Wemyss, Fife, Scotland Genealogy

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Scotland Gotoarrow.png Fife Gotoarrow.png Wemyss

Parish #459

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


WEMYSS, a parish, in the district of Kirkcaldy, county of Fife; containing the burgh of West Wemyss, and the villages of Buckhaven, East and West Coaltown, Methill, Kirkland, and East Wemyss, 3 miles (N. E.) from Dysart, and 947 in the burgh of West Wemyss, 2 miles (N. E. by E.) from Dysart, and 4 (N. E.) from Kirkcaldy. This place appears to have derived its name, which in the Gaelic language signifies "a cave," from the number of caverns in the rocks that form its boundary towards the coast. The church, a cruciform structure, is in the early English style of architecture, displaying some interesting details, and is adapted for a congregation of 1000 persons. A church was recently erected in the village of Methill; it is a handsome edifice of stone, and is adapted for 853 persons. There are also places of worship at East and West Wemyss for members of the Free Church, at Buckhaven for the United Associate Synod, and near Methill for the United Christian Congregation.[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 Wemyss.  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 Wemyss as well as the library numbers for any surname indexes available:

Year Family History Library Film Numbers Surname Index
1841     1042704 and 1042705 book 941.33 X22s; films 1145982-3; CD-ROM no. 1075
1851 1042273 941.33 X22f
1861 0103832 CD-ROM no. 2524
1871 0103995 None
1881 0203532 6086574 (8 fiche)
1891 0208768 None

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 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: 1660-1691 1040387 item 4
1692-1820 1040183
1820-1855 1040184 items 1-2
Marriages: 1662-1779, 1820-1854 1040184 items 1-2
1779-1819 1040183
Deaths: 1707-1854 (Mortcloth dues) 1040184items 1-2
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: This register appears to have been originally kept with great care and regularity, but it has subsequently suffered much from dampness and neglect and the corners of the pages, 1660–1667 and 1698–1718 and 1729–1733 have been more or less destroyed. The original is wanting March–September 1744, but there are four pages of transcribed entries September 1743–September 1744, which embrace the missing entries. There are also three pages of transcribed entries May 1771–October 1771 and July 1774–February 1775, the originals of which have been lost.
Marriages: The record was originally kept with care. The greater part of the page October 1678–May 1679 was destroyed. There are four pages of transcribed entries May 1744–October 1746, of which the originals are lost. 1775–1783, the date of marriage is seldom given, the date of booking only.
Deaths: Mortcloth Dues.
Source: Key to the Parochial Registers of Scotland, by V. Ben Bloxham, pub. 1970. Family History Library British Book 941 K23b.

Established Church—Kirk Session Records

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

Minutes 1645–1867
Cash 1707–1843
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH2/365.

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.  

Buckhaven United Associate Presbyterian Church

In 1739, an elder and several persons in the parish seceded to the Associate Presbytery. They attended the Secession Church at Abbotshall, Kirkcaldy until the Secession congregation of Kennoway began, which they joined. When a vacancy in the ministry occurred, there was disagreement over a new minister, and a large minority, chiefly resident in the parish of Wemyss took the opportunity to disjoin from Kennoway. They were sustained by the Presbytery and a congregation was formed in 1792 with its seat in Buckhaven. They built a place of worship the same year, with seating for 600. A new church was built in 1869.
Sources: Annals and Statistics of the United Presbyterian Church, by Rev. William MacKelvie, D.D., pub. 1873. Film #477618.

Minutes 1846–1874
Accounts 1826–1853
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH3/454.

Wemyss, Buckhaven Free Church

The congregation was formed in June 1843 and regular services provided. They worshiped in the open air or in a loaned hall until in 1846 their church was ready for use. There was also a mission congregation at West Wemyss that met in a church belonging to the proprietor. As a majority of the people adhered to the Free Church, the proprietor granted use of the building for Free Church services. A minister was ordained and settled there in November 1843. Just then it became known that permission to use the building was to be withdrawn. The newly ordained minister generously agreed to retire and the congregation continued as a mission until 1854. In 1857 a school and teacher's house were built at East Wemyss. These were subsequently occupied as a church hall. About 140 members from East Wemyss later attached themselves to the new charge at Buckhaven, which was established in 1866.
Membership: 1848, 331; 1900, 324.
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.

No known pre-1855 records.

West Wemyss Branch, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter–Day Saints

Records—                                    Family History Library Film Number
Record of Members 1841–1847      0104156 item 7


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

Wemyss was under the probate jurisdiction of the Commissary Court of St. Andrews until 1823, and since then has been under the Sheriff's Court of Fife at Cupar. 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' of Fife and the subject of 'Probate records.' Then click on the link to the records of the Commissariat of Fife.

The library also has some post-1823 probate records for Fife. Look in the library catalog for the 'Place' of Fife 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. 588-608. Adapted. Date accessed: 02 May 2014.

Return to the Fife parish list.