In order to be accurate and effective in your research, you need to use the ScotlandsPeople website: http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk/. This is the website for the records of the General Register's Office (GRO). Their website is the online repository for all official documents: birth, marriage, death, census, wills and testaments. This is the only place where you can view the original images. Other online databases only have transcriptions or indices and you will miss out a great deal of information by solely relying on them.
ScotlandsPeople is a pay-per-view site, so be prepared. You can purchase 30 credits for £7.50 ($12.60 cdn/$9.40usd). The index of search results is free to view. But to view the actual image, it will cost you six credits. Once you access the image, you can download or print for your own records and you can view it again as many times as you want for no additional cost. Credits are purchased in bundles of 30 (£7.50), 40 (£10), 80 (£20) or 160 (£40) and are good for one year from the date of purchase.
Likely the number one user complaint about the ScotlandsPeople website is how easy it is to waste credits and how expensive the credits are. It certainly is easy to plough through the credits, especially when you are on a roll and the finds start pouring across your screen. However, not wasting credits really comes down to using your genealogy detective skills.
It takes a completely different mindset to use this website because it is not a subscription website. Part of the joy in genealogy is the thrill of the hunt. We tune into, hone and cultivate our inner detective. Use those detective skills.
Pay attention to the documents
Pay attention to the clues on the documents and the information that is on them.
From the baby's birth certificate, we get the date and place of marriage of the parents. This will give you the information you need to proceed with searching marriage records for the parents. Set your search filters accordingly. Have the county and parish filters to the place where the marriage took place.
From the marriage register you will find the names for each partner’s parents, including the maiden names of the mothers. You will also get the marital status of each person, which will allow you to know if they have been previously married (and divorced or widowed). You will learn whether the parents of both the bride and groom are still living or have died. If any of the four are deceased by the time of the marriage, you know to limit your search years for their death registration to the year that the marriage took place at the upper end, and the approximate year of birth of either the bride or groom.
On the death registration, you will get the names of all spouses the person has had throughout their life. If more than just your ancestor is listed, then you can go can start searching for the other marriage records.
This is perhaps the most vital piece of the research. Yes, that darn naming pattern makes everything frustrating. But use that to your advantage. If all of your ancestors are Hugh, Walter, Archie and Henry, you can likely rule out the Davids, Stephens, and Alexanders for now. Remember the importance of knowing your parishes. If all of your ancestors in a certain line lived in Inverness, then the likelihood of the one in Dumfries being yours isn't terribly high.
Develop your reasoning skills
Being able to think through a problem without making illogical leaps will help you resolve conflicting information. And it will help you to understand what caused the conflict in the first place.
Citing Your Sources
Here are the basics for citing your sources in Scottish research. When you download a document from the ScotlandsPeople's website, the website auto-generates the source citation for you:
SURNAME, FIRST NAME (record collection GRO number)
©Crown Copyright, National Records of Scotland. Image was generated on (date and time stamp)
It's really that simple. The GRO number contains the volume or register number/the page number/the entry number so your source citation will look something like this:
HADDOW, MAGGIE (Census 1891 694/00 006/00)
©Crown Copyright, National Records of Scotland. Image was generated on 11 March 2011.
It is your choice whether you add in the link to the ScotlandsPeople website. It is not necessary but certainly allowable. This may be an adaptation you make to the main citation format.
Other repositories will require a different format. The University of Strathclyde has a great guide for citing just about every source you can imagine. Here is the link to it: