Monday, 31 March 2014

Illegitimate Ancestor? Try the Sheriff Court!

Thanks to our wonderful volunteer, Margaret Hamilton, we now have an extensive index to ‘paternity’ cases found in the Sheriff Courts of southern Scotland.

What are we indexing

We are indexing cases where the mother of a child took the father to court for aliment, to help her provide for the child. In these cases the child is almost always illegitimate. The mother had to prove who the father was: It’s genealogical gold dust!

See our help pages for more information on how the process worked.


At the moment we have indexed the following courts for the following years:

Dumfries 1830-1914
Duns 1830-1914
Jedburgh 1831-1892
Peebles 1837-1914
Selkirk 1830-1914

Update September 2014

Hawick 1894-1914
Kirkcudbright 1748-1765, 1830-1914 (excluding the years 1877-78, 1890-91 and 1907-09 which are missing from the original register)
Stranraer 1887-1914
Wigtown 1830-1914
Edinburgh 1830-1836


Searching our online collections is absolutely free and there is no need to register. If you wish to keep up-to-date you can subscribe to my newsletter.

You can search by any one or a combination of the following search fields:

Mother’s forename
Mother’s surname
Father’s forename
Father’s surname
Year of birth
Year of case


If a child is recorded in the census with a different surname to the mother it is probably the father’s surname, use it to narrow down the search results.

Search Results

Our online index gives comprehensive results:

Pursuer's Name, Occupation and Residence
Defender's Name, Occupation and Residence
Year the Child was born
Year of the Case
Name of Court

Seeing the full record

The index should be enough to identify records relating to your family. You can then order the decree from us for just five pounds. For the research fee of five pounds we transcribe the entry and email that to you along with digital images* of the decree.

It may also be possible to find additional court material, such as witness testimonies. If it is possible in your case we will advise you of this when we send you the transcription of the decree.

*Please note that any images given to you by Scottish Indexes of National Records of Scotland documents are provided for your own personal research and may not be published [including online] without the relevant licences/permissions being granted.