Search Tips: Surname / maiden name death record searches on ScotlandsPeople

I have mixed feelings about the recent revamp of the ScotlandsPeople website. On one hand, it’s great that the search results are now free to view, and the addition of some Non-Conformist records is really useful (I now have copies of the baptismal registers for two children that I knew about from the FamilySearch website, and one for a third child FamilySearch had missed). On the other hand, several of the most effective search features have been removed (though possibly not for good). The ability on the old site to search for civil death registers with an approximate year of birth was so useful I wondered why other sites didn’t adopt it.

Having played about with the site quite a bit over the past two weeks, I’m starting to get more of a feel for how it works, and how to work round some of lost search features.

In the old version of the site, it was possible to search for the civil death record of a married woman using both her married and maiden surnames. The results returned gave you women who had both surnames. However, carrying out the same search on the new site returns records of women with either of the surnames, and no obvious way of finding the person with both. You will probably also get many more results to scroll through, particularly if either of the surnames is a common one.

One work-round I’ve found is, when viewing the results, to click on ‘Year’ in the search results column headings. This will reorder the results by date, and you should be able to scroll down and find two entries next to each other with the same details but different surnames. I’m not sure if the results are chronological within any given year and if this will always work, but it has been successful each time I’ve tried it.

You may still have many pages of results to go through, so it’s best to limit the search as far as you can. I do it in stages so I’m less likely to exclude an unexpected result. I tend to start by choosing a county, if I’m fairly confident that is where the death took place (‘District’ is often too narrow), then I move on to dates. For ‘Year Range’, I use the date of the last census where I found the woman as my start date (unless there’s a more obvious later date) and then 100 years after her birth for the end date. If I still have too many results, I use the age from the last census (or at least roughly what the age should have been!) and 100 in ‘Age Range’. In most cases this has brought my search results down to a manageable few pages.

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