Kildonan, Sutherland, Scotland Genealogy

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Parish # 52

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

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KILDONAN, a parish, in the county of Sutherland, 9 miles (N. W. by W.) from Helmsdale. This parish takes its name from Kil, a "cell or chapel," and Donan, the name of the saint who promulgated Christianity in this part, and whose memory has been handed down by tradition with great veneration. It is chiefly remarkable as having been, for several ages, the residence of the celebrated clan Gun. The church is a plain building, erected about 1740, and rebuilt in 1786.[1]

Kildonan is derived from Kil, a cell, and Durun or Donan, is distinguished as Saint Donan. The name Kildonan was spelt Keldurunach, in a charter of Gilbert Murray, who was Bishop of Caithness between the years 1222 and 1245; and in the seventeenth century, it was written Kildonnand. This parish is altogether inland, and on the east it is bounded by part of the county of Caithness. The north boundary of the parish of Loth intervenes between Kildonan as its southern boundary.

Helmsdale is the nearest town, a distance of two miles from the south boundary, and nine miles from the manse and church.

In the sixteenth century, the chiefs and a great body of the clan Gun settled in this parish, and until lately, has been their chief place of residence. The clan Gun have at all times been considered throughout the North Highlands as descended from the Norwegian Kings of Man; and Lochlin, the Gaelic name for ancient Scandinavia.

His Grace the Duke of Sutherland is proprietor of the whole parish, which has been part of the ancient Eardom of Sutherland from the earliest time to which the national records go back.

The population in 1801 was 1440, and by the 1831 census it has decreased to 257 people. This decrease is accounted for by the change that occurred in the rural economy of the parish, by the substitution of Cheviot sheep for Highland cattle, between the years 1811 and 1821. Almost all the of the whole parish is occupied as sheep farms.

The patronage of the parish has, since the Reformation, been vested in the Sutherland family. All of the inhabitants of the parish belong to the Church of Scotland.

No mention if made of any church records having been kept.

This account was written February 1840.

Source: New Statistical Account of Scotland for Kildonan, FHL book 941 B4sa, series 2, vol. 15.

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
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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 Kildonan as well as the library numbers for any surname indexes available:

FHL Film Number
Surname Indexes
FHL 1042624
FHL 1042006
FHL 103918
FHL 104109
FHL 203406
6086688 (1fiche)
FHL 208621

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
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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 FHL Film Number
Births: 1790-1854 FHL 0990563Item 2
Marriages: 1790-1854 FHL 0990563Item 2
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.Births: There is a separate record from 1801 of children baptized in the Heights of Kildonan and there are irregular entries on two pages at end of record.
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:

Minutes 1851–1911
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH2/804.

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.

No known nonconformist groups. See Loth parish.

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.

Probate Records
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kildonan was under the probate jurisdiction of the Commissary Court of Caithness 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.