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Whilst every care has been taken in the production of this leaflet and the details were current at the time of publication, no guarantee is given as to its continued veracity.

Prepared by Maybole Historical Society for Adult Learners Week 2003       

© Ayrloom  May 2003                                                           e-mail


When inputing data to a search form or search engine always use lowercase.  Some databases will search for an uppercase (capital) or lowercase letter when lowercase is entered, but will only search for uppercase letters when they are entered.  Most databases that accept entry in uppercase only will automatically convert lowercase to uppercase as required.

When searching for a name always enter the minimum amount of data; for example entering ‘anne’ will only produce results for ‘Anne’ whereas entering ‘an’ will produce results for ‘an’, ‘An’, ‘Ann’, ‘Anne’, ‘Annie’, ‘Annabel’, etc.

Certain specific databases are equipped with what is commonly termed SOUNDEX.  This means that the database will automatically be searched for similar sounding words or names.  For instance if you search the Family Search database for ‘steel’ it will automatically return results for ‘Steel’, ‘Steele’, ‘Steil’, etc.  Be wary as SOUNDEX is not infallible and many Scottish names have alternative spellings it does not cope with.  


It is now possible to access the internet free of charge or at very little expense however many databases are ‘pay-to-view’ and cost money to search and others have more information available on CD-ROM or at a search centre.  ‘Scottish Church Records’ provides comprehensive detail of all births/christenings or marriages/proclamations recorded in the Old Parish Registers in Scotland prior to 1855.   This is available at any of the local Mormon Family History Centres (free of charge) and not only are the results more complete than using Family Search on the internet, the detail includes the frame number on the relevant film.  Although the information is the same as that provided on the General Register Office (Scotland) website (with the exception of the frame number) or at any of the search centres provided by the registration services, the software used by the Mormons allows a “parent search” which very simply shows all children recorded to any set of parents.

For finding births, marriages and deaths in Scotland subsequent to 1855 – the introduction of compulsory registration in Scotland - the GRO(S) website becomes very useful however two factors must be taken into consideration.   First, will it be cheaper to find out all you want to know by visiting the local registrar where the events took place (cost £10.00/hour), Strathclyde Genealogy Centre (£13.00/day) or West Register House in Edinburgh (£17.00/day)?  Second, can you find an illusive ancestor by making use of the cross-reference facility for marriages and female deaths not available on the website?

Although results for individuals in the 1881 Census for Great Britain (excluding Ireland) are shown in a search of the Family Search database the CD-ROM version shows each individual with the family with which they were resident and can also show neighbours and produce reports  (in print or as a database) for specific surnames etc.  The 1881 Census on CD-ROM is available at many local history libraries, all Mormon Family History Centres, the Maybole Local & Family History Centre and can be purchased for only £29.95 for the full set of 25 CD-ROMs.

The quarterly indices to births, marriages and deaths in England and Wales can prove very expensive to access.  These can be viewed free of charge in microfiche format at many resource centres such as the Mitchell Library in Glasgow, the Paisley Family History Centre of the Mormon Church and Carlisle Central Library.

The internet is not comprehensive.  Many resources are protected by copyright and are only available to purchase in CD-ROM, microfiche or printed format although many of these can be accessed free of charge through libraries and local societies.  What the internet will provide in most cases is a catalogue of the material available in resource centres and times and charges (if any) for use of the facilities, or catalogues of material available to purchase with clear instructions on how to buy it, costs, and whether it can be purchased direct from a supplier online.

Family History Software, CD-ROM’s etc. can be found at


There are a large number of good Family History programmes available now and they all work in roughly the same manner, as long as they are GEDCOM compatible (the Family History programme standard) it is easy to transfer most of your information from one programme to another.  They are very easy to use and provide an effective way of storing all your information and then producing customised charts and reports as required.  Ultimately all four programmes detailed below will allow you to publish your family history, with pictures, in book format and they have all been chosen for their differing benefits.

 Brothers Keeper is a shareware programme which can be downloaded free of charge from their website at, used immediately and then registered later (if you feel it is necessary).

Family Tree Maker and Generations Grand Suite UK are now the most popular programmes in the world Family Tree Maker comes in a variety of packages and most of them are geared to the American Market.  Do not be tempted to buy the more expensive versions as the only difference is that they contain more CD-ROMS specific to research in the USA.   The basic version  (usually costing around £29.95) will be quite adequate.  Generations Grand Suite UK comes with a number of useful CD-ROMs including Timelines, Black’s Surnames of Scotland, the Griffith’s Valuation (Ireland), Historic Maps, Index to UK Wills and Deeds, Easy Tree and Family Tree Art (the Generations Family Tree Starter Kit also costs about £29.95)

Family Historian is the newest and best programme available - and the only one specifically designed for the UK.  It is fast becoming the most popular programme in this country (usually costing about £49.95).


It is almost impossible to start your family history research on the internet as closure orders restrict the documents which can be made available.  Initially you need to obtain as much detail as possible from living relatives and family documents.  The next stage is to obtain the details from relevant birth, marriage and death certificates to enable you to search censuses and pre-1855 records in Scotland.

This is the website for the General Register Office for Scotland and gives access to the index and certificates for births (1855 – 1902), marriages (1855 – 1927) and deaths (1855 – 1952), the 1891 and 1901 Census returns, and the extant pre-1855 records contained in the Old Parish Records.  This is a pay-to-view site and 30 credits, costing £6.00, are valid for a period of 48 hours with one credit allows a single page enquiry and to view an image of a document (i.e. a certificate or page of a census return) costs five credits (see also OTHER ALTERNATIVES). There is a free Surname search facility which will let you estimate the frequency of the names you are researching.

This website is that of a section of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS), otherwise known as the Mormons, called the Genealogical Society of Utah (GSU).  The GSU is responsible for providing genealogical source material to the members of the church and also makes this material accessible to the general public world wide completely free of charge.  Some of the databases that can be searched using Family Search are the result of information submitted to GSU by church members and other bodies and are therefore not complete transcriptions of all the available information i.e. the International Genealogical Index (IGI) contains approximately 70% of the records of births/christenings and marriages/proclamations in the Old Parish Registers of Scotland (see also OTHER ALTEFRNATIVES).  This is however, one of the best sites on the internet and is particularly good for Scottish families between 1855 and 1876.  Searches are much more successful if restricted to the IGI or 1881 Census although the latter gives much more detailed results in its CD-ROM version.

The Scottish Archive Network pages give internet access to the written history of Scotland and includes lists of participating archives, exhibitions, featured documents, a family history section and through

offers free access to a fully searchable index of over 350,000 Scottish wills and testaments dating between 1500 and 1875 (soon to be extended to 1901).  High quality digital images of related documents can be purchased for £5.00 (Credit Card payment).

The Scottish Cultural Resources Archive Network (SCRAN) is the award winning history and culture website providing instant access to images, sounds, movies and learning resources.  This is a subscription site costing £29.99.


Searchable database of the first (1791-1799) and second (1845) Statistical Accounts of Scotland giving accounts for each parish.

The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) records and interprets the archaeological sites, monuments and buildings of Scotland’s past and promotes a greater appreciation of their value through the National Monuments Record of Scotland (NMRS).  It gives access to PASTMAP containing over 250,000 records.


This section of the National Library of Scotland website has high quality, downloadable images of early maps of Scotland from 1560 – 1928.  Maps can also be purchased in printed or CD-ROM format.

Provides access to Britain’s most extensive digital historical map archive.  Images of 1859 Ordnance Survey maps can be viewed at various scales and can be purchased if required.

The official website of the Ordnance Survey, Britain’s national mapping agency which gives details of maps available including all those for a specific place and general information on the agency with a special section covering education. 

The Charting the Nation image collection includes a wide variety of single maps in atlases and other bound books, together with important manuscript and printed texts relating to geography and mapping of Scotland from 1550 to 1740 and beyond.


Part of the national Free-Cen Project which will eventually make census returns available on the internet for all years for the whole country.   Searchable database by name, age, parish, etc.  Just over half of the parishes in Ayrshire for 1841 completed as yet but most of the North Carrick parishes are amongst these.

This is a searchable database of individuals recorded in the 1851 Census for Dumriesshire, Kirkudbrightshire and Wigtownshire compiled by Friends of Dumfries Archives and made available free of charge.

A searchable index to a large part of the transcribed Ayrshire Poor Relief can be found in the Ayrshire Poor Relief Database at Ayrshire-Roots.  You must register first before you can use the database but registration is free of charge. 


Unlike Scotland, certificates of birth, marriage and death cannot be viewed and must be purchased.  In order to do this it is first necessary to obtain the relevant reference number from the quarterly indexes.

This site, provided by the consortium, aims to help you find the government records and other sources you need for your family history research.  It contains a beginners guide, lists of topics and partners that are linked from the site, and excellent information on research, holdings and how to obtain documents.  One of the partners, the National Archives (England & Wales)   

will eventually have many images of documents such as census records, certificates, etc. online however at present it is limited to a cross-section of their holdings, certain Cabinet papers and Probate Wills from 1650-1858 (complete back to 1670).  The 1901 census is available at , a pay-to-view site with images of the 1901 Census of England and Wales, searchable by name, address, etc.  Minimum charge £5.00 per 48 hour session and although person searches are then free, images and transcriptions cost 50p/75p to view.  Payment by Credit Card/Voucher.

The Family Research Link site which gives pay-to-view access (10p per view, minimum charge £5.00) to images of the quarterly indexes of births, marriages and deaths in England and Wales (sometimes known as the St. Catherine’s Index).  Can prove difficult and expensive to use if you are looking for an event for someone with a common name and are not sure when the event took place (payment by Credit Card only).


The  website for the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland which contains the major archive holdings for the province.

The Ulster Historical Foundation is a non-profit making educational charity founded in 1956 to promote interest in Irish history and genealogy, with particular reference to the province of Ulster.  They control most of the databases available for family history research in Northern Ireland and require payment for research.  The registration fee for the research service is £25.00 and the minimum research budget is £90.00.  You can ask for a feasibility study or assessment and most people try and find a reciprocal contact in Northern Ireland who will do research there free of charge in return for a similar service in this country.


The website containing information on registration in Ireland and the official site of the General Register Office in Dublin. 

The website of the National Library of Ireland with a lot of information and a very good section on assistance with family history research.

The National Archives of Ireland website contains advice on genealogy research, notes on a free of charge genealogy service for personal visitors and listings of online resources including lists of people transported from Ireland to Australia and Irish wills.

History and Ancestor Tracing in the British Forces  

This section of the Army Museums website contains an easy to use guide to help trace ancestors who served in the British Army.  There are also links within the main site to individual regimental websites. 

Does not contain specific personal details but has two downloadable leaflets with information on tracing Air Force personnel records.

The Royal Navy Museum and Naval Biographical Database – a pay-to-view site although initial enquiries are free.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission website contains details of officers and men from throughout the Commonwealth killed in the two World Wars.


The main site in Britain to link you to all things to do with family history in the UK and Ireland with a large number of excellent links to all the main family history societies and other useful resource centres. This site is very user friendly.

The oldest and largest FREE genealogy site in the world – supported by and with a strong American bias.  

This website is best known internationally as Cyndi’s List and contains simply Cyndi’s list of genealogy sites on the internet.  The most comprehensive and best used portal site for family history research.

Not exactly a web portal but a good general site with links, many topics, history trails, timelines, historic figures, chat rooms and much, much more. Very heavily English biased.


Although very few records exist in this country showing the vast number of people who have emigrated over the last four hundred years, records at the point of immigration are invariably more comprehensive.  One of the best ways of finding lists of immigrants is through the Cyndi’s List or Roots-web portals.  Three examples are given below.

The Ellis-Island or American Family Immigration History Center website gives a free search on surnames or greater detail and shows  Name of Passenger, Residence (before emigration), Year Arrived and Age Upon Arrival for immigrants to America through Ellis Island.

This website for Pictou, Nova Scotia contains lists of passengers on named ships from Scotland (mainly the Hebrides) to Nova Scotia during the 18th and 19th centuries.  

The Commonwealth of Australia is made up of several separate countries and each has its own separate records.  This website shows the passenger lists of immigrants to Western Australia.


           Ayrshire Archives Online

South Ayrshire Scottish & Local History Library and Council Registration



East Ayrshire Libraries - Heritage Services (includes Library, Registration and Information Services)


North Ayrshire Libraries  (select Libraries, then Local History, or Registration

Services etc. from index page)



Alloway & Southern Ayrshire Family History Society  

East Ayrshire Family History Society

Largs & North Ayrshire Family History Society

Troon @ Ayrshire Family History Society