Where to research your family history in Scotland

Researching your family history is a voyage of discovery, so follow in the footsteps of your ancestors on a visit to Scotland and explore the real story of your heritage. The country is home to a vast collection of local historical publications, maps and archives to help you uncover your Scottish roots, and you can use the clan search to find out more.

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  • The headstone of Clan Mackintosh at Culloden Battlefield near Inverness
    The headstone of Clan Mackintosh at Culloden Battlefield near Inverness
  • The smugglers exhibition of the World of Boats collection at Eyemouth Maritime Centre
    The smugglers exhibition of the World of Boats collection at Eyemouth Maritime Centre
  • The courtyard at Foulis Castle, Ross-shire
    Foulis Castle, Ross-shire
  • People working in the Heritage Hub - the Scottish Borders Archive and Local History Centre, Hawick
    The Heritage Hub - the Scottish Borders Archive and Local History Centre, Hawick
  • New Register House, Edinburgh
    New Register House, Edinburgh

The exterior of General Register House - the Scotlands People CentreStart your tour in the research centres of Scotland’s historic capital city, Edinburgh. Located in the heart of this beautiful city is Scotland’s People Centre, the largest family history centre in Scotland and home to the National Records of Scotland, one of the most varied collections of archives in Europe.

Top tip: All family history and genealogical information are digitised so you can print or save images to memory stick for a permanent reminder of your work.

Those searching for further in-depth knowledge could also pay a visit to the Scottish Genealogy Society on Victoria Terrace. You’ll find plenty of fellow travellers and enthusiastic researchers, as well as wealth of genealogical information and guidance.

Situated in Edinburgh’s Old Town, the recently refurbished National Museum of Scotland is a fantastic place to explore Scottish history from early geological times through to the present day. Why not also visit the ancient fortress of Edinburgh Castle or explore the famous Royal Mile and the many historical closes?

Outside the Heritage Hub - the Scottish Borders Archive and Local History CentreMake sure you visit the ancestral home of your clan. Ancestral castles can be a fantastic holiday experience and many have historic woodlands and gardens to explore. A tour of the castle is an excellent way to learn more about your clan and local history of the area. Why not explore the local churches and cemeteries and see the graves and burial grounds of ancestors?

Each region of Scotland has a wealth of resources to help take your ancestral quest further. You could hire a car and travel round the country yourself or travel with others on a guided tour.

Excellent local research centres to visit include the Scottish Borders Archive and Local History Centre, Hawick. The centre has recently developed a new state-of-the-art-archive and includes a large collection of local historical publications, maps and archives covering everything from the Borders A tour in the Highland Archive and Registration Centre, InvernessReivers (raiders along the Anglo-Scottish border) to weavers. In East Lothian, the John Gray Centre in Haddington has an extensive archive collection featuring parish registers, manuscripts, images and much more, which give an insight into the history of the region. In Glasgow, Family History at The Mitchell offers keen historians the chance to research their ancestors from all over the west of Scotland.

Those from the Highlands and Islands should head to Inverness and the Highland Council Genealogy Centre to uncover historical records that date back to the 14th century at the new Highland Archive Centre.

There are a number of visitor attractions across the country which will give a greater insight into how your ancestors lived.

In Fife, visit the multi-award winning Scottish Fisheries Museum in Anstruther, with its collection of tales from the East Neuk villages, or head to the Perth Museum and Art Gallery, one of the oldest museums in Britain. In Dundee, you can explore the Verdant Works, a former jute mill. The city was once the jute capital of the modern world and an industry where many locals made their living.

If your family came from the Borders then it is quite likely they would have worked in the flourishing textiles industry. You can learn more about this industry and the fascinating heritage of the area at the Borders Textile Towerhouse, Hawick.

Maybe your ancestors were part of the notorious smugglers trade? Find out more and see an atmospheric gun deck as well as living quarters of the period at the Eyemouth Maritime Museum Centre.

You can also find out if your clan was involved in the last battle to be fought on British soil at the award-winning visitor centre at Culloden Battlefield in the Highlands.

For more information about tracing your Scottish ancestry, visit the Ancestral Scotland website where you will find more ideas and useful information about tracing your family roots across Scotland.