Shetland (or Zetland), Scotland Genealogy

From FamilySearch Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Shetland Wiki Topics
Beginning Research
Record Types
Scotland Background
Local Research Resources

Guide to Shetland (or Zetland) County ancestry, family history and genealogy: birth records, marriage records, death records, census records, parish registers, and military records.

Shetland (or Zetland) County

History[edit | edit source]

The Shetland or Zetland islands are a maritime county in the northern extremity of Scotland, bounded on the north by the North Sea, on the east by the German Ocean, on the west by the Atlantic Ocean, and on the south by the waters that separate it from the Orkney Islands. They extend for about 70 miles from north to south and 54 miles from east to west, comprising an area of about 855 square miles or 547,200 acres.

At the time of the Roman occupation, northern Scotland, including Shetland, 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 IIIof 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 Shetlands comprise a cluster of 90 islands, of which 25 are inhabited, and the remainder are used principally for pasture. There are twelve parishes. Shetland and Orkney are joined into one sheriff's district with a sub-sheriff over each. The only town is Lerwick, which is a royal burgh of barony, and there is the village of Scalloway and some small hamlets on the coasts.

The population in 1851 was 30,558.[1][2]

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:

  • Statutory Registers
  • Old Parish Registers
  • Catholic Parish Registers
  • CPR Others
  • Census
  • Valuation Rolls
  • Soldiers’ Wills
  • Wills & Testaments
  • Coats of Arms

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 Shetland (or Zetland) for 1881.  Click here here for other census indexes available at the library.

Church Records[edit | edit source]

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 - Vital Records.

Refer to the ScotlandsPeople Wiki article.
Images and Indexes Available at ScotlandsPeople Website ($)
Births 1855-1910 ◊ScotlandsPeople Website has indexes to 2012.
Marriages 1855-1935
Deaths 1855-1960

Parishes[edit | edit source]

Some of the Shetland Islands parish records are indexed in Shetland Island, Scotland, Extracted Parish Records.
This database is a collection of historical parish registers from the county of Shetland Island 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 of Shetland (or Zetland) with their parish numbers. Click on a parish name to see information about records. Many of the names are of islands which form part of a parish. Click on this link for an outline map of the parishes of Shetland.

Parish No. Parish No.
Aithsting -- see Sandsting 9 Northmavine 8
Bressay 1 Papa Stour -- see Walls 12
Burra -- see Bressay 1 Quarff -- see Bressay 1
Cunningsburgh -- see Dunrossness 3 Sandness -- see Walls 12
Delting 2 Sandsting & Aithsting 9
Dunrossness 3 Sandwick -- see Dunrossness 3
Fair Isle -- see Dunrossness 3 Skerries -- see Nesting 7
Fetlar 4 South Yell -- see Mid Yell 6
Foula -- see Walls 12 Tingwall 10
Lerwick 5 Unst 11
Lunnasting -- see Nesting 7 Walls 12
Mid & South Yell 6 Weesdale -- see Tingwall 10
Nesting 7 Whalsay -- see Nesting 7
North Yell -- see Fetlar 4 Whiteness -- see Tingwall 10

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]

Shetland Family History Society
6 Hillhead


Useful LInks

Genealogy Society
15 Victoria Terrace
Phone-0131 220 3677

Archives and Libraries[edit | edit source]

The catalog of the Shetland Archives is available online. Note: This is the catalog of the holdings; the materials are not online.

Reference Material[edit | edit source]

"Early Congregational Independency in Shetland" by Rev. Dr William D McNaughton. 2005. ISBN 1-904746-05-5, ISBN 9781904746058. Gives history of churches and those involved c. 1790-1870

Websites[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Samuel Lewis. Topographical Dictionary of Scotland, (London, England: S. Lewis and Co., 1846), 3 v.: 651, [FHL book 941 E5]. Digitized by FamilySearch International,, (accessed June 20, 2016).
  2. Samuel Lewis. "Shaint - Skirling," in A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland, (London, 1846), 461-467. British History Online, (accessed June 7, 2020).