Tuesday, 23 February 2021

Smart Searching on ScotlandsPeople

We have all been in that situation, made a 1911 census search on ScotlandsPeople only to have five or more options that could all be our ancestor!

You can save those precious credits by making some smart searches.

Although you can add a ‘Forename of other person on that census page’, which can be helpful, this is not so helpful if you are searching for Johns, Marys and Williams as the chances are those names are on quite a lot of Scottish census pages!

When you get your list of results you are given Surname, Forename, Year, Gender, Age, Ref, RD Name and County/City.

The first five columns are self-explanatory, but what about ‘Ref’ and ‘RD Name’, what do these mean?

‘Ref’ is reference, this is displayed as a number, e.g. ‘569/ 1/ 7’. The first number which in this case is 569 represents the Registration District (RD) which is in this case Kilmacolm.

Over time some places grew rapidly and the registration districts were divided, when this happened we may see a district number like 572/2 which is Barrhead and Levern.

Returning to our original example of ‘Ref’ 569/ 1/ 7, the 1 represents the enumeration book and the 7 represents the page. 

Why is this useful? All members of a standard household will be either on the same page or on the page before or following. 

How can this help? Let’s say you find a John Smith in Kilmacolm, he’s the right age but you are not sure it’s quite right. Refine your search, take out the forename and age but look for all ‘Smiths’ in the district of Kilmacolm. 

Once you get the search results up look to see who has the reference ‘569/ 1/ 7’. Also, watch out for ‘569/ 1/ 6’ and ‘569/ 1/ 8’ in case the family splits over two pages!

You have now effectively recreated the family group and you can easily work out if this is ‘your’ John Smith before you spend those credits. 

This is going to be particularly helpful for the 1911 census as it is not available on other websites. If you are struggling to find people in earlier census years use websites like Freecen and ScottishIndexes to make free searches, or if you have a Findmypast or Ancestry subscription use their search to identify the family then go to ScotlandsPeople to see the original image.

Monday, 22 February 2021

Conversations, photographs and documents; taken out of context they can all be misunderstood!

We’ve all been in that situation, having heard a conversation and got the wrong end of the story. The same can happen with documents. We look at an entry half way through a volume and misunderstand what we are looking at. 

There was an example this morning in our group, a member asked why a 1902 list of Glasgow voters were all women. Good question! It seemed odd, and there were some ideas as to why this may be, but how would we get to the truth?

I went to Ancestry where we can view the records (https://www.ancestry.co.uk/search/collections/61020/) and found the entry that was mentioned in our group. I then paged back to the start of the section to read the heading which read, ‘Supplementary list of persons other than Parliamentary Electors entitled to vote in the election of the Town Councillors for the City and Royal Burgh of Glasgow’. These women were therefore only permitted to vote in certain elections. Their male counterparts will have already been listed in the other lists. Interestingly this list is not all women. There are some men but predominantly women are listed.

What do we learn? Don’t take a record out of context. If you can, page through to the start of the volume or section. Find out who created a record and why. Read other entries to see the whole picture.

Join our Facebook group to join in the conversation. www.facebook.com/groups/scottishindexes

Tuesday, 12 January 2021

Tips for finding our ancestors in the 1911 census

As many of you will know the 1911 census for Scotland is not available on Findmypast or Ancestry. The Orkney 1911 census has been transcribed and is available from the Orkney FHS.

This means that we have to use the census on ScotlandsPeople which is a pay-per-view website. If we are researching a common name in a densely populated area we may have to look at many entries before we find the right one. 

How can we save those credits?

I will be sharing some tips at our conference on 30 January 2021 but here is one for you today.

Use Street Indexes

Before the census was available to public access, street indexes were prepared for large towns and cities. These can be helpful as they tell you which streets are in each registration district and even which census enumeration book. 

For example, earlier today I was searching for someone who I knew had been living at 272 Buchanan Street Glasgow in 1909. I wanted to work out from the ScotlandsPeople index (without paying anything) if any of the possible results could relate to 272 Buchanan Street.

First I went to the census street index for Glasgow and I was told that 272 Buchanan Street was in registration district number 644/8 and the relevant enumeration book was number 29.

Sadly you can’t use these reference numbers to search on ScotlandsPeople so I needed to work out what the name of registration district number 644/8 was in 1911. For rural areas, this isn’t such a problem but there are loads of districts in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee. It can all get a bit confusing. 

I now headed to the ‘Registration District guide - Glasgow’ which told me that in 1911 (very important to look at the date column) 644/8 was St. Rollox registration district.

I could now return to ScotlandsPeople and narrow down my search to St. Rollox. You can’t narrow it down to the enumeration book but we are looking for entries from 644/8 29. 

On ScotlandsPeople you will also see a page number as part of the reference number, for example we may see, ‘644/8 29/ 26’ This is registration district (RD) 644/8, enumeration book 29, page 26.

If I had originally thought that the entry with the reference 644/8 29/ 26 was 272 Buchanan Street, Glasgow, I would now know that it wasn’t and therefore I could save my credits for another search.

There are 1911 Census Street Indexes for the following places in Scotland:




Bothkennar, Grangemouth and Polmont

Bothwell, Holytown and Bellshill







East and West Calder




Greenock, Gourock and Port Glasgow





Kirkcaldy and Dysart

Lewis and Harris


New Kilpatrick

New Monkland

Old Kilpatrick

Old Monkland - Western District, Coatbridge and Old Monkland - Eastern District

Paisley, Johnstone and Elderslie



St Ninians


The Street Indexes are free from the National Records of Scotland here: https://www.nrscotland.gov.uk/research/guides/census-records/1911-census#Street%20indexes

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. There are also pages with further breakdowns of the cities of Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow. See: https://www.nrscotland.gov.uk/research/guides/statutory-registers/registration-districts

I hope this helps you understand the referencing system a bit more and will hopefully save you some of those credits while you hunt for your ancestors. Hope you can join us at the next conference for more Scottish genealogy tips!