Scots have always been a mobile people. From the earliest times there are records of Scots travelling to and settling in other lands. If your ancestors left Scotland at some point and settled in another country, then your research may need to be focussed slightly differently to a search in which the family members always lived in the same country.
If you have traced your family tree back to someone who may have arrived from Scotland, then you will be ready to take the next step: getting back to your Scottish roots.
One big problem when researching your emigrant or immigrant ancestors is that there was no central register of people leaving Scotland before the 1890s and no passports [as we would recognise them today] until the early 1900s.
The information on these records varies tremendously, and although some records are very detailed – some even containing the exact addresses where each emigrant had resided – others are woefully bereft of details. Thus you may find a wealth of information in these records, or very little.
The National Archives also have extremely useful research guides detailing other records relating to emigration that they hold.
These were promoted by the Highland and Island Emigration Society association in response to the famine conditions that were sweeping the Scottish Highlands [as they were in Ireland too] at that time. Records relating to this scheme are held by the National Archives of Scotland and an index of those who left is available online at www.scan.org.uk.
If your ancestors left Scotland in the 1880s for Manitoba, Canada, then they may have been part of a state aided emigration scheme which aided crofters and cottars from the islands of Lewis and Harris to emigrate. Records relating to this scheme are also held at the National Archives of Scotland.
You can check the online database maintained by the State Library of Queensland. There are also transportation registers from 1787-1870 held at The National Archives in London [copies available on microfilm at the National Archives of Scotland].
There are also some transportation records held by the National Archives of Scotland relating to those who left between 1653 and 1853 in the papers of the High Court of Justiciary, but these are by no means comprehensive.
Records of the trials of those Scots who were sentenced to transportation through the Scottish courts can be found in the High Court papers, but not all of these papers have been indexed or added to the online catalogue and can be extremely difficult to locate remotely.
You should try to find out if passenger lists or manifests from ships that they may have arrived on have survived at the port of entry that is, where they arrived as immigrants ? this can be a great first step in finding where your ancestors were from and exactly when they arrived.
If you cannot locate your ancestors in this way, then you may wish to consult some of the lists of emigrants that have been compiled by Scottish researchers. David Dobson and Donald Whyte have both published useful books which list emigrants who left Scotland for the Americas and Australasia in the period before passenger lists are available.
Also of value may be these lists by P W Filby and M K Meyer:
Passenger and Immigration Lists Index - A Guide to Published Arrival Records of about 500 000 Passengers in the United States and Canada, (Detroit, 1988: 2nd ed.).
Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild
Ships Passenger Lists on the Internet
Ellis Island Foundation
The Scottish Emigration Database [1890-1960]
Convicts to Australia
The Highland Clearances
There is also a very useful list of links available at www.scotlandsfamily.com