What is the 'Gazetteer'?

A gazetteer is an electronic database which describes inhabited places in the context of their current and past local government areas. 

How does this help my research?

Before 1975 Scotland was divided into counties, parishes and burghs. So if you are looking for information about people, buildings, and events in a place in the past, it helps if you know the relevant parish and county, and whether the place was a burgh.

Why are the pre-1975 counties, parishes and burghs so important?

For most of its history (from medieval times until 1975) Scotland was divided into counties, parishes and burghs for civil and religious purposes. Information created by central government, the Church, local government and the legal system was often divided and sub-divided into counties, parishes and burghs. Examples of historical information divided like this are tax rolls, parish registers of baptisms and marriages, population statistics, property registers and official reports on subjects like health and education. 

Why were burghs different?

Burghs (especially royal burghs) were often treated differently by central government and the legal system. Many had their own courts of law, local government, churches and schools. The physical and social structure of burghs differed from the rest of the country for much of their existence.

Where does the gazetteer information come from?

The gazetteer entries are compiled by members of Historic Environment Scotland and the National Records of Scotland. Information is derived from a combination of sources, including central government and local government records (such as census data and tax rolls) and older published gazetteers. The gazetteer is a work in progress. At the launch of the site (in October 2009) it consisted mainly of entries on counties, cities, parishes, burghs, inhabited islands, and places with at least 100 inhabitants. Our intention is to continue to add to the gazetteer by improving entries or adding entries on more places, which exist now or existed at one time but have long since vanished.