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Abbey, Renfrewshire, Scotland Genealogy

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Abbey (#559)

This is a guide to the history and major genealogical records of Scotland as they pertain to the parish of Abbey. To learn more about how to use these records to search for your ancestors, go to the Scotland: Research Strategies.


History[edit | edit source]

PAISLEY, a burgh, market-town, and ancient parish, in the Upper ward of the county of Renfrew, of which it is the principal place. A monastery, which was dedicated to the Virgin Mary, St. James, and St. Mirin, flourished till the year 1220, when it was raised to the rank of a mitred abbey by Pope Honorius III. The whole of the Paisley portion of the county, at present so populously inhabited, and forming so extensive a manufacturing district, was previously to the year 1736 one parish, now divided into the Abbey parish and the town parishes. The increasing population requiring further accommodation, a Gaelic church and six chapels of ease were erected. The Gaelic church was built in 1793, for the use of the Highlanders generally in the town of Paisley and the vicinity; and to each of the chapels of ease was till lately annexed a quoad sacra district, by which they were raised to the rank of parish churches. Of the six chapels or churches, that of Johnstone was erected in 1792, the church at Levern in 1835, and that of Elderslie in 1840; and in the burgh, the North church, the Martyrs, and the South church, have been completed, and a minister ordained to each. There are places of worship for members of the Free Church, the Reformed Presbytery, Old Burghers, the Relief, and the United Secession'; also an episcopal chapel; places of worship for Wesleyan Methodists, Scottish and Berean Baptists, Independents, Glassites, Unitarians, and Universalists; and in the New Town a Roman Catholicchapel.[1]

The New Statistical Account of Scotland (pub. 1834-45) offers uniquely rich and detailed parish reports for the whole of Scotland, covering a vast range of topics including history, agriculture, education, trades, religion and social customs. The reports, written by the parish ministers, are available online at Click on ‘Browse scanned pages’ then search the parish reports for Abbey.  Also available at the Family History Library.

Census Records[edit | edit source]

A census is a count and description of the population, taken by the government, arranged by locality and by household. Read more about census records.

Here is a list of the Family History Library microfilm numbers for the census records of Abbey as well as the library numbers for any surname indexes available:

Years Faqmily History Library Film Number Surname Index              
1841 1042728
1851 1042367 CD-ROM no. 3817
1861 103897
1871 104080
1881 6086652 (set of 11 Fiche)

The 1901 census of Scotland is indexed on  To use it, you must register and pay a small access fee. All available censuses, 1841-1901, are indexed on this website. It may be easier for you to pay to use the website rather than access indexes through the library.

Church Records[edit | edit source]

The Established Church of Scotland was Presbyterian. Read more about church records.

Here are the pre-1855 records that exist for this parish.

Established Church—Old Parochial Registers[edit | edit source]

Years Covered Family History Library Film Number
Births: 1676-1707 1041087
1708-1820 1041088
1820-1831 1041089
1832-1854 1041090
1824-1855 - neglected entries 1041091
Marriages: 1670-1707 1041087
1708-1819 1041089
1819-1844 1041090
1845-1855 1041091
Deaths: 1759-1783 0102050 - in vault
1783-1819 1041089
1819-1826 1041090
1833-1864 1041091
Condition of Original Registers[edit | edit source]

Indexed: For an index to these records, see Scotland’s People website, a pay-for-view website. The Scottish Church Records Index is also still available at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.  Some records may also be indexed in other FamilySearch collections for Scotland.
Births: This record does not exhibit any blanks. The margins of some of the leaves have suffered from the effects of dampness. Mothers’ names are not recorded until May 1696, and seldom between 1709 and 1724.
Marriages: There are no blanks in the record. Bookings and marriages are often separately recorded before 1686. Entries for July 1686–May 1696 are chiefly proclamations, the fact of the marriage being seldom added. After 1710, the record again becomes chiefly one of proclamations.
Deaths: Record is Mortcloth Dues until 1792. They are blank February 1792–September 1795, after which deaths are recorded.
Source:Key to the Parochial Registers of Scotland, by V. Ben Bloxham, pub. 1970. British Book 941 K23b.

Established Church—Kirk Session Records[edit | edit source]

The Kirk session was the court of the parish. The session was made up of the minister and the land owners and business men of the parish, chosen to serve on the session. The Kirk session dealt with moral issues, minor criminal cases, matters of the poor and education, matters of discipline, and the general concerns of the parish. Kirk session records may also mention births, marriages, and deaths.

Here is a list of the surviving Kirk session records for this parish:

See also Paisley parish.

Abbey Kirk Session[edit | edit source]

Accounts 1751–1768, 1775–1785, 1795–1860
Minutes 1699–1706, 1710–1775, 1797–1903
Cash Book 1844–1927
Ledger 1844–1866
Copies of Baptismal Registers, and Proclamations of Marriage 1826–1851
Communion Roll 1846–1925
Yard Register 1816–1874
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH2/490.

Elderslie Kirk Session[edit | edit source]

Managers’ Trustees’ Minutes 1840–1863
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH2/878.

Nonconformist Church Records[edit | edit source]

A nonconformist church is any church that is not the Established church. Read more about nonconformity in Scotland in the article on the Scotland Church Records Union List.


See also Paisley parish.

Abbey Close Associate Burgher Secession, later United Presbyterian Church
[edit | edit source]

Previous to the year 1765, the seceders resident in Paisley attended public religious ordinances at Burntshields, six miles from town. The rapid growth of the population due to the flourishing state of the silk gauze manufacture in Paisley, introduced six years before, induced the seceders to apply to the Presbytery for a disjunction from Burntshields in order to form a separate congregation, which was immediately granted. The first church was built in 1769, the second in 1827.
Source: Annals and Statistics of the United Presbyterian Church, by Rev. William MacKelvie, D.D., pub. 1873. Film #477618. More details may be given in the source including a list of ministers.
                                                              Family History Library Film Number
Roll of Baptized Members    1849–1874    0889484 item 4 X
Burial Register                    1842–1904     0889494 item 4 X
Note: The X means the record has been extracted.
Various Minutes 1769–1864
Accounts 1812–1840
Collections 1850–1889
Building Committee and Managers’ Cash Book 1827–1855
Roll of Members 1816–1826, 1830–1927
Nomination Roll 1853–1867
Names of Proprietors of Plots in Burying Ground 1832
Copy Correspondence with Golespie Missionary Station 1837–1841
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH3/465.

Johnstone West Associate Secession Church[edit | edit source]

Previous to 1781, Johnstone was a small hamlet with only ten persons. A large spinning mill was erected near it and the formation of a town was begun and it proceeded so rapidly that in 1792 the inhabitants amounted to 1434. Much of the population had been drawn from the immediately surrounding district and they were members of the Secession congregation of Burntshields in Kilbarchan parish. Finding attendance at that place inconvenient, they erected a place of worship in Johnstone in 1791, under the sanction of the Presbytery. The minister of Burntshields removed to Johnstone and Burntshields and it became a vacant charge.
Source: Annals and Statistics of the United Presbyterian Church, by Rev. William MacKelvie, D.D., pub. 1873. Film #477618. More details may be given in the source including a list of ministers.

Extent of the records is unknown.

Johnstone East Relief Presbyterian Church
[edit | edit source]

In the course of the rapid increase of Johnstone as a town, many persons had settled in it and connected with the Relief Church. They were desirous of having a place of worship there and they applied to the Presbytery of Glasgow in July 1828 and a church was built in 1829.
Source: Annals and Statistics of the United Presbyterian Church, by Rev. William MacKelvie, D.D., pub. 1873. Film #477618. More details may be given in the source including a list of ministers.

Extent of the records is unknown.

Johnstone Free Church
[edit | edit source]

The congregation was formed here in August 1843. The charge was sanctioned in December following. A hall was rented for public worship. A church was soon erected.
Membership: 1848, 135; 1900, 512.
Source: Annals of the Free Church of Scotland, 1843–1900, ed. Rev. William Ewing, D.D., 2 vols. pub. 1914.Film #918572. More details may be given in the source including a list of ministers.

Minutes 1843–1898
Deacons’ Court Minutes 1846–1903
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH3/884.

Johnstone Roman Catholic Church
[edit | edit source]

See Paisley and Houston Parishes.

Civil Registration Records[edit | edit source]

Government or civil registration of births, marriages, and deaths (also called statutory records) began on January 1, 1855 in Scotland. Each parish has a registrar's office and large cities have several. The records are created by the registrars and copies are sent to the General Register Office in Edinburgh. Annual indexes are then created for the records for the whole country.

See the article on Scotland Civil Registration for more information and to access the records.

Probate Records[edit | edit source]

Abbey was under the probate jurisdiction of the Commissary Court of Glasgow until 1823, and since then has been under the Sheriff's Court of Paisley. Probate records for 1513- 1901 are indexed online at  You must register on the website but use of the index to probate records, called 'Wills & Testaments,' is free. You may then purchase a copy of the document or, if the document is before 1823, it will be on microfilm at the Family History Library. To find the microfilm numbers, search in the Library Catalog for the 'Place' of Renfrew and the subject of 'Probate records.' Then click on the link to the records of the Commissariat of Glasgow.

The library also has some post-1823 probate records for Renfrew.  Look in the Library Catalog for the 'Place' of Renfrew and the subjects of 'Probate Records' and 'Probate Records - Indexes.'

Read more about Scotland Probate Records.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Lewis, Samuel A., A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland (1846), pp. 337-351. Adapted. Date accessed: 20 February 2014.

Return to the Renfrewshire parish list.