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The Old Parish Registers (OPRs) comprise the records of births and baptisms, banns and marriages and deaths and burials kept by individual parishes of the Established Church (Church of Scotland) before the introduction of civil registration in 1855.
The parish minister or the session clerk usually assumed responsibility for maintaining the registers, but since there was no standard format employed, record keeping varied enormously from parish to parish and also from year to year.
Since there was no requirement to record these, a great many parishes simply did not bother and of those that did, many have not survived.
Often the only record that a death has taken place will be implied in the payment of a fee to the parish for the hire of the mortcloth or pall which was draped over the coffin or the body itself for the funeral.
As a result, the information may be sparse, unreliable and difficult to read.
The oldest register dates from 1553 (baptisms and banns from Errol, Perthshire), but although there was a requirement from 1552 that parishes record baptisms and marriages, many did not commence until much later, and some more remote areas only have registers from the early 19th century.
The National Records of Scotland holds the surviving original registers.
The churches concerned were Presbyterian churches that were originally outside the Church of Scotland (or left the Church of Scotland) but joined (or re-joined) the Church of Scotland at various points.
These churches were as follows: Bear in mind that the other churches did not have the same parish structure as the Church of Scotland.
As well as the Church of Scotland, other Presbyterian churches in Scotland kept registers of baptisms, marriages and burials from 1716 onwards.
These other church registers are in the course of being added to the Scotlands People site.
Record format and content varied over time, with the responsibility for the information gathered being placed with the parish priest - since there was no standard format prescribed, record keeping varied enormously from parish to parish and also from year to year.