Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Access to Scottish divorce records to be restricted

Some fairly bad news for Scottish family historians, relating to the access of records and privacy.

Last week I posted a blog post concerning a request I had made to the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service about the proposed closure of Scottish court records from the Court of Session, a request in which I outlined several questions for which I have yet to receive an answer (see http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/2015/10/closure-on-historic-scottish-divorce.html).

However, I have just received an email from the National Records of Scotland's Head of Public Services, Anne Slater, who kindly offered at last week's Scottish Genealogy Network CPD event in Edinburgh to provide an update from the NRS on the developments, as soon as the archive was able to work out its position and obligations under the rule change.

Unfortunately, the new rules also include restricting access to divorce records from the Sheriff Court, which has had responsibility for divorces since 1984. There is therefore a knock on effect for the GROS Register of Divorces which was established at that point, and which until now was accessible at the ScotlandsPeople Centre (www.scotlandspeoplehub.gov.uk) in Edinburgh. Here is the body of Anne's letter:

Following our discussion on the availability of the digital images of the Register of Divorces at your recent CPD event I am writing to let you know that NRS are reviewing the Register of Divorces (RoD) as a result of a recent case and that, because of our statutory and legal obligations under the Human Rights and Data Protection Acts, we are going to limit access to the RoD with immediate effect, while we work through the legal issues.

The images will be taken down from the ScotlandsPeople Network this evening. The index to the Register of Divorces will continue to be made available and should you require information from the Register beyond what is available in the index please email: enquiries@scotlandspeoplehub.gov.uk. Alternatively should you require an extract from the Register of Divorces please use our extract service: http://www.nrscotland.gov.uk/registration/how-to-order-an-official-extract-from-the-registers.

I will provide a further update in due course and please let me know if you have any queries.

This is an undesirable change of policy, not from the National Records of Scotland or the ScotlandsPeople Centre, but from the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service, which has forced the NRS to take this position. I am still unclear as to what precipitated the changes in the first place, but it is now not possible to see the Register of Divorces images on the terminals at the ScotlandsPeople Centre (and the satellite access points across the country), only the index entries - that, at least, will still indicate if a divorce took place. For the moment, some form of access is, however, still available to the original records through the extract service.

More on this when I get it...


For details on my genealogy guide books, including my recently released Discover Irish Land Records and Down and Out in Scotland: Researching Ancestral Crisis, please visit http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/p/my-books.html. My Pinterest account is at https://www.pinterest.com/chrismpaton/.

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