Saturday, January 27, 2007

Scotland's one-stop online data repository

I read the news item in Dick Eastman's blog and also in Leland Meitzler's blog, -- the web site for Scottish ancestral data sounded wonderful. While both blog posts indicated that the data was, for the most part, on a fee basis, they didn't say what the fees were.

I signed up (for free) easily - you fill in the form, including a username, and they send you an email with a password. You can then login, and change the password if you wish - it took about 2 minutes to do it all. Registering allowed me to check out the data offered, see sample images, and read the help pages. What does Scotland's People offer?

The surname search on the Homepage is free and covers all records, allowing you to check how many records of a particular surname appear in the various datasets, before you commit to payment.

Access to the index of wills and testaments is free of charge. Viewing full-colour, actual size digital images of an original will, testament or inventory costs 5GBP per document, regardless of length.

Access to statutory, OPR and census indexes costs 6GBP. For this fee, you will receive 30 "page credits" which are valid for 90 consecutive days. Viewing a page of index results costs 1 credit and each page will contain up to 25 search results. Viewing an image costs 5 credits (equivalent to 1GBP).

Your session begins when payment has been authorised and additional credits may be purchased in 6GBP increments. The session will restart with each new credit purchase.

The specific databases include:

1) Old Parish Registers, 1553 to 1854 (depends on the parish of course) - Births and Baptisms, Marriages and Banns. These are the church records before Statutory Registration started. The images for these records were recently added, and this resulted in the Eastman and Meitzler blog posts.

2) Statutory Registers - Births (1855-1906), Marriages (1855-1931) and Deaths (1855-1956). These are the government registration efforts which started in 1855.

3) Census Records - 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891 and 1901. These are the same years as the rest of the UK.

4) Wills and Testaments (1513-1901). The search of the index is FREE at this time. The actual documents are fee-based - they cost 25 credits (5 GBP, about US $10), page count doesn't matter.

The fee structure for 1), 2) and 3) is complex: each credit costs 20 pence (about USD $0.40).

* To view an index of your search is 1 credit per page (there are about 25 items per page).

* To view an image from the index costs 5 credits (1 GBP, about US $2). The exception is an 1881 census transcription, which is only 1 credit.

If you have Scottish ancestry, this is obviously the easiest, and probably the cheapest, way to search for your people in the records. Having this site, and being so user-friendly and easy-to-use, will likely put all of the genealogists who used to do lookups by mail out of business.

There is really nothing like "being there" at least once to trod the green hills, see the blue lakes and walk the graveyards. We visited Edinburgh and St. Andrews in 1993, but I didn't have Scottish ancestry, or a known friend with it, at the time. I do now - my cousins in Salem NH have Scottish ancestry on their grandfather's side - Wood is the surname, and there are lots of them in the Indexes! Now I can tell them that they can do the research from home in their pajamas...maybe they'll ask me to do it for them. I love a challenge.

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