North Berwick, East Lothian, Scotland Genealogy

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Parish #713

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

History[edit | edit source]

BERWICK, NORTH, a burgh, market-town, and parish, in the county of Haddington, 10 miles (N. by E.) from Haddington, and 23 (N. E. by E.) from Edinburgh. This place derives its name from its situation at the mouth of the Frith of Forth. The church, erected in 1770, on the site of the former edifice, was, in 1819, thoroughly repaired, and the interior renewed; it is adapted for a congregation of 550 persons, and has a spacious cemetery, planted with stately avenues of ancient elms. There are places of worship for members of the Free Church and the United Associate Synod: the former was erected with a view to honour the memory of the covenanters imprisoned on the Bass rock.[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 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 North Berwick, as well as the library numbers for any surname indexesavailable.

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 FHL Film Number
Births: 1604-1616, 1653-1819 - baptisms 1067851

1788-1804, 1820-1855 1067852 item 1-3
Marriages: 1604-1616, 1653-1821 1067851

1820-1855 1067852 item 1-3
Deaths: 1792-1819 - burials 1078951

1782-1796, 1820-1854 1067852 item 1-3
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: Births and marriages are intermixed until December 1738. There is a draft of the mixed record November 1725–May 1730, and on the births 1788–1804. Mothers’ names are not inserted in entries of birth until 1686.
Marriages: A separate record commences April 1739. Fact of marriage seldom recorded between 1722 and 1738 inclusive and there is a duplicate of portion 1788–1804.
Deaths: Deaths are intermixed with births and marriages until 1685. Records are blank August 1685–September 1792, after which there are only “Mortcloth Dues” until 1826. There is also a duplicate 1792–1796.
Source: Key to the Parochial Registers of Scotland, by V. Ben Bloxham, pub. 1970. British Book 941 K23b.

Established Church—Kirk Session Records
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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:

Transcribed extracts for February 16,1608, and November 20,1720.
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH2/285.

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.

 The New Statistical Account of Scotland for North Berwick 1839 states the Dissenters seldom register the birth of their children in the parish session records.

North Berwick United Presbyterian Church[edit | edit source]

Several persons in North Berwick and adjoining parishes, dissatisfied with the ministrations of the Established clergy in their district, traveled to Haddington and Dunbar to hear the Secession ministers. They became anxious to have a place of worship in which they might conveniently attend, and with this in view applied for and obtained supply of sermon from the Associate Burgher Presbytery of Edinburgh in 1771. They were organized as a congregation, but thirteen years lapsed before they could obtain a minister. The minister at Haddington, and others, preached to them in the intervening years. First church built in 1779, second in 1832 and a third church was built in 1868.
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.

The extent of records is unknown.

North Berwick Free Church[edit | edit source]

The minister of the parish had shown sympathy with the Non–Intrusion movement, but did not “come out” at the Disruption. James Crawford, farmer at AThe Rhodes,” and enthusiastic Free Churchman, began services in a granary on the south side of Forth Street. A probationer was appointed to supply sermon until a minister was settled in September 1844, the month in which the new church was opened. The church was reconstructed in 1875, and almost entirely rebuilt and enlarged in 1889. The congregation grew with the growth of the town.
Membership: 1848, 100; 1900, 352.
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.

The extent of records is unknown.

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]

North Berwick was under the probate jurisdiction of the Commissary Court of Edinburgh until 1823, and since then has been under the Sheriff's Court of Haddinton. 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 East Lothian and the subject of 'Probate records.' Then click on the link to the records of the Commissariat of Edinburgh.

The library also has some post-1823 probate records for East Lothian. Look in the library catalog for the 'Place-names' of East Lothian 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. 101-123. Adapted. Date accessed: 04 April 2014.

Return to the East Lothian parish list.