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Old Parish Registers (OPRs)

Before civil registration was made mandatory in 1855, approximately 900 parishes of the Church of Scotland kept registers recording births, baptisms, marriages, proclamations of banns, and deaths. (If you are unfamiliar with the term, banns are the process by which a couple announces aloud during church services that they intend to marry. Following the publication of banns by the church, the couple is free to marry at any time within the next 90 days.)

Old Parish Registers cover the years 1553-1854. The 3,500 surviving registers are by no means comprehensive, and preserve the barest of inconsistently compiled information. In many cases, people did not go to the trouble of registering, especially if they would incur a tax or fee by doing so. Some registers have been preserved in surprisingly good condition (considering their age), with entries written in a legible hand, while others are nearly illegible, with portions eaten away by mice. The information on deaths and burials was particularly poorly kept; currently, the GRO is undertaking the task of indexing pre-1855 burials.

The General Register Office maintains a computerized index to birth, baptism, banns and marriage records, and hardcopy indexes covering some death records. Access to the actual registers is by microfilm.


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