Old Deer, Aberdeenshire, Scotland Genealogy

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Scotland Gotoarrow.png Aberdeenshire Gotoarrow.png Old Deer Gotoarrow.png Parish #228

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


DEER, OLD, a parish, 10 miles (W.) from Peterhead, partly in the district of Deer, county of Aberdeen, including the villages of Stuartfield and Old Deer; and partly in the county of Banff, including the village of Fetterangus. The name appears to be derived from a Gaelic word signifying the worship of God, perhaps applied on account of the first Christian church in the district of Buchan having been erected here. The church, which was built in 1788, and thoroughly repaired in the 19th century, contains 1200 sittings. There is an episcopal chapel; and members of the Free Church, the Original Secession, the United Associate Synod, and Independents, have places of worship.[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.

Old Deer is located in Aberdeenshire in the northeast of Scotland.  In 1887, John Bartholomew's Gazetteer of the British Isles indicates that it is “partly also in [a] detached portion of Banffshire.”  (A Vision of Britain through Time, http://www.visionofbritain.org.uk/place/17002 : accessed 11 June 2013)  In 1858 it was described by the Rev. Dr John B. Pratt as being located in the “rich and fertile Valley of Deer” and having “scenery [that] is strikingly pleasing.” (Old Deer Community Association, http://www.olddeer.org.uk/ : accessed 1 June 2013).  This second website contains many modern-day pictures of the town.

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 Old Deer, as well as the library numbers for any surname indexes available:

Family History Library Film Number
Surname Indexes
6086502 (12 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: 1735-1854 0993350
Marriages: 1737-1854 0993350
Deaths: 1771-1806 0993350


Condition of Original Registers—

Index: 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: Early registers were lost. With the exception of the year 1739, the record is extremely defective until 1744. Irregular entries occasionally occur throughout.
Marriages: Records are blank August 1740–April 1743, and October 1743–July 1750. The leaf at March 1771 is imperfect and four entries defective in consequence. There are only three entries November 1804–April 1806.
Deaths: Mortcloth Dues 1771–1806; names often omitted after 1786. Burials in Old Deer and at Fetter–Angus commence December 1783, and are continued to January 1806.
Source: Key to the Parochial Registers of Scotland, by V. Ben Bloxham, pub. 1970. British Book 941 K23b.
Monumental Inscriptions: for Fetter Angus Kirkyard, Family History Library Book 941.25/F5 V3s. Fetter
Angus is actually in the part of Old Deer parish in the county of Banff.

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 1633–1644, 1740, 1750–1756, 1797–1861
Poors’ Fund Accounts 1750–1756, 1770–1853
Treasurer’s Accounts 1850–1871
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH2/1217.

Deer Presbytery

Minutes 1602–1621, 1649–1660, 1701–1909
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH2/89.

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.

The Statistical Account of Scotland for Old Deer for 1797 gave the memberships of the nonconformist groups as 721 Episcopalian, 12 Catholic, and 229 Anti-burgher Seceders. The New Statistical Account of Scotland for Old Deer for 1840 states that of 984 families then in the parish, 83 were Episcopalian, 157 were Original or United Secession, and 30 were Dissenters, chiefly Congregationalists.

Clola Secession, later Free Church

The minister of Old Deer was one of the 42 ministers who protested against the Act of Assembly in 1732, which led to the Secession of the “Four Brethren,” but he did not secede with them. He continued however to preach for their cause and against the Church of Scotland which led several of his parishioners to withdrew from his ministry and the Church and, along with other Seceders in the surrounding district, form the congregation of Craigdam, 16 miles distant. They continued in connection with that congregation until 1766 when, along with the Seceders in the parish of New Deer, they were separated from it and formed into the united congregations of Whitehill and Clola, both of which the minister supplied until they were also disjoined after 1777. Church built in 1784 on the estate of Kinmundy. This congregation, which was apparently Anti-burgher, became United Associate in 1820 then joined the Free Church in 1852. See also New Deer parish.
Membership: 1859, 88; 1900, 157.
Source: Annals and Statistics of the United Presbyterian Church, by Rev. William MacKelvie, D.D., pub. 1873. Film #477618. ALSO 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 sources including lists of ministers.

Minutes 1852–1897
Other post-1855 records.
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH3/657.

Stewartfield United Associate Presbyterian Church

This congregation originated in the union of the two great branches of the Secession in 1820. The majority of the congregation of Clola, with which the persons forming the congregation of Stewartfield were previously connected, took part with their minister in his protest against that union, and with him abstained from joining in it. The minority approving of it, petitioned the United Associate Presbytery of Aberdeen to be recognized as a congregation in their connection, which was allowed. Church built in 1822. This congregation became United Presbyterian in 1847.
Source: Annals and Statistics of the United Presbyterian Church, by Rev. William MacKelvie, D.D., pub. 1873. Film #477618. More details are given in the source.

No known surviving Records.

Old Deer Free Church

Regular services were provided at Stewartfield, where a congregation was formed immediately after the Disruption. Church and manse were erected. The charge was sanctioned in 1845. In 1897 the health of the minister of the neighboring United Presbyterian church failed, and a union was effected between the two congregations in October of that year. The united congregation became a United Presbyterian charge.
Membership: 1848, 320; 1893, 180.
Source: Annals of the Free Church of Scotland, 1843–1900, ed. Rev. William Ewing, D.D., 2 vols. pub. 1914. Film #918572. More details are given in the source.

No known surviving Records.

Stewartfield, Stuartfield Congregational Church

This church was formed in 1802. Three members of the Anti-burgher church at Clola joined with nine converts of a neighboring Episcopalian divine to form a prayer meeting and later a congregation. They erected a chapel in 1801 and formed themselves into a church the following year. The church ceased in 1900.
Source: The Scottish Congregational Ministry, by Rev. Dr. William D. McNaughton, pub. 1993. Family History Library Book 941 K2mwd. Additional details in the source include list of ministers.

The extent of Records is unknown. For information, write to:
The United Reformed Church Synod of Scotland
340 Cathedral Street
Glasgow G1 2BQ

Old Deer Episcopal Church

This congregation has existed since the Revolution. A chapel was erected in 1776. A few members were landed proprietors but the majority were from the poor and working classes.
Source: History of the Scottish Episcopal Church, by John P. Lawson, pub. 1843. No copy is available in the Family History Library.

Christenings 1681–1834, along with explanatory annotations and genealogy of the Keith family
Marriages 1684–1731, 1829–1854
Note: Copies of some christenings and the early marriages, 1683-1767, and baptisms from 1767-1834 are held in the Brechin Diocesan Library Manuscripts collection at the Dundee University Archives. You can contact them at archives services, www.dundee.ac.uk.

The later marriages are apparently in the hands of the minister at:
Old Deer Episcopal Church
c/o 12 Bain Terrace
Peterhead AB42 5HB

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

Old Deer was under the probate jurisdiction of the Commissary Court of Aberdeen until 1823, and since then has been under the Sheriff's Court of Aberdeen. 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 Aberdeen and the subject of 'Probate records.' Then click on the link to the records of the Commissariat of Aberdeen.

The library also has some post-1823 probate records for Aberdeen. Look in the library catalog for the 'Place-names' of Aberdeen 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: 19 June 2014.

Return to Aberdeenshire parish list.