Row, Dunbartonshire, Scotland Genealogy

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Scotland Gotoarrow.png Dunbartonshire Gotoarrow.png Row

Parish #503

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


ROW, a parish, in the county of Dumbarton, 12 miles (W. N. W.) from Dumbarton; containing, with nearly the whole of the late quoad sacra parish of Helensburgh, and the villages of Gareloch-Head and Row. This place is said to have derived its name, in the Gaelic spelled Rhue, and signifying "a point," from a narrow slip or tongue of land which projects from its south-western coast nearly into the centre of the Gareloch. The parish is bounded on the north-west by Loch Long, on the south-west by the Gareloch, and on the south by the Frith of Clyde. Churches have been erected at Gareloch-Head and Helensburgh; in the latter place are also meeting-houses for Independents, the Free Church, and Baptists; and an Episcopal chapel.[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 . Click on ‘Browse scanned pages’ then search the parish reports for Row. 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 Scotland Census Records.

Click here for a list of the Family History Library microfilm numbers for the census records of Row.

Below is information for any known surname indexes:


Years Surname Index            
1851 CD-ROM no. 3816
1881 6086556 ( 4 fiche)

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 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: 1760-1855 1041002 items 3-5
Marriages: 1760-1855 1041001 items 3-5
Deaths: No entries
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: A portion of the first leaf is lost, rendering about 17 entries are imperfect. Record seems to have been regularly kept.
Marriages: Record regularly kept.

Source: Key to the Parochial Registers of Scotland, by V. Ben Bloxham, pub. 1970. British Book 941 K23b.
Note: This parish was formed in 1648 from parts of Roseneath and Cardross parishes.

Established Church—Kirk Session Records

The Kirk session was the court of the parish. The Kirk session was made up of he 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 surviving Kirk session records for this parish:

Row Kirk Session                                               Family History Library Film Number
Various Records, Including Baptisms 1760–1823     0559522

Garelochhead Kirk Session                               Family History Library Film Number
Various records, Including Baptisms 1848–1892      0889489 item 3

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.

Helensburgh Old Light Burghers, later West Free Church

The founding date of this congregation is not known sometime after 1805. In 1839 it was attended by 115 persons including some residing in Roseneath and Cardross parishes. The congregation rejoined the Church of Scotland that same year, then in 1843 the minister and most of the congregation adhered to the Free Church. A new church was built in 1853. A school was also built in 1841. Owning to the increase of the congregation with the growing population, the Park Free Church congregation was formed from this one in 1862.
Membership: 1848, 207; 1900, 532.
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 including a list of ministers.

Minutes 1840–1843
Deacon's Court Minutes 1845–1856
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH3/1437.

Helensburgh Original Secession Church, later United Presbyterian and United Free.

A number of families connected with the Secession and Relief churches having come to reside in Helensburgh, while others of the same religious connections were in the habit of visiting the place during the summer months, there was a desire to have a place of worship of their own in Helensburgh. In 1843, the Town Hall was engaged as a place of worship and application was made to the United Secession Presbytery of Glasgow for supply of sermon, which was granted. At that time the members numbered between 50 and 60. As the membership grew and new facilities were needed, a church was built in 1845. A new, larger church was built in 1861.
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 including a list of ministers.

Minutes 1846–1867
Minutes of Committee of Management 1843–1881
Miscellaneous Papers
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH2/827.

Shandon, Rhu, Free Church, later United.Free and, Church of Scotland

Immediately after the Disruption, services were provided on the Gareloch and a congregation was formed. The church was built at Shandon in 1844 and a school in 1845. Until the erection of the charge at Garelochhead, the whole district from Roy to Garelochhead was under the Shandon minister. The church was enlarged and renovated in 1884.
Membership: 1848, 104; 1900, 139.
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 including ministers.

Minutes 1844-85
Deacon's Court Minutes 1844–1860
Cash Book 1844–1856
Communion Rolls 1847–1856
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH3/1017.

Helensburgh Independent Congregational Church

The church in Helensburgh originated in the summer of 1799 in the preaching of two agents from the Society for Propagating the Gospel at Home. The following year a small group of people who had been meeting together applied for a student preacher. For the next two years it was a preaching station regularly supplied with sermon by students. A crude church was built. Eventually the worshipers considered organizing as a congregation, and in 1804 they organized as a Congregational church and obtained a pastor. In 1839, membership was 32, which may have included some persons resident in neighboring parishes. In 1851 a new church was built on the same spot as the original. Another was built in 1884 with the older retained as a church hall. This church was still active in 1993.
Source: A History of Scottish Congregationalism, by Harry Escott, pub. 1960. Family History Library book 941 K2es.

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

Helensburgh Baptist Church

This church was in existence as early as 1833 as a Scotch Baptist congregation. Later a church was built. About 1860, dissension crept into the congregation through the introduction of Plymouth Brethren ideas, and eventually the little congregation ceased to exist.
Source: History of the Baptists in Scotland, by Rev. George Yuille, pub. 1926. Family History Library book 941 K2hi.

The extent of records is unknown. For information write to:
The Baptist Union of Scotland
12 Aytoun Road
Glasgow G41 5RT

Helensburgh Episcopal Church

No history is available.

Christenings 1842–1854
Marriages 1845–1854
Note: Records may be in the hands of the minister. For information write to the minister at:
The Rectory
16 William Street
Helensburgh G84 8BD

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. 


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

1875, 1899: These are available in either PDF format or viewable online.

Probate Records

Row was under the probate jurisdiction of the Commissary Court of Dunbarton until 1823, and since then has been under the Sheriff's Court of Dunbarton. 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 Dunbarton and the subject of 'Probate records.' Then click on the link to the records of the Commissariat of Dunbarton.
The library also has some post-1823 probate records for Dunbarton. Look in the library catalog for the 'Place-names' of Dunbarton 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: 20 February 2014.


[Return to Dunbartonshire parish list.]