Local and family history library

Carnegie Library

The Scottish and Local History Library is located on the first floor of the Carnegie Library in Ayr. We hold a wealth of free resources for anyone who is researching their family tree or studying the local history of the area. We have dedicated, friendly, experienced staff who are happy to assist and give advice on all aspects of your research. We aim to help customers bring family names, dates and places to life.

The department houses a unique collection of books, local newspapers, photographs, pamphlets, directories and maps. Disabled access is at the rear of building and there is a lift to the first floor.


If you have any questions or would like further information please contact us localhistory@south-ayrshire.gov.uk or tel: 01292 272231.

Genealogical sources

Records held in the department

Family History

Pop into the department and the staff will be happy to give you guidance on how to start your research. We are happy to help anytime but if you wish to book a Starter Session please contact the department and we will give you a timeslot and information on what you need to bring along to help with your research.

Free Online resources

Free access to these services using our library computers or your own devices:

Genealogical sources

Image of Ayr Chemical Works Employees
Left to right: J McKinnon, W Hastie, E Spence, Danny Wylie & Co Ayr Chemical Works, Newton on Ayr

Old parish records

Microfilm copies of the Parish Registers for all towns and villages in Ayrshire are available.


There is an index to births and marriages on fiche.

Census returns

Microfilm copies for Ayrshire 1841 -1901 are available for consultation. There are indexes to 1841(Freecen), 1851, 1861, 1881(whole of Great Britain) on computer and the 1891 is on fiche. The International Genealogical Index (IGI) is available on microfiche.

Image of Old Nell
'Old Nell' stamped sacks
at Ayr Chemical Works

Voters rolls (electoral registers)

Ayr Burgh 1892-1974
Kyle & Carrick District Council 1975-1996
South Ayrshire Council from 1997

Valuation rolls

Ayr Burgh from 1906-1974
Kyle & Carrick District Council 1975-1996
South Ayrshire Council from 1997
County of Ayrshire 1899-1942 (excluding Ayr Irvine and Kilmarnock Burghs)

Confirmation of wills

These volumes cover the whole of Scotland and are the most complete out with Edinburgh.



Directories for some Ayrshire towns are available but the collection particularly relates to Ayr.

McCarter’s Directory for Ayr, Newton & Wallacetown 1830
Pigot 1837 (Ayr section)
Ayrshire Directory 1851-52
Ayr Newton & Wallacetown Directory 1845-46 1849-50 1851-52 1858-59 1861-62 1864-65 1867-68 1870-71 1873-74 1876-77 1878-79 1880-81 1882-83 1884-85 1886-87 1888-89 1890-91 1892-93 1894-95 1896-97 1898-99 1900-01 1902-03 1904-05 1906-07 1907-08 1908-09 1909-10 1910-11 1911-12 1912-13 1913-14 1914-15 1915-16 1918-19 1920-21 1922-23 1924-25 1926-27 1928-29
Ayr & District Directory 1930-31 1934-35 1936-37 1938-39 1940-41 1949 1952-53 1955-56 1968
Carrick Directory 1883
Kilmarnock Directory 1868 1879 1813-15
Kilmarnock & District Directory 1923-25 1928-29 1930-31 1933-36 1936-39
Commercial Directory of Scotland Ireland & four most North Counties of England 1820 -22
Directory to Gentlemen’s Seats etc in Scotland 1843
Directory to Noblemen and Gentlemen’s Seats etc in Scotland 1857
National Commercial Directory of the whole of Scotland & the Isle of Man Pigot & Co 1837
Royal National Commercial Directory and Topography of Scotland Slater 1867
Edinburgh Almanack 1815 Oliver & Boyd’s Edinburgh Almanack & National Repository 1908
County Directory of Scotland 1912

Local newspapers

newspaper image

The library holds microfilm copies of the local Ayr newspapers
Ayr Advertiser from 1803
Ayr Observer from 1832-1899
Ayrshire Post from 1880

The department also holds papers for other towns in South Ayrshire (various dates);

Argus & Express
Carrick Gazette
Carrick Herald
Girvan Courier
Girvan Courier
Troon & Prestwick Times
Troon Herald
Troon Times

It is advisable to check with the department the availability of papers/microfilm readers in advance.

town hall image

Monumental inscriptions

The department holds Monumental Inscriptions for a large number of graveyards in Ayrshire.


The department has the following indexes to the Register of Sasines for Ayrshire.

1599-1609 1821-1830 1865-1868
1617-1634 1831-1840
1635-1660 1841-1845
1781-1806 1846-1860
1806-1820 1861-1864

Special collections

The department houses a unique collection of books by and about Robert Burns and John Galt.

map image


An extensive collection of maps covering Ayrshire is held in the library

Photographic collection

Over the years the department has amassed a collection of photographs, images and postcards which give a valuable insight into the Ayrshire towns and villages in the past and present.

street image

Computer & internet access

The department currently has two PCs connected to the Internet available for Local and Family History research. Customers can also use their own devices by taking advantage of our unlimited free Wi-Fi access. If you are not a library member please bring along proof of identity if you require Internet access.

ScotlandsPeople vouchers

Scotlandspeople vouchers are available to buy in the library.
Starter vouchers £7.00 for 60 credits
These vouchers can be used in the library and at home. This enables users to access records for the whole of Scotland online.

Copying service

Copies of material may be obtained in the form of photocopies subject to copyright restrictions and the condition of the material.


Although it is not necessary it is advisable to book a microfilm reader or computer. Bookings can be made by phone or email. Computers can be booked for two hour sessions, longer if they are still free after the two hour session. There is no limit to the time booked for microfilm readers.

First steps in tracing your family tree

There are a number of basic steps to take when embarking on your search:


Talk to older members of your family and try to gather as much information and as many certificates as you can which will help to start you off. Registration was compulsory in Scotland from 1855 onwards. The information given in birth, marriage and death certificates can be a great stepping stone to earlier records. Family bibles, if available, are also a great source of information. Fill in a pedigree chart with as much information as you can gather up. The chart is an easy and simple way to help you to work out your next step. It is advisable to decide on one branch of the family to start with following it through as far as you can.

Census returns

The census returns are available from 1841 to 1901 and can be used in conjunction with certificates to provide further information on the household. The 1841 census gives the least information but from 1851 onwards the information given includes address, name, relationship to head of family, age, marital status, sex, occupation and place of birth which includes county. This information will allow you to trace back to other certificates or further back (if prior to 1855) to the Old Parish Records.

Old parish records

If the person you are looking for was born before 1855 then the place to check for a birth, baptism, proclamation, marriage or death (though sometimes very few deaths are listed) is the Old Parish Records. It must be remembered when using these records that they are for Church of Scotland only, that registration at this time was not compulsory and that there may also be gaps in the entries. The information given for a birth entry usually gives the child’s name, names of parents, date of birth/baptism and occasionally the father’s occupation. It also states whether the child is born in wedlock ‘lawful’ or out of wedlock ‘natural’. This information can be helpful as there may be an entry in the Kirk Session Records of any extramarital activity which in turn will give more information about the circumstances of the child and its parents.


Whether you are thinking of looking at the Census, Old Parish Records or any other source it is worth asking if there is an index. More and more records are being indexed and they certainly help save time.

Monumental inscriptions

Transcripts of headstones can be a good starting point for finding out where family members are buried as well as dates etc. Over the years a large number of graveyards have been indexed by many of the local Family History Societies. They also have a plan of the graveyard making it easier to pinpoint the location of the grave.

Directories and valuation rolls

Directories and valuation rolls are very helpful for tracing where a family was living at a given time. The valuation rolls not only give the owner of the property but the tenant and sub tenant. Directories list business as well as lists of alphabetical names and addresses.


Local newspapers give birth, death and marriage announcements as well as obituaries. The papers are also worth checking if a relative was in an accident or incident that was newsworthy at the time. This is often a good place to check when a death certificate gives an individual’s cause of death as an accident.

There are a great many other sources for family historians but these first steps will help you start your search. It is more than likely that once you have found your ancestors you will want to know more about their everyday life. Other sources in the library will help pad out your family’s social history. Maps can help to locate exactly where they were living and photographic collections are useful too.

Why not make a start to your family tree by filling in a pedigree chart before you come in to see us.