Genealogy website ScotlandsPeople has brought to light the enigmatic lives of over a thousand Scottish lighthouse keepers, making their employment records accessible online for the first time.

The collection comprises more than 2,000 scanned images, chronicling the experiences of these dedicated keepers who manned 92 lighthouses spread along the Scottish coast between 1837 and 1921.

Beyond the serene and picturesque exteriors of lighthouses, the records reveal a world of toil and sacrifice endured by these relentless keepers. They braved long days and nights, ensuring the beacons’ light and fog signals remained operational to guide ships through treacherous waters. Toiling amidst harsh conditions, they faced not only the unforgiving weather but also the isolation that came with their remote postings.

The life of a lighthouse keeper was far from glamorous. Many resided in cramped quarters, often lacking basic amenities such as proper washing facilities or even toilets. For extended periods, they found themselves separated from their families and friends, their sole purpose being to safeguard the safety of those at sea.

The records provide a sweeping perspective, encompassing all of Scotland, from the northernmost Muckle Flugga near Shetland to the southernmost at Drumore, Mull of Galloway. Among the entries are insights into the world-famous Bell Rock lighthouse, holding the title of the oldest operational sea-washed lighthouse globally. Additionally, these documents touch upon the tragic tale of the Flannan Isles, where three keepers vanished without a trace after a storm in 1900, a mystery that remains shrouded in maritime lore.

Jocelyn Grant, the esteemed NRS Outreach and Learning archivist, expressed her enthusiasm for this momentous release. She emphasised the invaluable nature of these records, shedding light on the bygone era of over 1,300 tenacious men whose profession has now become a chapter of history. Visitors to the National Records of Scotland have frequently sought access to the Northern Lighthouse Board records, hoping to trace their ancestral connections to these heroic keepers of the past.

The story of Scottish lighthouse keepers is one that weaves into the rich tapestry of the nation’s maritime heritage. Their legacy endures in the modern era, even though the last lighthouse was automated in 1998. Their dedication and resilience continue to inspire generations, and the availability of these records on ScotlandsPeople ensures that their memories stay alive, accessible to people not only within the country but also across the globe.

ScotlandsPeople stands as the official portal for delving into the country’s enthralling family and social history. The record indexes, now freely searchable, open a portal to the past, while viewing some images may require nominal charges.