Anstruther-Wester, Fife, Scotland Genealogy

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Parish #403

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


The origin of the name is uncertain. It is not known whether the family of Anstruther gave their name to it or took theirs from it. The Celtic word struther means 'a low marshy place,' which the area anciently may have been, but no longer is. The parish contains about 600 acres, the greater part of which is arable. The parish includes the Isle of May, on which there is a lighthouse. Also on the island are the ruins of a priory, formerly belonging to the Abbey of Pittenweem, and of a chapel dedicated to St. Adrian.

The town is a royal burgh.  Like most towns on the east coast of Fife, the burgh, since the Union, has fallen greatly into decay and the population has decreased.  The people in general were zealous Covenanters and many of them fell in the battle of Kilsyth (1645).  In about 1670 the sea inundated and destroyed or choked up the harbour, washed away the bulwarks, and rendered many of the houses unsafe to dwell in. Another similar inundation happened about the end of the seventeenth century when nearly a third of the town seems to have been swept away. By these means the town has been greatly reduced. The population after that was about 370 and in 1831 was 430. The latter includes 105 families with about four children each. The average number of births each year is 5 or 6 and the number of marriages 4. The wages of a male farm servant is eleven pounds per year and of a female six pounds. The Fife breed of cattle is raised and great quantities of salted cod are exported to the big cities. There is no harbour. The church has existed from before the Reformation.  The number of Dissenters is just 15, in addition to 4 Episcopalians.  There is only a parochial school in the parish.  The fuel commonly used in the parish is coal.

The above is an extract of the account written in November 1838.

Source: The New Statistical Account of Scotland, for Fife.  FHL book 941 B4ssa, 2nd series, vol. 9.

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 you are interested in. 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 Anstruther-Wester as well as the library numbers for any surname indexes available:

Year FHL Film Numbers Surname Index
1841    1042699 book 941.33 X22s; films 1145982-3; CD-ROM no. 1075
1851 1042252 941.33 X22f
1861 0103825 CD-ROM no. 2524
1871 0103986 None
1881 0203516 6086574 (8 fiche)
1891 0208746 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

Event Type Years Covered FHL Film Number
Births: 1577-1819 1040146
1820-1854 1040147 items 1-2
Marriages: 1577-1614, 1757-1819 1040146
1651-1685 proclamations 1040146
1685-1699, 1820-1854 1040147 items 1-2
Deaths: 1549-1817 burials 1040146
1577-1601 mortcloth dues 1040146
1685-1699, 1788-1818 1040147 items 1-2

Condition of Original Registers—

Index: For an index to these records, see the Scottish Church Records Index available on computer at the Family History Library and family history centers.  Some records may be indexed in the
Births: Births are intermixed with marriages until February 1601 then entered in parallel columns of the same record 1601–1612. There are no entries February 1683–March 1684. Mother's names are seldom recorded October 1587–October 1609. The early portion of the register contains entries for the neighboring parishes of Abercrombie or St. Monance, Kilrenny and Pittenweem.
Marriages: There are no entries October 1609–October 1651; November 1699–November 1757, except three for 1611–1612, from which last date they are recorded among the births. The record for 1651–1699 generally contains contracts with occasional entries of marriages. After 1757 the entries relate to proclamation.
Deaths: Except for burials 1579 and 1585–1587 among the births and marriages, one page of entries without year (circa 1600) and a few entries 1601–1603, there is no regular record until November 1747. There are no entries October 1754–November 1783 and July 1794–January 1838. There are, however, Mortcloth Dues 1791–1837, except for 1818–1820. Entries of deaths 1783–1794 are among the births and marriages for the same period. There is also a record of deaths of parishioners, collected from various sources for 1549–1838.
Source: Key to the Parochial Registers of Scotland, by V. Ben Bloxham, pub. 1970. FHL 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 1576–1915 - with some gaps
Accounts 1700–1808, 1842–1844
Church Door Collections 1787–1801, 1855–1900, 1931–1961
Cash Book 1808–1961
Mortcloth Minutes and Accounts 1670–1820 - with gaps
Confessions of Faith 1765–1949
Note: Available at St. Andrews University Library, St. Andrews, Fife, Scotland, Record CH2/624 and OPR 403/1, 4.

Nonconformist Church Records

See Anstruther-Easter parish.

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

Anstruther-Wester 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  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.

[Return to the Fife parish list.]