Harris, Inverness-shire, Scotland Genealogy

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Parish #111 

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

History[edit | edit source]

HARRIS, a parish, comprising the southern division of the island of Lewis, in the county of Inverness, 44 miles (N. W.) from Portree; and containing the islands designated Bernera, Ensay, Hermitray, Killigray, Pabbay, Scalpay, Scarp, and Tarrinsay. The parish of Harris was till lately called Kilbride; its present name is corrupted from the Gaelic term na hardibh, signifying "the heights," this district of the Hebrides being the highest and most mountainous of any in the island of Lewis. A church, with 400 sittings, was built, the old edifice, situated nearly in the centre of the parish, and accommodating only 250 persons, having become too ruinous for public worship. At Bernera is a government church, erected in 1829, to which is attached a district consisting of some islands belonging to the parish.[1]

This parish was designed Kilbride, but now denominated in English, Harris. It derives its name from “na hardibh,” a Gaelic expression signifying the heights. This parish in the highest and most mountainous part of the long island in which it is situated.
This parish includes St. Kilda.

The Earl of Dunmore is the sole proprietor of the parish.

The arable ground is of very small extent, but some raw produce is raised, Oats, barley, potatoes, and hay. Also sheep and Black-cattle are pastured.

 In the year 1755, the population amounted to 1969 souls, in 1792 there were 2536, and at the present period, it is upwards of   4000. By census, there were 1863 males, 2037 females, 777 families, and 759 houses inhabited.

This account was written January 1841.

Source: The New Statistical Account of Scotland for Harris, Family History Library book 941 B4sa, series 2 vol. 14.

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 http://edina.ac.uk/stat-acc-scot/.  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.

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

Family History Library Film Number
Surname Indexes
6344852 (3 fiche)
6086593 (4 fiche)

The 1901 census of Scotland is indexed on www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk. 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
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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: 1823-1854 (Harris) 0990671 item 1

1830- 1851 (St. Kilda) 0990671 item 1
Marriages: 1838-1851 (Harris) 0990671 item 1

1830-1849 (St. Kilda) 0990671 item 1
Deaths: 1830-1846 (Harris) 0990671 item 1

1830-1846 (St. Kilda) 0990671 item 1


Condition of Original Registers—
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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 is no record prior to 1823. In the separate record for St. Kilda, the largest number of birth entries for any one year is eight and the smallest is two entries. No entries November 1840–July 1849 and the total number of entries are seventy.
Marriages:  One entry for each of the years 1830, 1831, 1834, 1837, and 1838. There are no entries for 1839, one for 1840, and no entries until 1846. One entry for the latter year and two entries for 1849 close the record. Total number of entries is twenty-two.
Deaths:  Sixty-one entries recorded between July 1830 and September 1839. One entry for 1840, one for 1845 and three for 1846, close the record. This volume is retained by the registrar-general.
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:

No known records.

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.

Harris Free Church[edit | edit source]

In 1845 a catechist was placed in Harris. The population in 1847 was stated at 4000, practically all adhering to the Free Church. In 1848 it was seen that two charges were required in the island. A church was erected at Manish, and the charge there was sanctioned under the name of Harris in 1849. The other charge was at Tarbert.
Membership: 1855, 200; 1900, 30.
Source:  Annals of the Free Church of Scotland, 1943-1900, 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.

The extent of records is unknown.

Tarbert Free Church[edit | edit source]

The congregation was formed here in 1848, when the district was divided. Church and manse were built about 1860, in which year the charge was sanctioned. The congregation entered the Union unbroken in 1900.
Membership: 1863, 900; 1900, 251.
Source:   Annals of the Free Church of Scotland, 1943–1900, ed. Rev. William Ewing, D.D., 2 Vols. Pub. 1914. Film .  More details may be given in the source, including a list of ministers.

No known pre-1855 records.

St. Kilda Free Church, Station[edit | edit source]

In 1846, all the inhabitants of St. Kilda, numbering 103, declared their adherence to the Free Church. Deputies occasionally visited the island, but no agent was stationed there, and the proprietor refused the use of the vacant church. A catechist was appointed about 1859 but resigned in 1863. In 1865, with the Assembly sanctioned, and in response to a request of the people, a probationer was ordained as missionary in the island.
Membership: 1880, 100*; 1900, 20. - including adherents
Source:  Annals of the Free Church of Scotland, 1943–1900, ed. Rev. William Ewing, D.D., 2 Vols. pub. 1914. Film #918572. More details may be given in the source.

No pre-1855 records.

Civil Registration Records
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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.

Isle of Harris Records Website[edit | edit source]

The hebridespeople($) website contains an emigrant database, and a database for families connected with the Isle of Harris. The site works on the principle of purchasing credits, which will be familiar to those who have used the scotlandspeople website. Entering a name will show all persons of that name on the database, their date of birth and parish of birth, and by choosing the appropriate entry you can find access directly to place of birth, parents (where known) date and place of marriage and death, together with a note of where that person appears in the census records from 1841 to 1901. The database also allows access to family notes and family sheets.

Probate Records
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Harris was under the probate jurisdiction of the Commissary Court of The Isles until 1823, and since then has been under the Sheriff's Court of Inverness. Probate records for 1513- 1901 are indexed online at www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk. 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 Inverness-shire and the subject of 'Probate records.' Then click on the link to the records of the Commissariat of The Isles.

The library also has some post-1823 probate records for Inverness-shire. Look in the library catalog for the 'Place-names' of Inverness-shire 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: 3 July 2014.

Return to Inverness-shire parish list.