Walls, Shetland, Scotland Genealogy

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Scotland Gotoarrow.png Shetland Gotoarrow.png Walls

Parish #12 This parish includes Foula, Papa Stour, & Sandness

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


WALLS and SANDNESS, a parish, in the county of Shetland, 19 miles (W. N. W.) from Lerwick; containing the islands of Foula, Linga, Papa-Stour, and Vaila. This parish, consisting of the four districts of Walls, Sandness, Papa-Stour, and Foula, is situated, with the exception of Foula, longitudinally about the centre of the Shetland Isles, and is bounded on the north, south, and west by the sea. Each of the four districts contains a church. The church at Walls was built in 1743, that at Sandness in 1794, and that at Papa in 1806; the period of the erection of the church at Foula is not known. There are a place of worship for members of the Free Church, three places of worship belonging to Wesleyans, and two belonging to Independents.[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.

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

FHL Film Number
Surname Indexes
6086700 (2 fiche)

1804                                 477622 Item 13

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 FHL Film Number
Births: 1771-1854 - Walls 0919496

1787-1854 - Sandness 0919496

1772-1854 - Papa Stour 0919496

1783-1854 - Foula 0919496
Marriages: 1780-1854 - Walls 0919496

1790-1854 - Sandness 0919496

1773-1854 - Papa Stour 0919496

1824-1843 - Foula 0919496
Deaths: 1781-1854 - Walls 0919496

1790-1829 - Sandness 0919496

1772-1800 - Papa Stour 0919496

No entries - Foula none


(See also Kirk Session records below.)

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: The registers at Walls have only six entries prior to 1780. Sandness has three pages at the end containing entries for 1815–1843. Papa Stour has only eleven entries before September 1776. Foula has only three entries before 1803. There are irregular entries on three pages 1826–1854.
Marriages: The marriage registers at Walls were regularly kept. A few entries for Sandness and Foula are recorded after 1820 in the register of Walls. Sandness has no notations. Papa Stour has four entries after 1800. Foula has six entries 1824–1852. There are no entries prior to 1824.
Deaths: Walls has no entries September 1782–January 1796 and June 1796–January 1802, except three for 1798.
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:

Walls and Sandness

FHL Microfilm Number
Birth Registers 1743–1794 - with gaps 0304667 item 7
Marriage Registers 1743–1794 - with gaps 0304667 item 7
Death Registers 1743–1794 - with gaps 0304667 item 7
Minutes 1735–1751, 1754–1808
Charity Schools Register at Sandness and Papa Stour 1742–1754
Accounts 1806–1857
Walls, Minutes 1809–1857
Accounts 1848–1881
Sandness, Minutes 1796–1827
Papa Stour, Minutes 1802–1819
Foula, Minutes 1802–1816, 1824–1826
Note: Available at the Shetland Archives, Lerwick, Scotland, record CH2/380.

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.

Walls and Sandness Free Church, Mid Walls

John Elder, minister of Walls, "came out" in 1843. The church and manse were built in 1844. After Mr. Elder's retirement in 1858, occasional supply was provided until 1864 when another minister was settled. In 1896 the congregation was placed under the superintendence of an ordained minister.
Membership: 1848, 106; 1900, 102.
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 1847–1930
Note: Available at the Shetland Archives, Lerwick, Scotland, record CH3/1118.

Congregational Churches

Independent ministers first preached in the Shetlands in 1799. Their work was built upon by a convert, who had been studying in Glasgow, who returned to the Shetlands in 1803. He preached in the Lerwick area then became pastor of a church at Bixter which was formed in 1808, largely of people from Walls. Another church was formed in Walls in 1812. After the pastor of Bixter died in 1863, the two churches were combined and closed in 1866.
Another church was formed at Foula in 1817, which ceased to meet in 1818.
Another church was formed at Sandness in 1824, which ceased to meet about 1874.
Sources: A History of Scottish Congregationalism, by Harry Escott, pub. 1960; FHL Book 941 K2es and The Scottish Congregational Ministry, by Rev. William D. McNaughton, pub. 1993. FHL Book 941 K2mwd. More details are given in the sources including ministers.

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

Walls Methodist Societies

There were three Methodist chapels in this parish, which shared a minister with Sandsting. In 1841, membership was said to be 216. The chapels were located at Walls, Sandness, and Foula.

The 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

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

Walls was under the probate jurisdiction of the Commissary Court of Orkney & Shetland until 1823, and since then has been under the Sheriff's Court of Lewick. 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 Shetland and the subject of 'Probate records.' Then click on the link to the records of the Commissariat of Orkney & Shetland.
The library also has some post-1823 probate records for Shetland. Look in the library catalog for the 'Place-names' of Shetland 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: 15 August 2014.

Return to Shetland parish list.