Find your ancestors in Scotland, Paternity Decrees 1750-1922

Did your ancestor appear in the Scottish Sheriff Court to determine a child’s paternity? Use these decrees to discover your illegitimate ancestor and break through your genealogy brick walls.

Each record will provide you with a transcript of the vital details found in the original source material. The transcripts were created by Graham and Emma Maxwell from sources found at the National Records of Scotland. The transcripts will include the details listed below.

  • Name
  • Role – Pursuer or defender
  • Year
  • Decree date
  • Court
  • Child’s sex
  • Child’s birth date
  • Defender’s name
  • Defender’s occupation
  • Defender’s residence
  • Pursuer’s name
  • Pursuer’s residence
  • Pursuer’s occupation – this may include the name of the pursuer’s parents
  • Notes – this field is not present in all transcripts, but may include the name of the child
  • County
  • Country
  • Archive
  • Archive reference

The Scotland, paternity decrees 1750-1922 comprise details taken from the records of the Sherriff Courts in Scotland. A decree is a decision made by the court. The Sherriff Court was a civil court. These cases would have been referred in the courts as ‘actions of affiliation and aliment’. Paternity cases were brought before the courts to decide who was responsible for paying the aliment, or the financial maintenance, of the illegitimate child. The cases were usually brought forward by a mother, the pursuer, against the father, or the alleged father, the defender. In the records, we can find Ann Anderson pursuing a paternity decree against John Coulson, a tavern keeper from North Bridge Street in Edinburgh. Their child, Isabella, was born in November 1826, however, Isabella died on 28 June 1830.

You will find cases from jurisdictions across Scotland such as Kirkcudbrightshire, Lanarkshire, Midlothian, Roxburghshire, and more. Each record provides the date of birth and sex of the child whose paternity is in question. The archival reference in the transcript gives you a direct link to find the original source material in the National Records of Scotland.