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.
  • On the National Records of Scotland website you can find two guides which list parish and registration districts, both old and new -
    The Parishes and Registration Districts of Scotland by name guide (1.4 MB pdf) lists all parishes and districts in alphabetical order with the dates during which each was operative. It is based on the former General Register Office for Scotland publication 'The registration districts of Scotland from 1855' known as the 'Blue book'. This version includes all changes up to January 2009 as well as parish references and dates for the Old Parish Registers from 1553 to 1854.
    The Parishes and Registration Districts of Scotland by number guide (1.4 MB pdf) lists all the parishes and districts arranged by reference number. The `blue book' had appendices showing the registration 

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