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Historic documents

Historical research is a fascinating and absorbing pastime, which can contribute a great deal to our knowledge of Scotland's rural past. Information from original documents can fill in gaps left by the archaeological record and add much detail to our understanding of the past. This document will guide you through some of the most useful and accessible historical sources available for studying deserted rural settlements and landscapes in Scotland.


It begins by suggesting where to begin your research, including practical ideas for places to visit and on-line sources of information.

This is followed by an introduction to using archives, which offers some general pointers on how to approach your research and recommends some useful guides that can help you learn to read old handwriting and translate difficult words.

This is followed by a brief description of the most important sources and guide on how to use them:

Printed material
Maps and plans
Aerial photography
Estate papers
Taxation records
Census records
Other archival resources

Finally, a bibliography of further reading and useful websites.

© Historic Environment Scotland - Scottish Charity No. SC045925.