As I mentioned in a previous post (How to find your Scottish Ancestry), Scotland has some of the best online genealogy resources anywhere in the World. However, one website that is often overlooked by family historians researching their Scottish roots is ScotlandsPlaces. This is a pity as ScotlandsPlaces has loads of really useful record sets, many of which date from the 1700s or earlier. So this post is a look a ScotlandsPlaces, an amazing free resource.

Free Scottish Genealogy on ScotlandsPlaces. Bespoke Genealogy


ScotlandsPlaces was launched in 2009 and is a collaboration between three Scottish archives – Historic Environment Scotland, the National Records of Scotland and the National Library of Scotland. The site originally charged a subscription, but since 2016 it has been completely free to access all its records.

The site is effectively a sister site to ScotlandsPeople and contains historical tax rolls as well as other records relating to places in Scotland such as Ordnance Survey Name Books, maps, photographs, drawings and archaeological records.

As well as access to scanned images of original documents there are also transcriptions for most of them.


Tax Rolls

The site has access to a very interesting range of tax records:

As only the wealthier members of society paid taxes during these times, you won’t find many of the working classes listed on these rolls. However, if your ancestors were in service, you may find them named on the servant tax rolls.

Ordnance Survey Name Books

These books were compiled during the surveying of the first edition Ordnance Survey maps of Britain in the mid 19th century. They contain a rich detail of the terrain surveyed including significant rocks, beaches, farms and houses.

Here are a couple of example entries from a single page to give an idea of the type of information recorded in these books:

Ref OS1/3/8/8. Ayrshire OS Name Books, 1855-1857, Volume 8, page 8.

  • Airloch – At the South of plan. about 9 chains S of Airloch Knowe.
    A farm house with out offices Situated adjacent to & N of Ballochdoan- built of lime & Stone, one storey high and in good State of Repair.-
    Property of J. C. Moore
  • Airloch Knowe – South West of & adjacent to Craigangaoth
    A Knoll adjacent to and North of Earlic from which it takes its name. There is a Trigl. Station on it. Property of J. C. Moore

Most entries link to the relevant Ordnance Survey map.

Maps and Plans

Many of the records on ScotlandsPlaces link to relevant maps and plans. The maps also link to the National Library of Scotland site where the maps are held. Here you are able to zoom in on the maps for greater detail.

Other Records

ScotlandsPlaces also gives access to some photograph collections, archaeological records, reports and publications. For a full list see the Records page.

How to use ScotlandsPlaces

The site is very easy to use. If you want to browse a record set, simply go to the Records page and select a link. You’ll notice that some records, like the Ordnance Survey maps aren’t browsable. You can only access these when you search for a specific place.

The best way to search for records is to use the Places page.

Places page. Bespoke Genealogy

ScotlandsPlaces Places Page

Enter the name of a place where your ancestor lived and search. As an example, I searched for the place called Aberfeldy which was in the old county of Perthshire.

ScotlandsPlaces Search results. Bespoke Genealogy

Search results for Aberfeldy

The search result gives me a short paragraph about the place and links to record sets relating to it. In this case (above) there are 3 record sets available – land tax rolls, health reports and the local Ordnance Survey Name Books.  Drilling down gives more details about the records:

ScotlandsPlaces Links. Bespoke Genealogy

Aberfeldy records

Drilling down further will take you to the actual record with a transcription as well as links to maps etc.

Even if you don’t find any records relating to a specific person, you should find useful information about the place where your ancestor lived in Scotland. These place records are especially useful if your ancestor lived in a fairly remote area. In this case you should find details which are not available anywhere else.

Happy researching!

For more useful Scottish websites and information see:

For further reading you may find these books helpful:

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