South Uist, Inverness-shire, Scotland Genealogy

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Parish #118

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

Cemeteries[edit | edit source]

Nunton cemetery, Benbecula, South Uist: Transcriptions of 646 gravestones are found on

History[edit | edit source]

UIST, SOUTH, an island and parish, in the county of Inverness: containing the islands of Benbecula, Eriskay, and Flodda. The name of this place is supposed to be of Danish origin. The old church has been in ruins from the time of the Reformation; and a private house, fitted up with 200 sittings, was for many years appropriated to the performance of divine service, till the erection of the present church, a neat structure containing about 500 sittings. There are two missionary stations in connexion with the Established Church; one at Benbecula, where is a chapel containing 270, and one at Boisdale, where is a chapel containing 230, sittings. There are also three chapels under the superintendence of a Roman Catholic bishop, who resides in Glasgow.[1]

There are no towns, villages, or hamlets in the parish. The nearest post-office is at Lochmaddy in North Uist, about sixty-six miles distant from the south extremity of the parish. The county town, Inverness, is a distant 192 miles from the parish; but the principal communication is with Glasgow and Greenock.

This parish consists of three principal islands: Benbecula, South Uist proper, and Erisca. South Uist is bounded on the north by a sound which separates it from North Uist; on the south, by the sound which separates it from the islands and parish of Barra; on the west by the Atlantic Ocean, and on the east by the Minch which divides it from the island of Skye.

The only land-owners are Ranald G. Macdonald, Esq. of Clanranald; Hugh Macdonald, esq. of Boisdale; and Ranald Macdonald. Esq. of Bornish.

The range of hills north of Loch Skipport and south of Loch Eynort, which vary in heights between 1200 to 1300 feet, contain good pasture for black-cattle, horses and sheep.

There was not a parochial register kept of the births and marriages among the Protestant population, till within the last two years. Two-thirds of the population are Roman Catholics; and without an act of Parliament, it is impossible to keep a regular register of the whole population in a parish so circumstanced.  There is no parish church.

There are two missionaries in the parish, one at Boisdale, in the southern part of it, and the other at Benbecula. There are no Catechists. The Catholics, who form more than two-thirds of the population, have three chapels. The Bishop resides at Glasgow.

The number of families attending the Established Church is about 354 out of 980 individuals. There are no church collections, the people being so poor that nothing can be collected in that way for religious and charitable objects.

This account was written in 1837.

Source: New Statistical Account of Scotland, for South Uist 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  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 South Uist, as well as the library numbers for any surname indexes available:

Year FHL Film Number Surname Indexes
1841 1042642 none
1851    1042099 6344852 (3 fiche)
1861 0103837 none
1871 0104002 none
1881 none 6086593 (4 fiche)
1891 none none

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[edit | edit source]

Record Type Years Covered FHL Film Number
Births: No entries none
Marriages: 1839-1845 0990672 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.  The records may be indexed on FamilySearch Records.
Note: There are no birth or death records prior to 1855 and no marriage record prior to 1839.

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. 

There are no known surviving Kirk Session records for this parish.

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.

Bencecula Free Church[edit | edit source]

In the years following the Disruption there were many adherents of the Free Church in Benbecula, especially among the young people. Number of these had emigrated by 1851. In 1854 Benbecula was united with Carinish and Lochmaddy under one minister. It was sanctioned as a separate charge in 1885. Church and manse had already been built. In a population of 1500 to 2000, about half were Roman Catholics, the other half being nearly equally divided between the Established and Free Churches.
Membership: 1887, 218; 1900, 63.
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 list of ministers.

Extent of records is unknown.

South Uist Free Church[edit | edit source]

In December 1843 a probationer was appointed to the charge of South Uist and Barra. In a population of 4338, the great majority of whom were Roman Catholics, the adherents of the Free Church in 1855 numbered 375. For twenty years after the Disruption no site could be obtained. The church was built in 1863. The charge was sanctioned in 1864. The manse was completed in 1880. The long unsettled period, the extended vacancy between the first and second ministers, and the primarily Romanist character of the population made progress difficult.
Membership: 1868, 28, 1900, 55.
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 list of ministers.

No known pre-1855 records.

South Uist Roman Catholic Church[edit | edit source]

After the Reformation, nearly the whole population of Uist, including the proprietor, remained Roman Catholic. In 1700 the number was estimated to be at 1500. But by 1770, the proprietor had become an apostate Catholic and began to greatly persecute his Catholic tenants. He demanded they sign a paper renouncing their religion and allowing their children to be raised as Protestants, or lose their lands. They refused to a man. Catholics throughout Scotland came to the aid of these destitute people by raising funds so that they could emigrate to St. John's Island in Canada. When MacDonald saw that the Catholics were receiving support, and that he was losing his tenants and the income from their rents, he relented, but many had emigrated. The persecutions stopped and by 1790 two Catholic chapels had been built in South Uist. Today there are seven churches and chapels and the Catholic population of South Uist is estimated at over 2200. Locations include Ardkenneth (1829), Benbecula (1835), Bornish (1820), Daliborg (1827), and Eriskay (1852).
Source:  Developments in the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, 1789–1829, by Christine Johnson, Family History Library British Book 941 K2jc; also The Catholic Directory for Scotland for 1987, Family History Library British Book Ref. 941 K24ca.

Baptisms 1829–1904
Marriages 1829–1850
Note: Available online for a fee, at,  Edinburgh, record MP/43.
Baptisms 1820–1868
Marriages 1831–1868
Note: Available online for a fee, at,  Edinburgh, record MP/45.

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.

[edit | edit source]

The 1841 census enumeration description states that "there has been no emigration from this Parish for the last 6 months, but for some years past about 300 souls have annually emigrated from this Island to Cape Breton Nova Scotia, there will be about the same number going there from the different districts of the Parish in the month of July next."[2]

Probate Records[edit | edit source]

South Uist 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 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.
  2. South Uist, Inverness, Scotland. 1841 Census. Parish 131. ED 1, 11.

Return to Inverness-shire parish list.