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Help and advice for Scotland

If you have found a problem on this page then please report it on the following form. We will then do our best to fix it. If you are wanting advice then the best place to ask is on the area's specific email lists. All the information that we have is in the web pages, so please do not ask us to supply something that is not there. We are not able to offer a research service.

If you wish to report a problem, or contribute information, then do use the following form to tell us about it. We have a number of people each maintaining different sections of the web site, so it is important to submit information via a link on the relevant page otherwise it is likely to go to the wrong person and may not be acted upon.

Scotland

"Scotland is bounded by the north by The North Sea; and on the east, by the German ocean; to the south-east, by the liberties of Berwick, and by England; on the south, by the Solway frith (sic) and the Irish sea; and on the west, by the Atlantic ocean. The line of its boundary on the south-east from a point 3 miles north of Berwick to the head of the Solway frith at the embouchure of the Sark, measures, inclusive of sinuosities, about 117 miles. This line has very numerous but not great windings; and, over great part of its length, is very capricious, and not physically marked. The curious reader may trace it by reference to our articles on the counties of Berwick, Roxburgh, and Dumfries, whose southern boundary-lines are identical with this. Popular language is utterly at fault in speaking of Scotland as the part of Britain which lies north of the Tweed; that river running in the interior till 18 miles before it reaches the sea, and having on its left bank, for the last 4 of these miles, the liberties of Berwick. Scotland, as to its mainland, lies between 54° 41’ and 58° 41’ north latitude, and 1° 43’ and 5° 38’ west longitude; and, including its islands, it extends to 60° 49’ north latitude, and 8° 55’ west longitude. 

The greatest length of the mainland, in a line due north, or very nearly so, is from the Mull of Galloway to Cape Wrath, and measures 274 miles. The greatest length of it in any possible direction is from the Mull of Galloway to Dunnet-head, and measures 280 miles. its breadth, from St. Abb’s head in Berwickshire to the point of Knap in Argyleshire, is 134 miles; from the mouth of the South Esk in Forfarshire to Ardnamurchan-point in Argyleshire, is 137 miles; and from Buchanness in Aberdeenshire to the extremity of Applecross in Ness-shire, is 146 miles. North of the Moray frith, the greatest breadth, from Duncansby-head to Cape-Wrath, is only 70 wiles; and the least from the Dornoch frith to Loch-Broom, is 36. The whole country is so penetrated by friths and inlets of the sea, that it constantly and very widely varies in breadth, and has no spot which is upwards of 40 miles inland. The area, partly as ascertained by the Ordnance survey, partly as computed on the best other authorities, is 19,639,377 statute acres, or about 30,685 square miles. This excludes all sea-inlets below low-water mark, but includes about 155,000 acres of inland lakes. The Ordnance survey has long been in progress, and, at the end of 1864, had completed 15,400 square miles. The report to the Board of Agriculture made the area, exclusive of water, to about 18,944,000 acres, or 29,600 square miles; and estimated the cultivated lands at 5,013,450 acres,—the uncultivated at 13,900,550."

From the Imperial Gazetteer of Scotland, edited by Rev. John Marius Wilson, 1868

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Archives and Libraries

Scotland - Archives and Libraries - links and information.

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Bibliography

Scotland - Bibliography - links and information.

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Biography

Scotland - Biography - links and information.

There are many books which might be useful here, but some include:

  • The Scottish Nation: or the surnames, families, literature, honours and biographical history of the people of Scotland by William Anderson, published in 3 volumes between 1866 and 1877.
  • A Biographical Dictionary of Eminent Scotsmen by Robert Chambers, first published in 1835 at London.
  • Chambers Scottish Biographical Dictionary, edited by Rosemary Goring, and published at Edinburgh by Chambers in 1992 (468 pages)
  • Dictionary of National Biography, published since 1885 and also on CD-ROM. The latest edition, the Oxford DNB published 2004 is available online. Searches are free, detail biographies can be obtained by paying, but many libraries have subscriptions which can often be used by library card holders from their home computers.
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Cemeteries

  • The Commonwealth War Graves Commission commemorates the 1,700,000 men and women of the Commonwealth forces who died in the two world wars. Their cemeteries, burial plots and memorials are a lasting tribute to those who died in some 154 countries across the world. Details of Commonwealth war dead are recorded so that graves or names on memorials can be located. Cemetery details are provided, including cemetery plans and photographs.
  • The Scottish Genealogy Society has published many booklets of monumental inscriptions and also has a large collection of lists at its library in Edinburgh. Many local societies are publishing lists for their own areas. See individual counties for more details (where available).
  • The Find-a-Grave page gives details of the graves of the rich and famous together with biographical information.
  • The Carved Stones Adviser Project is to survey the condition of stones and burial grounds in Scotland, seeks volunteers to make surveys, and gives advice on recording the condition and information on grave stones. It is a project of The Council for Scottish Archaeology and Historic Scotland.
  • The Scottish War Graves Project

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Census

Scotland - Census - links and information.

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Chronology

An interactive Timeline of Scottish History provided by the National Library of Scotland.

The Scottish History Timeline provides an alternative route to access the Gazetteer for Scotland.

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Church Directories

  • Scottish Post Office Directories Overview of church directories published by the Post Office and private publishers in Scotland between 1773 and 1911.
  • Scotland's Churches Trust The website of Scotland's Churches Trust opens the door to Scotland's story by exploring living traditions of faith across the country.
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Church History

Scotland - Church History - links and information.

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Church Records

Scotland - Church Records - links and information.

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Civil Registration

Scotland - Civil Registration - links and information.

  • Recording Angels: Scottish Registrars since 1855, by the National Records of Scotland, throws light on how the registrars worked, as knowing more about the history of the records that they created can sometimes help family historian with their research.
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Colonisation

  • Darien Colony - An expedition of five ships was sent on 14 July 1698 to create a Scots colony on the Isthmus of Panama. It was hoped that the colony of ‘New Caledonia’ would generate trade with the Far East. Some believe that this tragic endeavour led to Scotland believing it could not survive without English assistance, thus leading to the 1707 Acts of Union.
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Correctional Institutions

  • Crime and Punishment published by The National Records of Scotland examines the nature of crime and punishment in Scotland between the 16th and 20th centuries. 28 pages, ISBN 0 870874 33 1.
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Court Records

Various court records are held at The National Records of Scotland in Edinburgh. These records include records of testaments and inventories, as well as civil and criminal court records.

Court Records held by the Mitchell Library, Glasgow.

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Description and Travel

There are many websites which can be helpful for finding out about Scotland, whether you are planning to visit or not. Here are just a few of them (in no particular order):

  • Scotland.org
  • Scottish Tourist Board
  • About Scotland
  • Travel Scotland
  • Historic Scotland
  • Introducing Scotland from Lonely Planet
  • Friends of Scotland - Aspects of contemporary Scotland including culture, education and business, a website supported by government.
  • Statistical Accounts of Scotland - not just statistics, "Accounts of Scottish life from the 18th and 19th centuries" with a mass of descriptive information on a parish-by-parish basis.
  • The Old Home Town has photographs and comments about various communities, which include Cromarty, Orkney, Invergordon, Tain, Fortrose and Rosemarkie, Inverness.
  • Geograph is a co-operative project aiming to put a photograph from every 1 kilometre grid square of the UK and Ireland free on Internet. At November 2014 it has almost 4,223,000 images covering 82% of grid squares including photos of churches, and many town and village centres and streets.

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Directories

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Dwellings

  • The DiCamillo Companion to British and Irish Country Houses aims to list details of every country house ever built. There is a mass of information about history, architects, owners, estates, access, use as film sets, etc. You can search by county or town, as well as by house or owner name, etc.
  • Raising the Bar, an introduction to Scotland's Historic Pubs, by Historic Scotland.
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Emigration and Immigration

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Encyclopaedias and Dictionaries

  • For a general guide to Scotland, see Collins Encyclopaedia of Scotland, edited by John Keay and Julia Keay and published by Harper Collins in 1994. 1046 pages, ISBN 0 00 255082 2.
  • A useful resource for Scottish genealogists is Lawrence R. Burness' A Scottish Historian's Glossary, published by the Scottish Association of Family History Societies.
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Gazetteers

  • The GENUKI Gazetteer covers the whole of England, Scotland and Wales and can be searched by place-name (or part of a place-name) or Ordnance Survey Grid Reference (six-figure, e.g. NZ183848). If there are multiple place-names matching the name you enter, you will initially be presented with a drop-down list of the matching place-names.
  • Scottish researchers may also be interested in the online Gazetteer for Scotland. A joint venture between the University of Edinburgh and the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, it has (at Nov 2014) over 22,400 entries. The Gazetteer for Scotland is a vast encyclopaedia, featuring details of towns, villages, bens and glens from the Scottish Borders to the Northern Isles. The first comprehensive gazetteer produced for Scotland since 1885, it includes tourist attractions, industries and historical sites, together with histories of family names and biographies of famous people associated with Scotland.
  • Our Summary of Scotland's Places connects to selected links on ScotlandsPlaces, giving quick access to maps showing county and parish locations.
  • See also the Names, Geographical section on this page.

    • Gazetteer of British Place Names - Notes for Historians and Genealogists. The Gazetteer of British Place Names, whilst intended primarily as a contemporary gazetteer, is also a valuable resource to historians and genealogists.
    • Places in Scotland which lay in a registration county of a different name to their historic county in the 1861 Census.
      At the time of the 1861 Census of Scotland, some parishes lay in more than one county. For the purposes of the Census of 1861 each parish was considered to be wholly a part of a single registration county. A table lists the parishes concerned, their relationships and their assigned registration county.
    (See more)
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Genealogy

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Handwriting

  • Two useful guides for reading old Scottish documents are
    • Scottish Handwriting 1500-1700 - a self-help pack by Alison Rosie, published by the Scottish Records Association, 1994 with ISBN 1 870874 04 8.
    • Scottish Handwriting 1150-1650 by Grant G Simpson, published by Aberdeen University Press, 1986 (140 pages), ISBN 0 900015 41 1 (Hardback), 0 08 0345 16 6 (Paperback).
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Historical Geography

GENUKI is organised on the basis of historic counties. The following associates the more modern administrative areas with the GENUKI pages which cover those areas.

Administrative Areas of Scotland describes the changes introduced in 1975.

A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland by Samuel Lewis. Contains detailed topographical accounts of places, parishes and counties in Scotland. Originally published in two volumes, here given together.

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History

Scotland - History - links and information.

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Jewish History

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Land and Property

  • Many land and property records are held at The National Archives of Scotland of which probably the main ones are the Registers of Sasines, recording the transfer of ownership of land.
  • Registers of Scotland keep Scotland's National Land and Property Registers.
  • Alan Stewart's book Gathering the Clans - Tracing Scottish Ancestry on the Internet has a very helpful section on land records.
  • Retours of Services of Heirs (1544-1699) and Services of Heirs in Scotland (1700-1859) are now available on CD from the Scottish Genealogy Society. (These are new computerised versions of the long out of print standard reference works for inheritance of landed property in Scotland, from the 16th century to the mid 19th century. Not every inheritance was properly registered, sometimes the transfer was much more informal, but these indexes to surviving inheritance records are invaluable for genealogists researching Scottish landowners, big or small.)
  • British Listed Buildings - an online database of buildings and structures that are listed as being of special architectural and historic interest.
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Language and Languages

Scotland - Language and Languages - links and information.

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Law and Legislation

  • Most legal records in Scotland are held at The National Records of Scotland in Edinburgh. Green's Glossary of Scottish Legal Terms may be of interest to anyone researching these records. It can be purchased through a number of family history societies and will be found in many libraries.
  • Published listings of lawyers include:
    • The Faculty of Advocates in Scotland 1532-1943 edited by Sir Francis J. Grant, published by Scottish Record Society, 1944.
    • The Lord Advocates of Scotland by George W.T. Omond, published in 3 volumes (1883-1914).
    • History of the Society of Advocates in Aberdeen edited by John A. Henderson, published by New Spalding Club, 1912.
    • History of the Society of Writers to H.M. Signet (including list of members from 1594-1890), published by the Society of Writers to H.M. Signet in 1890.
    • The Register of the Society of Writers to the Signet, published at Edinburgh in 1983 (lists members up to recent times).
    • Scottish law list, published 1848-1849.
    • Index juridicus: the Scottish law list from 1852 onwards.
  • Scots Legal Glossary - a table listing some Scots legal terms, some Latin that is used in legal documents and some obsolete terms that may be encountered by genealogists researching their Scots ancestry.
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Medical Records

  • Hospital Records Database A Joint Project of the Wellcome Trust and the National Archives. This database provides information on the existence and location of the records of hospitals in the U.K.
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Merchant Marine

  • See the United Kingdom and Ireland Merchant Marine page in GENUKI.
  • See the Scotland Merchant Marine page on the FamilySearch Wiki.
  • David Dobson has written many books about Scottish maritime history, including lists of mariners and his Scottish Maritime Records, 1600-1850 - a guide for Family Historians, published January 1997 by Clearfield, ISBN 9780806347172 (available at Amazon and Waterstones).
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Migration, Internal

R. Houston's article Geographical mobility in Scotland, 1652-1811: the evidence of testimonials, published in the Journal of Historical Geography 11, 4, (1985) pp. 379-394, describes a study of geographical mobility using the records of testimonials recorded in the Kirk Session records of 16 parishes in Lowland Scotland.

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Military History

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Names, Geographical

  • Scottish Personal Names & Place Names - A Bibliography is a general guide to books on Scottish personal and place names. It was published by the Scottish Genealogy Society in 1993 and may be purchased through their online ordering system.
  • See also the Gazetteers section.
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Names, Personal

  • Scottish Personal Names & Place Names - A Bibliography is a general guide to books on Scottish personal and place names. It was published by the Scottish Genealogy Society in 1993 and may be purchased from them.
  • Guides to forenames and surnames include:
    • Scottish Forenames by Donald Whyte, published by Birlinn Ltd, 1996 (205 pages), ISBN 1 874744 72 6
    • Scottish Christian Names by Leslie Alan Dunkling, first published by Johnston & Bacon (Books) Ltd., Stirling, 1978, ISBN 0 7179 4249 4.
    • The Surnames of Scotland by George F. Black, published by Birlinn Ltd, 1993 (838 pages), ISBN 1 874744 07 6.
  • Scots often named children by following a simple set of rules. Don't use these as a firm guide (there were often variations, for all sorts of reasons) but you may find that some of your ancestors used these too:
    • 1st son named after father's father
    • 2nd son named after mother's father
    • 3rd son named after father
    • 1st daughter named after mother's mother
    • 2nd daughter named after father's mother
    • 3rd daughter named after mother

 

See a list of books related to Scottish Names.

See a list of books related to Scottish Clans.

See a list of books related to Scottish Clans and Tartans.

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Newspapers

  • The Mitchell Library in Glasgow holds an extensive collecti​on of local and national newspapers, most of them available on microfilm.
  • Guide to Scottish Newspaper Indexes This searchable list provides details of Scottish newspaper titles that have an index.
  • A number of publications give information about old Scottish newspapers, including where they can be found today:
    • Directory of Scottish Newspapers by Joan P.S. Ferguson, published by the National Library of Scotland in 1984.
    • NEWSPLAN: Report of the Newsplan Project in Scotland, published by the British Library in 1994.
    • The Waterloo Directory of Scottish Newspapers and Periodicals, 1800-1900 edited by John S. North, published in 2 volumes in 1989 by North Waterloo Academic Press, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.
  • Online Newspapers - Scotland provides links to Scottish newspaper websites.
  • Abyz Web Links Inc have provided many links to Newspapers, News Media and News Sources relating to Scotland.
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Nobility

  • For a classic guide to the peerage in Scotland see Sir James Balfour Paul's The Scots Peerage published in 9 volumes between 1904 and 1914 in Edinburgh. (Now available on CD from the Scottish Genealogy Society.)
  • A recent guide to tracing noble ancestors, particularly in Scotland, is Jeremy Duncan's Tracing Your Royal Ancestors, ISBN 0 947749 004, published in 1994 at Perth (31 pages).
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Occupations

  • A useful guide is D.R.Torrance's Scottish Trades, Professions, Vital Documents & Directories, published by the Scottish Association of Family History Societies.
  • For information on sailors in the past, see the Merchant Marine section.
  • Three useful work-related publications. The first is a general study of work in Scotland since 1800. The other two are specific works about farm servants in Lowland Scotland.
    • Industrial Nation: Work, Culture and Society in Scotland, 1800-Present by W.W.Knox, published by Edinburgh University Press in 1999.
    • Farm Servants and Labour in Lowland Scotland 1770-1914, edited by T.M.Devine, published by John Donald Publishers Ltd. in 1984.
    • Herds and Hinds: Farm Labour in Lowland Scotland, 1900-1939 by Richard Anthony, published by Tuckwell Press Ltd. in 1997.
  • The National Library of Scotland Scottish Book Trade index lists the names, trades and addresses of people involved in printing in Scotland up to 1850, and is fully searchable.
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Periodicals

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Politics and Government

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Poor Houses, Poor Law etc.

    • Hospitals in the Highlands of Scotland. Jim and Stephen Leslie have researched and written on hospitals in this area, and have published booklets on the hospitals on Skye, and in Lochaber and Nairn, with another on Inverness due for publication in 2016.
    • Peter Higginbotham’s Workhouses is a brilliant database of poor law buildings in Britain.
    • Our NHS Scotland has an overview of the establishment of the National Health Service.
    (See more)
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Population

  • A useful work is Scottish Population History from the Seventeenth Century to the 1930s, edited by Michael Flinn and published by Cambridge University Press in 1977.
  • Another work in this field is James Kyd's Scottish Population Statistics which was published by the Scottish Academic Press in 1952 and reprinted in 1976.
  • Here are some population figures for Scotland throughout the ages.
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Probate Records

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Public Records

  • National Records of Scotland - The National Records of Scotland store records of births, deaths, marriages, civil partnerships, divorces, (including stillbirths) - they’re also responsible for the Scottish national archives, which contain government documents and public records.
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Religion and Religious Life

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Schools

  • "A Happie and Golden Tyme" published by The National Records of Scotland looks at education in Scotland since the fourteenth century. It includes facsimile copies of original records. 20 pages long, ISBN 0 870874 15 3.
  • School and Education Reports at the National Records of Scotland. 
  • Schools. Pupils and Teachers in Glasgow and the West of Scotland - records at the Mitchell Library.
  • Scotland Street School Museum - Scotland Street School was designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh between 1903-1906 for the School Board of Glasgow. Now a museum, it tells the story of 100 years of education in Scotland, from the late 19th century to the late 20th century.
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Social life and Customs

  • Scottish Customs from the Cradle to the Grave by Margaret Bennett is full of information about life in Scotland, from childbirth through to death and burial. Polygon, 1992, ISBN 0 7486 6118 2.
  • Two publications by The National Records of Scotland which look at aspects of social life in Scotland in the past are Hatches, Matches and Despatches (16 pages) and Feast to Festival (27 pages). The first of these looks at customs surrounding birth, marriage and death in Scotland. The second looks at entertainment, from the medieval times right through to the modern day.
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Societies

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Statistics

  • For a social and economic record of the parishes of Scotland, together with masses of statistical material, see Sir John Sinclair's Statistical Account of Scotland which was compiled in the 1790s and reprinted in more recent years by EP Publishing Limited of Wakefield, England.
  • Follow-up works to this were the New Statistical Account (also known as the Second Statistical Account) which was prepared in the 1830s and 1840s; and more recently the Third Statistical Account which has been prepared since the Second World War.
  • The online version of The Statistical Account of Scotland 1791-1799 and 1845.
  • The Old Statistical Account of Scotland (1791-1799) is also available free on Electric Scotland as a series of downloads.
  • Statistics from Scotland's Census are available at the National Records of Scotland. These are used by central and local government, health authorities and other organisations to allocate resources and plan services.
  • For population figures see the Population section above.
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Taxation

Many taxation records are held at The National Records of Scotland in Edinburgh.

  • Historical Tax Rolls  - Carriage tax rolls, cart tax rolls, clock and watch tax rolls, consolidated schedules of assessed taxes, dog tax rolls, farm horse tax rolls, female servant tax rolls, hearth tax records, horse tax rolls, inhabited house tax, land tax rolls, male servant tax rolls, poll tax rolls, shop tax rolls, window tax.
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Visitations, Heraldic

  • No visitations were made to Scotland and the records of grants and matriculations of arms only begin in 1672.
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Voting Registers

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