It may not come as a surprise to anyone, but I have no Scottish ancestors at all. You would be right in thinking I have Welsh ones (my Mum had to insist on giving me an English middle name). Being based in Somerset, you would also be right in thinking that I have ancestors from the South West at the very least (they are in fact, pretty much exclusively from the South West, even some on my Dad’s Welsh side!). So, Scottish research is not something that is in my blood, quite literally. Since I did my genealogy training, I learnt more about Scottish research and now have a certain amount of knowledge about it. It is still nice (and definitely necessary) though, to keep on learning. This is why I was very excited when a friend introduced me to the ScottishIndexes website recently.
Those of you who do Scottish research more frequently may already know about this website, so bear with me.
Like most websites holding various categories of record, there are simple and advanced search functions, where little or more information can be searched for- I won’t go into techniques for searching here. Information can be found on each record set, giving details about the coverage and a bit of background can be found in links to the Learning Zone. There is also a help page for searching the online indexes, a blog, bookshop and the option to purchase research from the owners of the website, Graham and Emma Maxwell.
The record sets that are searchable on the website are small in number (13) when compared to many other websites such as ScotlandsPeople and FamilySearch especially. In my opinion though, it is easier to navigate than some of the record sets on FamilySearch because so many are unindexed films or fiches. There do also seem to be some sets that ScotlandsPeople may not have, such as the Prison and Mental Health Registers. That doesn’t mean however, that some of the other record sets aren’t held elsewhere. The index for the Register of Sasines is compiled from records held at the National Records of Scotland in Edinburgh. In this case, the online index may make these particular records easier to access before ordering original documents.
I am particularly impressed with the Census record sets that ScottishIndexes have available. In my opinion, not only is the search function easier to navigate than FamilySearch or Ancestry, but the transcription of each household is more comprehensive. Data for referencing is more obvious, you don’t have to go hunting for it so much and there are links to various maps (held by the National Library of Scotland) for the location of the household. Two other features which are very useful are the links to the same family on the 1851 and 1861 census (where available) and notes (presumably made by the transcriber) about possible marriages and deaths of household members. This certainly gives the researcher possible places to look for life events, especially in the event of common names. It is also easier to narrow down the search for whoever you are looking for before buying credits on ScotlandsPeople to see the original record.
The record sets held by the website are by no means comprehensive. The only post-1841 censuses are 1841, 1851 and 1861, but it seems those involved are trying to crowdsource funding for additional data to be transcribed. This has good potential for expansion of the sets already held and for further ones to be added in the future.
I found ScottishIndexes a good aid to Scottish research, especially in terms of accessibility of some of the records that can be found elsewhere and those that can’t. I may not have any Scottish ancestors of my own, but I enjoyed using this website. Don’t forget that it is made up of transcriptions though and viewing the original record is always the next best step- you never know what else you might find.