Greenlaw, Berwickshire, Scotland Genealogy

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Parish #743

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

History[edit | edit source]

GREENLAW, a burgh of barony, the county town, and a parish, in the county of Berwick, 8 miles (S. W.) from Dunse, and 36 (S. E. by E.) from Edinburgh. This place is supposed to have derived its name from the situation of the ancient village on one of those conical eminences of which there are several in the parish, which eminence, from its superior verdure, obtained the appellation of the Green Law. The burgh is pleasantly situated on the north bank of the river Blackadder. The church, situated in the town, is a plain structure in good repair, containing 476 sittings. There are places of worship for members of the Free Church, the United Secession, and Original Burghers.[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 your parish of interest. Also available at the Family History Library.

Census Records[edit | edit source]

A census record 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 see the FamilySearch Catalog entry for the 1841-1891 census records of Greenlaw, as well as the catalog entry for the 1841,1851, and 1861 census surname indexes for Greenlaw.  Other surname indexes will be found on the Berwickshire county page.

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]

Event Type Years Covered Family History Library Film Number
Births: 1699-1820 1067899 item 4-6

1820-1954 1067900 item 1-2
Marriages 1648-1754, 1780-1820 1067899 item 4-6

1754-1779, 1820-1855 1067900 item 1-2
Deaths: 1719-1754, 1780-1820 1067899 item 4-6

1754-1779, 1820-1854 1067900 item 1-2
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. 
Births: There are only three entries prior to January 1702. There is a duplicate of the record up to April 1820. Mothers’ names are rarely inserted before 1721 and sometimes omitted even after that date.
Marriages: Marriages are intermixed with other matters until 1779. Early pages are much damaged by dampness, etc. The pages are blank July 1659–April 1720. Following 1720, only entries of booking money and of fines for irregular marriages exist; marriages are mixed with Mortcloth Dues until June 1779. A separate record of proclamations begins December 1780.
Deaths: Mortcloth Dues are intermixed with other matters until September 1778. A separate record is kept after August 1780.
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 Kirk 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 1836–1861
Accounts 1779–1907
Register of Certificates 1833–1843
List of Persons New to Greenlaw, 1839–1842, giving personal details
List of Persons Removed From Greenlaw, 1842
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH2/183.

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.

Greenlaw Seceding Churches[edit | edit source]

The New Statistical Account of Scotland for Greenlaw for 1834 states that there were two dissenting or seceding chapels in Greenlaw attended by about 98 families. No histories are available. One is assumed to be the Original Secession congregation which united with the Free Church about 1852. As an Original Secession congregation, it may have existed from before 1827. The other would have been a United Associate congregation and may have come into being about 1825. It would be the United Presbyterian congregation identified in Samuel Lewis’s Topographical Dictionary of Scotland 1851.

Communion Roll 1825–1853; identified as records of the Greenlaw United Associate Congregation, though it may belong to the Original Secession congregation
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH3/503.

Greenlaw Free Church[edit | edit source]

This parish began when the minister of the parish left the Established Church in 1843 and built a church the following year. They built a larger church in 1856 to contain the increased membership resulting from their union with an Original Secession congregation. The revivals of 1860 and 1869 brought many new members to the congregation. However, membership decreased later with an overall out-migration from the district.
Membership: 1848, 328; 1900, 168.
Source: Annals of the Free Church of Scotland, 1843–1900, ed. Rev. William Ewing, D.D., 2 vols. pub. 1914. Film #918572. More details are given in the source.

Minutes 1842–1874
Communion Roll 1842–1847
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH3/635.

Greenlaw Congregational Church[edit | edit source]

It is believed a church was formed in Greenlaw in 1781, but no history is available. Its existence may have been short-lived. Another congregation was formed about 1900 which joined the Congregational Union of Scotland in 1905 and closed by 1924.

Extent of pre-1855 records is unknown.

Greenlaw Branch, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter–Day Saints[edit | edit source]

No history is available.

                                                   Family History Library Film Number
Record of Members, 1847–1848    0104152 item 6

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 Registrationfor more information and to access the records.

Prison Records[edit | edit source]

A transcription index has been published by Maxwell Ancestry (of Lockerbie, Dumfriesshire; for the following:

  • Greenlaw Prison Register, 1840-1862 (FHL book 941.455/G1 J62m, 2 vols.)

Probate Records[edit | edit source]

Greenlaw was under the probate jurisdiction of the Commissary Court of Lauder until 1823, and since then has been under the Sheriff's Court of Duns. 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 Berwick and the subject of 'Probate records.' Then click on the link to the records of the Commissariat of Lauder.

The library also has some post-1823 probate records for Berwick. Look in the library catalog for the 'Place-names' of Berwick 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. 514-527. Adapted. Date accessed: 03 April 2014.

Return to the Berwickshire parish list.