Orkney, Scotland Genealogy
Guide to Orkney or Orkney Islands County ancestry, family history and genealogy: birth records, marriage records, death records, census records, parish registers, and military records.
|Orkney Wiki Topics|
|Local Research Resources|
History[edit | edit source]
Orkney is a group of 67 islands forming a maritime county in the northern extremity of Scotland. Twenty-nine islands are inhabited, and the remainder are chiefly used as pasture for cattle. They are bounded on the north by the waters which divide Orkney from Shetland, on the east by the North Sea, on the south by the Pentland Firth, which separates the isles from Caithness, and on the west by the Atlantic Ocean. They extend about 50 miles in length and nearly 30 miles in breadth, comprising an area of 235 square miles or 150,000 acres.
At the time of the Roman occupation, northern Scotland, including the Orkneys, was occupied by the Picts who had them until about the year 876, when the forces of the King of Norway took the isles. They remained under Norwegian rule until 1472 following the marriage of James III of Scotland to Princess Margaret of Norway. When her father, Kristian I, could not pay her dowry, Norway forfeited both the Shetlands and the Orkneys to Scotland.
The county consists of 18 parishes, and it is united with Shetland under one sheriff with a sub-sheriff over each. Kirkwall is a royal burgh and the county town, and Stromness is a burgh of barony. There are several villages and some fishing stations on the coast.
ScotlandsPeople: An Important Online Source[edit | edit source]
ScotlandsPeople is one of the largest online sources of original genealogical information. If you are researching UK genealogy, your Scottish ancestry or building your Scottish family tree, they have more than 100 million records to look through.
The comprehensive choice of Scottish records includes:
For more detail on record availability, see Guides. For the content guide to what records are on the site, see Guides A-Z. More information on the site, its contents, and instructions for using it can be found in the ScotlandsPeople Wiki article. Indexes may be searched for free, and there is a pay per view fee to see the digitized record.
Census[edit | edit source]
Many census records have been indexed by surname. Some indexes cover one parish (and will be listed in the Wiki on the parish page) and some indexes are for the county as a whole. The Family History Library has county-wide census placename indexes for Orkney for 1881. Click here for other census indexes available at the library.
- ScotlandsPeople, index, images, free index, pay per view ($)
- Scotland Census, 1821, no images, index of 8553 names (about 30% of 1821 population), ($).
- Scotland Census, 1841, no images. Also at MyHeritage, index, ($). Also at FindMyPast, index, ($). Also at Ancestry.com, index, ($).
- Scotland Census, 1851, no images. Also at MyHeritage, index, ($). Also at FindMyPast, index, ($). Also at Ancestry.com, index, ($).
- Scotland Census, 1861, no images. Also at MyHeritage, index, ($). Also at FindMyPast, index, ($). Also at Ancestry.com, index, ($).
- Scotland Census, 1871, no images. Also at FindMyPast, index, ($). Also at Ancestry.com, index, ($).
- Scotland Census, 1881, no images. Also at FindMyPast, index, ($). Also at Ancestry.com, index, ($).
- Scotland Census, 1891, no images. Also at FindMyPast, index, ($). Also at Ancestry.com, index, ($).
- Scotland Census, 1901 at FamilySearch — index.
- Scotland Census, 1901, index and images, ($). Also at FindMyPast, index, ($). Also at Ancestry.com, index, ($).
- Scotland Census, 1911, index and images, ($).
Church Records[edit | edit source]
- 1658 - 1919 - Scotland Church Records and Kirk Session Records, 1658-1919 at FamilySearch — index
- 1736 - 1990 - Scotland Presbyterian & Protestant Church Records, 1736-1990 at FamilySearch — index
Civil Registration or Statutory Registers[edit | edit source]
For details on information found in statutory registers and other methods of searching them, see Scotland Statutory Registers.
Parishes[edit | edit source]
Some of the Orkney parish records are indexed in Orkney, Scotland, Extracted Parish Records.
- This database is a collection of historical parish registers from the county of Caithness in the country of Scotland. The records in this collection can range in date from the early 1500s to the mid- to late-1800s. The records include baptisms/christenings, burials, marriages, tombstone inscriptions, obituaries, tax lists, wills, and other miscellaneous types of records. Also included are some records from non-conformist churches. You will find interesting phonetic spelling. Some of the records may be in Latin or even a Welsh or Scottish dialect. Due to the nature of the records and because the records were originally compiled by a third party, it is difficult to absolutely verify the completeness and validity of the data.
Here is a list of historic parishes for the county and island of Orkney. Click on a parish name to see information about records. Click on this link for an outline map of the parishes of Orkney.
|Birsay||13||Papa-Westray -- see Westray||33|
|Burray -- see South Ronaldshay||29||Paplay -- see Holm||19|
|Deerness||14||Pharay -- see Eday||15|
|Eday & Pharay||15||Rendall -- see Evie||16|
|Egilsay -- see Rousay||24||Rousay & Egilsay||24|
|Evie & Rendall||16||St. Andrews||25|
|Firth & Stennes||17||Sanday||26|
|Flotta -- see Walls||32||Sandwick||27|
|Graemsay -- see Hoy||20||Shapinshay||28|
|Harray||18||South Ronaldshay & Burray||29|
|Holm & Paplay||19||Stennes -- see Firth||17|
|Hoy & Graemsay||20||Stromness||30|
|Kirkwall & St. Ola||21||Stronsay||31|
|North Ronaldshay||22||Walls (including Flotta)||32|
|Orphir||23||Westray (including Papa-Westray)||33|
Maps[edit | edit source]
Poorhouse Records[edit | edit source]
NOTE: Workhouses in Scotland were commonly known as poorhouses. For more information on Scottish poorhouses, go to the Scotland Poorhouses, Poor Law, Etc page.
There was one workhouse in this county:
A description with drawings and photos of the workhouse today along with databases of those living there from the 1881 Census are provided on the link above located on the site entitled The Workhouse: The story of an institution... which is owned and operated by Peter Higginbotham.
Societies[edit | edit source]
Orkney Family History Society
Orkney Library & Archives
44 Junction Rd
Telephone: 01856 879207
Reference Material[edit | edit source]
"Early Congregational Independency in Orkney" by Rev. Dr William D McNaughton. 2006. Gives history of churches and those involved c. 1790-1870
Websites[edit | edit source]
- Orkney Resources and help pages on
- RootsChat Orkney Resources and help pages. (Free).
References[edit | edit source]
- Samuel Lewis. Topographical Dictionary of Scotland, (London, England: S. Lewis and Co., 1846), 3 v.: 651, [FHL book 941 E5]. Digitized by FamilySearch International, FamilySearch.org, https://www.familysearch.org/search/catalog/216925 (accessed June 20, 2016).
- Samuel Lewis. "Oa - Oyne," in A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland, (London, 1846), 324-337. British History Online, http://www.british-history.ac.uk/topographical-dict/scotland/pp324-337 (accessed June 4, 2020).