Portree, Inverness-shire, Scotland Genealogy

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Parish #114 

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

History[edit | edit source]

PORTREE, a parish, mostly in the Isle of Skye, and wholly in the county of Inverness; including the islands of Fladda, Rasay, and Rona; 25 miles (N. W.) from Broadford, 21 (E.) from Dunvegan, 80 (N. by E.) from Tobermory, 110 (N. by W.) from Obau, and 109 (W. by S.) from Inverness. This place was formerly called Ceilltarraglan, a compound Gaelic term which signifies "a burying-ground at the bottom of a glen," and which was particularly appropriate; but after the visit of King James V. to the northern portion of his dominions, and his putting into the bay here, where he remained for some time, the name was changed to Portree, or Port-roi or righ, "the King's harbour." The church, built about the year 1820, for the accommodation of 800 persons with sittings, is situated in the village, but on account of its distance from the southern boundary, which is fifteen miles off, is inconvenient for a considerable portion of the population.[1]

The ancient name of the parish is Ceilltarraghan. In Gaelic language, Ceill signifies a burying-ground, Tar, bottom, and Glean, a glen; Ceiltarraglan then signifies a burying-ground placed at the bottom of a glen. The modern name of the parish is Portree, compounded of two Gaelic words, port signifying a harbor, and righ, a king, the King’s Harbour in consequence of King James the Fifth.

It is bounded on the north by the parish of Snizort; on the south by the parish of Strath; on the east by that arm of the sea which seperates it fom the parishes of Gairloch and Applecross; and on the west by the parish of Bracadale.

Neither the lands nor the climate in this parish are suitable for agricultural purposes. The sheep in the parish are of the Old Highland breed, very small in size; but the fineness of their wool approaches or is equal to that of the Chevoit sheep, and the quality of their flesh is far superior.

The Right Honorable Lord Macdonald and Macleod of Rasay, are the only land-owners in the parish.

A parish register of births and marriages was commenced in 1800, but discontinued six years later, but resumed five years later.  From a variety of causes, which could not be prevented, it has been irregularly kept.

The parish church is situated in the village of Portree, at a distance of about two miles from the northern, and fifteen miles from the southern extremity of the parish, and is not convenient to a great body of the people.  It will accommodate about 800 sitters, and there is no payment.

In 1811 the population was 2729; and in 1831, 4000.

This account was written January 1841.

Source: The New Statistical Account of Scotland, for Portree Family History Library book 941 B4sa, series 2, vol 14.


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 edina.($)  Click on ‘Browse scanned pages’ then search the parish you are interested in. 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 Portree, as well as the library numbers for any surname indexes available:

Year Family History Library Film Number
1841 1042641
1851 1042098
1861 0103837
1871 0104001
1881 0203427
1891 0208643

The 1901 census of Scotland is indexed on scotlandspeople.($) 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]

Record Type Years Covered Family History Library Film Number
Births: 1800-1854 0990671 item 4
Marriages: 1800-1854 0990671 item 4
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 of these records may be indexed and searchable on familysearch.org
Births: After February 1806, there occur only the following entries: one for September 1806, two for April 1808, one for December 1809, and one for August 1810. Record is resumed in March 1811 and continued until March 1813, after which except two entries for 1814, there are no entries until June 1815.
Marriages: There are no entries after March 1806 until July 1811 and no entries January 1812–1816.
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 1854–1900
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH2/1116.

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.

 Portree United Presbyterian Church

In 1831 a few individuals in Portree petitioned the Glasgow Presbytery of the United Secession Church for supply of sermon, which granted the petition, and sent preachers to Skye until 1842. The services were in English. It was about this time that Mr. Alexander Adam, preacher, having acquired some knowledge of Gaelic, was sent to Portree for five months. He began his labors in March 1842, the English and Gaelic hearers petitioned that he should be continued among them, which was agreed to. In 1854  Mr. Adam was ordained in Erskine Church, 20th August 1855, as missionary of Portree. The church was erected and opened in June 1860. The congregation was formed in 1861, and Mr. Adam was called and inducted in 1862.
Source: Annals and Statistics of the United Presbyterian Church, by Rev. William MacKelvie, D.D., pub. 1873. Film #477618.

There are no known pre-1855 records.

Portree Free Church[edit | edit source]

The minister of the parish did not come out in 1843, but almost all the congregation adhered to the Free Church. Elders were ordained immediately after the Disruption. The charge was sanctioned in 1849, and a minister was settled in December of that year. The church was completed in 1854.
Membership: 1855, 450; 1900, 58.
Source: Annals of the Free Church of Scotland,1943-1900, 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.

Raasay Free Church[edit | edit source]

After the Disruption this island, on which a church was built, was for several years under the care of probationers and catechists. The congregation eventually found themselves in a position to maintain an ordained minister. The charge was sanctioned in 1851, and a minister was settled in November of that year.
Membership: 1855, 215; 1900, 20.
Source: Annals of the Free Church of Scotland, 1943-1900, 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.

There are no known pre-1855 records.

Portree Episcopalian Church[edit | edit source]


The extent of records is unknown. The incumbency is currently vacant. For more information write to;

Office of the Bishop of Argyll and the Isles at:
The Pines,
Ardconnel Road,
Oban, Argyll
PA34 5DR, Scotland

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]

Portree was under the probate jurisdiction of the Commissary Court of The Isles until 1823, and since then has been under the Sheriff's Court of Inverness]. Probate records for 1513- 1901 are indexed online at scotlandspeople.($) 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 Inverness-shire and the subject of 'Probate records.' Then click on the link to the records of the Commissariat of The Isles.

The library also has some post-1823 probate records for Inverness-shire. Look in the library catalog for the 'Place-names' of Inverness-shire 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: 30 July 2014.

Return to Inverness-shire parish list.