Book Review: Discover Scottish Civil Registration Records by Chris Paton.

Discover Scottish Civil Registration Records by Chris Paton

Discover Scottish Civil Registration Records. By Chris Paton. Published by Unlock the Past, P.O. Box 119, St. Agnes SA 5097, Australia. 2013. 52 pp. Illustrations, index. Softcover. AU$17. Available as an e-book at  AUS$7.95

If you have literally any questions about the civil registration process in Scotland, then this book will probably have the answer. The book is well researched and thorough. It has been over a decade since I wrote about this subject in detail in my own book on Scottish research and I kept thinking as I read this – did I mention that, and in most cases the answer was yes for we had in fact used the same legal guide by Bisset-Smith for the details we wanted. This book is a lot simpler to read than the legal guide and gives the details you need to understand the process.

The book is divided into two parts. The first, much larger section, addresses civil registration in Scotland, while the second part explains registration in the other parts of the British Isles. For Scotland, the book explains how the process got established in 1855 (for comparison England started in 1837); it explains the registration processes and how they changed over the years for births, marriages and deaths. You might say that most books on Scottish research provide this information and my clear response is – not at this level of detail. For example, it explains who the preferred candidates were for registering a birth, who was responsible, how long they had to do it, and what the consequences were (legal and financial) if they did not do it in time. It explains how the rules changed when the child is illegitimate, even if the parents later married. The devil can be in the details and all the answers to these questions are different from the rules and procedures in the rest of the British Isles, so you can’t come to Scotland with experience from elsewhere and apply them here for they are not same.

In the marriage section there is a clear discussion on what the difference is between a regular and irregular marriage and the effect on registration. It also explains how and why things changed with the introduction of civil marriage and same sex marriages.

For each of the birth, marriage and death sections it also addresses the minor records that are applicable to Scotland, which are much more readily accessible now, such as: foreign returns; consular returns; foreign registers; events at sea or in the air; military returns, etc.  One unusual, but helpful addition is a section on vaccination records, how to locate them, and especially what happened when parents did not follow through with the compulsory vaccination.

The book acknowledges the use of ScotlandsPeople to access the records but does not go into depth on how to do so, as there is another book by this publisher on how to us ScotlandsPeople. This book does include information on how the records might be accessed, for specific time periods, on other websites such as FamilySearch.

There is a section addressing the principals of civil registration in: England and Wales; British overseas and military records; Ireland; and Crown dependencies. This section does not go into as much depth and the author is not on as firm a ground as he is with Scottish records, omitting how many days the parents had to register a birth, and the effect this has on index searching; or how a burial can occur when a death certificate is not issued. These weaknesses in the English section do not detract from the book overall for the focus is on the Scottish records. The book is current and hot off the press for it mentions the 17 July 2013 formal royal assent of the Marriage (Same Sex) Couples Act of 2013.

This highly recommended slim guide to Scotland’s civil registration records is packed full of the details that genealogists love. It will help you understand the rules and processes by which your ancestors registered the key events in their lives.

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