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Contents

History

Berwickshire is a maritime county in the south-east of Scotland, bounded on the north by the German Ocean and the county of Haddington (Eastlothian), on the east and north-east by the German Ocean, on the south by the river Tweed, which separates it from the English county of Northumberland, and on the west and south-west by the counties of Edinburgh (Midlothian) and Roxburgh.  It is about thirty-five miles in length and twenty-two miles in extreme breadth.  It comprises about 446 1/2 square miles or 285,760 acres.  The county derives its name from the ancient town of berwick, formerly the county town. 

Berwickshire was anciently part of the kingdom of Northumbria until the year 1020 when it was ceded to Malcolm II, King of Scotland, by the Earl of Northumberland. From its situation on the borders, the county was the scene of frequent hostilities and an object of continual dispute between the Scots and the English.  The town of Berwick was finally ceded to the English in 1482.  Greenlaw eventually became the county town for Berwickshire.

The county comprises thirty-four parishes and three civil districts of Merse, Lammermoor, and Lauderdale.  It includes the royal burgh of Lauder, the towns of Greenlaw, Dunse, Coldstream, and Eyemouth, and several villages.  The district of Merse is level and extends for nearly twenty miles along the north bank of the Tweed and about ten miles in breadth.  It is richly fertile and enriched with plantations.  The district of Lammermoor, nearly of equal extent and parallel with the Merse, is a hilly tract chiefly adapted for pasture.  The district of Lauderdale, to the west of the other two, is also diversified with hills and affords good pasture for sheep and a coarse breed of black cattle.  It has fertile vales of arable land yielding abundant crops.  The coast is bold and rocky, rising precipitously to a great height, and is almost inaccessible except at Eyemouth and Coldingham Bay. 

The population of the county in 1851 was 34,438.

(Source:  Samuel Lewis' Topographical Dictionary of Scotland, 2nd ed., 1851.  Family History Library  book 941 E5L.)


Parishes

Here is a list of the historic parishes of the county of Berwick with their parish numbers.  Click on the parish name to see information about records. 

Parish No. Parish No.
Abbey St. Bathans 726 Hilton -- see Whitsome 757
Ayton 727 Hume -- see Stitchel, Roxburgh 744
Bunkle and Preston 728 Hutton 745
Channelkirk 729 Ladykirk 746
Chirnside 730 Langton 747
Cockburnspath 731 Lauder 748
Coldingham 732 Legerwood 749
Coldstream (formerly Lennel) 733 Lennel -- see Coldstream 733
Cranshaws 734 Longformacus 750
Dunse 735 Mertoun 751
Earlston 736 Mordington 752
Eccles 373 Nenthorn 753
Edrom 738 Polwarth 754
Eyemouth 739 Preston -- see Buncle 728
Fogo 740 Simprim -- see Swinton 755
Foulden 741 Swinton 755
Gordon 742 Westruther 756
Greenlaw 743 Whitsome and Hilton 757


Census Records

A census is a count and description of the population, taken by the government, arranged by locality and by household. In 1841, the British government began taking censuses of the population of Scotland every ten years, listing all persons by name.  The census records must be 100 years old before they are released to the public, so the 1841 through 1911 are currently available.  Read more about Scotland Census Records.

Most available census records have been indexed by surname. Indexes are online at these Web sites:

The Family History Library (FHL) has the following county-wide census indexes for Berwickshire.

Year FHL Call Number
1841     book {{FHL|941.455 X22m 1841 |disp=941.455 X22m 1841}}
1851 book 941.455 X22m 1851
1881 fiche 6086526 (set of 2)

The FHL also has a number of census surname indexes for several placenames.  Click here  to see the call numbers for these placename indexes.


Civil Registration Records

Government or civil registration of births, marriages, and deaths (also called statutory records) began on January 1, 1855 in Scotland. Annual indexes are available for the whole country. See the article on Scotland Civil Registration for more information and to access the records.


Court Records

The county of Berwick was in the Sheriff's court of Duns (SC60). The Registers of Deeds for Sheriffs' courts contain much valuable information for family history research such as marriage contracts and deeds of 'disposal and settlement' (or assignment) of property, which both give names and relationships. The records are deposited at the National Archives of Scotland in Edinburgh and are not indexed.

Poorhouses

Parts of this workhouse are included in Kelso Combination

Probate Records

Probate records are those which deal with the settlement of the estate of a deceased person. In Scotland, until 1868, a person could only pass movable property such as household furniture, farm equipment, livestock, money and clothes through a document known as a 'testament.' Immovable property such as land was passed to the eldest son or heir through a document known as a 'Service of Heir,' which is not a record of probate. Read more about Scotland Probate Records.

Until 1823, the parishes of Berwickshire were under the probate jurisdiction of the Commissariot Court of Lauder (CC15). Since 1823, the county has been under the jurisdiction of the Sheriff's Court of Duns (SC60).

Probate records for 1513-1901 (including inventories of goods) are indexed online at www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk. 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 FamilySearch library catalog for the 'Place' of Berwick (then select the county) and the subject of 'Probate records.' Then click on the link to the 'Testaments registers.'

An index to probate records that covers some of Scotland 1861-1941 is available at www.ancestry.co.uk


Maps

Click on the map of Berwickshire to see a larger version.  Click on the larger map, then click the 'Expand' button when it appears in the lower right-hand corner of the map.

 
Berwick, c. 1845.jpg

Click here to see an outline map of the parishes of Berwickshire.

Helpful Websites


[Return to county list.]


 

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  • This page was last modified on 11 March 2014, at 09:58.
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