Prestonpans, East Lothian, Scotland Genealogy

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Parish  #718

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

History[edit | edit source]

PRESTONPANS, a parish, in the county of Haddington; containing the villages of Cuthill, Dolphingstone, and Preston, and part of the late quoad sacra parish of Cockenzie, 8 miles (E.) from Edinburgh. This place derived its name, originally Preston, or Prieststown, from its belonging to the monks of Holyrood. The parish is bounded on the north by the Frith of Forth. The church, a plain substantial edifice, was erected in 1774, and is adapted for a congregation of 750 persons. The members of the Free Church have built a place of worship in the town.[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 Prestonpans, 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]

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
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Event Type Years Covered FHL Film Number
Births: 1596-1642 - baptisms 1067855 item 2-4

1658-1680 1067857 item 3

1687-1704 1067855 item 2-4

1704-1820 1067856 item 1-4

1820-1854 - with indexes 1067857 item 1
Marriages: 1596-1642 1067855 item 2-4

1676-1678 - proclamations 1067857 item 3

1687-1701 1067855 item 2-4

1702-1716, 1788-1819 1067856 item 1-5

1820-1854 1067857 item 2
Deaths: 1788-1820 - burials 1067856 item 5

1820-1854 - cemetery plot Registers 1067857 item 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: Births and marriages are intermixed prior to December 1701. There are separate records of births and marriages from January 1902.
Marriages: Records are blank August 1716–February 1788. From the latter date to 1805, most of the marriages recorded were irregular.
Deaths: Burials; after the record of April 1820, is a separate list of deaths of children, June 1799–April 1820. Age at death and cause of death are given starting in 1833.
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:

                                                        FHL Film Number
Kirk Session Records    1601–1612     1067855 item 2–4

Minutes 1716–1727
Scroll Minutes 1717, 1722–1723, 1772–1785
Minutes Discipline 1690–1697, 1697–1709, 1741–1895
Accounts 1646–1654, 1689–1703, 1703–1712, 1702–1747, 1744–1768
Accounts and Discipline 1671–1677
Baptisms 1851–1881
Certificates 1699–1715
Seat Rents 1781–1811
Scroll Accounts 1720–1725, 1741–1744
Poor Accounts 1732–1741, 1759–1769, 1781–1813, 1835–1858
Testimonials 1727–1803, 1847–1848
Mortcloth Book 1788–1847
Cash Book 1852–1915
Copy Baptismal Register: Salt Preston 1596–1737; Trament 1611–1645; Edinburgh 1610–1627
Extracts from Records 1637–1642
Stent Roll of Barony of Preston 1716–1717
Prestongrange 1716–1717
Excerpts from Minutes of Prestonpans Sailors Incorporation 1743–1746
List of Members of Incorporation of Sailors of Prestonpans 1711–1741
Memoranda from Minutes 1710–1725
Excerpts from Baptisms of East Kilbride Parish 1688–1740
Extracts from Salt Preston Marriage Register 1597–1641
Tanent 1615–1644
Names of Contracting Parties in Prestonpans 1676–1852
Copy of excerpts from Edinburgh Marriage Register 1597–1641
Notes from Minutes of Prestonpans Kirk Session 1601–1617
Records Belonging to Kirk Session 1854
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH2/307.

Nonconformist Church Records
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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.


Prestonpans Free Church[edit | edit source]

The minister of the parish “came out” in 1843. Among those who accompanied him there was but one local proprietor, to whose sympathy and help the church was greatly indebted. At first, worship was held in his barns. In 1844 the church was built on the site which he presented. In addition, he gifted the manse and its site. In 1878 the church was reconstructed and other improvements were later made. The development of mining brought an increase in the industrial population. This church became United Free Church of Scotland in 1900 and then rejoined the Established Church in 1929, when it became known as Grange Church of Scotland.
Membership: 1848, 148; 1900, 301.
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 1843–1864
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH3/267.

Cockenzie Free Church
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The minister of the quoad sacra church at Cockenzie, with his congregation, adhered to the Free Church at the Disruption. They continued to use the church until 1849, when they were evicted. They found shelter in a temporary structure, an then in the church hall, until the church was completed. The quoad sacra building stood vacant until 1877.
Membership: 1848, 165; 1900, 207
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.

Prestonpans Branch, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter–Day Saints
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                                                          FHL Film Number
Record of Members       1851–1853       0104155 item 11

 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]

Prestonpans 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-names' of [County] and the subject of 'Probate records.' Then click on the link to the records of the Commissariat of [Court name].

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. 388-396. Adapted. Date accessed: 04 April 2014.

Return to the East Lothian parish list.