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Registration Districts in Scotland - Introduction

The Registration Districts in Scotland were used from 1st January 1855, as a result of the Registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages (Scotland) Act 1854. From that date the statutory registration of births, deaths and marriages took over from the OPR system (Old Parochial [Parish] Registers). Statutory registration was under the control of the newly formed General Register Office for Scotland (GROS). The making and keeping of the OPRs was under the control of the Established Church (the Church of Scotland). In 1855, the OPRs up to 1819 were to be given over to GROS. The remaining OPRs (1820-1854) were to be given over to the local registrars in 1855 to be given over to GROS 30 years later.

At the end of 1854, there were just over 900 parishes. For registration purposes, they were succeeded by over 1000 Registration Districts. Most of these were based on the parishes, with a quantity of the parishes being split into two halves - Burgh and Landward (town and rural). Many of these Burgh and Landward RDs were re-united after less than five years. In many cases the registrar marked B or L in the margin of the certificate for a number of years after the re-uniting.

Not all of the Registration Districts were wholly within one county. There were many cases where RDs straddled county boundaries into two, or in a few cases, three counties. Regardless of this, the RD system allotted the RD to a county - the county in which the largest portion (or largest population?) of the RD was situated. Over the years there were a few attempts to tidy up that system by moving county boundaries to take in whole RDs or by re-appointing areas of land from on RD to another. The biggest moving of such boundaries took place in 1892/1893 as a result of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1889. The counties as set up at this time became known as "Adminitrative Counties", whilst the previous counties became known as "Historic Counties". The RDs that changed county are listed in the County Changes page here (see link above).

As the cities expanded, they took in RDs from the surrounding areas. As new areas were built, more RDs were created. At other times, RDs were merged or re-named. This can create difficulties for someone trying to trace a family group through the years. The pages linked from this one attempt make clearer the RDs in the cities.

By the time 1972 came round, there were just over 400 RDs, with many gaps and sub-divisions in the RD numbering system. They were completely re-numbered in 1972.

To confuse matters more, on 16th May 1975 local government was re-organised as a result of the Local Government (Scotland) Act, 1973. The 33 counties and 4 cities were replaced by a system of regions, districts and island authorities (9 regions sub-divided into 53 districts, plus 3 single-level island authorities). After about 20 years of that system, it was overhauled again, by the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1994. The regions, districts and island authorities were replaced by 32 Unitary Authorities on 1st April 1996. On a national basis, the Scottish Parliament was established in 1999 (the previous one having been abolished in 1707).