Researching your ancestors from Great Britain and Ireland

A guide to researching your ancestors in England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands, using resources at State Library Victoria.


Begin by using a gazetteer or parish list to locate the parish that your ancestors came from.

  • Use A genealogical atlas of Scotland  to determine the parish of a given locality.
  • The General Register Office for Scotland has produced a List of parishes and registration districts which contains parishes and registration districts, both old and new, the county or council area of each and the years of existence.
  • The Parish List for Scotland lists parishes in alphabetical order, giving the parish number, county in which it is situated, and the date when the Old Parochical Records (Presbyterian Church records) began.

Old Parish Registers (OPR) 1553 - 1854

Before the introduction of civil registration in 1855 the Church of Scotland parish ministers and session clerks kept registers of births and baptisms, proclamations of banns and marriages, and deaths and burials. Approximately 3500 of these Old Parish Register (OPR) volumes have survived.

Compiled from the surviving registers of some 900 parishes of the established church (Church of Scotland), The coverage of the Old Parish Registers varies from parish to parish as registration was not compulsory and there was no standard format for recording information. Records include births and baptisms and banns and marriages but the coverage of burial records is sparse.

Catholic Parish Registers

The Catholic births & baptisms index is compiled from the surviving registers of some 115 parishes of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland and the General Registry of the Roman Catholic Bishopric of the Forces. The index contains entries of birth & baptisms from 1703 until 1908.

Access from home

Access in the Library

Further information

State Library Victoria


In line with the stage 3 restrictions announced by the Premier, State Library Victoria closed on Thursday 9 July.

We will advise when there is any update to this situation.

Our Ask A Librarian  reference service is still available to assist with your research inquiries.