Neilston, Renfrewshire, Scotland Genealogy

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Neilston (#572)

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


History[edit | edit source]

NEILSTON, a parish, in the Upper ward of the county of Renfrew; containing the villages of West Arthurlee, Crofthead, Gateside, and Uplamuir, part of the late quoad sacra district of Levern, and the late quoad sacra district of Barrhead, 9 miles (S. W. by W.) from Glasgow. This place is supposed to have derived its name from one of its earliest proprietors. The chief river is the Levern, which has its source in Long loch, and for four miles divides the parish, passing the villages of Neilston and Barrhead. The church is an ancient edifice of the later style of English architecture It is well situated for the parishioners generally, and is adapted for a congregation of 830 persons. There are places of worship for the Free Church and the United Associate Synod.[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 Neilston.  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 Neilston as well as the library numbers for any surname indexes available:


Years FHL Film Number Surname Index           
1841 1042726 CD-ROM no. 3822
1851 1042364 CD-ROM no. 3817
1861 103902
1871 104086
1881 203579 6086652 (set of 11 fiche)
1891 220193

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]

Event Type Years Covered FHL Film Number
Births: 1688-1819 - baptisms 1041281
1820-1855 1041282
Marriages: 1737-1819 1041281
1819-1855 1041282
Deaths: 1744-1816 1041281
1822-1851 1041282

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 be indexed in the International Genealogical Index. 
Births: Records are blank August 1690–January 1702, excluding two entries for 1701; also August 1735–May 1737. The margins of the leaves prior to 1740 have been much wasted, rendering many entries more or less imperfect. Mothers’ names not recorded until 1737.
Marriages: After 1766, the fact of marriage is often omitted in the entries until 1716, from which date to 1833, there are separate records of proclamations and marriages.
Deaths: Record is blank November 1771–January 1776, and May 1776–October 1783, excluding four entries 1777–1778. There are only four entries July 1793–January 1805 and they are blank May 1811–November 1822, excluding two entries 1814–1816.
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 1753–1760
Accounts and Poors’ Fund 1760–1849
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH2/275.

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 Lists.

Barrhead Associate Session[edit | edit source]

Several persons in the parish of Neilston acceded to the Associate Presbytery in 1739. Supply of sermon was occasionally provided until the congregation of Mearns was organized and they became part of it. At the “Breach” in 1747, many of the Barrhead Seceders adhered to the Associate Burgher Presbytery while the majority of the congregation of Mearns adhered to the General Associate Anti-burgher Synod. They then joined the congregation of Shuttle Street, Glasgow, which had adopted the same views. When the congregation of Pollokshaws began, they formed part of it. In 1793, those in the Barrhead area petitioned the Presbytery to be disjoined and formed into a separate congregation, which was granted. Church built in 1796 and enlarged in 1822.
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.

Session Minutes 1796–1859
Managers’ Minutes 1807–1875
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH3/342.

Barrhead Free Church[edit | edit source]

Alexander Salmon, minister of Barrhead “quoad sacra” church, and a large part of the congregation, “came out” in 1843. Five months later they were deprived of the church. For three months the congregation worshiped in the open air, in sight of their church locked up and empty. The Free Church was erected in 1846. Two stations established by this congregation became sanctioned charges, at Neilston and Nitshill.
Membership: 1848, 500; 1900, 631
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.

Deacons’ Court Minutes 1850–1881
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, records CH3/870.

Barrhead Roman Catholic Church
[edit | edit source]

St. John’s church was consecrated in 1841.

Baptisms 1841–1911
Marriages 1841–1941
Note: Available online for a fee, at,  Edinburgh, record MP/73.

Barrhead Branch, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
[edit | edit source]

                                                    FHL Film Number
Record of members   1847–1851      0104149 item 8


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]

Neilston 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-names' 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-names' of Renfrew and the subjects of 'Probate Records' and 'Probate Records - Indexes.'

Read more about Scotland Probate Records.

[edit | edit source]

  1. Lewis, Samuel A., A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland (1846), pp. 298-309. Adapted. Date accessed: 21 February 2014.

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