The General Register Office for Scotland was set up in 1855. On 1 April 2011 the General Register Office for Scotland and the National Archives of Scotland amalgamated to form the National Records of Scotland. The National Records of Scotland combines the work of the two bodies, including the ScotlandsPeople family history website and centre, and builds on the existing close working relationship between the General Register Office for Scotland and the National Archives of Scotland.
A Little History, (165 kb Adobe Acrobat portable document format file(PDF)) gives details of Our History and the registration under which we work. A shorter version is provided below.
Over 400 years ago a Provincial Council of the Scottish clergy meeting in Edinburgh enacted that a register of baptisms and marriages should be kept. Later, an Act of the Privy Council, which followed a proposal of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, decreed that parish registers of baptisms, burials and marriages should be kept by every minister in Scotland. Church Ministers continued to be responsible for maintaining the registers of these events until 1854 when Parliament passed an Act 'to provide for the better registration of births, deaths and marriages in Scotland', thus transferring the responsibility from church to State and putting a statutory obligation on individuals to register vital events.
The 1854 Act provided for the setting up of the General Registry (sic) Office, the appointment of a Registrar General and the appointment of registrars in every parish. It also provided that the Registrar General should produce an annual report to be forwarded to the Home Secretary to be laid before Parliament containing 'a general abstract of the numbers of births, deaths and marriages registered during the foregoing year'. The first general abstract (relating to 1855) was submitted in 1856. This was in the form of a report composed of tables and text. Many of the tables are similar to those produced for modern Annual Reports: for example, tables giving numbers of deaths by cause of death, sex, age and area within Scotland. On the other hand, the text goes well beyond what we think of as appropriate to include today. Thus, the report relating to 1855 discusses not only 'the specific diseases which are the more immediate gateways (or trap doors) through which our race drops into the grave' but also 'other agencies which powerfully modify these diseases, and their action on mankind'. These other agencies included the state of trade, including the question of wages paid, and the fullness of employment, the price and quality of provisions, and the weather.
One conclusion of this first 'annual report' was that the year 1855 was not one in which trade was dull, or employment for the working classes scarce, as was best proved by the sums which were deposited by the working classes in the savings banks that year. There was a good deal of speculation as to the causes of illegitimacy. It was noted that in many cases the parents of the illegitimate children were 'cohabiting as married parties and were true to each other' much the same as today. It was also noted that, in rural areas, the smaller the average size of the farms, the greater the number of illegitimate births. It is not, perhaps, surprising that the reports were written in this way, bearing in mind that they were written at a time when statistics were increasingly being seen as instruments for social change.
Section 2 of the Registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages (Scotland) Act 1854, which provided for the setting up of a compulsory system of registration in Scotland required the provision of an office in the General Register House at Edinburgh to be called "The General Registry Office of Births, Deaths and Marriages" and the appointment of a Registrar General - the appointee to be the person for the time being holding the office of Deputy to the Lord Clerk Register. The Deputy Clerk Register was, in terms of section 5 of the Lord Clerk Register (Scotland) Act 1879, required to be an Advocate of the Scottish Bar of not less than ten years standing.
Section 3 of the 1854 Act provided for the appointment of a Secretary to act in the absence of, and with all the powers of, the Registrar General.
William Pitt Dundas was the first holder of the combined post of Deputy Clerk Register and Registrar General and acted as such from September 1854 until April 1880. His successor, Roger Montgomerie, died six months after his appointment, and Mr Pitt Dundas resumed office for a year or so until the appointment of Sir Stair Agnew, KCB. In the meantime the Registrar General's Office had been transferred to its present home, the New Register House, on 30 March 1861.
The last person to hold the combined posts was Sir James Patten McDougall, KCB, who was in office from May 1909 to March 1919. A vacancy existed from then until 1 January 1921 when, following the passing of the Registrar General (Scotland) Act 1920, which provided for the appointment by the Secretary of State for Scotland for a whole-time Registrar General, Dr James Craufurd Dunlop, Medical Superintendent of Statistics was appointed Registrar General, to the dismay of Mr Gray, the then Secretary, who had borne full responsibility of running the office for nearly two years.
|William Pitt Dundas||12 September 1854 - 28 April 1880|
|Roger Montgomerie||19 April 1880 - 25 October 1880|
|William Pitt Dundas CB||17 November 1880 - 12 January 1881|
|Sir Stair Agnew KCB||13 January 1881 - 30 April 1909|
|Sir James Patten McDougall KCB||1 May 1909 - 7 March 1919|
|Dr James Craufurd Dunlop||1 January 1921- 2 September 1930|
|Andrew Froude ISO||3 September 1930 - 14 February 1937|
|James Gray Kyd CBE||1 September 1937 - 30 November 1948|
|Edmund Albert Hogan CBE||1 December 1948 - 31 May 1959|
|Alexander Burt Taylor CBE D Litt||1 June 1959 - 4 September 1966|
|James Allan Ford CB MC||September 1966 - September 1969|
|Archibald L Rennie CB||October 1969 - 11 June 1973|
|William Baird||12 June 1973 - 3 August 1978|
|Victor Colvin Stewart||4 August 1978 - 12 April 1982|
|Dr Charles Milne Glennie CBE||13 April 1982 - 31 October 1994|
|James Meldrum||1 November 1994 - 21 February 1999|
|John Randall||22 February 1999 - 1 August 2003|
|Duncan Macniven CBE||4 August 2003 - 5 August 2011|
|George MacKenzie||8 August 2011 - 28 September 2012|
Audrey Robertson(Acting Registrar General)
|1 October 2012 - 1 February 2013|
|Timothy Ellis||4 February 2013 - present|