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Obtaining Certified Extracts of Scottish Birth and Marriage Records

Jim Strachan, FSA Scot
January 8, 2011

This article is written for those interested in petitioning the Court of the Lord Lyon for a new grant or matriculation of Arms. 

Scottish Arms are inheritable property, and the petition itself consists of several claims including, but not necessarily limited to, genealogical claims.  In Scotland, Arms are legally enforceable, and they are more about one's genealogy then the artwork itself.

The Court of the Lord Lyon requires each claim in a petition to be supported via  documentation that satisfactorily proves the claim.  The genealogical documentation often required by the Court of the Lord Lyon is original or certified copies (aka official extracts) of birth and marriage certificates.

Unfortunately, it is extremely rare a Petitioner for Scottish Arms has all the supporting documentation needed to adequately satisfy the Lord Lyon. 

Rather than hunting down relatives and asking if they know where, for example, your parents or grandparents marriage certificate might be located; many find it easier and much quicker to order a certified copy of their genealogical records from the General Register Office of Scotland.

Individuals may order official extracts of birth, adoption, marriage, divorce, civil partnerships, dissolution, death registers, or Old Parish Registers.  The cost as of the date of this article is
£10 per extract.  A very reasonable fee.  Additionally, you may contact the GRO directly to purchase an extract(s) by mail, in person, or via the telephone. 

Obviously, in order to order the official extract, you would be required to know the names, place and date of the event (i.e., birth or marriage).

If you do not have sufficient information identifying information about your relative, then you have a couple of options.

  • You can search
  • You can go the GRO yourself and perform research, or
  • You can hire a genealogist to perform the research for you.
If you live in Edinburgh you can perform research yourself at the GRO by purchasing a pass (Full or Part Day £10, one quarter £440, and one year £1,250).

According to Leaflet
S3[1], the GRO will not offer individual help for the durination of a customer's visit.  However, staff will provide instructions on how to use the equipment in each search room, how to access the records, locate the mirofiche and microfilm (if required) and give general advise on tracing your family tree, as well as library material.

If you decide to perform personal research, the GRO asks that you do not bring with you any large items like a suitcase or a backpack, as they do not limited space available.  For reasons of security and to protect the records from damage or theft they ask for your cooperation by letting them search you, including any handbag, briefcase or other type of bag you brought into the building.

You may use a laptop computer, on completion of a disclaimer form, but it must be silent in operation.  Digital scanning cameras are not allowed in the search rooms.

General Register Office of Scotland

New Register House
Edinburgh EH1 3YT
Tel. +44 (0) 131-334 0380

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