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History: Timelines Archives


Edinburgh Burials and Cremation History

This timeline highlights the significant events in Edinburgh's history relating to burials and cremations.

10C :: 12C :: 15C :: 16C :: 17C :: 18C :: 19C :: 20C

10th Century

A church probably existed on the site of the present St Cuthbert's Church, at the foot of Edinburgh Castle.

12th Century

1124 Duddingston Kirk [photo] built beside Duddingston Loch, Holyrood Park.

1128 Holyrood Abbey founded by David I.

15th Century

St Anthony's Chapel built, overlooking St Margaret's Loch in Holyrood Park.

1483 The original South Leith Church was built.

1404 Old Corstorphine Parish Church built by Sir Adam Forrester, alongside the church of St Mary (since demolished).

1466 St Giles [photo] elevated to Collegiate Church by James III. The churchyard runs from the High Street southward to the Cowgate.

16th Century

1562 Mary, Queen of Scots gives the vacated Greyfriars yard to the city; to help ease the burden on the overcrowded St Giles churchyard.

1585 St Giles churchyard closed.

17th Century

1632 A new Parliament House and Court of Session built on a large part of St Giles churchyard, tenements built on the remainder of the churchyard. The churchyard ceases to exist.

1664 North Leith Cemetery opened.

1690 Canongate Church and cemetery opened.

18th Century

1718 Calton Cemetery opened.

1763 Buccleuch Cemetery opened.

1795 Herman Lyon (Lion), a Prussian dentist and "corn operator" purchased a burial plot for himself and his family north of the City Observatory on Calton Hill. Lost for many years, the site was rediscovered in 1994.

19th Century

1816 Braid Place (now Sciennes Place) Cemetery opened. This was the first Jewish cemetery in Scotland.

1817 New Calton Cemetery opened.

1818 St John's Church and cemetery (west end of Princes St, next to St Cuthbert's) opened.

1819 Buccleuch Cemetery declared full. Adjacent church is now owned by the University of Edinburgh.

1820 East Preston Street Cemetery opened.
Braid Place (now Sciennes House Place), was used (until 1867). The two extant lists of burials give details of approximately thirty people.

1840s A walled garden in the grounds of Edinburgh Castle was used to bury Officers' dogs and mascots.

1843 Warriston Cemetery opened by the Edinburgh Cemetery Company.

1845 Dean Cemetery opened by the Edinburgh Western Cemetery Company.

1846 Newington and Dalry Cemeteries opened by the Metropolitan Cemetery Association.
Rosebank Cemetery (Pilrig) opened by the Edinburgh and Leith Cemetery Company.

1847 Grange Cemetery opened by the Southern Cemetery Company.

1869 Braid Place Cemetery full. A piece of land was purchased in Newington (formerly Echobank) Cemetery and used for Jewish burials, until 1945.

1878 Morningside Cemetery opened by the Metrolitan Cemetery Company.

1879 St Mary's Episcopal Cathedral opened.

1881 North Merchiston Cemetery opened by the Edinburgh Cemetery Company.

1883 Eastern Cemetery opened by the Edinburgh Eastern Cemetery Company. Now maintained by the Private Cemetery Co Ltd.

1887 Piershill Cemetery opened by the Edinburgh and Portobello Cemetery Company. This is Edinburgh's current cemetery for Jewish burials.

1888 Seafield Cemetery opened by the Leith Cemetery Company.

1895 Mt Vernon RC Cemetery (Liberton) opened.

1898 Comely Bank Cemetery opened by the Edinburgh Cemetery Company.

20th Century

1909 Edinburgh Cremation Society formed.

1919 Saughton Hill Cemetery opened by the Edinburgh Cemetery Company.

1928 Corstorphine Hill Cemetery opened by the Edinburgh Cemetery Company.

1929 Warriston Crematorium opened.

1946 The Jewish land in Newington (formerly Echobank) Cemetery declared full, and land was acquired in Piershill Cemetery for future Jewish burials. This is still in use.

1959 Mortonhall opened by Edinburgh Corporation.

1987 Dalry purchased by Edinburgh District Council.

1992 North Merchiston Cemetery purchased by Edinburgh District Council.

1994 Comely Bank, Newington, Warriston, Saughton Hill and Corstorphine Hill cemeteries purchased by Edinburgh District Council.


Guide pamphlet for Canongate Kirk (the Kirk of Holyroodhouse)

Guide pamphlet for St Mary's Episcopal Cathedral, Edinburgh

Cremation Society of Great Britain

Burial Grounds of Edinburgh

BBC News

Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain

Last updated: Jul 11, 2005

Key dates for UK genealogy

The following are dates to bear in mind when researching ancestors from the UK. You will find that record-keeping changed in some way at each of these times.

1801 First Census of England taken. Names of individuals were not recorded, and it is of little genealogical value.

1813 Standardisation of parish record books for recording births, deaths and marriages. Prior to this the format of the information was up to the vicar.

1837 Modern civil registration of births, deaths and marriages begins in England and Wales. Prior to this time, records such as these were the responsibility of the Church of England (with the exception of Jews and Quakers from 1755-1837).

1841 First Census of England which included names of individuals. Note that it doesn't specify the relationship of individuals to the head of the household, and ages from 15-65 were rounded to the nearest 5 years.

1851 First census of England featuring exact ages of individuals.

1855 Civil registration of births, deaths and marriages begins in Scotland.

1864 Civil registration of births, deaths and marriages begins in Ireland.

1881 Census taken for England and Wales. This is a good place to start looking for your ancestors if you know the county in which they lived, but not the city or town.

1974 English county borders were redrawn, so some towns will now appear in different counties.

Key dates for Scottish genealogy

Significant dates for Scottish genealogy

This timeline highlights some of the significant events in Scotland's history for genealogists. Please note the genealogists who started this timeline some time ago.

15C :: 16C :: 17C :: 18C :: 19C :: 20C

15th Century

The feudal system began to break up and many farm laborers became destitute. The political, social, and economic status of many people changed. Land holdings were affected. More people were able to rent or own land, so more land records were created. You are more likely to find your ancestors in the land records after this time.

1412 The University of St. Andrews was established. Matriculation records exist for students who attended the university. These give names and sometimes birthplace, birth date and parents.

1451 The University of Glasgow was established. Matriculation records exist for students.

1468 The Orkney and Shetland Islands were acquired. The Norse remained and retained their own way of life and method of recording vital events. Patronymics are sometimes used in the Islands’ records.

1495 The University of Aberdeen was established. Matriculation records exist for students.

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16th Century

Coal was being mined and used more extensively. More Scottish people changed occupations. Many became coal miners.

1514 The recording of testaments (wills for movable property) began in Scotland. Testaments often contain genealogical information about family members and relationships.

1552 The General Provincial Council ordered each parish to keep a register of baptisms and banns of marriage.

Registers were created, giving names, dates, parent’s names. The earliest known register (1553) exists for Errol, Perthshire.

1560 Protestant Reformation began in Scotland. Roman Catholicism officially ended. The commissary courts, which had dealt with records under the bishops’ jurisdiction, were thrown into confusion. Some records, such as testaments, were lost or destroyed.

1563 Queen Mary set up new commissary courts under the jurisdiction of the crown. Orderly court record keeping resumed.

1582 The University of Edinburgh was established. Matriculation records exist for students.

1592 The Presbyterian Church became the established religion. All ministers were equal; there were no bishops, and secular commissaries were appointed by the crown. More parishes began keeping records.

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17th Century

1600 Scotland changed from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar. The Julian calendar began the year on 25 March and ended it on 24 March. The Gregorian calendar started the year on 1st January and ended it on 31 December.

Before 1600, January, February, and part of March are at the end of the year rather than the beginning. The year 1599 had only nine months: March 25 to December 31.

1606 A law was passed prohibiting miners from removing themselves from that occupation. Beggars, vagrants, and petty criminals were forced into lifelong bondage in the mines. More free Scottish people became miners, too. Their movement was also restricted. They could not change employment without the written consent of their present master.

1608 The Plantation of Ulster began. The Irish landowners were removed, and the land was divided and sold to fifty-nine purchasers from England and Scotland. They took many laborers and farmers from Northern England and the Scottish Lowlands to Ulster.

It is very difficult to trace these people as the purchasers did not record who they took with them. No passports or permits were required.

1610 The Episcopalian Church became the established religion. Presbyterians were persecuted, and many hid or destroyed their records. Some kept no records during this period. Commissariat records were again placed under the jurisdiction of the bishops.

Many records were lost and record keeping was disrupted.

1617 A law was passed requiring that sasine registers be kept. Sasine is a record of the transfer of land and property. The act of giving sasine gives possession to a new proprietor. Sasine registers were created, which give names of individuals, places of residence, and sometimes names of family members.

1629 The Nova Scotia colony was established. Scots began emigrating to this colony.

1637 Book of Common Prayer was imposed by Charles I. This was much resented by Presbyterians.

1638 Possibly as many as 300,000 Scots signed the National Covenant. General Assembly of Presbyterians at Glasgow defied the King’s commissioners, condemned the Episcopalian liturgy and other innovations, and re-established Presbyterianism. Episcopalians were persecuted by the Covenanters and hid or destroyed their registers or did not keep them. Records of the Episcopal Church were not well kept, and some were lost or destroyed.

1640 An estimated five percent of the parishes of the Presbyterian Church were keeping records. Finding parish records for this period is unlikely though some exist.

1641 Charles I and the English Parliament acknowledged the Presbyterian Church in Scotland. Records were better kept. More people belonged to the Presbyterian Church.

1642-49 English Civil War. Scots fought for both sides: Charles I or the Commonwealth. Many fought south of the border and some settled in England or the Scottish Lowlands, although they originally came from the Highlands. Scots on the losing side were transported to New England, Virginia and the West Indies.

1642 The Marquis of Argyll raised the Royal Regiment at the beginning of the Civil War. It became the Life Guards (Foot) in 1650 and the Scotch Guards in 1686, becoming the Scots Fusilier Guards in 1831 and the Scots Guards in 1877. This is one of the elite regiments of Great Britain.

1645 Each county and burgh had to raise a militia. Militia lists may exist for different parts of the country.

The population was estimated to be about 420,000.

The Black Death or plague made its last appearance in Scotland.

Scottish militia lists may be found at the National Archives of Scotland.

Burial records of ancestors are hard to find.

1649 Charles I was executed, and the Commonwealth under Cromwell began. The change in authority caused a disruption of record keeping.

1649-60 Commonwealth Period in England under Cromwell.

1650 The Coldstream Guards were raised during the Commonwealth as Col. Monck’s Regiment of Foot. Between 1660 and 1670, it was known as the Duke of Albemarle’s Reg. In 1670, it became the Coldstream Guards and part of the English establishment.

Scottish muster rolls prior to 1670 may be found at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh; records from 1670 may be found at the PRO, Kew.

1651 Scottish prisoners taken during the Civil War were transported to the English colonies in America and the Caribbean.

Many Scots were among those transported.

1660 Restoration of the monarchy. Charles II returned from exile.

1661 Episcopacy was reestablished under Charles II. Once again the commissariat records were under the control of the bishops, and the parish registers suffered.

The change in who had authority to keep the records created a disruption of record keeping, lost records, and variation in information recorded.

1672 The Scottish Parliament passed an act requiring the registration of armorial bearings (family coats of arms.) This requirement continues to this day.

Records of family coats of arms are available at Court of the Lord Lyon, General Register House, Edinburgh.

1678 The 21st Royal North British Fuzileers later known as the Royal Scots Fusiliers were raised in 1678 as the Earl of Mar’s Regiment.

Scottish muster rolls prior to 1707 may be found at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh; records from 1707 may be found at the Public Record Office, Kew.

1682 The Library of Advocates was founded in Edinburgh. Valuable book and manuscripts were acquired. In 1925, it became the National Library of Scotland. The library holds many records and has an excellent collection of Scottish maps.

1688 The Glorious Revolution took place whereby the Catholic king, James II of England and VII of Scotland, was deposed. His Protestant son-in-law and daughter, William and Mary, became king and queen.

The war caused more destruction of records. The changes in authority affected how records were kept and who kept them.

1689 The 25th Kings Own Scottish Borderers under the Earl of Leven and the 26th Cameronian Regiment under the Earl of Angus were raised.

Scottish muster rolls prior to 1707 may be found at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh; records from 1707 may be found at the PRO, Kew.

1690 Presbyterianism became the established Church of Scotland. Parish registers were more widely kept. Roman Catholics and Episcopalians were forbidden to keep records (although some did). Commissaries were now appointed by the crown.

1690 Battle of the Boyne - British forces of King William III defeated the forces of King James II. Established Church of Ireland and Presbyterianism gained ascendancy.

1692 Massacre at Glencoe. MacIan, laird of the Glencoe MacDonalds did not sign the oath of loyalty to the king before the deadline. The government decided to make an example of him to the other Highland clans. 38 MacDonalds were killed in the glen. Others died of the cold as they fled over the mountains. The Duke of Argyll’s Regiment, a regular regiment of the British Army, did the job, and the Campbells have been blamed ever since, but it was John Dalrymple, Master of Stair and Secretary of State for Scotland who ordered the massacre, and it was a government attempt at genocide. It failed.

1694-1699 A tax (poll tax) was imposed on all persons over sixteen, except the destitute and the insane. Tax lists were created, which may give valuable information.

1696-1702 Seven years of severe weather and famine. Many Scottish people died or moved.

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18th Century

1707 Act of Union, Scotland and England became the United Kingdom of Great Britain. The Scottish Parliament was abolished in favor of a single parliament in London. Scotland now had the same trading privileges and coinage as England but kept its own legal system and established church.

Many Scots migrated to England. Trade between Scottish ports and the American colonies became legal. Scottish muster rolls prior to 1707 may be found at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh; records from 1707 may be found at the PRO, Kew.

1712 The Patronage Act re-imposed civil interference in church appointments. Large property owners regained the right to appoint the local minister of the Church of Scotland.

1714 Queen Anne died and the next in line was George of Hanover. He became George I.

1715 The son of the deposed James II immediately raised a rebellion in Scotland known as the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715 or The ’15.

His army marched into England but was defeated. Many defeated Scottish soldiers fled to the American colonies.

1717-1718 Drought and rack-renting affected Northern Ireland. Scots Irish began emigrating to the American colonies. This continued until 1775, beginning of the American Revolution.

1718 The first Glasgow-owned ship sailed the Atlantic. By 1800, Glasgow merchants owned more than 500 vessels. Many were engaged in the tobacco trade. Glasgow gradually became a great center for metal, shipbuilding, weaving, and other industries.

Many Scots left their native parish and moved to Glasgow for work. Many English and Irish joined them.

1725 Act for Disarming the Highlands. Permitted search and seizure of weapons.

1725-1729 Drought and bad harvests occurred in Northern Ireland, causing more people to emigrate.

1726-1737 General George Wade built 240 miles of military roads through the Highlands, the first made roads in the area.

Travel became a little easier, and Highlanders moved more readily to the Lowlands.

1729 Independent Companies of Highlanders were raised to keep peace in the Highlands. They were led by prominent Highlanders loyal to the Crown.

1733 Four ministers broke away from the Church of Scotland and founded the Secession Church. Adherents were often known as Succeders rather than Secessionists.

Your ancestors may have belonged to the Secession Church. Some records may be found in the National Archives of Scotland. Not all have been located.

1739 The Black Watch were formed into a regiment from the Independent Companies, near Aberfeldy on Tayside. Originally the 43rd, they were renumbered the 42nd and named the Royal Highland Regiment. They combined with the 73rd in 1881.

1740 Year of famine. More than 400,000 died in this year. Other famines also occurred in 1754-55, 1766, 1778, and 1782. Many people left their native villages, seeking food and work.

1745-1746 Prince Charles Edward Stuart, the son of the "Old Pretender," led a rebellion known as "The ‘45." He was defeated at Culloden. Many Highland estates were forfeited. Heritable jurisdictions were abolished, and the King’s courts administered justice in the Highlands. Clans were suppressed and clan life as it had been known came to an end. Many Scots emigrated to America. The war destroyed many records.

1747 Act of Proscription. The search for and seizure of weapons was strictly enforced and Highlanders were effectively disarmed.

1750-1808 West Highland lairds began raising rents in order to clear their tenants from the land. Between 1750 and 1808, more than 45,000 people left the Highlands for America and other colonies. Others moved to the cities of Scotland and England.

1752 Three ministers seceded from the Church of Scotland and formed the Relief Church. By 1790, there were about 150,000 seceders from the mother church. They kept their own records, some of which may be found at the National Archives of Scotland. Not all have been located.

These breakaway churches were Presbyterian in theology and attractive to people who did not wish to belong to the Established Church. You may find your Presbyterian ancestors in records of churches other than the Church of Scotland.

1753 The new town of Edinburgh was begun. Upper and middle class people moved from the wynds of the Royal Mile to the cleaner, more spacious New Town.

1754 The potato was introduced as a common field crop. Pressure of people in the Highlands caused the poor to become dependent on this crop.

1759 The Carron Iron Works was set up near Falkirk, Stirlingshire. Englishmen were brought in to teach Scots the iron industry. New employment opportunities caused migration within Scotland.

1760-1761 Two Highland Regiments were raised to fight the French: the 101st Highland, known as Johnstone’s Highlanders and the 100th Highland Regiment. Both were disbanded in 1763 at the peace. The 100th was raised again in 1780 and became the 2nd battalion of the Gordon Highlanders in 1798.

1763-1775 As clearances took place in the Hebrides, Sutherland, Inverness, and Argyll, the displaced people moved to the cities and migrated to North America.

1769-1770 James Watt invented the steam engine, making possible increased development of mines and increased production of the factories that were soon to develop.

Employment opportunities were created that caused migration into the cities.

1770-1773 The Clyde was artificially deepened. By 1781, ocean vessels could reach Glasgow. Shipbuilding began in earnest. Glasgow became a heavily industrial city and major port later.

More people thronged to Glasgow for work from the Highlands and Lowlands, and from Ireland as well.

1773-93 Great clearances occurred in the Glengary estates. The displaced people moved to the cities and emigrated to North America, especially to Upper Canada, Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia.

1774 Flora and Alan MacDonald of Kingsburgh emigrated to North Carolina with many people from Skye.

They remained loyal to the Crown during the Revolutionary War and were forced to move to Canada afterwards before returning to Skye. Many Skye people remained in Canada.

1775 The beginning of the American Revolution caused emigration to cease. When hostilities ended, emigration was redirected to Canada and later to New South Wales.

1775 The need for coal was so great that all new men entering the mines were allowed to be free. The tobacco industry failed with the shutdown of trade to the American colonies. Merchants turned to cotton from India.

These changes in industry affected employment and thus migration.

1777 Permission was given to Scottish lairds to raise regiments to fight in North America. The 71st Highland Light Infantry was raised by Lord MacLeod, the Seaforth Highlanders later the 78th Seaforth Highlanders was raised by the Earl of Seaforth. Disbanded the same year, it reappeared in 1782. The 73rd Perthshire Regiment was raised in 1786, the 74th Highlanders in 1787. (Note: the 73rd Perthshire Reg. were combined into the Black Watch in 1881.)

1779 The Industrial Revolution began to affect Scotland. The first cotton mill was built at Rothesay, Bute. This was followed by many other cotton mills, esp. in Glasgow and Paisley. In 1765, there were about 28,000 people in Glasgow. By 1801, there were 77,000, and by 1831, the population was 202,000. Such cities and towns as Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Dundee, and Paisley also increased in population.

Home weaving gradually declined and people migrated to places where factories had been built or changed their occupations.

1780-1800 Scottish migratory laborers began harvesting in Norfolk, England. At the same time, Scots migrated to Liverpool and other towns in Lancashire that were beginning to produce cotton. Many of the leaders in the Lancashire cotton industry came from Scotland, particularly around Kirkcudbright. They, in turn, brought other Scottish families to work for them in both Manchester and Liverpool.

1780-1880 Highland estates were systematically and brutally cleared of crofters to make room for sheep which gave a better return.

These refugees migrated to the Lowlands and to Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and particularly Canada and the United States. Many died before reaching their destinations because of their destitute condition. By 1813, there was a regular system of organized emigration to Canada.

1782-1783 A severe famine in 1782 caused Scots to move across the border. For example, people from Roxburghshire moved into Northumberland, and people from Dumfriesshire moved to Cumberland. It is said that about this time, approximately ten thousand craftsmen went from Scotland to London every year.

1783 The government imposed a tax on every christening, marriage, and burial entry recorded in church records.

Many people refused to pay on principal. Others could not afford the tax. Many christenings, marriages, and burials went unrecorded.

1784 Highland estates were reinstated if they had not been earlier. More estates were cleared of people.

1790 The canal connecting the rivers Forth and Clyde was opened. People now began to use the canal systems as means of travel.

Watermen and others employed on the canals traveled much farther afield. Genealogical events for these families often took place in parishes a great distance from each other.

1791-1799 The Statistical Account of Scotland was published by Sir John Sinclair. Written by the local ministers from parishes all over Scotland, the accounts cover all aspects of social and economic life.

These accounts contain much information about the parish in which your ancestors lived at the end of the 18th century.

1792 The laws against Episcopalians were repealed. They were permitted to worship and keep records.

Records were better kept by Episcopalians.

1793 The tax of 1783 on christening, marriage, and burial entries in church records was repealed. Since many people had not been recorded in the parish registers, occasionally whole families were recorded after the law’s repeal.

1793-94 Many Highland Regiments were raised to fight Napoleon. The 78th Highland Regiment, also known as the Ross-shire Buffs, was raised in 1793 by T. MacKenzie, as was the 79th Cameron Volunteers, later the 79th Cameronian Highlanders. The 90th Perthshire Volunteers, later the 90th Perthshire Light Infantry, the 98th Argyllshire Highlanders renumbered to the 91st, and the 100th Gordon Highlanders renumbered to the 92nd were all raised in 1794. The 93rd Sutherland Highlanders were raised in 1799 as the Napoleonic threat deepened. The 75th Stirlingshire Regiment was raised in 1809.

1799 All miners were freed from their virtual slavery. They could go to other mines or take other employment as they wished. There was more movement of Scottish people.

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19th Century

1801 Ironstone was discovered between the Clyde and Forth.

The area also contained coal and both coal and iron were mined extensively. Iron works were built, and Englishmen were brought in to show the Scots the best method of developing and using these resources.

Many people migrated for employment to the southern part of Scotland, esp. Glasgow. 1803 Thomas Douglas, Earl of Selkirk "planted" 800 Highlanders on Prince Edward Island. The following year, he established another settlement in Upper Canada near Lake St. Clair. Many Highlanders emigrated to escape the clearances.

1810 The first power loom was used in Scotland, heralding an increased building of factories. Employment opportunities encouraged migration to cities.

1811-1815 Having acquired a controlling interest in the Hudson’s Bay Co. with his brother-in-law, the Earl Selkirk sent many more Scottish settlers to the Red River Valley in Manitoba.

1812 Steamboats were built and used. People moved from the neighboring countryside to the river towns for employment.

1811-1820 Great clearances took place in the Duke of Sutherland’s estates. 15,000 people were evicted.

1815 Napoleon was finally defeated at Waterloo. Many Scottish soldiers were discharged in the ensuing years. Some took their pensions and returned home; others left for Canada. In April, Mt. Tambora, Indonesia exploded, filling the Northern Hemisphere with sulphurous gas, causing ruinous weather. Crops failed not only in Scotland but all over the British Isles.

1816 The "year without a summer" Cold and rainy weather continued from June through September. Wheat, other grain and potato crops failed throughout the British Isles. Ireland, where there was famine, was particularly badly hit. Typhus broke out in Ireland and spread throughout the British Isles. People moved south or emigrated, seeking better weather.

1818 The use of canals for industrial purposes and for the movement of people was increasing rapidly.

Goods and people were moving more swiftly, and people were flocking to the cities and large towns for work in the coal mines, steel works, and weaving mills.

1820 New register books were required to be kept in Church of Scotland parishes. Many delayed entries for baptisms performed in previous years were recorded in the old church registers before they were closed (mainly in 1819 and 1820.)

1829 The laws against Roman Catholics were repealed. They were permitted to buy and inherit property and keep records. Records were begun and were better kept by Roman Catholics. Many Catholic register may be found in the National Archives of Scotland.

1830-1840 The New Statistical Account was published. Similar in style to the Old Statistical Account, it updated a lot of information about local social and economic matters.

These accounts contain much information about the parish in which your ancestors lived about one-third the way through the 19th century.

1840 Railroads were built and people traveled much more freely from town to town. Employment increased for rail workers. The railroads permitted families to move more frequently than before.

1841 The first census of genealogical value was taken.

1843 The Great Disruption occurred when 40 per cent of the ministers broke away from the Church of Scotland over the issue of patronage. They formed the Free Church of Scotland.

Many independent-minded people joined the break away church. Your ancestors’ records may have been kept by a church other than the Church of Scotland.

1845 The Poor Law (Scotland) Act established parochial boards to administer poor relief in each parish.

These records contain much family information including the children of aged paupers and the parentage of orphaned, illegitimate, and deserted children. The records may be found in the National Archives of Scotland and regional archives.

1846 The potato blight hit Scotland. Thousands left the Highlands and Island and moved to the industrial cities of Scotland and England. Emigration grew to over 100,000 a year.

1847 The Secession and Relief Churches combined to form the United Presbyterian Church. There were then five million members in the Free Church and two million members in the United Presbyterian Church.

Secession and Relief Church records are now under the United Presbyterian Church. Many of the former Relief and Secession records are disguised as United Presbyterian records. These may be found in the National Archives of Scotland.

1848 One of the largest migrations of Scots sailed for New Zealand.

The premier Scottish settlement is Dunedin, South Island, but Scots settled throughout the country.

1851 Many Scots emigrated to Australia, and they too spread throughout the country.

The second census of genealogical value was taken, the type of information being far superior to that recorded in 1841.

The specific age, place of birth, and relationship to the head of household may be found in the 1851 census. Indexes for some places exist.

1855 Civil registration began. This was the first attempt to record vital statistics of birth, marriage, and death of all people regardless of religion or social status.

This made it possible to find certificates of birth, marriage, and death for Scottish people. New church register books were required to be kept. Many delayed entries for baptisms performed in previous years were recorded in the old registers before they were closed. They were then deposited in New Register House, Edinburgh. The civil registers are also deposited there.

1861 The third census of genealogical value was taken. In addition to the same information for 1851, it gives the number of children under 15 attending school and some indication of the size of the house with the number of rooms having one or more windows.

1867 The introduction of the reaper and the importation of cheaper grain from the American Middle West caused a long slow decline in Scottish agriculture. Fewer laborers were needed. Farm laborers moved to the cities or emigrated.

1871 The fourth census of genealogical value was taken, the type of information being the same as for the 1861.

Shipbuilding expanded out of Glasgow to a newly named area, Clydebank, by the forerunner of John Brown & Co.

People in the shipbuilding trades moved from Glasgow to Clydebank and other towns on the Clyde. 1872 The Scottish Education Act was passed by Parliament. It provided for universal compulsory education to age 14 and established a graded, public school system.

Scottish girls and boys of the lower classes received the opportunity for an elementary school education. Records may be found in local archives.

1874 Patronage in the Church of Scotland was abolished. The lairds could no longer appoint the minister of the parish church.

1881 The fifth census of genealogical value was taken, the type of information being the same as for the 1861. This census has been entirely indexed on microfiche and compact disk and is available at Family History Centers. It is the key to finding the ancestor who may have moved from his native parish.

1891 The sixth census of genealogical value was taken, the type of information being the same as for the 1861.

The Superintendent Registrar of Scotland has indexed this census, but it may be found only on the Internet or at New Register House, Edinburgh for a fee.

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20th Century

1900 The Free Church and the United Presbyterians combined to form the United Free Church of Scotland.

1901 The seventh census of genealogical value was taken, but it has not yet been opened to the public.

1900-1910 Shipbuilding on the Clyde hit its peak and became the largest shipbuilding industry in the world. More people moved to Glasgow and the surrounding areas to find employment in steel making and shipbuilding.

1914 World War I began. The munitions industry along Clydeside grew enormously. More people, particularly women from the countryside, found employment in munitions and other wartime industries.

1915 Many strikes occurred over pay awards and working conditions, culminating in a large strike to protest a rent increase in Glasgow.

These disputes affected much of the working class in Glasgow.

1916-1918 Production of grain increased by 20% during the war years, but when farm prices dropped after the war, farmers emigrated to Canada and Australasia seeking better conditions.

1918 Nov. 11, World War I ended. Scotland’s heavy industry plunged into a severe depression within six months. Thousands of Scots emigrated in the following ten years.

1923-1924 James Ramsay MacDonald led the first (minority) Labour administration of Great Britain and was the first Scot to become Prime Minister.

Most working class people in Scotland voted Labour for the next 70 years.

1929-1931 Ramsay MacDonald led the second Labour administration.

1931-1935 Ramsay MacDonald led a third Labour administration in coalition with the Conservatives which discredited him.

1929 The Church of Scotland combined with the United Free Church to form the United Established Church of Scotland. However, there were some hold-outs. Records may be found under all three names at the National Archives of Scotland.

1930 After the New York Stock Market Crash of 1929, the world fell into the Great Depression. Scotland was very badly affected with the major industries coming to a standstill.

More Scots emigrated to the United States and Canada as well as to Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.

1930 St. Kilda evacuated. With the population dwindling and communication with the mainland limited, the authorities decide life is intolerable on the island.

1934 Cunard White Star liner "Queen Mary" launched at Clydebank.

1939-1945 The Second World War

1947 Edinburgh Festival of Music and Drama inaugurated.

1950 Scottish Nationalists steal the Stone of Destiny from Westminster Abbey. This was Scotland's Coronation stone,taken by the English in 1296. By tradition all British monarchs have to be crowned while sitting on it. It was recovered from Arbroath Abbey, although some claim this was a copy, and the original remains in Scotland.

1967 The Queen Elizabeth II (QE2),the largest liner under the British flag, is launched at Clydebank.

1971 66 people are killed in Scotland's worst football disaster when a barrier collapses at the end of the Rangers v Celtic football match at Ibrox park.

1975 The first oil is piped ashore from the North Sea.

1988 Piper Alpha oil production platform in the North Sea explodes, killing 187 men. A Pan Am747 airliner crashes on Lockerbie, Dumfriesshire, killing all 259 passengers and crew, and 11 people on the ground.

1992 British Steel closes the Ravenscraig steelworks. US Navy leaves the Holy Loch submarine base.

1996 A gunman kills 16 five-year-old children, their teacher and himself in the Primary School at Dunblane in Perthshire. This is the worst tragedy of its type in the U.K.

1996 The Stone of Destiny/Scone is finally returned to Scotland, 700 years after it was stolen by Edward I.

September 1997 Scottish people voted YES for "Devolution" for Scotland, by a 75% majority. This will give Scotland it's own parliament, not tied to English parliamentary systems, for the first time in several centuries.


Thanks to Bill Wallace of the Southern California Genealogical Society for starting this time line many years ago and to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for their list of Historical Events of Scotland, 1412-1855 (from their 1987 Genealogical Research Guide to Scotland).

Kay Ronald Devonshire of the British Isles Family History Society - USA added social, legal and military information; as well as extending it into the 20th century.

NB : I'd love to find out more about these people, particularly those from the last 200-300 years.

If you can help flesh out their stories, please get in touch via my personal site, at / contact . Thank-you.