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Parish #26

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



SANDA, an island, in the county of Orkney, 16 miles (N. E. by N.) from Kirkwall. This island, which is situated between the island of North Ronaldshay and that of Stronsay, the latter lying to the south, is bounded on the west by the Atlantic Ocean, and on the north and east by North Ronaldshay Frith, which is about seven miles broad. The island comprises the two parishes of Cross and Lady, which are described under their respective heads. LADY, a parish, in the island of Sanda, North Isles of the county of Orkney, 25 miles (N. E. by N.) from Kirkwall. This parish, which includes the eastern portion of the island, is about nine miles in length, from south to north, and one mile in average breadth; it is bounded on the west by the parish of CROSS and the bay of Otterswick, and on all other points surrounded by the sea. The church at Lady, rebuilt in 1814, is a neat and spacious structure containing ample accommodation for all the parishioners. There is a place of worship for members of the United Secession.[1]

Sanday parish was divided into Cross, Burness and Lady

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

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 Sanday. as well as the library numbers for any surname indexes available:

Family History Library Film Numbers
Surname Indexes
6086634 (2 fiche)

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

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

Record Type Years Covered Family History Library Film Number
Births: 1735-1854 0990509
Marriages: 1818-1854 0990509
Deaths: 1831-1841 0990509


Condition of Original Registers—

Indexed: For an index to these records, see the Scottish Church Records Index available on computers at the Family History Library and family history centers.  The records may be indexed in the International Genealogical Index.
Births: For Cross and Burness, the entries specify the division of the united parish in which the births occurred. Registers were carefully kept prior to 1803. There are irregular and defective records 1803–1820. The parish of Lady has no entries 1785–1790 inclusive. Records are incomplete 1793–1798, inclusive.
Marriages: For Cross and Burness there are no entries 1822–1837, except for four entries in 1827 entered in the index to the baptisms.
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:

The extent of 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 List.

Sanday General Associate Secession Church

Sanday is an island in Orkney of about 19 square miles with a population of about 2000 souls. A few of the islanders having occasionally heard the gospel preached in the Secession churches of Kirkwall and Stronsay were led to ask for supply of sermon from the General Associate, Anti-burgher Presbytery of Edinburgh, which was granted in 1800. The church was built in 1807 and a new church was built in 1850. The first church was built about 2 miles further south and was inconveniently situated for those in the north end of the island. With praiseworthy enterprise and liberality the congregation built the present church in the center of the island, with the manse nearby. It later became the East Sanday United Free Church and united with Lady in 1933.
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.

There are no known pre–1855 records.

Sanday Free Church

At the request of a number of the inhabitants of the island a congregation was formed here shortly after the Disruption and a minister was settled in July 1843. At a later time a large number of the members left the church and formed a mission station. Under Mr. Armour's ministry a revival movement began which spread over all the islands. It later became the West Sanday United Free Church.
Membership: 1848, 420; 1900, 168.
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.

Minutes 1843–1903
Deacons' Court Minutes 1844–1903
Note: Available on Film at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH3/1108.

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

Sanday was under the probate jurisdiction of the Commissary Court of Orkney & Shetland until 1823, and since then has been under the Sheriff's Court of Kirkwall. 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 Orkney and the subject of 'Probate records.' Then click on the link to the records of the Commissariat of Orkney & Shetland.

The library also has some post-1823 probate records for Orkney. Look in the library catalog for the 'Place-names' of Orkney and the subjects of 'Probate Records' and 'Probate Records - Indexes.'

Read more about Scotland Probate Records.


  1. Lewis, Samuel A., A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland (1846), pp. 499-514. Adapted. Date accessed: 15 August 2014.

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  • This page was last modified on 2 July 2015, at 23:36.
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