Monday, 21 September 2009

Scottish Catholic Registers – A Preview

As some of you may know, images from Scottish Catholic Sacramental Registers are due to be added to the ScotlandsPeople website in the near future. These registers, which include births and baptisms, marriages, burials and cemetery registers, confirmations and communion records, are held by the Scottish Catholic Archives and the Glasgow Roman Catholic Archdiocesan Archive. They have been digitised by a team at the National Archives of Scotland (NAS) and indexed in India.

The latest information I have is that births and baptisms are due online at the start of October with marriages, deaths, confirmations and communion records to be added later in the year, although this may change.

NAS has long had copies of the registers from pre-1855 parishes (held in RH21) but these were mostly quite poor quality photocopies and not indexed, so you either had to know fairly precisely what you were looking for or have a lot of patience. The new colour digital images will be a great improvement and the indexing and online availability will make the registers accessible to many more researchers.

There are plans to make the images and index available at the ScotlandsPeople Centre in Edinburgh, however I wonder if, like the OPR burial registers, there will be a delay in this happening due to technical issues.

Researchers in Edinburgh will, however, be able to view the images for free on ‘Virtual Volumes’ at NAS, without the name index but with year linking (that is an index added to the images to indicate where each new year in the register begins).

I’ve been looking at some of these Catholic registers recently. The most valuable for genealogists are probably those containing pre-1855 entries (Statutory Registration began in Scotland in 1855) as they may well be the only surviving record of a particular birth, marriage or death (the earliest register starts in 1703 although many do not begin until the mid-1800s). However, the post-1855 registers are certainly also worth a look even if you already have a copy of the relevant civil record as you may find additional details.

Like other Scottish church registers the amount of detail recorded varies considerably, even within the same register. What struck me particularly though were those entries, particularly marriages, which mentioned a place of origin, something I’ve rarely seen in the OPRs of the Church of Scotland.

This is particularly valuable as many Catholics in Scotland (particularly in the south-west) were of Irish origin and making the link back to a particular place in Ireland can be difficult for researchers, especially as census returns often only record a place of birth as ‘Ireland’.

The following marriage entry comes from the register for Dalbeattie, Diocese of Galloway:

June 25th 1815 at St Peter’s Dalbeattie Arthur Murphy Native of Parish of Minan, County Down, Ireland to Jane Macnight, Native of Parish of Buitle, and both presently residing in said parish. Witnesses Robert and Euphemia Macnight, James Copland & others.

Note: Minan is possibly Meenan, a townland in County Down.

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