General Register Office for Scotland

Last updated

Logo of the General Register Office GRO Scotland Logo.gif
Logo of the General Register Office

The General Register Office for Scotland (GROS) (Scottish Gaelic : Oifis Choitcheann a' Chlàraidh na h-Alba) was a non-ministerial directorate of the Scottish Government that administered the registration of births, deaths, marriages, divorces and adoptions in Scotland from 1854 to 2011. It was also responsible for the statutes relating to the formalities of marriage and conduct of civil marriage in Scotland. It administered the census of Scotland's population every ten years. [1] It also kept the Scottish National Health Service Central Register. [2]


On 1 April 2011 it was merged with the National Archives of Scotland to form National Records of Scotland. [3] All the former department's functions continue as part of the new body.


New Register House, Edinburgh New Register House.jpg
New Register House, Edinburgh

Initially ministers of the Church of Scotland were responsible for keeping parish records of baptisms and marriages, but only for their own church members. Later the Privy Council of Scotland, following the suggestion of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland enacted that all parish ministers should keep a record of baptisms, burials and marriages. This situation continued until 1854, when Parliament passed an Act transferring responsibility to the State.

The Registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages (Scotland) Act 1854 created the General Register Office of Births, Deaths and Marriages, headed by the Registrar General with 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 previous year. The first general abstract (relating to 1855) was submitted in 1856.

The parochial and borough divisions in Scotland were adopted as the basis of registration, and the session clerks of the Church of Scotland were, in most cases, appointed as the first registrars under the Act. Where the parish or borough was too large for a single registrar, the sheriff was empowered to divide it into districts. Registers were to be produced in duplicate, and one was to be sent to the Office of the Scottish Registrar General in Edinburgh. Compulsory civil registration began in Scotland on 1 January 1855, and coverage seems to have been complete for marriages and deaths. Birth registration took rather longer to bed down, but by the time of his first annual detailed report, published in 1861, the first Registrar General for Scotland, William Pitt Dundas, claimed that: "there is good reason for believing that very few births indeed now escape registration." [4]

In 1855 and 1860, two Acts, the Registration (Scotland) Act, 1855 (18 & 19 Vict., c.29) and the Registration (Scotland, Amendment) Act, 1860 (23 & 24 Vict., c.85), were passed which amended some of the sections of the 1854 Act. The original Act had placed considerable burdens on the sheriffs of the Scottish counties, who had already played a role in the taking of decennial censuses. The amending Acts reduced their responsibilities by appointing registration district examiners to inspect the registers. They also made revised provision for the transmission of the parochial registers up to the year 1820 to the General Register Office Scotland (GROS), and the registers for the years 1820–1855 to the custody of the local registrars. These registers were to be retained by the registrars for 30 years, after which they were to be sent to the GROS. [4]

On 1 April 2011 GROS was merged with the National Archives of Scotland, with which it already had close ties and shared management of the Scotland's People Centre in Princes Street, Edinburgh, to form National Records of Scotland.

Superintendent of Statistics

From 1855 the role of accumulating and publishing statistics from data has fallen to one person. These people were:

Registrars General for Scotland

The Registrar General was also Deputy to the Lord Clerk Register. The Deputy Clerk Register had to be an Advocate of not less than ten years standing.

William Pitt Dundas was the first holder of the combined post of Deputy Clerk Register and Registrar General from September 1854 until April 1880. His successor, Roger Montgomerie, died six months after his appointment, and Mr Pitt Dundas resumed office for around a year, until the appointment of Sir Stair Agnew KCB. The last person to hold the combined posts was Sir James Patten McDougall KCB, in office from May 1909 to March 1919.

Originally, this was the supervision of birth, death and marriage registration. It was expanded to include the conduct of the 1861 Census and all subsequent ones (working closely with the Registrar General to ensure consistency) and other statistical functions.

In 1920 the Registrar General (Scotland) Act 1920 was passed which provided for the appointment by the Secretary of State for Scotland a whole-time Registrar General, Dr James Craufurd Dunlop, (previously Medical Superintendent of Statistics) was appointed.

On the formation of National Records of Scotland, the positions of Registrar General and Keeper of the Records of Scotland were initially kept separate, but on the retirement of Duncan Macniven in August 2011, George Mackenzie was appointed Registrar General in addition to his existing role as Keeper. [5]

List of Registrars General for Scotland

New Register House

New Register House New Register House.jpg
New Register House

New Register House, which houses the registration side of the former GROS's business, is close to the east end of Princes Street in Edinburgh. It was designed by Robert Matheson, the Clerk of Works at the Office of Her Majesty's Works in Scotland. Initially, the General Register Office had been located in General Register House. The building was erected on its present site near the Old Register House. The site was acquired in 1856 and the building was opened on 30 March 1861, though not completed until 1864 at a total cost of £40,000.

Other buildings

GROS had two other main buildings: Ladywell House, in the Corstorphine area of Edinburgh, where population, household and vital statistics data (including Scotland's census) are housed; and Cairnsmore House on the Crichton Estate in Dumfries, home of Scotland's NHS Central Register. [7] All three buildings are now part of the National Records of Scotland estate.

See also

Related Research Articles

A birth certificate is a vital record that documents the birth of a person. The term "birth certificate" can refer to either the original document certifying the circumstances of the birth or to a certified copy of or representation of the ensuing registration of that birth. Depending on the jurisdiction, a record of birth might or might not contain verification of the event by such as a midwife or doctor.

Lord Advocate Chief legal officer of the Scottish Government

Her Majesty's Advocate, known as the Lord Advocate, is the chief legal officer of the Scottish Government and the Crown in Scotland for both civil and criminal matters that fall within the devolved powers of the Scottish Parliament. They are the chief public prosecutor for Scotland and all prosecutions on indictment are conducted by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service in the Lord Advocate's name on behalf of the Monarch.

Solicitor General for Scotland Law officer in Scotland

Her Majesty's Solicitor General for Scotland is one of the Law Officers of the Crown, and the deputy of the Lord Advocate, whose duty is to advise the Scottish Government on Scots Law. They are also responsible for the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service which together constitute the Criminal Prosecution Service in Scotland.

Vital statistics is accumulated data gathered on live births, deaths, migration, foetal deaths, marriages and divorces. The most common way of collecting information on these events is through civil registration, an administrative system used by governments to record vital events which occur in their populations. Efforts to improve the quality of vital statistics will therefore be closely related to the development of civil registration systems in countries. Civil registration followed the practice of churches keeping such records since the 19th century.

The General Register Office for England and Wales (GRO) is the section of the United Kingdom HM Passport Office responsible for the civil registration of births, adoptions, marriages, civil partnerships and deaths in England and Wales and for those same events outside the UK if they involve a UK citizen and qualify to be registered in various miscellaneous registers. With a small number of historic exceptions involving military personnel, it does not deal with records of such events occurring within the land or territorial waters of Scotland, Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland; those entities' registration systems have always been separate from England and Wales.

The office of Lord Clerk Register is the oldest surviving Great Officer of State in Scotland, with origins in the 13th century. It historically had important functions in relation to the maintenance and care of the public records of Scotland. Today these duties are administered by the Keeper of the National Records of Scotland and the Keeper of the Registers of Scotland.

Civil registration is the system by which a government records the vital events of its citizens and residents. The resulting repository or database has different names in different countries and even in different US states. It can be called a civil registry, civil register, vital records, and other terms, and the office responsible for receiving the registrations can be called a bureau of vital statistics, registry of vital records and statistics, registrar, registry, register, registry office, or population registry. The primary purpose of civil registration is to create a legal document that can be used to establish and protect the rights of individuals. A secondary purpose is to create a data source for the compilation of vital statistics.

General Register Office Civil registries in Commonwealth-related nations

General Register Office or General Registry Office (GRO) is the name given to the civil registry in the United Kingdom, many other Commonwealth nations and Ireland. The GRO is the government agency responsible for the recording of vital records such as births, deaths, and marriages, which may also include adoptions, stillbirths, civil unions, etc., and historically, sometimes included records relating to deeds and other property transactions.

Demography of Scotland

The demography of Scotland includes all aspects of population, past and present, in the area that is now Scotland. Scotland has a population of 5,463,300, as of 2019. The population growth rate in 2011 was estimated as 0.6% per annum according to the 2011 GROS Annual Review.

Registers of Scotland

Registers of Scotland (RoS) is the non-ministerial department of the Scottish Government responsible for compiling and maintaining records relating to property and other legal documents. They currently maintain 20 public registers. The official responsible with maintaining the Registers of Scotland is the Keeper of the Registers of Scotland. By ex officio, the Keeper of the Registers of Scotland is also the Deputy Keeper of the Great Seal of Scotland. The Keeper of the Registers of Scotland should not be confused with the Keeper of the Records of Scotland.

The National Archives of Scotland (NAS) is the previous name of the National Records of Scotland (NRS), and are the national archives of Scotland, based in Edinburgh. The NAS claims to have one of the most varied collection of archives in Europe. It is the main archive for sources of the history of Scotland as an independent state, her role in the British Isles and the links between Scotland and many other countries over the centuries.

Registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages (Scotland) Act 1965 United Kingdom legislation

The Registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages (Scotland) Act 1965, was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which amended the existing legislation controlling the registration system of births, deaths and marriages in Scotland founded in 1855. The Act set out the roles, responsibilities and functions of the Registrar General for Scotland, and the ability of the Registrar-General to appoint other Registrars. The Act also provides for a yearly report to be published by the Registrar-General delineating annual trends in Scotland's population - including estimated population size, birth rates, death rates and migration rates to be presented to Scottish Ministers.

A register office or The General Register Office, much more commonly but erroneously registry office, is a British government office where births, deaths, marriages, civil partnership, stillbirths and adoptions in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are registered. It is the licensed local of civil registry.

New Register House

New Register House is one of multiple buildings within the National Records of Scotland estate. It is located near St Andrew Square to the east end of Princes Street in the New Town of Edinburgh, Scotland. It also houses the Court of the Lord Lyon and housed the Office of Director of Chancery until its abolition in 1928.

National Records of Scotland is a non-ministerial department of the Scottish Government. It is responsible for civil registration, the census in Scotland, demography and statistics, family history, as well as the national archives and historical records.

Charles Rattray Smith

Charles Rattray Smith (1859–1941) taught in Britain before emigrating to New South Wales, where he taught classics and languages at various public schools. He was the inaugural headmaster of Newcastle High School from 1906. In 1915, he became headmaster at North Sydney; in 1919, he transferred to Sydney High School, where he was headmaster until taking long service leave in 1924 before his retirement in 1926.

Places of Worship Registration Act 1855 United Kingdom legislation

The Places of Worship Registration Act 1855 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom which governs the registration and legal recognition of places of worship. It applies only in England and Wales, and does not cover the Church of England which is exempt from the Act's requirements. Nor does it affect the Church in Wales, which remains part of the Anglican Communion although it is no longer the Established Church in Wales. Registration is not compulsory, but it gives certain financial advantages and is also required before a place of worship can be registered as a venue for marriages.

Events from the year 1855 in Scotland.

Civil ceremony Non-religious legal marriage ceremony

A civil, or registrar, ceremony is a non-religious legal marriage ceremony performed by a government official or functionary. In the United Kingdom, this person is typically called a registrar. In the United States, civil ceremonies may be performed by town, city, or county clerks, judges or justices of the peace, or others possessing the legal authority to support the marriage as the wedding officiant.

James Stark of Huntfield FRSE FSSA FRCPE was a 19th-century Scottish physician who became the first Superintendent of Statistics in Scotland. He created the concept of vital statistics in 1854.


  1. About Us Archived 8 October 2008 at the Wayback Machine, accessed 10 October 2008
  2. NHS Central Register (NHSCR) Archived 15 October 2008 at the Wayback Machine, accessed 10 October 2008
  3. National Records of Scotland Scottish Government news release, accessed 18 April 2011
  4. 1 2 Higgs, Edward, The development of the General Register Office (Scotland) Retrieved 26 March 2016
  5. About Us Archived 25 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine, accessed 13 August 2011
  6. "No. 12139". The Edinburgh Gazette . 4 May 1909. p. 485.
  7. Where to Find Us Archived 11 August 2011 at the Wayback Machine, accessed 13 August 2011