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National Archives of Scotland (HD4/5)

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Notes on using this resource

The handwriting and spelling used in the original manuscript of HD4/5 has caused some problems in the creation and editing of this resource.

As a result, the editor of this database has in some cases had to use educated guesswork in order to identify certain place names and discern the comments of the original clerk. If you would like to suggest any corrections to this then please contact [email protected].

All the fields in the original manuscript have been included. However, some additional ones have been added by Scottish Archive Network staff to improve the user experience of the database. This includes, 'date of birth, 'parish' and 'county'. For this reason, these columns will appear as a slightly different colour to the others (green).

Unaltered entries from the original source appear in UPPER CASE, corrections or additions by SCAN staff appear in lower case.

To see a page from the original, provided as an example, click here.

Family Numbers

The clerk allocated each family a sequential 'family number'. This family number has been retained in the database and is the default value used to produce results from the searchable database.

To see the entire listing for a family, click on the 'family number' to link to the full record.



We have no guarantee that the original resource was in itself completely accurate and it seems that in some cases, the clerk responsible for keeping the records has written down place names as he heard them spoken. This is especially true of gaelic and unusual place names. In these cases, SCAN staff have attempted to second guess the original place name to the best of our abilities. In each case, we have included the word as the clerk had written it and added our interpretation of the word afterwards. If there is any doubt about the place suggested, we have included a question mark to indicate this. Again, if you have any suggestions for corrections or you notice any obvious omissions then please get in touch. Where this field is blank altogether, this is because the field in the original record was blank.

Many of the places named by the original clerk were small settlements and in some cases these have since disappeared.

Parish and County

We have tried to tie in places with their respective parishes and counties at this date but we cannot guarantee 100% accuracy with this because of the nature of the original handwriting and spelling. Please note that many parish and county boundaries were changed later on in the 19th century and that those stated were correct at the time the original source was compiled.

Where there is some dispute over the exact parish and/or county, we have listed the main possibilities. As with the places, we have included a question mark if there is any doubt over these.

Where these fields are blank, we have been unable to identify the relevant parish and/or county. If you have any information that would assist us with this, then please get in touch.

If you are unsure about the location of these estates and parishes at the time, then please look at the map for guidance on this. In the case of larger settlements or towns, you may wish to check a site such as to get a more detailed view of the area as it is today or to search older Ordnance Survey maps.



The clerk filled in the approximate ages of the applicants. With infants, the age was occasionally listed in months but sometimes just the word 'infant' was included. Where '0' is provided as a value, this may be anywhere betwee 0-12 months.


The clerk most commonly used the notes field for the following reasons:-

  • to make notes on the financial contribution of the applicants. The phrase "pro. note" which appears in almost every entry, refers to a promissory note for a specific financial contribution (see the 'rules' to find out more about this arrangement).
  • to note any familial relationships to other individuals or family numbers
  • to note any deaths subsequent to the application
  • to make special remarks on the state of the family such as "a very destitute family" or "a very desirable family for Australia"
  • to add any additional comments that might have a bearing on the family's application - specifically tales of poverty "this family lived in a gravel pit covered with heather for 18 months"

We have retained these comments. Where a comment applies to an entire family, this has been repeated for each entry in that family. Where a comment applies specifically to an individual within that family, this relationship has been retained in the database.

Date of Birth

This 'date of birth' field was added by SCAN staff as an aid to researchers. This was simply done by subtracting the age noted by the clerk from the 'date of departure' field. As there may often have been some gap between writing and the actual 'date of departure', this age should just be used as a general guide.

Other Resources

The resources used in this Emigration section are just a selection of those available. If you know of any other primary sources that would be appropriate to include here then please let us know. There are many published sources that will provide background information on emigration. Perhaps the most relevant of which is T M Devine's The Great Highland Fame: Hunger, Emigration and the Scottish Highlands in the 19th century (Edinburgh 1988). This also contains an excellent bibliography.


We would welcome any comments or suggestions you might have regarding this database. Please get in touch at [email protected]

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