Pencaitland, East Lothian, Scotland Genealogy

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Parish #716

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

History[edit | edit source]

PENCAITLAND, a parish, in the county of Haddington, including the hamlet of Nisbet, and the villages of Easter Pencaitland, Wester Pencaitland, 4 miles (S. E.) from Tranent. This place, which derives its name, properly Pencaithlan, from its situation at the head of a narrow valley watered by the river Tyne. The church is a venerable structure, of which by far the greater portion was erected in 1631; the other portion, called the Pencaitland aisle, is of much greater antiquity, and most probably part of the original church. It is situated nearly in the centre of the parish. The members of the Free Church have a place of worship.[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 Pencaitland, as well as the library numbers for any surname indexes available.

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]

Established Church—Old Parochial Registers[edit | edit source]

Established Church of Scotland was Presbyterian. Read more about church records.

Here are the pre-1855 records that exist for this parish.


Event Type Years Covered FHL Film Number
Births: 1599-1817 - baptisms 1067853 item 5-6

1804-1855 1067854 item 1-2
Marriages: 1598-1698 1067853 item 5-6

1698-1763, 1804-1855 1067854 item 1-2
Deaths: 1665-1669, 1817-1855 - burials 1067854 item 1-2
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 also be indexed in other FamilySearch collections for Scotland. 
Births: At December 1698 there are four pages of entries of children baptized in other parishes between 1698 and 1701. Mothers’ names not recorded until July 1665.
Marriages: The record is blank November 1697–December 1698, March 1763–May 1813; and November 1815–January 1817, except one entry for 1804. The first few leaves of the record are very much wasted and many entries are imperfect.
Deaths: The New Statistical Account of Scotland for Pencaitland 1839 states that the earliest date of deaths was 1616, so the early records appear to have been lost. The record for November 1665–December 1669 is found after the baptisms for May 1735. Records are blank from the latter date to February 1817.
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 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:

Minutes 1633–1754, 1814–1934
Accounts 1728–1807, 1814–1828, 1840–1904
Scroll Minutes 1709–1763
Disbursements 1626–1629 - 3 leaves
Testificates 1656–1691
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH2/296.

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.

 Pencaitland Free Church[edit | edit source]

The minister of the parish, and a minority of his congregation, “came out” in 1843. They worshiped for a time in a large granary. A site was speedily secured and a church built at Fountainhall. The minister lived in part of the old house of Fountainhall; both church and ministers’ residence being thus some distance from the village. Through the kindness of a member, the hall in the village was granted for evening services. The congregation suffered from decline of population owing to the closing of a colliery, and other circumstances. It was reduced to a preaching station in 1882; but in 1891, the charge was again sanctioned.
Membership: 1848, 100; 1900, 109.
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.

                                           FHL Film Number
Session Minutes 1848–1935 1886235 item 4–5

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]

Pencaitland was under the probate jurisdiction of the Commissary Court of Edinburgh until 1823, and since then has been under the Sheriff's Court of Haddington. 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' 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. 351-367. Adapted. Date accessed: 04 April 2014.

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