Trace your family tree

Printed information

There are many printed sources of family history in the Central Library.


The Edinburgh and Scottish Collection holds Edinburgh

  • trade and post office directories, 1752 to 1974
  • telephone books, 1940 to date
  • Portobello post office directories, 1836/37 and 1895 to 1914.

The Reference Library holds directories for other areas of Scotland and professional lists of doctors, clergy and military.  

Directories tell you

  • where someone lived
  • what job they did
  • who was living in a street.


Visit the Edinburgh and Scottish Collection to see:

  • The Scotsman, 1817 to date
  • Edinburgh Evening News, 1873 to date
  • Glasgow Herald, 1885 to 2010
  • many other Edinburgh newspapers from 1651 onwards.

The Reference Library also has the Times, 1785 to 2015.

Local newspapers let you see what people's lives were like long ago. Look for birth, marriage or death notices or search for articles and adverts.

Burial records

Visit the Edinburgh and Scottish Collection to see books of monumental inscriptions from Edinburgh and Scottish graveyards. Check the Library catalogue to see if we have the graveyard you are looking for. For example, search for 'monumental inscriptions' or to restrict your search to Edinburgh, 'monumental inscriptions Edinburgh'.

The Edinburgh and Scottish Collection holds burial records for some churchyards prior to 1855. You can search the Council's burial registers kept after 1855 by contacting Bereavement Services at Mortonhall Crematorium.  

Records of the cemeteries which were owned by the Edinburgh Cemetery Company are stored at the Edinburgh City Archives.

Trace where someone was buried by finding a death notice in the newspaper. Search the Scotsman Digital Archive from home or visit any library to search local historical newspapers using the British Newspaper Archive.

Printed family histories

The Central Library has 2,000 printed histories of 540 family names. These are mostly clans and nobility. Search the library catalogue for your surname, for example, search for 'Maclean family history'.

Some older books aren't on our online catalogue so ask Edinburgh and Scottish Collection staff if you do not find a book for a name on the catalogue. We have a copy of Scottish Family Histories by Joan P. S. Ferguson which can be used to find histories in other libraries.

The armed forces

The Reference Library holds the histories of some British Army regiments and service lists for

  • army
  • air force
  • navy officers
  • those who received military decorations.

Scottish Record Society publications

Go to the Edinburgh and Scottish Collection to find books listing Edinburgh

  • Burgess's
  • guild rolls
  • apprentice records.

These can be a good way of tracing Edinburgh tradesmen.

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