Early Scotland

I have found it very useful in understanding our pioneering family to familiarise myself with the customs of the day as well as a grounding in general information about Scotland. These have been readily available in most libraries and make for fascinating reading. They can be found in books or by scanning old newspapers, as our pioneers brought their customs and lifestyles with them. I have listed some that have been particularly useful, especially traditions and customs prevailing in Scotland during the 1800's


Census Time in Early Scotland

The first census conducted in Britain was in 1801, although from a family historian viewpoint it can hardly be considered, as the census was purely a statistical exercise in which households were numbered but not named. It was not until 7 June 1841 that the first door-to-door, person-to-person census was carried out in Britain.[1]


From this census we can obtain information on family groups, occupations, ages, relationships, places of birth (migration patterns) and marital status. Civil registration began in 1855, Prior to that time, records of baptisms, marriages and burials were kept in the Old Parochial Registers, hence we can compare the two types of records.[2]


Because Scottish civil registrations did not take place until 1855, the census returns of 1841 and 1851 contain information of many people not covered by the post-1855 records."[3]


Old Parochial Registers

Prior to January 1855, the date of compulsory registration, the only records of births, deaths and marriages in Scotland, are the old parochial registers and they are of variable quality and content. Being records of the established Church of Scotland, they set out to record not so much births as baptisms, not so much marriages as banns and weddings, not so much deaths as burials of the adherents of the Church and not those whose faith was out side the Church.[4]


Early Scottish Marriages[5]

The law of Scotland recognised two kinds of marriage - regular and irregular. A regular marriage was one performed by a minister of the Established Church of Scotland. Irregular marriages consisted of many types. Marriage vows taken in the presence of a witness, marriages performed by Catholic or Seceding clergy, promise of future marriage followed by intercourse, marriage by "habit and repute", and local customs such as "hand-fasting" were considered binding marriages, by the local community if not by the Church and law. It is notable that, under Scottish law, a bastard was legitimised by the subsequent marriage of its parents.


Scottish Naming Patterns

These vary greatly from place to place, but once a pattern has been established for an area, you can often calculate back what an ancestor's name will have been. Many Lowland patterns start with calling the first son after his father, but this is very unusual in the Northwest, if only because the extended family household of three or four generations would cause great practical difficulties[6].


The general custom, to which there were some variations, was to name children as follows:[7]

The eldest son after the paternal grandfather.

The second son after the maternal grandfather.

The third son after the father.


The eldest daughter after the maternal grandmother.

The second daughter after the paternal grandmother.

The third daughter after the mother.


Younger children would be named after earlier forbears, but the pattern in their case was less settled.


More often than not, the system was abandoned once the emigrants arrived on the shores of their new abodes.


HOPE is a name of locality found as a surname in different parts of Scotland. When used as a place-name it is commonly applied to sheltered places among hills, and it is said to be derived from the Icelandic "hop", a place of refuge.


[1]Scottish Roots by Alwyn James

[2]Scottish Genealogist, March 1979

[3]Scottish Roots by Alwyn James

[4]Scottish Roots by Alwyn James

[5]Scottish Genealogist, March 1979

[6]Scottish Genealogist, March 1979

[7]The Armstrong News, July 1993, Issue No. 36