Alasdair J G Gray

Connecting the dots in the World's data

An Identifier Scheme for the Digitising Scotland Project

The Digitising Scotland project is having the vital records of Scotland transcribed from images of the original handwritten civil registers . Linking the resulting dataset of 24 million vital records covering the lives of 18 million people is a major challenge requiring improved record linkage techniques. Discussions within the multidisciplinary, widely distributed Digitising Scotland project team have been hampered by the teams in each of the institutions using their own identification scheme. To enable fruitful discussions within the Digitising Scotland team, we required a mechanism for uniquely identifying each individual represented on the certificates. From the identifier it should be possible to determine the type of certificate and the role each person played. We have devised a protocol to generate for any individual on the certificate a unique identifier, without using a computer, by exploiting the National Records of Scotland’s registration districts. Importantly, the approach does not rely on the handwritten content of the certificates which reduces the risk of the content being misread resulting in an incorrect identifier. The resulting identifier scheme has improved the internal discussions within the project. This paper discusses the rationale behind the chosen identifier scheme, and presents the format of the different identifiers.

An Identifier Scheme for the Digitising Scotland Project from Alasdair Gray

The work reported in the paper was supported by the British ESRC under grants ES/K00574X/1(Digitising Scotland) and ES/L007487/1 (Administrative Data Research Centre – Scotland).

My coauthors are:

  • Özgür Akgün, University of St Andrews
  • Ahamd Alsadeeqi, Heriot-Watt University
  • Peter Christen, Australian National University
  • Tom Dalton, University of St Andrews
  • Alan Dearle, University of St Andrews
  • Chris Dibben, University of Edinburgh
  • Eilidh Garret, University of Essex
  • Graham Kirby, University of St Andrews
  • Alice Reid, University of Cambridge
  • Lee Williamson, University of Edinburgh

The work reported in this talk is the result of the Digitising Scotland Raasay Retreat. Also at the retreat were:

  • Julia Jennings, University of Albany
  • Christine Jones
  • Diego Ramiro-Farinas, Centre for Human and Social Sciences (CCHS) of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)

    About Me


    I'm an Associate Professor in Computer Science at Heriot-Watt University. My research focuses on linking datasets. Read more