Rafford, Moray, Scotland Genealogy

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Parish #140

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

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RAFFORD, a parish, in the county of Elgin, 3 miles (S. E. by E.) from Forres. The various modes in which the name of this place has at different times been spelt, have proved a source of much perplexity in ascertaining its derivation; but most antiquaries, supported by the authority of Chalmers, are of opinion that it may be traced to the Celtic term raths, signifying "forts or strong places on hills," and applied to the locality on account of the numerous eminences in it which answer to that character. The church, built in 1826, is a handsome and commodious edifice, situated nearly in the centre of the parish, and contains sittings for 600 persons. The members of the Free Church have a place of worship.[1]

The origin of the name of this parish is not known for certain. It has undergone so many alterations as to defy all attempts at fixing its etymology. In a charter, granted by Pope Innocent to the Bishop of Moray, in the thirteenth century, it is styled Ratheforde; and in another charter of the same period, Rathefd. In records of subsequent dates, it is designated Rathed, Rathat, Raffart, Raffort, Raffard, and Rafford; the last of which is its present orthography. If we were to hazard a conjecture amidst so much uncertainty, we would assign an origin to the name, derived from the situation of the parish, and which is in some measure sanctioned by the high authority of Chalmers. He says, “The hill forts in Ireland, which are called Raths in the Irish language, were the strengths of the ancient Irish; and those raths are similar in their site and structures to the hill forts of the ancient Britons. The raths were placed on the summits of hills.” If, therefore, we give a Celtic origin to the name, and take into consideration the eminences around this place, adapted for strengths or keeps, we may perhaps arrive at as reasonable a conjecture as may be formed on the subject.

It is bounded on the east, by the parishes of Alves and Elgin; on the north, by Kinloss and Forres; on the west, by the river Findhorn; and on the south, by Dallas and Edenkillie.

The parish of Rafford at one time, comprehended part of that of Kinloss, the latter being formed, partly from Rafford, partly from Alves. In 1661, Altyre, then a distinct parish belonging to the parsonage of Dallas, was by Act of Parliament annexed to Rafford. In the days of Episcopacy, Rafford was the seat of the subchapter of Moray.

There is no market town in the parish. The nearest is Forres, distant from the church about two and a half miles. The parish contains no villages of any size. Forres is also the nearest port-town.

Dr. Alexander Adam, for many years Rector of the High School of Edinburgh, and author of “Roman Antiquities,” “Classical Biography,” was a native of this parish, and received the first rudiments of his education at the parish school. Dr. Duncan Shaw, son of the well-known author of the History of the Province of Moray, was minister of the parish from 1753 to 1783.
The land-owners are, Robert Tulloch, Esq. of Burgie; Sir William G.G. Cumming of Altyre and Gordonston, Bart.; the Earl of Moray; and the Earl of Fife.

The population in 1755 consisted of 1313 inhabitants, and by 1841 the count decreased to 987. The principle cause of this decrease has been the uniting of a number of small farms into one.

The church is nearly centrical, and is distant not more than four miles from any part of the parish. It was built in 1826, is a handsome and commodious structure, in the Gothic style, from a plan furnished by Gillespie Graham, Esq., and affords accommodations for 600 sitters. The sittings are all free. There are no chapels of Ease, Government churches, Missionaries, Catechists, Seceding or Dissenting chapels of any denomination within the parish. Eight families, or their heads, attend Dissenting chapels in the neighboring parishes for Forres; one family alone attends the Episcopal chapel there. The number of families, therefore, attending the Established Church may be about 600; the average number of communicants is 149.

The register of births commences in 1682, and is wanting from 1730 to 1738. It cannot be said that any disinclination is evinced to register the births, unless it be in a rare instance among the poorer classes, arising from a wish to evade the small fee.
This account was written March 1842.

Source: The New Statistical Account of Scotland for Rafford, FHL book 941 B4sa, 2nd series, vol. 13

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.

A Brief History of the parish of Rafford.  A brief history of Rafford taken mainly from the Statistical Accounts, illustrated with a dand drawn map of the Parish of Rafford about 1750, and a facsimile page of the Committee of the parish of Rafford, road expenditure 1805.  Article found in The Lands and People of Moray, pt. 24, 2006, pages 1-11, Family History Library Ref. 941.23 H2b pt 24.

Census Records
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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 Rafford, as well as the library numbers for any surname indexes available:

FHL Film Number
Surname Indexes
6086568 (2 fiche)

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.

Burgie, Tarras, Easter Lawrenceton, Kilnflat and Blackshillock.  A history of Burgie including a list of some of the pre-census inhabitants with name, date, residence, relationship or reason for being mentioned. Illustrated with a sketch of the Castle of Burgie, a hand drawn map of the lands of Burgie about 1750, and a facsimile page of rentals.Years covered 1150-1844 The Lands and People of Moray, pt 24, 2006. pages 12-34, Family History Library Ref. 941.23 H2b pt. 24.

Blervie, Broomhill, Templestone and Castlehill.  A brief history of Blervie with a list of pre-census inhabitants, illustrated with a hand drawn map of the lands of Bervie about 1750. Article covers years 1263-1843. The Lands and People of Moray, pt. 24. 2006. pages 35-39, Family History Library Ref. 941.23 H2b pt 24.

Rafford Village, Marcassie, and Granary. A brief history of the area wih a list of some of the pre-census inhabitants. Illustrated with a hand drawn map of Rafford Village about 1750, a plan for the new Kirk 1820 and plan and elevation of the new Church of Rafford 1820.  There is a copy of 2 pages from the Diary of Mr. James Winchester, Minister at Rafford regarding his family.  The original diary is held at the National Archives of Scotland. Article covers years 1555-1843, to be found in The Lands and People of Moray, pt 24 2006 pages 40-54, Family History Library Ref. 941.23 H2b pt. 24.

The Estate of Altyre.  A brief history of the estate of Altyre with a list of some of the pre-census inhabitants, illustrated with a had drawn maps of the lands of Altyre about 1750. Article covers years 1211-1843, to be found in The Lands and People of Moray, pt 24, 2006, pages 55-65, Family History Library Ref. 941.23 H2b pt. 24.

The Southeast of the Parish, comprising Damhead, Cluny, Tulloch, Briach and Todholes.  A brief history of the hilly southeast of the Parish of Rafford, with a list of some of the pre-census inhabitants, illustrated with a had drawn map of the southern part of the parish about 1750.  Article covers years 1679-1843, to be found in The Lands and People of Moray, pt 24, 2006. pages 66-72, Family History Library Ref. 941.23 H2b pt. 24.

Church Records
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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 FHL Film Number
Births: 1682-1854 0990807
Marriages: 1721-1854 0990807
Deaths: 1816-1837 0990807


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: No entries for Jul 1683–Feb 1687, May 1688–Feb 1691, and Mar 1695–Sep 1703 (except one for 1700). The greater part of the page after April 1715 is destroyed. No entries for Dec 1715–Sep 1716 (except a page of irregular entries for 1726–48. No entries for Feb 1730–Sep 1738.
Marriages: No entries for Dec 1725–Dec 1738 (Except one for 1730). There is only one entry for 1773, none for 1781, one for 1793 and two for 1803. No entries for Nov 1805–Nov 1806. Subsequent to 1740, most of the pages of both the birth and marriage records are signed by the session clerk.
Deaths: The record is of burials.
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:

FHL Film Number
Collections 1850–3 1482989 item 3
List of the heads of communicant families 1842 “
Note: Kirk session minutes from 1838 may still be in the possession of the minister.

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.

Rafford Free Church[edit | edit source]

The minister of the parish and a considerable number of the congregation “came out” and adhered to the Free Church in 1843. A church was built in 1843-4 and a new church was built in 1900.
Membership: 1848, 422; 1900, 270.
Source: Annals of the Free Church of Scotland, 1843 1900, ed. Rev. William Ewing, D.D., 2 vols. pub. 1914. FHL Film #918572. More details are given in the source.

Minutes 1843–4, 1855-1936
Deacons’ court minutes 1843–1935
List of members 1843
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH3/1132.

Civil Registration
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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.

Land and Property[edit | edit source]

Probate Records
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Rafford was under the probate jurisdiction of the Commissary Court of Moray until 1823, and since then has been under the Sheriff's Court of Elgin. 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 Moray and the subject of 'Probate records.' Then click on the link to the records of the Commissariat of Moray.

The library also has some post-1823 probate records for Moray. Look in the library catalog  for the 'Place-names' of Moray 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: 27 June 2014.

Return to Moray parish list.