How to Locate Someone in Scotland

Written by debbie pollitt
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How to Locate Someone in Scotland
Although Edinburgh is Scotland's capital, Glasgow is the largest city. (Edinburgh castle image by Philip Date from

Scotland is home to more than 5 million people and has six major cities: Glasgow, Edinburgh, Inverness, Dundee, Aberdeen and Stirling. Although Scotland is part of Great Britain, devolution was approved in 1998 and the Scottish Parliament reconvened for the first time in 300 years in 1999.

Scotland has its own comprehensive collection of resources for finding people, some of which charge a fee and some of which are free. The organisations and government departments help you to trace long-lost family members, find friends or locate a birth-parent.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Contact the British Royal Mail. This service provides postcode and address-finders and if you have at least the full name of a person or business you can have up to 15 free searches at any one time. The Royal Mail is the British postal service and this information is based on the most recent electoral roll details of people registered as Scottish residents eligible to vote.

  2. 2

    Visit the General Register Office for Scotland's website. This government department is responsible for keeping the country's family records and the registration of births, deaths and marriage. It also carries out a population census every 10 years. At the time of writing, the next census will be taken in May 2011. The website has a comprehensive directory of available people-finding resources.

  3. 3

    Consult the Scotlands People website. This is a government resource providing family trees and other genealogical information. There are records of deaths, births, marriages and wills on this website as well as census records dating back to 1841.

    There is a fee charged for most of the services on this site and you can pay in U.S. dollars online using a credit card. Prices depend on the service required and are listed on the relevant page but you can search wills, testaments and coats of arms records for free.

    You can also visit the ScotlandPeople's Centre in person at their Edinburgh base to access a range of research tools and records dating back 500 years (see References 1, Home section: ScotlandPeople's Centre page).

  4. 4

    Contact Birthlink. This is a resource for anyone tracing birth parents, siblings or other family members. The Adoption Contact Register for Scotland is a confidential database kept by Birthlink and offered to anyone with Scottish blood connections. A registered charity, the organisation offers help locating people as well as mediation and counselling services for anyone affected by adoption.

Tips and warnings

  • Keep it simple. The available information is comprehensive and the person you're looking for could be found quickly through general directory listings.
  • In complicated cases, gather as much information as you can from family members and friends before you start searching.
  • Have your credit card handy as you may need to pay for much of the information online. Details of all the charges are listed on the websites and vary according to the service required.
  • Don't assume that the person you're looking for is on the electoral roll even if she lives and works in Scotland, now or in the past. For various reasons, she may not be listed but may still be a resident.

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