Dunrossness, Shetland, Scotland Genealogy

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Scotland Gotoarrow.png Shetland Gotoarrow.png Dunrossness

Parish #3 This parish includes Sandwick, Cunningsburgh, and Fair Isle

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


DUNROSSNESS, a parish, in the county of Shetland; including the islands of Fair and Mousa, and the late quoad sacra district of Sandwick and Cunningsburgh. This parish is situated at the southern extremity of the Mainland, and forms the principal part of a peninsula, washed on the east, south, and west by the sea. The church was built in 1790, and contains 858 sittings; and on Fair isle is another church, a substantial edifice, erected by the then proprietor of the island; it affords accommodation to about 150 persons. There are meeting-houses for Baptists and Methodists.[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 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 Dunrossness, as well as the library numbers for any surname indexes available:



Family History Library Film Number



Surname Indexes


477622 Item 13

6086700 (2 fiche)

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 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: 1746-1854 - Dunrossness, etc. 0919487

1767-1854 - Fair Isle 0919487
Marriages: 1746-1854 - Dunrossness, etc. 0919487

1767-1854 - Fair Isle 0919487
Deaths: No entries none


Condition of Original Registers—

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: There are no entries for Dunrossness May 1783–April 1789, except four entries. Sandwick and Cunningsburgh have irregular and defective June 1782–June 1785. Fair Isle has about thirty-seven families recorded in groups, preceded generally by the entry of marriage of parents, with fifteen transcribed entries 1767–1796.
Marriages: Dunrossness has no entries February 1756–June 1790. Sandwick and
Cunningsburgh have no entries December 1782–October 1786.
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:

Dunrossness Minutes 1764–1841, with gaps, 1851–1871
Fair Isle Minutes 1828–1841, with gaps
Dunrossness Baptisms 1775–1854
Dunrossness Marriages 1790–1795
Available at the Shetland Archives, Lerwick, Scotland; record CH2/112.

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.

Cunningsburgh Free Church

A great majority of the people in the district adhered to the Free Church in 1843. The church and manse were erected in 1844. The church was designed to serve a wide district under Alexander Stark, minister of Sandwick, who "came out" at the Disruption. Membership: 1855, 200; 1900, 296.
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.

The extent of records is unknown.

Dunrossness Free Church

Soon after the Disruption, a preaching station was formed here. After several applications by the Presbytery, the charge was sanctioned in 1866.
Membership: 1868, 106; 1900, 105.
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.

FHL Film Number
Baptisms 1867–1927 1482998 item 4

Sandwick Congregational Church

A church was formed here in 1812. It ceased to meet after 1882.
Sources: A History of Scottish Congregationalism, by Harry Escott, pub. 1960; Family History Library Book 941 K2es and The Scottish Congregational Ministry, by Rev. William D. McNaughton, pub. 1993.Family History Library Book 941 K2mwd. More details are given in the sources including a list of ministers.

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

Dunrossness Baptist Church

A church was founded in 1816 at Spiggie, in this parish, by Sinclair Thomson, the Shetland Apostle, who served as its first pastor for nearly 50 years. It was the first Baptist church in the Shetlands. Their first church building was opened in 1818, and improvements were made in 1839 and 1860. A new church was built in 1912. Dunrossness is a rural community, which is the cause of membership declining over the years.
Source: History of the Baptists in Scotland, by Rev. George Yuille, pub. 1926. FHL Book 941 K2hi also The Baptists in Scotland, by D.W. Bebbington, pub. 188. Family History Library Book 941 K2bs.

Records of Baptists in the Shetlands exist but their extent is unknown. For information write to:
Baptist Union of Scotland
12 Aytoun Road
Glasgow G41 5RT

Dunrossness Methodist Society

It is not known when this society was formed, but it was in existence before 1841. The New Statistical Account of Scotland for the Shetlands for that year states that there was a good number of Methodists in the combined parishes. It also states that the dissenters were not in the habit of registering their baptisms with the parish minister, and they may have kept no records of their own of that nature.

The 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

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

Dunrossness 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 Lerwick. 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 Shetland 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 Shetland. Look in the library catalog for the 'Place-names' of Shetland 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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