You will find below a selection of useful sites to help you further in exploring Edinburgh’s history.
Please refer also to our page listing national and local history and heritage societies.
Libraries and archives
Edinburgh and Scottish Collection, Central Library
The City’s own local studies library, with extensive holdings of printed books and topographical material.
Edinburgh residents can Join the Library Service and gain access to online newspapers and other electronic resources. Online resources include Capital Collections, images of Edinburgh from the Library’s unique collection of photographs, engravings and drawings; and Our Town Stories, designed to help you explore Edinburgh’s history through stories, images and maps.
Edinburgh City Archives
The City’s own archive, containing the records of the burghs of Edinburgh, the Canongate and Leith, from the Middle Ages to the present. Their latest project is Redrawing Edinburgh, which brings to life the expansion of the city 100 years ago, in commemoration of the 1920 Edinburgh Boundaries Extension and Tramways Act. Architectural plans lodged in the Dean of Guild Court 1700-1824 have been catalogued with OEC support.
Edinburgh Planning Portal
Very useful if you are wishing to inspect more recent plans and drawings concerning current and archived planning applications.
The National Archives (TNA)
The official archive of the UK Government, including records pertaining to Scotland since 1707.
National Records of Scotland (NRS)
Records of Scotland’s government before and after the Union, legal and court records, church records and much more, including rich Edinburgh holdings. Search the NRS Catalogue to explore these. NRS also maintain the Scottish Handwriting site, invaluable if you need to decipher the script in older records.
National Library of Scotland (NLS)
Scotland’s copyright library and premier research library, including their remarkable collection of historic maps online and extensive range of digitised historical books. NLS also holds a manuscript collection, complementary to that of NRS; maintains the Moving Image Archive; and provides access for registered users to e-resources, including British Library Newspapers, Find My Past and the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. NLS has also digitised Post Office Directories, invaluable for tracking people, businesses and institutions year-to-year.
The online catalogue to Scotland’s archaeology, buildings, industrial and maritime heritage, with site-specific content. Maintained by Historic Environment Scotland (HES), the body created by the merger of Historic Scotland and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. HES has a Library and search room, where original records can be viewed.
Map-based search tool to help users dig deep into the histories of buildings, towns and cities in Scotland. Developed by Historic Environment Scotland.
Pre-1800 tax records, Ordnance Survey Name Books, plans, Medical Officer of Health reports, etc. Draws on the resources of HES, NLS and NRS. You can search for a place name, click on a map or type in your postcode. Also hosts a digital version of the Atlas of Scottish History.
Scottish Archive Network Catalogue
Online catalogue of Scotland’s 50+ local and institutional archives. Similar but complementary NRS’s catalogue. Search under ‘GB236’ for Edinburgh City Archive; ‘GB237’ for Edinburgh University Special Collections; ‘GB239’ for Lothian Health Services Archive. Resources prepared by the original Scottish Archive Network project are still available.
Statistical Accounts of Scotland
On-line access to the classic accounts of Scotland’s parishes, written by local ministers, including descriptions of Edinburgh in 1793 and 1845.
Scran provides educational access to digital materials representing Scotland’s material culture and history. An HES service, it hosts over 400,000 fully-captioned images, sounds and film from over 300 museums, galleries, and archives.
Index to digitised content including Edinburgh newspapers, much of it pay-by-view or available by subscription only. Some can be accessed by members of Edinburgh City Libraries or the National Library of Scotland.
Records of the Parliament of Scotland
Records of the Parliaments of Scotland to 1707.
History of Parliament Online
Includes biographies of all Edinburgh MPs post-1707.
British History Online
Collection of c 1300 volumes of primary and secondary content relating to British history.
Huge repository of old books, including local and family histories. Holds the NLS collection and much more besides. Use their search function: items tend not to appear prominently in Google searches.
Pay-as-you-go site hosting National Records of Scotland’s birth, marriage, death and census records, wills and valuation rolls. Includes free access to Kirk Session and Presbytery minutes, to some estate maps and to the 1881 Census.
Scottish Archive Network catalogue
Catalogue of local and institutional archives. Search under ‘GB236’ for Edinburgh City Archive; ‘GB237’ for Edinburgh University Special Collections; ‘GB239’ for Lothian Health Services Archive.
Scottish Genealogical Society
Membership organisation for anyone interested in Scottish genealogy, and serves as the local genealogy society for Edinburgh. Comprehensive Library and Research Centre located on Victoria Terrace and staffed by experienced volunteers. Regular winter evening talks.
National Library of Scotland
See Libraries and Archives above. Resources include family and estate collections of manuscripts and published histories of landed and other notable families.
Information about family history resources and research in UK and Ireland.
Scottish National War Memorial
Information on and commemoration of Scottish servicemen.
Visiting and wandering around Edinburgh
Accommodation and other information for visitors to Edinburgh and beyond.
The City of Edinburgh Council
Information about Edinburgh and facilities offered by the City Council.
18 tours showcasing the history of ideas in Edinburgh, the ‘Athens of the North’. Website and app for self-guiding, featuring Edinburgh’s fascinating scientific heritage as well as social and cultural developments which have shaped the city. Developed by the University of Edinburgh.
Information on Edinburgh and its facilities, and links to other sites.
Historic Environment Scotland
Access to Edinburgh Castle and other Edinburgh monuments in the care of Historic Scotland.
National Trust for Scotland
Access to the Georgian House, Gladstone’s Land, Newhailes House and other places in and around Edinburgh in the care of the National Trust.
Interactive map of people, places and associations that featured in the Enlightenment, produced by the University of Glasgow.
Rampant Scotland links on Architecture and Edinburgh
Includes information about aspects of past and present Edinburgh architecture.
Museums and galleries
City of Edinburgh Museums and Galleries
Information on 11 venues, including Museum of Edinburgh (formerly Huntly House), People’s Story, Museum of Childhood and City Art Centre.
National Galleries of Scotland
Information on the galleries, which have rich holdings relating to Edinburgh.
National Museums of Scotland
Information on the museums, which contain a wealth of artefacts connected with Edinburgh.