University of St Andrews

University Library Special Collections

Research and enquiries



Where do I start?

It's always better to work backwards from the known to the unknown. Start your family history search by talking to your oldest relatives and look at family records such as birth, marriage and death certificates, bibles and wills. You could consider joining a local family history society.

Once you have worked out the facts of a basic family tree with as many names, dates and places as possible, you can start to look at original records. These will allow you to check your information, flesh out the bare facts and lead you back to earlier generations.

Much of our material relates particularly to St Andrews and North East Fife.

Our Resources

Genealogical sources

  • Copies of the Census returns for Fife, 1841-1901, are held on microfilm.
  • Census returns for St Andrews, 1841-1871, have been transcribed and indexed.

Manuscript sources

  • Church Records

The Church of Scotland Kirk Session records of the congregations of the former presbyteries of Cupar and St Andrews are held here. They contain communion rolls, lists of heads of families, details of illegitimate births, payments to the poor, and records of baptism, marriage and burial. We also hold Presbytery records and archive material from a number of secession and independent churches.

  • University Muniments

These include information on former staff and students of the institution from the 15th century onwards.

The University's Biographical Register 1747-1897 is now available online, containing information St Andrews alumni, officers and graduates.

  • Burgh Records for North East Fife

These can include lists of inhabitants, voters and population, apprenticeship, burgess and property valuation rolls, and craft and guildry records.

Other manuscript holdings relating to trades include volumes from St Andrews baxters, cordiners, fleshers, and hammermen (1548-1861).

The burgh register of sasines for St Andrews (1673-1809) has been microfilmed.

  • Family and estate papers

This could include, for example, rentals and tacks (leases) or genealogical compilations, family history notes etc. You will need to know the farm or estate on which your ancestor lived.

Printed sources

  • Valuation Rolls

  • Trade and Post Office Directories for St Andrews

  • Scottish Newspapers – we hold bound editions of papers, including: St Andrews Citizen (1870 to date), Fife News (1870-1937), Fife Herald (1822-1937)and Fifeshire Journal (1833-1892).

  • Others include Fife Family History Society Publications, local lists and indexes, maps, and an extensive general reference collection.

Our databases and catalogues are constantly under development.

Special Collections for Groups

Learn about how we share our treasured collections with specialist groups and schools and how we use materials for teaching within the University.

Research enquiry?

If you need assistance with research, have a query about our collections, or would like to know about researching your family history please ask for our help.

Do you need reproductions?

Find out how you can get copies of books, manuscripts or photographs held within Special Collections.