Rothesay, Bute, Scotland Genealogy

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Scotland Gotoarrow.png Buteshire Gotoarrow.png Rothesay

Parish #558

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


ROTHESAY, a royal burgh, a sea-port, the county town, and a parish, in the county of Bute, 89 miles (W. by S.) from Edinburgh; containing, exclusive of the new civil parish of North Bute, and the village of Port Bannatyne. This place, anciently called Cill-a-Bruic, or "the church of St. Brock," derived its present name Rothesay, signifying in the Gaelic language "the King's Seat," from a castle erected here about the year 1092, by Magnus, King of Norway, to secure the conquest he had recently made of the Western Isles. The parish church, a plain structure erected in 1796, is in good repair, and contains 955 sittings. A second church, to which a district comprising a population of 2457 persons was assigned as a quoad sacra parish, by act of the General Assembly, in 1834, under the designation of New Rothesay, was built in 1800. It is a neat structure containing 830 sittings. A Gaelic chapel in connexion with the Free Church has been likewise erected, and contains 600 sittings. There are places of worship for members of the Free Church, the United Secession, Reformed Presbyterians, and Independents; and an episcopal chapel.[1]

Rothesay parish comprehends the whole of the northern part of the Island of Bute which gives its name to the county.  The population of Rothesay in 1837 was 6089 including 4924 in the burgh.   

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 Rothesay. 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 Rothesay

Below is a list of known available census surname indexes.

Year Surname Index
1841     None
1851 book 941.39 X2a; fiche 6344851 (set of 3) 
1861 None
1871 None
1881 fiche 6086532
1891 None

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

                     Years Covered      Family History Library Film Number
Births:           1673-1694            1041086 items 1–2
                     1691-1819            1041085items 3-5
                     1820-1855            1041086 items 1-2
Marriages:    1691-1820            1041085items 3-5
                     1820-1854            1041086 items 1-2
Deaths:          No Entries

Condition of Original Registers—

Births: Mothers' names were not recorded until after November 1696. Records have been carefully kept.
Marriages: There are no marriage entries for April 1698–January 1699. The portion from 1762–1796 has suffered from dampness.
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:

Minutes 1658-1661, 1685-1936
Communion Roll 1835-1841
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH2/890.

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.

Click here for a list of the Rothesay pre-1855 nonconformist churches and their records

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.

Poorhouse Records


Probate Records

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

The library also has some post-1823 probate records for Rothesay. Look in the library catalog for the 'Place-names' of Rothesay 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. 430-443. Adapted. Date accessed: 23 May 2014.

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