Scotland, A Scene in the Highlands, 1793. A picture of someone's ancestors.

6 Tips to Researching Your Ancestors Whilst Visiting Scotland

WALK IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF YOUR ANCESTORS

“So this is the house where great grandfather was born!  He must have walked along this road to school. Here’s the church where my great great grandparents were married.”

Spine-tingling stuff…

If you have Scottish or Highland ancestry, this could be your experience too. For that to happen, it’s crucial to start preparing before your visit so that you can make the most of your time here. Here are some tips.

  1. Check what you know already about your ancestors. Write down names, places and dates or  review the research you’ve done. If you have older relatives, speak to them to see what they know.

  2. Don’t forget to bring this information with you when you visit.  Laptop, iPad, tablet, phone, notebook, folder, it doesn’t matter. Just don’t rely on your memory!

  3. Think about what you would like to find out or the places you would like to visit.  Is it seeing the church where your great grandfather was baptised? Or checking out family gravestones? Or finding out more about crofting life in the Highlands? What local library, museum or archive will you need to visit? What are their opening times?

  4. Look at maps, understand the geography.  The Highlands cover quite a big area and roads are not fast. Don’t underestimate how long it can take to get from place to place. Ten minutes in a place certainly won’t give you time to visit a museum or heritage centre or even soak up the atmosphere.

  5. Perhaps do some pre-research.  The Scotlands People Website is the only website where you can search, view and print original Scottish birth, marriage, death and census records. Indexes on sites such as Ancestry do not contain all the information though they can help you narrow down the records you will need to check.

  6. Consider hiring a genealogist to do work for you. Researching your family history can be fun but also challenging, time consuming and full of pitfalls in identifying the correct family. Why not leave these challenges to a professional genealogist who is experienced in researching the records and knows the geography of Scotland well?

Good preparation can reap great rewards. Enjoy your planning and your holiday!

Tips provided by Jane Harris, a professional genealogist based near Inverness, who can help you with your research. For a comprehensive list of useful websites and places to visit check out Jane’s Links page.