This Is A Short History About Register House In Edinburgh And The Famous Ancestors Found There
New Register House, the main building of the General Register Office for Scotland, close to the east end of Edinburgh's famous Princes Street, was designed by Robert Matheson, the Clerk of Works at the Office of Her Majesty's Works in Scotland, who was responsible for Government buildings at the time. He also designed Edinburgh's former General Post Office building nearby.
The New Register House site, on Gabriel's Road, was acquired in 1859. The architect's aim was for the new building to harmonise with the existing Register House designed by Robert Adam in the 18th century. A portico was added to the south elevation to give it the character of a public building; and the style of internal finish was kept simple.
The building was first occupied in 1861 and completed in 1863 following the addition of 5 offices to each floor on the north side. The Accountant in Bankruptcy and Lord Lyon's departments were also allocated rooms. It cost, complete with fittings, nearly 35,000 pounds to build.
The main feature of this elegant building is the lofty fireproof central repository, the Dome, which consists of five tiers of ironwork shelving and galleries similar to those at the British Museum in London and is surrounded on the outside by staff and search rooms on three floors. The Dome is a large and striking circular chamber, over 27m (90 feet) high and of considerable interest as a piece of 19th century functional architecture and structural engineering.
The 6.5km (4 miles) of shelving in the Dome contain some half a million volumes. These include some 400,000 statutory registers of all the births, deaths and marriages in Scotland since 1855, still being added to every year. Red birth volumes are on the first tier, the death volumes in funereal black on the second, and the marriage volumes in green on the third. The original marriage schedules, which are signed by the parties immediately after marriage ceremonies in Scotland, are shelved on the top tier of the Dome as are the open Census records from 1841 to 1891.
The old parish registers are perhaps the greatest treasures in New Register House. The oldest volume dates from 1553 and is for the parish of Errol, near Perth.
Canongate Parish supplies the earliest parish register for the city of Edinburgh. It dates from 1564. Among records of ordinary citizens and burgesses it contains the proclamation of banns of marriage of Mary Queen of Scots and Lord Darnley. Another register records Darnley's death thus:
The Kyng's grace blawen up with buder (= gunpowder) in the Kirk of Field the X of Februer 1566
Many well-known Scots appear in the registers.
The death of Sir Walter Scott is commemorated in poetry, and the births of Robert Burns and Robert Louis Stevenson are recorded. Andrew Carnegie, David Livingstone, Rob Roy McGregor and James Watt are all here. Completed as they were over the years by thousands of parish ministers and session-clerks, the entries in the old parish registers frequently go well beyond the mere record of the event and include fascinating glimpses of the lives and characters of those writing and being written about. All the parish register pages are available to be viewed on microfilm, and all the entries except deaths and burials are indexed electronically - bringing the idiosyncratic spellings of the 16th century clerks to customers sitting before late 20th century computer screens.