"LINLITHGOWSHIRE, (or West Lothian), maritime Co. in SE. of Scotland; is bounded N. by Firth of Forth, SE. by Edinburghshire, and W. by Lanarkshire and Stirlingshire; greatest length, NE. and SW., 19 miles; greatest breadth, E. and W., 14 miles; area, 76,806 ac., pop. 43,510. The coast is low; the surface is varied, but there are few hills of any height; the chief rivers are the Avon on the W. and the Almond on the E. border. Much of the soil is fertile, and agriculture is in an advanced condition. Linlithgowshire is one of the richest mineral counties in Scotland, coal, shales, ironstone, freestone, limestone, &c... being very abundant. Paraffin oil is largely manufactured at Bathgate, Broxburn, and Uphall. The co. contains 12 pars. and 2 parts, the parl. and royal burghs of Linlithgow (Falkirk Burghs) and Queensferry (Stirling Burghs), and the police burghs of Armadale, Bathgate, Borrowstounness, and Whitburn. It returns 1 member."
Bartholemew's Gazetteer of the British Isles, 1887
West Lothian Local History Library is at County Buildings Annexe at 89-91 High Street, Linlithgow.
Most of the West Lothian archives collections are held by the National Archives of Scotland, General Register House, Edinburgh. These include Linlithgow Burgh archives, Linlithgow Sheriff Court, church records, personal and business collections. The National Library of Scotland also holds some estate records. A list of what is held in private collections is also available from the National Register of Archives. The West Lothian Archives holds records relating to the history of West Lothian, but in general they do not have records which will help with the initial stages of genealogical research, enquiries for which should be made to the Local History Library or General Register Office. Their address is Archives and Records Centre, 9 Dunlop Square, Deans Industrial Estate, Livingston, West Lothian, EH54 8SB.
Information on national archives and links to lists of local archives and libraries can be found on our Scotland Archives and Libraries page.
The Scottish Genealogy Society has published a comprehensive volume of pre-1855 Monumental Inscriptions in West Lothian, compiled by John F Mitchell and Sheila Mitchell.
General advice on census records and indexes can be found on our Scotland Census page.
FreeCen for West Lothian has an index of the 1841 census for the county, and welcomes more transcribers for this project providing free access to 19th century census indexes.
General advice on parish registers throughout Scotland can be found on our Scotland Church Records page.
The Kirk Session of a parish consists of the minister of the parish and the elders of the congregation. It looks after the general wellbeing of the congregation and, particularly in centuries past, parochial discipline. Most Kirk Session records are held in the National Records of Scotland in Edinburgh and can be fascinating reading.
Records of testaments, inventories etc. are held at the National Records of Scotland, in the records of the Edinburgh Commisariot Court (before 1823) and the Linlithgow Sheriff Court (after 1823).
A book which may be of interest is Richard Jaques and Charles McKean's West Lothian: an illustrated architectural guide, published by the Rutland Press in 1994. As the title suggests, it concentrates on the architecture of the area. However it is well illustrated with hundreds of photographs and contains short descriptions and historical notes on many places.
Lamburn's Business Directory for Stirlingshire, Dumbartonshire and Linlithgowshire (West Lothian), 1893-94, downloadable from the Internet Archive (PDF 9.8Mb).
For a list of coal mines in Scotland from 1854 to 1945 is available online.
For a list of metalliferous mines in Scotland from 1854 to 1945 is available online.
For information about the types of occupations your ancesters may have done in Scotland, please see Historic Scottish Professions & Occupations on the Visit Scotland website.
The Lothians Family History Society covers West Lothian.
For a social and economic record of the parishes of West Lothian, together with masses of statistical material, see Sir John Sinclair's Statistical Account of Scotland which was compiled in the 1790s. The account was reprinted in the 1970s 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.