Fetlar, Shetland, Scotland Genealogy

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Scotland Gotoarrow.png Shetland Gotoarrow.png Fetlar

Parish #4

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


FETLAR and NORTH YELL, a parish, in the county of Shetland; 36 miles (N. by E.) from Lerwick. This parish, which is situated nearly at the northern extremity of the Shetland isles, consists of the island of Fetlar and the northern part of that of Yell. There are two churches, both very near the sea-shore; that in Fetlar was rebuilt in 1790, and accommodates 269 persons, and that in North Yell was built in 1832, and contains sittings for 390. The Wesleyans have a place of worship in Fetlar.[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 Fetlar, as well as the library numbers for any surname indexes available:

1804                                 477622 Item 13

Family History Library Film Number
Surname Indexes
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: 1754-1854 - Fetlar 0919488

1787-1854 - North Yell 0919488
Marriages: 1808-1854 - Fetlar 0919488

1801-1854 - North Yell 0919488
Deaths: 1803, 1821-1854 - Fetlar 0919488

No entries - North Yell 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: In Fetlar there are irregular entries 1803–1812 inserted after September 1804. In North Yell the regular register begins in 1811.
Marriages: In Fetlar there are no notations. In North Yell, the regular register begins in 1811. There are irregular entries 1787–1819 and one entry in 1801 at the beginning of the register of births. There is one entry in 1806 and one in 1785, on page one of the register.
Deaths: In Fetlar there are no entries 1803–1821. There is a duplicate or copy of the record from 1803–1820. In North Yell there are no notations.
Source: Key to the Parochial Registers of Scotland, by V. Ben Bloxham, pub. 1970. British Book941 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:
Minutes 1754–1820, 1830, 1838–1966
Accounts 1818–1859
Communicants 1834–1840
Parochial Library Register 1834–1859
Collections, Births, Marriages and Deaths 1852–1870
Cash Book 1830–1879
Note: Available at the Shetland Archives, Lerwick, Scotland, record CH2/151.

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.

Fetlar Free Church

In 1843 a congregation was formed with the status of a preaching station under the care of John Ingram, minister of Unst. They met for worship in Smithfield House until the church was opened in 1846. The charge was sanctioned in 1848 under the condition that it be united with Yell. The Presbytery could not entertain this condition and no settlement was made. In 1854 Fetlar was again reduced to a preaching station. Finally, in 1866 the charge was sanctioned. The manse was built in 1868. A decline in the population, due to the failure of the white fishing and absence of local industries, told adversely on the congregation. Most of the lads went to sea and the girls went into domestic service. Men and women went to Lerwick and other places for work connected with the herring fishing.
Membership: 1868, 128; 1900, 92.
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.

There no known pre-1855 records.

North Yell Free Church

In 1843 a number of people "came out" and were cared for by Dr. Ingram of Unst as he found the opportunity to do so. He ordained office bearers and dispensed sacraments in the open air. For many years services were held by student missionaries and others in North Yell, Mid Yell and West Yell. The congregation at North Yell worshiped in a house until, in 1862, the church was opened. The charge was sanctioned in 1864. In 1865 a church and manse were built at West Yell which was placed on the footing of a preaching station. For the members of Mid Yell, Mrs. Gudge of Seafield gave the use of a hall where, from 1864, services were held and the sacrament dispensed by the minister and office bearers of North Yell. The population consisted of crofters. The leaving of many young men and women for employment in the towns was a serious drawback.
Membership: 1865, 207; 1900, 182.
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 1825–1931
Note: Available at the Shetland Archives, Lerwick, Scotland, record CH2/1076.

North Yell Moorfield Congregational Church

A church was formed here about 1847 and ceased about 1884.
Sources: A History of Scottish Congregationalism, by Harry Escott, pub. 1960; FHL 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

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

Fetlar 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.

Return to Zetland parish list.