Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Kirk Session records release - NAS announcement

At last, the definitive word from the National Archives of Scotland on the news first posted here last week on local access to kirk session records - and it's great news, with more records available than I at first thought!!

Church court records online

A new service that opens up access to the digital images of millions of pages of church court records has been launched by the National Archives of Scotland (NAS).

The records consist of the minutes and accounts of kirk sessions, presbyteries, synods and the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. They also contain a wide variety of other documents, providing a picture of everyday life in Scotland from the sixteeenth century onwards and amount to more than 25,000 volumes, about 5 million pages of information

Local archive access in Scotland

Until now researchers in many parts of Scotland have found it difficult to travel to the archive where the records are physically held. Now for the first time the NAS and many local archives are combining to offer a service that researchers can use to get access to records from across Scotland. The service is being rolled out from November 2010, and it is hoped that more than a dozen local archives will be places where digital copies of the records can be consulted, in addition to the NAS itself.

The following archives currently offer the service in their search rooms:

* Aberdeen City Archives
* Orkney Library and Archive

Please contact the relevant archive for details of opening times and access.

Plans for wider online access

Later in 2011 it is planned to make the church records more widely available online via a subscription-based service. It is expected that this will be undertaken by ScotlandsPeople, the family history website which NAS runs with the General Register Office for Scotland and the Court of the Lord Lyon. Researchers will have the choice of accessing the records free of charge in various Scottish archives, or using the subscription service.

What the records contain

The Scottish Reformation saw the introduction of a new system to run church affairs: the General Assembly, synods, presbyteries, and kirk sessions. Presbyterians who later broke away from the Kirk also adopted a church court system.

The records created by church courts are very useful for family history, local history and academic research. Of most interest for genealogists and local historians are the minutes of the kirk sessions, which typically contain a detailed and often colourful record of the discipline the minister and kirk elders handed out to errant parishioners for offences such as drunkenness, swearing, breaking the Sabbath, quarrelling and sexual misdemeanours. Other records include proclamations of banns, communion rolls, seat rent books and poor relief accounts.

Deposited in the NAS in 1960, church court records are cared for by the NAS and by local archives under charge and superintendence of the Keeper of the Records of Scotland. They include the records of secession church congregations which rejoined the Church of Scotland.

There's more at the full release at www.nas.gov.uk/about/101101.asp.


Professional genealogical problem solving and research
Researching Scottish Family History (New book)


Caroline Gurney said...

Fantastic news. Can't wait for the online access via Scotland's People. I do hope subscription means subscription rather than pay per view. My biggest wish is that Scotland's People would offer the option of an annual subscription giving unlimited access to all their records. Scotland's People costs me far more than any of the websites to which I subscribe.

Margaret Foster said...

Great news. Looking forward to seeing this development. I agree with Caroline that a subscription to search all records would be a boon. I am at the point where my stone walls are costing me dear.Too many Agnes Morrisons to view all possibles. Living in Australia makes it a bit difficult to visit the Archives in Edinburgh.