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Paisley (#573)

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

 

Contents

History

PAISLEY, a burgh, market-town, and ancient parish, in the Upper ward of the county of Renfrew, of which it is the principal place. A monastery, which was dedicated to the Virgin Mary, St. James, and St. Mirin, flourished till the year 1220, when it was raised to the rank of a mitred abbey by Pope Honorius III. The whole of the Paisley portion of the county, at present so populously inhabited, and forming so extensive a manufacturing district, was previously to the year 1736 one parish, now divided into the Abbey parish and the town parishes. The increasing population requiring further accommodation, a Gaelic church and six chapels of ease were erected. The Gaelic church was built in 1793, for the use of the Highlanders generally in the town of Paisley and the vicinity; and to each of the chapels of ease was till lately annexed a quoad sacra district, by which they were raised to the rank of parish churches. Of the six chapels or churches, that of Johnstone was erected in 1792, the church at Levern in 1835, and that of Elderslie in 1840; and in the burgh, the North church, the Martyrs, and the South church, have been completed, and a minister ordained to each. There are places of worship for members of the Free Church, the Reformed Presbytery, Old Burghers, the Relief, and the United Secession'; also an episcopal chapel; places of worship for Wesleyan Methodists, Scottish and Berean Baptists, Independents, Glassites, Unitarians, and Universalists; and in the New Town a Roman Catholic chapel.[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 http://edina.ac.uk/stat-acc-scot/.  Click on ‘Browse scanned pages’ then search the parish reports for Paisley.  Also available at the Family History Library.

Census Records

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

 

Years Surname Index             
1841 CD-ROM no. 3823
1851 CD-ROM no. 3817
1861
1871
1881 6086652 ( 11 fiche)
1891

The 1901 census of Scotland is indexed on www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk.  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 indexes through the library.

 

Church Records

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

High Parish

Event Type Years Covered FHL Film Number
Births: 1788-1854 - baptisms 1041283
1842-1854 - neglected births 1041284 item 1
Marriages: 1788-1850 1041283
1845-1854 1041284 item 1
Deaths: None


Middle Parish

Event Type Years Covered FHL Film Number
Births: 1788-1854 - baptisms 1041284 items 2-4
1822-1854 -births 1041285 item 1
Marriages: 1788-1820 1041284 items 2-4
1820-1854 1041285 item 1
Deaths: None


Low Parish

Event Type Years Covered FHL Film Number
Births: 1738-1788 - baptisms 1041285 items 2-4
1788-1854 1041322 items 1-5
1839-1854 - births 1041322 items 1-5
Marriages: 1739-1788 1041285 items 2-4
1788-1854 1041322 items 1-5
Deaths: None


Note: Index to births and baptisms, all three parishes 1820–1854 film #1041322 item 6

Condition of Original Registers—

Indexed: For an index to these records, see the Scottish Church Records Index on computer at the Family History Library and family history centers.  Some records may be indexed in the International Genealogical Index. 


High Parish

Births: Record is regularly kept
Marriages: With the exception of irregular marriages, the record prior to December 1814, is one of proclamations chiefly after 1815, the date of the marriages is very often added to the entries.

Middle Parish

Births: The first page contains 17 irregular entries 1772–1788. Record is carefully kept.
Marriages: Record prior to December 1814, is one of proclamations chiefly. After 1815, the date of marriage is often added to the entries.

 

Low Parish

Births: First two leaves are copies; third is partially destroyed; several entries are imperfect.
Marriages: The first leaf of the record appears to have been lost. The record is blank June 1755–June 1761. Nine of the leaves between 1763 and 1780 are more or less mutilated, and a considerable number of entries either partially or totally destroyed. Except in the case of irregular marriages, the record prior to October 1814 appears to be one of proclamations; after that, the date of marriage is often added to the entries. The portion commencing September 1763, bears to be for the parish of the town of Paisley, while the portion beginning December 1788, is described as the Low Church Parish Register.
Source: Key to the Parochial Registers of Scotland, by V. Ben Bloxham, pub. 1970. British Book 941 K23b.


Established Church—Kirk Session Records

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:


Paisley, High Kirk Session

Minutes 1797–1860
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, records CH3/858.


Paisley, North Kirk Session

Minutes 1836–1875
Managers’ Trustees Minutes 1833–1859
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, records CH3/886.

Middle and Low parishes: extent of the records is unknown.


Nonconformist Church Records

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 Lists.

See also Abbey parish.

The New Statistical Account of Scotland for Paisley for 1837 states that there were within the four parishes, including Abbey, 24,009 members of dissenter churches, including children. Besides the Presbyterian Seceders, this number included Congregationalists, Baptists, Methodists, Unitarians, Universalists, Episcopalians, and Roman Catholics. Accounts follow.


Presbyterian Seceding Churches


Martyrs’ Associate Burgher Congregation

See Martyr’s Free Church


Oakshaw Street East General Associate Congregation Anti-Burgher, later United Free Church

History—
Due to the violent settlement of a new minister in the parish, in September 1738, several elders of the Abbey church sought connection with the Associate Presbytery, which was granted after an investigation. They joined the Associate congregation of Mearns as elders. The following year a number of the parishioners also withdrew from the Established Church and joined the Associate congregation of Mearns, in which most of the Seceders, resident in and about Paisley were at that time included. In 1744, a portion of the Seceders in Paisley petitioned the Associate Presbytery to be disjoined from the congregation of Mearns and joined to that of Burntshields, which was allowed. The Breach of 1747 divided the congregation of Burntshields, the great majority adhering to the Associate Burgher Synod. Those in the minority joined with those in Greenock who had adhered to the General Associate Anti-burgher Synod. In 1756, the members resident in Paisley had grown in number sufficiently to petition the Presbytery to be formed as a separate congregation, which was granted. In 1762, a church was built at the east end of what is now called Oakshaw Street. It was enlarged in 1781 and rebuilt in 1825–1826.
Source: Annals and Statistics of the United Presbyterian Church, by Rev. William MacKelvie, D.D., pub. 1873. Film #477618. More details may be given in the source including a list of ministers.

Records— 
                                                                       FHL Film Number
Baptismal Register    1756–1808, 1833–1854      0889487 Item 1 X
Burial Register          1836–1869                        0889487 Item 1 X
Note: The X means records have been extracted.


Paisley, Canal Street Relief Church, later United Presbyterian

History—
In 1780, a petition signed by 280 persons residing in Paisley was presented to the Relief Presbytery of Glasgow craving to be erected into a congregation, which was granted. The church was built in 1781 and remodeled in 1868.
Source: Annals and Statistics of the United Presbyterian Church, by Rev. William MacKelvie, D.D., pub. 1873. Film #477618. More details may be given in the source including a list of ministers.

Records— 
                                                                                   FHL Film Number
Session Minutes                    1783–1804, 1818–1848     1886234 items 5–7
Session Minutes                    1848–1868                       0889476
Session Minutes with Deaths  1853–1856 0889476


Paisley, Thread Street Relief Church, later United Presbyterian

History—
In 1807, the Canal Street Relief Church was over-crowded. The congregation was rapidly increasing due to the shawl manufacture introduced into the town shortly before. It became necessary to provide another place of worship. A new church was built on Thread Street in 1808, and was completely reconstructed in 1872.
Source: Annals and Statistics of the United Presbyterian Church, by Rev. William MacKelvie, D.D., pub. 1873. Film #477618. More details may be given in the source including a list of ministers.

Records—
Extent of the records is unknown.

St. James Street United Associate Congregation

History—
A division having taken place in the Independent Congregation in Paisley in 1824, the minister and the great majority of the people withdrew and formed a new congregation in another place. The minority, consisting of about 50 persons, to whom the property belonged, and who were originally Presbyterians, applied for and obtained supply of sermon from the United Associate Presbytery of Glasgow. The church had been built in 1818.
Source: Annals and Statistics of the United Presbyterian Church, by Rev. William MacKelvie, D.D., pub. 1873. Film #477618. More details may be given in the source including a list of ministers.

Records—
Baptisms 1834–1956
Records and Minutes 1825–1955
Session Books 1825–1859
Communion Rolls 1824–1986
Managers Records and Minutes 1821–1977
Other post-1855 records
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH3/1550.


Old Laigh Kirk United Associate Congregation

History—
The Old Laigh parish church of Paisley, having been vacated by the minister and his congregation, was leased for ten years by some of the leading Dissenter of the town and opened in 1834 in connection with the United Associate Synod. In eighteen months the congregation numbered 72 members, who proceeded to provide themselves with a fixed pastor. In 1839, this congregation joined with the George Street congregation. The lease of the church was given over to a non-intrusion party of the Church of Scotland.
Source: Annals and Statistics of the United Presbyterian Church, by Rev. William MacKelvie, D.D., pub. 1873. Film #477618. More details may be given in the source including a list of ministers.

Records—
Extent of the records is unknown. See the George Street congregation following.


George Street United Presbyterian Church

History—
A congregation in connection with the Original Associate Burgher Synod built a place of worship in 1822. In 1834, the congregation divided over a controversy. The minority withdrew and the majority remained in possession of the building and applied for and obtained supply of sermon from the United Associate Presbytery of Paisley and Greenock in April 1835. In 1839, when their first minister left, their numbers were increased when they were joined by the Old Laigh congregation along with their minister, who then became the minister of the United Congregations.
Source: Annals and Statistics of the United Presbyterian Church, by Rev. William MacKelvie, D.D., pub. 1873. Film #477618. More details may be given in the source including a list of ministers.

Records—
Minutes 1849–1878
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH3/654.


Paisley Reformed Presbyterian Church, later Oakshaw West United Free Church

History—
At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the people residing in Paisley and neighborhood formed part of the congregation of the “Shire of Renfrew.” The center of the district was at Kilmalcolm. In 1803, the whole congregation approached the Presbytery for a disjunction between the east and west sides. After lengthy discussion, they were disjoined. A minister was not obtained until 1809. The membership was then over 100. By 1863, membership had grown to over 300. A church was built in 1811 and remodeled in 1877. A Sabbath school was begun in 1837 and home mission work was begun in 1849. They joined the Free Church in 1876.
Source: The Reformed Presbyterian Church in Scotland, by W.J. Couper, pub. 1925. FHL 941 K2c. The source includes ministers.

Records—
Minutes of Corresponding Meetings 1798–1832
Session Minutes 1811–1972
Managers’ Minutes 1785–1881
Young Men’s Society Minutes 1835–1851
List of Subscribers to Minister’s call in 1809
List of Members 1809–1817
Cash Book 1809–1830
Marriages 1809–1836, 1854–1857
Baptisms 1809–1832, 1843–1958
Deaths 1809–1821
Register of Interments 1856–1860
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, records CH3/751.


Paisley Gaelic Free Church

History—
John Campbell, minister of the “quoad sacra” church here, with his people, “came out” in 1843. Towards the end of 1844, action having been taken against them, they were compelled to leave the church. A new church was soon erected; but the loss weakened and discouraged the congregation.
Membership: 1848, 132; 1900, 95.
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.

Records—
Extent of the records is unknown.


Paisley Middle Free Church, Gaelic Chapel

History—
This congregation, formed of those who “came out” of the Middle, North, and other congregations, was at first called the “United Congregation.” In anticipation of the Disruption, they met in the old Low Church on the first Sabbath of May 1843, eleven days before the event. For some time they worshiped in the Gaelic Church, at alternate hours with the Gaelic congregation. Then they occupied a hall until their church was completed in November 1844. It was reconstructed and enlarged in 1863.
Membership: 1848, 400; 1900, 658
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.

Records—
Minutes 1843–1850
Baptismal Register 1844–1856
Communion Roll 1851–1865
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH3/902.



Paisley High Free Church

History—
The minister of the High parish, and most of the congregation “came out” in 1843. For a time they worshiped in the “Low Church” at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.; St George’s Free congregation meeting there at 12 noon and 6 a.m. Their new church was opened in July 1845.
Membership: 1848, 974; 1900, 732.
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.

Records—
Session Minutes 1843–1863
Deacons’ Court Minutes 1843–1858
Communion Roll 1843–1918
Seat Rent Book 1843–1902
Collections 1843–1858
Payments to Poor Members 1844–1859
Other post-1855 records
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH3/1487.


Martyrs’ Free Church

History—
The minister and almost the entire congregation of Martyrs’ Parish Church, “came out” in 1843. Formerly the Burgher congregation, they had joined the Church of Scotland in 1839. The earlier history of the Burgher congregation is not known; perhaps this was the minority of the George Street congregation which split in 1834. They continued to worship in the parish church until expelled in August 1844. From eight to twenty persons were then left in a church with seating for 1194. The congregation worshiped in various places until their new church was opened in June 1848.
Membership: 1848, 200; 1900, 622.
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.

Records—
Minutes 1836–1865 - Church of Scotland to 1843
Sustentation Fund Minutes 1843–1848
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH3/862.


St. George’s Free Church

History—
The minister of St. George’s parish and his congregation as a whole “came out” in 1843. The church was built and opened in May 1844. In 1851, a mission was begun on Orchard Street, and a day school was established in connection with it. In 1886, the church was renovated, and church halls in New Street were erected.
Membership: 1848, 600; 1900, 604.
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.

Records—
Session Minutes 1843–1859
Deacons’ Court Minutes 1843–1860
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH3/395.


St. Andrew’s, Free South Church

History—
Peter Henderson, minister of Paisley South “quoad sacra” church, and his congregation, adhered to the Free Church in 1843. They continued to worship in their church until they were deprived of it in 1849. The new church was built, and opened in June 1850.
Membership: 1848, 300; 1900, 628
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.

Records—
Various Minutes 1837–1862 – Church of Scotland to 1843
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, records CH3/682.


Paisley Dissenting Churches

The New Statistical Account of Scotland for Paisley for 1837 states that there were within the four parishes, including Abbey, 3279 members of dissenting churches. These include the Congregationalists, Baptists, Methodists, Unitarians, and Universalists; accounts follow.



Paisley Congregational Churches

History—
The oldest Congregational church in Paisley, and indeed in the county of Renfrew, was begun about 1795. A Tabernacle was built shortly after on Canal Street. In 1807, membership stood at 49 and it grew by about 20 new members each year. The congregation moved to a new chapel on Gilmour Street in 1834. They later moved to a newly erected church in School Wynd in 1887. This church united with St. John’s Church of Scotland and Paisley High Church of Scotland in August 1991 to form Oakshaw Trinity Church. Another church was formed in September 1845. The congregation was admitted into the Evangelical Union in 1846. In 1847 the congregation began to worship in the historic Old Low Church, which ultimately they bought in 1849. This became known as the New Street Church. It was closed in December 1980. In October 1850, another church was formed in Paisley. The congregation met in various locations until 1855 when they purchased the old Tabernacle in Canal Street. This and the Gilmour Street Church merged in December 1871.
Source: A History of Scottish Congregationalism, by Harry Escott, pub. 1960. FHL book 941 K2es.

Records—
Extent of the records is unknown. For information write to:
The United Reformed Church, Scottish Synod Office
PO Box 189
240 Cathedral Street
Glasgow G1 2BX
Scotland


Paisley Baptist Churches

History—
A church was formed in 1795 by some seven or eight Baptists meeting in each other’s houses. They afterwards had a meeting place in Abbey Close. In 1798, they purchased ground on Storie Street where the Storie Street Baptist Church was erected in the same year. It was altered and enlarged in 1840 and again in 1866. The church was conducted on strictly Scotch Baptists lines until 1851 when a regular Pastor was ordained. The congregation moved to the Thomas Coats Memorial Church in 1894. This church is still active. In 1842, a number of members of the Storie Street Baptist Church left and formed another congregation, meeting first on Oakshaw Street, then later removing to the Old Methodist Church on George Street. A new church was built on George Street in 1861. This church is still active.
Source: History of the Baptists in Scotland, by Rev. George Yuille, pub. 1926. FHL book 941 K2hi.
Records—
Extent of the records is unknown. For information write to:
The Baptist Union of Scotland
12 Aytoun Road
Glasgow G41 5RT
Scotland


Paisley Methodist Church

History—
Paisley’s first Methodist chapel was opened on George Street in 1812. A new chapel was built some years later. Paisley was missioned from Glasgow until 1838 when it became a separate circuit. No further history is known.
Source: Methodism in Scotland, by Wesley F. Swift, pub. 1947. FHL book 941 K2sw.

Records—
Extent of records is unknown. For information write to:
Methodist Archives and Research Centre
John Rylands University Library of Manchester
150 Deansgate
Manchester M3 3EH
Scotland


Paisley Unitarian Church

History—
This society dated from about 1805 and originally had Universalist tendencies. In 1813, the regular attendance on Sundays was between 60 and 70. This was also the case in 1869, though attendance had been less at times in between years. In 1817, the foundation stone of a chapel was laid on George Street. The debt on the chapel was not cleared for several years. The congregation included several persons from Kilbarchan who were unable to organize their own society. The decision in 1870 to build a new building resulted in the withdrawal of two leading members who were trustees and led to a great deal of trouble for the church. The church had almost ceased to exist by 1882, but was then revived for a time by a new lecturer and pastor. However, the congregation lapsed by 1900.
Source: Unitarianism in Scotland,
by Archibald MacWhirter, in Records of the Scottish Church History Society, Vol. XIII, Part II, 1958. FHL book 941 B2ch. Source includes names of ministers.

Records—
Extent of the records is unknown. For more information write to:
Scottish Unitarian Association
Mrs E. Shepherd, Secretary
74 Craigie Drive
Dundee DD4 7PB
Scotland
Tel: 01382 455588or email: sec@sua.org.uk


Paisley Universalist Church

History—
This congregation was established about 1825. It was united in an annual conference with congregations in Glasgow, Greenock, Johnstone, Ayr, and Falkirk. No further history is known. All of these congregations eventually lapsed.

Records—
Extent of the records is unknown.


Paisley Episcopalian Church

History—
The New Statistical Account of Scotland for Paisley for 1837 states that there were within the four parishes, including Abbey, 1368 Episcopalians. Holy Trinity church was consecrated in 1833. No further history is known.

Records—
Christenings, Marriages, and Burials 1817–1854
Note: Records are likely in the hands of the minister. For information write to:
Holy Trinity Rectory
11 Tantallon Drive
Paisley PA2 9JT
Scotland


Paisley Roman Catholic Church

History—
The Paisley church was formed about 1808. The church was consecrated to St. Mirren in that year. The New Statistical Account of Scotland for Paisley for 1837 states that there were within the four parishes, including Abbey, 3946 Roman Catholics. No further history is known.


Records—
Baptisms 1808–1875
Marriages 1808–1870
Note: Available online for a fee, at www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk,  Edinburgh, records RH21/8.


Paisley Branch, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

History—
The first Scottish branch of the Church was organized at Paisley on 9 May 1840.

Records— 
                                                          FHL Film Number
Record of Members         1848–1912     0104155 items 1–2
Note: Film includes records of members of the Renfrew and Neilston branches of the mission.

 

Civil Registration Records

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

Paisley was under the probate jurisdiction of the Commissary Court of Glasgow until 1823, and since then has been under the Sheriff's Court of Paisley. Probate records for 1513- 1901 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 library catalog  for the 'Place-names' of Renfrew and the subject of 'Probate records.' Then click on the link to the records of the Commissariat of Glasgow
The library also has some post-1823 probate records for Renfrew. Look in the library catalog for the 'Place-names' of Renfrew and the subjects of 'Probate Records' and 'Probate Records - Indexes.'

Read more about Scotland Probate Records.

References

  1. Lewis, Samuel A., A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland (1846), pp. 337-351. Adapted. Date accessed: 20 February 2014.


Return to the Renfrewshire parish list.


 

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