Forfar, Angus, Scotland Genealogy

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Scotland Gotoarrow.png Angus Gotoarrow.png Forfar

Parish #288

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


FORFAR, a royal burgh, the county town, a parish, and the seat of a presbytery, in the county of Forfar, 70 miles (N. by E.) from Edinburgh; containing the villages of Carseburn and Lunanhead. This place, in some ancient documents, is noticed under the designation of ForfarRestenneth; and in others, Forfar and Restenneth are separately mentioned as distinct parishes, the union of which, though extremely probable, has not been proved by any authentic evidence.T he church of St. James was erected in 1836. It is a neat structure, containing 1134 sittings. An episcopal chapel was built in 1824. There are also places of worship for members of the Free Church and United Secession, and for Independents; and a Roman Catholic chapel.[1]

The Established Church of Scotland is Presbyterian. By the 1790s there were small groups of Presbyterian Seceders and Episcopalians in the parish. These combined only represented about thirteen percent of the population, which in 1792 was 4756. By 1851 the population had grown to 11,009.

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

Family History Library Film Number
Surname Indexes
1042676, 1042677
6086580 (12 fiche)
208720, 208721

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: 1633-1756 0993430
  1757-1820 0993431

1820-1855 0993432
Marriages: 1659-1701 0993430

1705-1862 0993432
Deaths: 1822-1854 0993433

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: Records are blank April 1634– September 1636 and May 1638– October 1659. The first two pages 1633–1638 are partially destroyed and two pages 1693–1694. Entries July 1717–April 1722 are recorded twice. Mothers' names are not recorded until August 1758.
Marriages: Prior to October 1701 entries of contracts of marriage are mixed with records of birth. Records are blank from October 1701 to September 1705, when a separate record of proclamations is commenced. There is only one entry May 1710– May 1711 and they are blank September 1712–January 1714 and August 1715–April 1718. There are contracts of marriage 1711–1722 and the fact of marriage added to a few entries for 1718.
Deaths: Burial records are carelessly kept by the sexton.
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:

St. James

Minutes 1836–43
Cash Book 1829–52
Accounts 1852–1973
Managers’ Minutes 1830–1872
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH2/1511.

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.

Forfar Anti-Burgher United Presbyterian Church

The Seceders in and about Forfar met for public worship at Dumbarrow until 1778, when on account of distance, they were formed at their own request into a separate congregation. A church was built in 1780.
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.

Accounts 1798–1849
Minutes 1804–1919
Other post–1855 records
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH3/1531.

Forfar First Free Church

Those who "came out" in 1843 along with the minister of the parish formed the Free Church congregation. They worshiped for a time in the open air, or in the United Associate Church. Their own church was erected in 1843–1844. The old church was sold in 1881 when the congregation moved to the building on High Street.
Membership: 1848, 651; 1900, 665.
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.
Baptismal Register 1843–1854
Roll Book, Lists of Communicants 1839, 1841–1854
Minutes 1843–1906
Deacons’ Court Minutes 1843–1889
Other post–1855 records
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH3/1530.

Forfar East Free Church

With the hearty concurrence of the office bearers of the first church, a second congregation was organized in Forfar in 1844. A local committee was formed and a missionary appointed in November of that year. The services were held in the Masons' Lodge. The charge was sanctioned in 1850. The church was erected in 1851.
Membership: 1849, 1885; 1900, 455.
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 1845–1857, 1856–1886
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH3/493

Forfar Congregational Churches

A church was formed in 1832 but it was joined to Letham the following year. That congregation was dissolved in 1886. A second Forfar congregation was formed in 1835 and erected a chapel on Osnaburg Street the same year. It may still be functioning.
Sources: A History of Scottish Congregationalism, by Harry Escott 1960, Family History Library 941 K2es; and The Scottish Congregational Ministry, 1794–1993, by Rev. Dr. William D. McNaughton 1993, Family History Library 941 K2mwd. Sources include names of ministers.

Extent of records is unknown. For more information write to:
The United Reformed Church Scottish Synod Office
PO Box 189
240 Cathedral Street
Glasgow G1 2BX
Forfar Methodist Society

A society was formed here and a chapel built in 1824, but it did not survive. Date of closer is not known but it was likely well before 1844.

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

Forfar Episcopalian Church

In 1661, the Rescissory Act deposed Presbyterianism in Scotland and re–established Episcopacy. A Bishop was consecrated at St. Andrew’s, an ancient Anglican see, and Episcopacy was strong in this part of Scotland. However, after the Presbyterian Revolution, and particularly after the 1715 and 1745 rebellions, adherents to the Episcopalian church were greatly persecuted and membership dwindled. From the mid 19th century, membership began to recover. There has been a church at Forfar certainly since the late 17th century, and maybe earlier. A chapel was erected in 1824. The current church building, dedicated to St. John the Evangelist was consecrated in 1881.
Sources: Sources for Scottish Genealogy and Family History, by D.J. Steel (1970), Family History Library Ref. 942 V26ste vol. 12, pp 196–201 and 244–8; also The Scottish Episcopal Church Year Book and Directory for 1965–66, Family History Library 941 E4e.

Christenings 1754–1854
Burials 1825–1854
Note: Available from the incumbent at the church. Write to:
The Rectory
24 St. James’s Road
Angus DD8 1LG


Courtesy of the National Library of Scotland, Post Office Directories are avilable online. The directories available for Forfar are:

1885-1911: These are available in either PDF format or viewable online.

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

Forfar was under the probate jurisdiction of the Commissary Court of St.Andrews until 1823, and since then has been under the Sheriff's Court of Dundee. 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 Angus and the subject of 'Probate records.' Then click on the link to the records of the Commissariat of St.Andrews.

The library also has some post-1823 probate records for Angus.  Look in the library catalog for the 'Place-names' of Angus 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: 5 June 2014.

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