Assynt, Sutherland, Scotland Genealogy

From FamilySearch Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Parish #44

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

History[edit | edit source]

ASSYNT, a parish, in the county of Sutherland, 30 miles (N. W. by W.) from Dornoch; containing the quoad sacra district of Stoer, and the village of Lochinver. This place, which is supposed to take its name from its irregular boundary line, the Gaelic term, as agus innte, signifying "out and in," was once a forest of the ancient thanes of Sutherland. The church, a small building, seating about 280 persons, is inconveniently situated at a distance of nine miles from the southern boundary of the parish, the great bulk of the population residing at distances varying from 12 to 18 miles; it has been extensively repaired. There are two preaching stations, the one at Lochinver, fourteen miles from the church, and the other at Kyle side, nearly the same distance. A place of worship has been erected in connexion with the Free Church.[1]

The word Assynt, is supposed to be a Gaelic compound, “ as agus innte,” signifying out and in, evidently referring to, and describing the general outline of the parish. Other derivations have been given, connected to legendary traditions; but this seems to be the preferred one. The parish is situated in the north-west part of the county of Sutherland, and is thus bounded: on the north, it is divided from the parish of Edderachillis, in the Reay country, by an arm of the sea of considerable breadth, called the Kyle, which runs between both parishes from west to east; on the east and south, by Kincardine, Creich, Lairg, and Lochbroom; and on the west, by the Atlantic.

The MacNicols once held the Island of Lewis and Assynt.  Their ownership passed through marriage to the MacLeods in 1343.  A younger MacLeod son received the lands of Assynt.  Then the MacKensies of Ross-shire bought, invaded, and took over Assynt in 1672.  The MacKensies held the estate until their bankruptcy in 1739.  The Sutherland family bought Assynt in 1757.

There is no market-town within the parish; neither have any markets been established. Lochinver is the only village.  The Sutherland family established Lochinver as a planned village in 1812, with hopes of encouraging employment in small-scale manufacturing, kelp-harvesting, and salmon fishing.

There are no printed of manuscript accounts of Assynt so far as known. Various traditions, however, speak of individuals, noted in their day, living in or connected with the parish. Among these would be Neil Macleod, who resided at Ardvrack Castle, built on the banks of Loch Assynt.

The whole of the estate and parish of Assynt once belonged to the Macleods of Assynt, a branch of the ancient family of the Macleods of Lewis.

The Duchess-Countess of Sutherland is sole proprietrix of the parish. It has been in the possession of her Grace’s family since the early part of the eighteenth century, when it was purchased by the then Earl of Sutherland, grandfather of the present Countess.

Because of where the parish is situated, and the climate, the greater part of Assynt, particularly in interior, is peculiarly adapted for pasture and sheep raising.

The population count in 1760 was 1800 people, and the census of 1831, the count was 3183. Of the present population about 1400 persons are attached to the church and parish of Store.

There is no register of date previous to 1798. Since that period, births and marriages have been recorded with tolerable regularity, but there is no register of deaths.

The parish church is situated within nine miles of the southern boundary of the parish, a situation extremely inconvenient for the people. The great bulk of the population live from twelve to eighteen miles away from the church. There is no dissenting places of worship, and not above a dozen Dissenters in the whole parish.

This account was drawn up November 1837, and revised March 1840.

Sources: New Statistical Account of Scotland for Assynt, Family History Library book 941 B4sa, series 2, vol. 15; Malcolm Bangor-Jones,Historic Assynt (Dundee: The Assynt Press, 2000).

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 you are interested in. 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 .

Click here[low quality link] to go to the Family History Library Catalog entry for the census records of Assynt.  The Family History Library has a surname index to the 1881 census of the whole of Sutherland county.

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 the separate 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]

Record Type Years Covered Family History Library Film Number
Births: 1798-1854 0990560 Item 1
Marriages: 1798-1854 0990560 Item 1
Deaths: No entries none

Condition of Original Registers—
[edit | edit source]

Index: 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.
Marriages: Form of entries is somewhat peculiar, generally containing a reference to the "consignation money".
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 he 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:

Minutes 1818–1843
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH2/894

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.

Assynt Free Church[edit | edit source]

Charles Gordon, minister of the parish, and almost the whole congregation, "came out" in 1843. Neither site nor house for the minister and his family could at first be got in the parish. The Duke of Sutherland refused a site, and when one was granted by a neighboring proprietor, he tried to prevent the people from using the quarries on his estate. In a few years church and manse were built 14 miles from the old church and 2-1/2 miles from Lochinver village. In 1878, to meet the necessities of the people, a church was erected at Elphine and, in 1893 a church and manse close to Lochinver. School buildings were also provided. Assynt was, for many decades, a stronghold of the 'Separatists'. The people, many of whom had remarkable mental and spiritual gifts separated from the church because of the moderatism that prevailed in the Highlands. Their attitude towards the regular ministry was critical and suspicious; and their teaching, especially in regard to the Communion, often very narrow. They left a deep mark on this and other parishes, owing to the strength of their leaders called 'the men'.
Membership: 1850, 362; 1900, 24.
Source: Annals of the Free Church of Scotland, 1843–1900, ed. Rev. William Ewing, D.D., pub. 1914. Film # 918572. More details may be given in the source, including ministers.

No known pre–1855 records.

Stoer Free Church[edit | edit source]

Peter Davidson, minister of Stoer, and a large number of his people, adhered to the Free Church at the Disruption. At the settlement of Mr. Davidson's successor in 1848, the district of Klyeside was disjoined from Assynt and annexed to Stoer. Church and manse were provided.
Membership: 1859, 600; 1900, 17.
Source: Annals of the Free Church of Scotland, 1843–1900, ed. Rev. William Ewing, D.D., pub. 1914. Film# 918572. More details may be given in the source, including ministers.

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]

Assynt was under the probate jurisdiction of the Commissary Court of Caithess until 1823, and since then has been under the Sheriff's Court of Dornoch. 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-names' of Sutherland and the subject of 'Probate records.' Then click on the link to the records of the Commissariat of Caithness.

The library also has some post-1823 probate records for Sutherland. Look in the library catalog for the 'Place-names' of Sutherland 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. 499-514. Adapted. Date accessed: 7 August 2014.

Return to Sutherland parish list.