‘Translating’ Records of Scotland’s Past to Tell Meaningful Stories: The Production of Scottish Longitudinal Historical Micro-Dataset

Beata Nowok, University of Edinburgh
Chris Dibben, University of Edinburgh

A national system of compulsory registration of births, deaths and marriages was introduced in Scotland in 1855. The records provide a unique source of information about people and their lives and are of particular value for family researchers. Their handwritten form, however, has substantially limited research possibilities and there are still many untold stories about Scotland’s population. The Digitising Scotland project aims to ‘translate’ the certificates from the period 1855-1973 into research-ready dataset with a final goal to create longitudinal micro-data with potential further linkage to historical censuses. The data are transcribed manually and at the time of writing this paper all twentieth century records (1901-1973) have been made machine readable and the quality of the transcription process and the data itself has been investigated. In this paper we present a thorough description of the wealth of socio-demographic information available in the certificates and illustrate data problems with multiple examples from the already-transcribed records. We also give a general overview of the development of the Digitising Scotland dataset. The multi-layered process of translation includes, among other things, the standardisation and encoding of occupation and cause of death descriptions to international coding schemes, transformation of address information to consistent geographies through time and the creation of family histories through record linkage.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 113. Development of Longitudinal Historical Data