

I have traced family trees for many years, but always found Scottish records difficult to find and access. Consequently, I have tended to leave the Scottish branches of my family tree neglected.

This book clearly explains the background and usefulness of the Scottish record system and demystify the process of finding the records and tracing a Scottish family. I enjoyed reading this book and it has inspired me to pick up the gauntlet again and have another go with my ancestors in the north.

Read the full review here

Amazon Customer, Jayne

Author article: 'Family history on a budget' as featured by

WDYTYA? Magazine, April 2020

Handy new volume.

Family Tree, March 2020

As featured in

Bristol and Avon FHS

Chris Paton, author of Tracing Your Scottish Ancestry Through Church & State Records, was one of the top speakers at the Genealogy in the Sunshine conferences that I organised in Portugal in 2014 and 2015 - so I had very high hopes for his latest book.

I'm glad to say that I wasn't disappointed - it's an amazingly comprehensive guide that everyone with Scottish ancestry should have on their bookshelf. There are many differences between England and Scotland in matters like civil registration and marriage, but I suspect that there are more than a few researchers out there who don't appreciate just how different the systems were (and still are)... All in all this is an excellent book which will repay its cost many times over.

Read the full review here

Lost Cousins

Listed in resources part of author article 'Scottish civil registration' as featured by

WDYTYA? Magazine, March 2020

This is a thorough guide to Scotland's genealogical landscape and is a useful tool for researchers of the diaspora to have at hand.

Scottish Field, March 2020 - reviewed by Rosie Morton

"Overall, an essential book for anyone keen to discover more about their Scottish ancestors and a worthwhile read even for those with only a passing interest in Caledonian pursuits."

As featured by

Alde Valley Suffolk Family History Group

Expertly organized and presented, "Tracing Scottish Ancestry Through Church and State Records: A Guide For Family Historians" is the ideal instructional guide and reference for anyone doing genealogical research with Scottish records, making it an essential and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library Genealogical Studies reference collections.

Read the full review here

Midwest Book Review

'Here are our top reads for 2020'

Scotland magazine, February 2020

Author article 'Scottish poor law records' as featured by

WDYTYA? January 2020

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is an excellent guide, exemplary in how it treats the sources relating to Scottish genealogy. Its subject matter is very clearly explained and it is thorough in its coverage. It does much more than introduce and signpost, providing evocative examples and tips for what to look out for along the way.

I approached the book as someone with a reasonable grounding in Scottish records and still learnt a lot. I gained a better understanding, for instance, of birth registration over the years and ways of finding legitimate and illegitimate births which do not readily come to light in the main record sources.

For someone new to the subject matter there will be quite a bit to digest - but the book will very much repay repeated visits.

Distinctive features of Scottish records and sources are brought out, which will be particularly useful to family researchers in the Scottish diaspora.

NetGalley, AliceMaud Mary

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I am doing my own research on my Scottish ancestry. that goes back centuries. I found this a most "definitive" guide to researching your Scottish Ancestry. I enjoyed finding all the resources the author thoughtfully included including up to date web sites and links to helpful web sites and every aspect of current ways to complete our research. This is a great way to get started or to delve deeper into your Scottish relatives history with up to date current research information. The author has even included a guide to understanding verbage and names which is very helpful indeed. Very well done to the author !

This is a guide I will utilize often and use in conjunction with library resources. This I highly recommend to all conducting your Scottish history research.

NetGalley, Cozy Cat Reviews

This will be a great addition to our libraries genealogy collection especially since it’s an updated resource that has websites for people to explore. I enjoyed reading it. It has wonderful descriptions of what different terms mean, when they are used and how to find them. I love all the links which I hope to use looking for my own family even though they go back farther in history than some of the dates listed in the book but it will give me a good starting point. I learned some new terms and ways to identify them in the records. Plus there are links for handwriting and language in the Scots history.

NetGalley, Ashley Pohlenz

About Chris Paton

Originally from Carrickfergus on the outskirts of Belfast, genealogist and writer Chris Paton is today based in Ayrshire, Scotland, where he runs the Scotland’s Greatest Story research service at www.scotlandsgreateststory.co.uk. As well as contributing to many of the UK’s best known family history magazines, he also writes for his own Scottish GENES news blog at www.scottishgenes.blogspot.com, and regularly gives talks to family history societies across the UK and worldwide. His previous Pen and Sword publications include Tracing Your Irish Ancestors Through Land Records, Tracing Your Irish Family History on the Internet (2nd edition), Tracing Scottish Ancestry Through Church and State Records, Tracing Your Scottish Family History on the Internet, and Sharing Your Family History Online.

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