Yester, East Lothian, Scotland Genealogy

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Parish #725

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

History[edit | edit source]

YESTER, a parish, in the county of Haddington, 4 miles (S. by E.) from Haddington; containing Gifford, Long Yester, and Long Newton. This place, of which the ancient name was St. Bothan's, derived its present name, soon after the Reformation, from the lands of the Marquess of Tweeddale, which lie partly within the limits of the parish, and consist of a fine valley on the banks of the Gifford water, and of which the Cambro-British Ystrad, now softened into Yester, is faithfully descriptive. The church, situated in the village of Gifford, was erected in 1708, and repewed and thoroughly repaired in 1830; it is a neat substantial edifice, adapted to a congregation of 600 persons. The members of the Free Church have a place of worship.[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 Yester, 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[edit | edit source]


Event Type Years Covered FHL Film Number
Births: 1654-1763 - baptisms 1067863 item 4

1764-1855 1067863 item 1-3
Marriages: 1654-1758 1067863 item 4

1716-1761, 1779-1837 1067864 item 1-3
Deaths: None

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 1654–1758. There are irregular entries of births 1685–1762, on five leaves at the beginning of the volume and there is a duplicate of births 1716–1721 included, after the record for 1819. Births are intermixed with marriages from May 1717. There are two entries of births 1834–1835 at February 1812 and a duplication of portion 1716–1721. Mothers’ names are not recorded until 1665.
Marriages: Marriages are recorded among births until 1758. There is, however, a separate register of proclamations from December 1721, which is continued to December 1762. Records are blank from the latter date until May 1779, after which there are proclamations and marriages.
Source: Key to the Parochial Registers of Scotland, by V. Ben Bloxham, pub. 1970. British Book 941 K23b.
Note: The New Statistical Account of Scotland for Yester 1835 states that the earliest register started in 1613. It is not known what became of the earlier records

Established Church—Kirk Session Records
[edit | edit source]

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
Proclamations      1820–1837     0304667 item 5
Minutes 1613–1654, 1663–1715, 1727–1836, 1855–1878 - with large gaps
Accounts 1708–1718
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH2/377.

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.

Yester Free Church[edit | edit source]

The minister of the parish “came out” at the Disruption with a large body of his people. Services were held at first in a temporary erection of wood and canvas. The church was built and opened for service in October 1843. A new church was erected in 1880, the old building having been purchased by the Yester School Board. The population of the parish, 1069 in 1843, decreased to 720 in 1900.
Membership: 1848, 312; 1900, 175.
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.

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]

Yester 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 East Lothian and the subject of 'Probate records.' Then click on the link to the records of the Commissariat of Edinburgh.

The library also has some post-1823 probate records for East Lothian. Look in the library catalog
 for the 'Place-names' of 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. 617-622. Adapted. Date accessed: 10 April 2014.

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