Forres, Moray, Scotland Genealogy
This is a guide to the history and major genealogical records of Scotland as they pertain to the parish of Forres. To learn more about how to use these records to search for your ancestors, go to the Scotland: Research Strategies.
- 1 History
- 2 Census Records
- 3 Church Records
- 4 Civil Registration Records
- 5 Land and Property
- 6 Probate Records
- 7 References
FORRES, a royal burgh and parish, in the county of Elgin, 12 miles (W. by S.) from Elgin. This place, of which the name, in the Gaelic language, is descriptive of its situation on the river and bay of Findhorn, has by some historians been identified with the Varis of Ptolemy, and is celebrated for its ancient castle, in which Duffus, King of Scotland, was treacherously murdered by the governor, in 966. The church, a plain structure, built in 1775, and repaired in 1839, is lighted with gas, and contains 1000 sittings. There are places of worship for the Free Church, United Secession, and Independents, and an episcopal chapel.
The most probable etymology of the name of Forres, is that which derives it from two Gaelic words, Far, uis, denoting near water, a signification which accurately corresponds with the locality of the town and parish; the former of which is built on the banks of a small stream, and the latter is bounded, for an extent of several miles, by the river and bay of Findhorn. It is bounded on the north, by the bay or estuary of the river Findhorn, a tract of sands and carse ground which is daily overflowed by the tide; on the north-west and west, by the river Findhorn, which divides it from the united parishes of Dyke and Moy; on the south, by a small portion of the parish of Edinkilly, and the parish of Rafford; and on the east, by the parishes of Rafford and Kinlos.
No ancient documents exist which throw light on the early history of this parish, but there can be no doubt that Forres was a place of considerable importance at a very remote period. Some ancient writers suppose it to have been the Varis of Ptolemy. King Duffus, when residing in the castle, was treacherously murdered by the governor in 966. We learn from some early historians, that the “gracious” King Duncan had his camp at Forres, and that it was when proceeding to join him there, that Macbeth and Banquo were met by the Weird Sisters.
There are several eminent men who have resided in this parish. Mr. James Dick left his native parish early in life and went to America, where he accumulated a large fortune, and at his death in 1828 bequeathed L. 140,000 for the benefit of the parochial schoolmasters of the counties of Moray, Banff and Aberdeen. The late John Gordon, Esq. M.D. of Edinburgh, was also a native of Forres, and though his sun went down at noon, it shed a luster on the place which gave him birth and on his country, ere it set.
The family of the late Provost Duncan Grant of Forres have, by their distinguished merit and success in life, reflected honor on their native parish. The eldest son, Mr. Walter Grant, died early in life in India, but not until he had earned a high reputation as a barrister. His brother, the late Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander Grant, H.E.I.C.S., was no less distinguished as a soldier than his brother was a lawyer. His bravery was conspienously displayed at the Battle of Assaye, to which victory he greatly contributed by his gallantry. Another brother, the late Lieutenant-Colonel Colquhoun Grant, was entrusted with the most important and confidential service by the Duke of Wellington during the Peninsular war, in which he acquitted himself under circumstances of extraordinary difficulty and danger, with remarkable courage and success. Two brothers are still living of this family, and enjoying their well-earned honors, viz, Sir James R. Grant of the Hill near Carlisle, who held the office of Principal Inspector of Hospitals, and superintended the medical department of the army in France in 1815, and Lieutenant-General Sir Lewis Grant, K.C.H. late Governor of the Island of Trinidad, and Colonel of 96th foot. The sister of these gentlemen also connects with this parish her husband, the much respected and esteemed Sir James M’Grigor, Bart., Director-General of the Army Medical Department.
The late John Hoyes, Esq. Speaker of the House of Assembly in the Island of Granada, a gentleman whose warm and generous feelings were always evinced whenever opportunities occurred of rendering services is also a native of this parish.
At present the chief land-owners are, William F. Tytler, Esq. of Burdyards; Major Grant Peterkin of Invererne and Grievshop; Sir William G. Cumming, Bart.; Archibald Leslie, Esq. of Balnagieth; the town of Forres; the Earl of Moray; the Earl of Seafield; Miss Smith of Waterford; Gordon, Esq. of Thornhill; Greig, Esq. of Lingieston; Lieutenant-Colonel Frazer of Drumduan; John Forsyth, Esq. of Springfield; and Alexander Smith, Esq. of Bogton; all of these have land worth L. 50 of yearly rent.
The population in 1791 was reported as 2987 inhabitants. In 1801 it increased to 3114, and by the 1841 census the count totaled 3720.
As for agriculture in this parish, the crops that are grown are turnips, potatoes, wheat, barley, grass hay, and oats.
There is a valuable salmon-fishing on the Findhorn, within the parish, which has been managed for may years for the benefit of the proprietors, Messrs Forbes and Co. of Aberdeen.
There are flour and meal-mills on the burn of Forres, which are kept in full employment, and where considerable quantities are ground annually. The Messrs Urquhart have a powerful saw-mill, where timber is sawn into deals, spars etc.
The parish church is conveniently situated; it was built in 1775, and was partially repaired and painted about three years ago, when an additional gallery was put up by the heritors, which accommodates nearly 100 sitters. The whole church is seated to accommodate about 1000 persons, and that number usually attend divine services. About 600 of the sittings are let, and the rents are paid to the heritors.
There are no chapels of ease or Government churches in the parish connected with the Established Church, but there are three Dissenting chapels, one of which is connected with the United associate Synod of the Secession Church, another belongs to the Independents, and the third to the Scotch Episcopal Church. The Independents are not a numerous body, and there are only a very few families of Episcopalians resident in the parish. There is no place of worship for Roman Catholics in the parish.
Registers of births, baptisms, and marriages are regularly kept. There is a disposition, however, often shown to neglect the registration of births, merely to save the small fee charged for registration. Few think of registering deaths and burials, and the register of these is very defective. The earliest register of births and marriages is dated May 1675.
This account was written February 1842.
Source: The New Statistical Account of Scotland for Forres, FHL book 941 B4sa, 2nd series, vol. 13.
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 edina.)$) Click on ‘Browse scanned pages’ then search the parish you are interested in. Also available at the Family History Library.
The following articles have been written by Bruce B Bishop, FSA, Scotland. and he has done a thorough job of researching each parish, and is found in The Lands and People of Moray, of which the Family History Library in Salt Lake City has all the copies of these journals, at 941.23 H2b.
The Burgh and Parish of Forres before the year of 1500. A brief history of Forres with a list of some of the inhabitants before 1500 giving name, date, residence, relationship or reason for being mentioned. Illustrated with two hand drawn maps of Forres about 1250 and 1450. Article covers years 535-1496 to be found in The Lands and People of Moray pt.26, 2007, pages 1-8. Family History Library Ref. 941.23 H2b pt. 26.
The Burgh and Parish of Forres from 1500-1600. A discussion of Forres in the 16th century with a list of some of the inhabitants, illustrated with a hand-drawn map of Forres about 1550. Article covers years 1506-1608, and is found in The Lands and People of Moray, pt.26,2007, pages 9-19, Family History Library Ref. 941.23 H2b. pt 26.
The Burgh and Parish of Forres from 1600 to 1625. A discussion of Forres in the first quarter of the seventeenth century with a list of some of the inhabitants 1600-1624 giving name, date, residence, relationship or reason for being mentioned. Article covers 1600-1669 and is found in The Lands and People of Moray, pt 26, 2007, pages 20-25, Family History Library Ref. 941.23 H2b pt. 26.
The Burgh and Parish of Forres from 1625 to 1650. A history of Forres from 1625-1650 with a list of some of the inhabitants, giving name, date and reason for being mentioned. Illustrated with a hand drawn map of Forres about 1650. Article dates 1625-1669, and is found in The Lands and People of Moray pt.26, 2007, pages 26-33, FHL Ref. 941.23 H2b pt. . A bri26.
Bishop, Bruce B. The Burgh and Parish of Forres from 1650 to 1675. A history and discussion of Forres with a large list of the inhabitants from 1650-1674. Illustrated with facsimile pages of Distribution to the Poor of Forres 1 May 1672, appointment of James Johnstone as Kirk Officer, April 1673, list of Kirk Elders about 1675 and signatures of the Forres Burgh Council in 1669. Article covers years 1650-1719, The Lands and People of Moray, pt. 26. 2007, pages 34-64, Family History Library Ref. 941.23 H2b pt. 26.
The Burgh and Parish of Forres from 1675 to 1699. A brief discussion of Forres between 1675 and 1699 with a list of some of the inhabitants, giving name, date, residence, occupation, illustrated with facsimile page of signatures of the Forres Burgh council in 1681, and a hand drawn map of Forres about 1700. Article covers years 1673-1722, found in The Lands and People of Morary, pt. 27. 2007, pages 1-7, Family History Library Ref. 941.23 H2b pt. 27.
The Burgh and Parish of Forres from 1700 to 1724. A brief history of Forres including a large list of the inhabitants, illustrated with a facsimile page to the Kirk Session Minutes 1725, which is held at National Archives Scotland. Article covers years 1700-1750, The Lands and people of Moray, pt. 27, 2007. pages 8-40, Family History Library Ref. 941.23 H2b pt. 27.
The Burgh and Parish of Forres from 1725 to 1750. A brief history of Forres including some Kirk Session Censures, and a large list of some of the inhabitants between 1725-1765, illustrated with facsimile pages of Distribution to the Poor 1725 and 1735. Article covers years 1725-1810, To be found in The Lands and People of Moray, pt. 27, 2007, pages 41-67. Family History Library Ref. 941.23 H2b pt. 27
The Burgh and Parish of Forres from 1750-1759. A brief history of Forres including a list of the inhabitants illustrated with facsimilies of Election notes 1755 and contents of Kirk Sessions box 1758, Article covers years 1750-1786, and is found in The Lands and People of Moray, pt. 28, 2007, pages 1-12, Family History Library Ref. 941.23 H2b pt.28
The Burgh and Parish of Forres from 1760 to 1769. A brief history of Forres including a list of some of the inhabitants from 1760-1810, also a list of the various Town Officers. The Lands and People of Moray, pt.28, 2007. pages 13-24, Family History Library Ref. 941.23 H2b
The Burgh and Parish of Forres from 1770 to 1779. Same as above but illustrated with a hand drawn map of the town of Forres about 1775, Article covers years 1770-1811. The Lands and People of Moray, pt. 28, 2007, pages 25-35, Family History Library Ref. 941.23 H2b .
The Burgh and Parish of Forres from 1780 to 1789. A brief history of Forres including a list of some of the inhabitants giving name, date and residence. Illustrated with facsimilies of a Hotel Bill of the Earl of Fife 1780 and 1781 from the Crown Hotel Forres. Article covers years 1780-1817, The Lands and People of Moray, pt. 28, 2007, pages 37-45, Family History Library Ref. 941.23 H2b pt. 28
The Burgh and Parish of Forres from 1790-1799. Includes a statistical account of the inhabitants of the town and country before continuing the history of Forres. A list is given of some of the inhabitants, illustrated by facsimilies of the case of Sarah McKay from the Kirk Session Minutes (held at National Archives Scotland), state of the population 1790, and Poor List of 1793 and state of the Court of the Kirk Session 1791. Article covers years 1790-1826, The Land and People of Moray, pt. 28 2007, pages 46-71. Family History Library Ref. 941.23 H-2b
The Burgh and Parish of Forres from 1800 to 1809. A brief history of the decade in Forres with a list of the inhabatants giving name, date, occupation illustrated with a facsimile page of a song composed by John MacDonnell to be sung at the opening of Nelson Tower in 1806. Article covers years 1800-1842, The Lands and People of Moray pt. 29, 2007. pages 1-12. Family History Library Ref. 941.23 H2b pt.29.
The Burgh and Parish of Forres from 1810 to 1819. A brief history of Forres including a list of the inhabitants. covering years 1810-1849. The Lands and People of Moray pt. 29, 2007, pages 13-22, Family Hisotry Library Ref. 941.23 H2b pt.29.
The Burgh and Parish of Forres from 1820 to 1829. A brief history of Forres from 1820-1829, with some Kirk Session Minutes Censures, and a list of some of the inhabitants in this time period. This article is illustrated with a hand drawn map of the town 1822, and a copy of the page from the Poor List of 1824. Article covers years 1820-1866 The Lands and People of Moray pt 29 2007, pages 23-39, Family History Library Ref. 941.23 H2b
The Burgh and Parish of Forres from 1830-1839. A history of Forres from 1830-1839. Interesting to note there was a Cholera Hospital on Goosehill, A gasworks was opened in Dec. 1837, so gas lights came into being. A list of some of the inhabitants of the parish. There is a copy of a page from the Communion Roll of the Forres Parish Church, 1838, held at National Archives Scotland. Article covers time period 1830-1880 The Lands and People of Moray, pt.29 2007, pages 40-59, FHL Ref. 941.23 H2b
The Burgh and Parish of Forres from 1840-1850. A history of Forres including a large list of some of the inhabitants, illustrated with a facsimile of the first page of the Kirk Session Minutes of the new Free Church 17 March 1843. Article covers 1840-1856, The Lands and People of Moray, pt. 29, 2007, pages 60-83, FHL Ref. 941.23 H2b.
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 Forres as well as the library numbers for any surname indexes available:
|| FHL Film Number
|| Surname Indexes|
|| 6086568 (2 fiche)|
The 1901 census of Scotland is indexed on scotlandspeople. ($) 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.
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||FHL Film Number|
|Deaths:||1825-1854 - burials||0990804|
||1844-1854 - neglected entries||0990804|
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 December 1678–March 1682. Several families previously omitted are recorded between 1799 and 1803.
Marriages: There are no entries for June 1698–March 1702, August 1723–March 1724, and February 1728–January 1732.
Deaths: No records exist prior to 1825.
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:
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH2/162.
Minutes 1650–1676, 1693, 1702–1727, 1732–1799, 1802–1807, 1812–1992
Poor Fund Accounts 1740–1756
Names of Communicants Receiving Tokens 1761
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH2/1448.
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.
Forres Free Church
The minister of Forres and many of his people joined the Free Church at the Disruption. The congregation met in the Independent chapel at first until they built their own church on Cumming Street in 1844.
Membership: 1848, 259; 1900, 359.
Source: Annals of the Free Church of Scotland, 1843 1900, ed. Rev. William Ewing, D.D., 2 vols. pub. 1914. FHL Film #918572. More details are given in the source.
Deacons’ Court Minutes 1843 1931
Other post-1855 records are available.
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH3/1448.
Forres United Presbyterian Church
In 1740, many of the people followed their minister, Rev. John Squire, when he left the Established Church, and they formed the Secession congregations of Urquhart and Auldern, now Elgin and Moyness. Then in 1742, the Forres people left this congregation to become a separate congregation. They built several churches: the first in 1772, another in 1813, and the third in 1871.
Source: Annals and Statistics of the United Presbyterian Church, by Rev. William MacKelvie, D.D., pub. 1873. FHL Film #477618.
Minutes 1774–1794, 1824–1893
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH3/653.
Forres Congregational Church
Preaching was furnished regularly at Forres in 1802 although a church was not organized until 1804. They met in a chapel on South Back Street. In 1844 the minister and congregation agreed with Evangelical Union principles, but the church never formally joined the Union. They built a new chapel on Tolbooth Street in 1867. In 1939, the church closed its doors.
Source: A history of Scottish Congregationalism, by Harry Escott, pub. 1960. FHL book 941 K2es.
Extent of the records is unknown. For information write to:
The United Reformed Church, Scottish Synod Office
P.O. Box 189
240 Cathedral Street
Glasgow G1 2BX
Forres Episcopal Church
The church was consecrated in 1841 and dedicated to St. John the Evangelist.
For access to these and later records, write to the minister at:
St. John's Rectory
Forres IV36 3BN
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.
Land and Property
Forres was under the probate jurisdiction of the Commissary Court of Moray until 1823, and since then has been under the Sheriff's Court of Elgin. Probate records for 1513- 1901 are indexed online at scotlandspeople.($) 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 Moray and the subject of 'Probate records.' Then click on the link to the records of the Commissariat of Moray.
The library also has some post-1823 probate records for Moray. Look in the library catalog for the 'Place-names' of Moray and the subjects of 'Probate Records' and 'Probate Records - Indexes.'
Read more about Scotland Probate Records.
- Lewis, Samuel A., A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland (1846), pp. 499-514. Adapted. Date accessed: 27 June 2014.
Return to Moray parish list.