Lairg, Sutherland, Scotland Genealogy

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Parish # 53

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

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LAIRG, a parish, in the county of Sutherland, 19 miles (W. by N.) from Golspie. The name of Lairg is generally supposed to be derived from the Gaelic word Lorg, signifying "a footpath," and to be descriptive of the situation of the parish, which lies in the direct line from the northern to the southern part of the county, and the way through which was only a footpath till the present high road was constructed. The church, though distant from the western extremity of the parish about twenty miles, is conveniently situated, as the greater portion of the people reside in its neighbourhood; it was built in 1794, and is a very plain structure, now ruinous, but accommodating 500 persons with sittings.[1]

This parish seems to take its name from the Gaelic word “Loeg,” signifying a “footpath”. It is an inland parish, distant from the sea about twenty miles; it is bounded on the north by the parish of Farr; on the west by Assynth and Eddrachillis; on the south by Criech; and on the east by Rogart.

There is no market-town in the parish, nor any nearer than Dornoch, which is a distance of about twenty miles.

This parish does not appear in remote times to have produced any men of great eminence. In the absence of such, one individual is noteworthy to mention; Rev. John Mackay, a man of superior birth and education, who in 1714 was translated to Lairg from his native parish of Durness on the west coast. The Rev. Mackay had a knowledge of theology, acquired at the Universities of Utrecht and Edinburgh, and an enlightened zeal for the propagation of the gospel, he had a robust bodily frame, and corresponding vigor of mind. Rev. Mackay found this parish in a rude uncivilized state, owing among other causes, to the lingering remains of popish superstition, and ignorance, and to the want of a resident ministry for several years. As the new minister of the parish, Rev. Mackay proceeded vigorously to the work of reforming the people of the parish. He died in 1753, and was succeeded by his son, the Rev. Thomas Mackay, who labored fifty years in the parish with great success.

The land-owners in the parish are the Duchess of Sutherland; Munro of Poyntzfield; and Rose of Achany.

The population is 1801 was 1209 people, and in 1831, it was 1945. The present population in 1834, is about 1100. What the ancient state of the population was it not know, but about thirty years ago, it was far greater that at the present time. A system commenced in this country about 1807, where the proprietors were convinced that these grounds could be more profitably laid out in sheep-walks, than in raising cattle. The interior was let to sheep-farmers, and the tenants were removed either to the coast, or to those parts of the country that was more susceptible for cultivation. Lairg being an inland parish, this circumstance accounts for the great decrease in population.

There is a parochial register regularly kept, but the earliest entry is dated only in 1768.

The parochial church, though distant about twenty miles from the western extremity of the parish, is exceedingly well situated for the convenience of the people, as with few exceptions they all reside in the neighborhood. It accommodates about 500 people, and no seat-rents are paid.

This account was written November 1834.

Source: New Statistical Account of Scotland for Lairg, FHL book b4sa, series 2, vol. 15.

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
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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 Lairg as well as the library numbers for any surname indexes available:

FHL Film Number
Surname Indexes
FHL 1042624
FHL 1042006
FHL 0103918
FHL 0104109
FHL 0203406
6086688 (1fiche)
FHL 0208622

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
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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: 1768-1854

FHL 0990575

Item 1

Marriages: 1784-1854

FHL 0990575

Item 1

Deaths: 1804-1844

FHL 0990575

Item 1


Condition of Original Registers—
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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 in the
Births: Registers were regularly kept.
Marriages: There are only five entries from 1786–1789 inclusive and no entries 1789–1796 and 1808.
Deaths: There are only two entries for 1817–1828 and one page of deaths after 1819.
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:
No pre–1955 records.

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

Lairg Free Church[edit | edit source]

The aged minister of Lairg "came out" in 1843, but, owing to the attitude of the Duke of Sutherland, was obliged to leave the district. The Presbytery in this emergency ordained his son as missionary minister. The latter was translated to Nairn in 1845 and a colleague was appointed. A site was ultimately secured and the church and manse erected.
Membership: 1855, 300; 1900, 47.
Source: Annals of the Free Church of Scotland, 1843–1900, ed. Rev. William Ewing, D.D., pub. 1914. Film #918572. More details may be given in the source, including ministers.

The extent of records is unknown.

Civil Registration Records
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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.

Probate Records
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Lairg was under the probate jurisdiction of the Commissary Court of Caithness until 1823, and since then has been under the Sheriff's Court of Dornoch. 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 Sutherland and the subject of 'Probate records.' Then click on the link to the records of the Commissariat of Caithness.
The library also has some post-1823 probate records for Sutherland. Look in the library catalog for the 'Place-names' of Sutherland 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: 7 August 2014.

Return to Sutherland parish list.