How to find your ancestors at Edinburgh City Archives

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14 February 2017
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Discover how to find your Edinburgh ancestors with our guide to family history resources held at Edinburgh City Archives.

Discover how to find your Edinburgh ancestors with our guide to family history resources held at Edinburgh City Archives.

Tracing ancestry is one of our most popular topics of visitor interest, and as a result Edinburgh City Archives welcomes and assists visitors from far and wide who are researching their ancestry. 

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If your ancestors were from Edinburgh or lived in this fine city for a time, then we may be able to shed some light on their history for you as we hold a wealth of resources that could help you with your research.  Our resources include:

  • School and School Board records
  • Police records
  • Dean of Guild records
  • Church records
  • Parochial board/ poorhouse records
  • City of Edinburgh Council records
  • Army and militia records
  • Merchant Company of Edinburgh records
  • Burgess and Incorporated Trades records
  • Taxation records
  • An extensive reference library

How to find out more about the records that we hold

We don’t have an online catalogue for all of our records however you can use the following resources in order to find out what records we have:

-   Search top level descriptions online via SCAN

A ‘top level’ description tells you the type of records in a collection, and the start and end dates of these collections.  You can search top level descriptions online via the Scottish Archive Network (SCAN) website and this will give you an overview of our collections.  We provide further details about how to search SCAN for Edinburgh City Archives collections on our website.

-   Find item level descriptions in our public searchroom

We do not have an online catalogue of every item within our collections however you can find item-level catalogues for our collections within our public searchroom.

-   Download general indexes, name indexes, and subject guides from our website

You can download general indexes of our main collections. These will tell you the titles, reference numbers and dates for our collections. These guides will help you take the first steps in researching your chosen subject and following this you will probably need to move on to look at our catalogues in order to narrow your search.

We also have name indexes to help you find individuals within our collections. Each one explains which records are included and what they might tell you. These can be helpful if you are interested in family or local history. 

In addition, we have produced a subject guide specifically for family history. This guide summarises the various records that we hold which may be relevant to this type of research.

Using our service

If you are interested in tracing your Edinburgh Ancestors there are several ways in which you can use our service:

  • Visit our free public searchroom

Within the searchroom our knowledgeable archivists are at hand to guide and assist you with your research.  Our searchroom is open Tuesday – Thursday from 09.00 - 13.00 and 14.00 -16.30.  If you would like to visit our searchroom, we would advise that you check our website, or contact us directly via telephone or email to find out more about planning a visit. 

  • Submit an enquiry

If you cannot visit our searchroom but would like information or advice you can submit enquiries to us via email, letter, or telephone.

  • Visit our website

You can find out more about our collections and download helpful guides and indexes at our website

Edinburgh City Archives, Level 1, City Chambers, 253 High Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1YJ

Open: Tuesday - Thursday, 09.00-13.00 and 14.00-16.30; e-mail; tel: 0131 529 4616; website; facebook.

(Images copyright Tuck DB Postcards)