BEST WEBSITES FOR FINDING LOCAL AND FAMILY HISTORY - COVERING AYRSHIRE,
SCOTTISH FAMILY HISTORY, NATIONAL RESOURCES AND THE BEST INTERNATIONAL
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.
Maybole Historical Society for Adult Learners Week 2003
© Ayrloom May 2003
HINTS AND TIPS
When inputing data to a search form or search engine
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
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’,
Certain specific databases are equipped with what is commonly termed
This means that the database will automatically be searched for similar
sounding words or names. For instance if you search the
database for ‘steel’ it will automatically return results for ‘Steel’,
‘Steele’, ‘Steil’, etc.
as SOUNDEX is not infallible and many Scottish names have alternative
spellings it does not cope with.
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.
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
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.
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
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
Family History Software, CD-ROM’s etc. can be found at
FAMILY HISTORY SOFTWARE
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
(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
is a shareware programme which can be
downloaded free of charge
from their website at
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
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)
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
There is a
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
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
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.
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
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.
SOME OTHER SCOTTISH SITES
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
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
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
SOME LOCAL SITES WORTH VISITING
Part of the national Free-Cen Project which will eventually make
available on the internet for all years for the whole country.
Searchable database by name, age, parish, etc. Just over half of the
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
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.
ENGLAND & WALES
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
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
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
History and Ancestor Tracing in the British Forces
This section of the Army Museums website contains an easy to use guide to
ancestors who served in the British Army.
There are also links within the main site to individual regimental
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
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
The oldest and
largest FREE genealogy site in the world
– supported by Ancestry.com and with a strong American bias.
This website is best known internationally as
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
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
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
immigrants to Western Australia.
AYRSHIRE ARCHIVES, LIBRARIES & REGISTRARS
Ayrshire Archives Online
Scottish & Local History Library and Council Registration
Libraries - Heritage Services (includes Library, Registration and
Libraries (select Libraries, then Local History, or Registration
Services etc. from index
FAMILY HISTORY SOCIETIES
Alloway & Southern Ayrshire
Family History Society
East Ayrshire Family History
Largs & North Ayrshire Family
Troon @ Ayrshire Family
REMEMBER – THIS IS ONLY A
SELECTION OF THE BEST WEB SITES AVAILABLE!