Birnie, Moray, Scotland Genealogy

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Scotland Gotoarrow.png Moray or Elginshire Gotoarrow.png Birnie

Parish #127

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


BIRNIE, a parish, in the county of Elgin, 3 miles (S.) from Elgin. This place is said by some to have been the site of the first cathedral of the diocese of Moray; and it is probable that Simeon de Tonei, one of the bishops, was buried here, in 1184. The church is a very ancient structure, repaired in 1817, with accommodation for 250 persons, and contains a fine Saxon arch.[1]

This parish, in some old writings, is called “Brenuth”. Shaw derives it from Brenoth, i.e. a “brae”, or “high land”. It is bounded on the east, north, and west, by the parish of Elgin, and is separated from the parish of Knockando on the south by the junction of the parishes of Dallas and Rothes. Birnie lies on the north side of the high ground which rises between the Spey and the flat of Moray.

The Right Honorable the Earl of Seafield is sole proprietor of Birnie.

The population of Birnie in 1755 was 525 souls, and by 1831 increased to 408.

The parish of Birnie contains, by measurement , 5784 Scots acres. The produce that is raised in the parish is, grains of all kinds, potatoes, turnips, and flax.

The Bishop’s Church was first at Birnie, afterwards at Keneddar, then at Spynie, and last of all at Elgin. About forty years ago, the foundations of an extensive building were dug up in the corner of a field, which had formerly the name of Castlehill. On this site likely stood the ancient Episcopal residence. The present church is probably the oldest place of worship now used in the country.

The church, the only place of public worship within the parish, is not centrically placed for the population, being six miles distant from the southern boundary. There is no tradition as to the time when it was erected; its interior was repaired in 1817, and affords legal accommodation for 253 persons. The whole of the seats, (except a gallery, erected by the kirk-session, and let for behoof of the poor,) are allocated to the different farms, and are often found to be given not in proportion to the number of individuals that reside on these divisions of the parish.

The parish registers do not reach beyond the last century. At the first meeting of the kirk-session after the battle of Culloden, there is the following entry in the handwriting of the incumbent, who had made himself so obnoxious to the Jacobites, that he was obliged to go south to meet the Duke of Cumberland for protection. “Birny, 16th June 1746. The collections since last distribution (December 1745) amounted to no more than seven Ls. Nine sh. (Scots), occasioned by the rebels, their having been so long in the country.”

This account was written September 1835.

Source: The New Statistical Account of Scotland for Birnie, FHL book 941 B4sa, 2nd series, vol. 13.

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.

Bishop, Bruce B. The History of the parish of Birnie. Article is a history of the parish of Birnie including list of male heads of households who are members of the congregation 28 July 1814, giving name, residence and occupation.  Illustrated with hand drawn maps of Birnie about 1600 and 1800 and facsimiles of pages from the Kirk Session Minutes 1735, 1800. Article covers years 30A.D.-1996. Article to be found in The Lands and people of Moray. pt. 23, 2006 Pages 1-16. Family History Library Ref. 941023 H2b pt. 23

Kirktoun of Birnie, Dykeside, Stankhouse (Nether Birnie) Duffushillock, Hillshead, Mill of Birnie, Castlehill, and the Level.  A history of the northern area of Birnie including a list of some pre-census inhabitants giving name, date, residence, relationship or reason for being mentioned. Illustrated with a map of kirktoun of Birnie in 1769 and a hand drawn map of Kirktoun of Birnie about 1850. Article covers years 1184-1950 to be found in The Lands and people of Moray pt. 23, 2006, pages 17-32. Family History Library Ref. 941.23 H2b pt. 23.

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

FHL Film Number
Surname Indexes
6086568 (2 fiche)

The 1901 and 1911 census of Scotland are indexed on scotlandspeople. To use it, you must register and pay a small access fee. All available censuses, 1841-1911, 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.

Thomshill, Foths of Thomshill, Newlands of Foths.  A brief history of the lands of Thomshill including a list of some pre-census inhabitants giving name, date, residence, relationship, or reason for being mentioned.  Illustrated with hand drawn maps of the lands of Thomshill in 1750 and 1859. Artcile covers years 1732-1851 to be found in The Lands and People of Moray.  pt23 2006, pages 33-38, 941.23 H2b pt. 23 

Rashcrook, Trochail and Burnbank.  A brief history of the eastern part of Birnie including a list of some of the pe-census inhabitants giving name, date, residence, relationship or reason for being mentioned. Illustrated with hand drawn map of the lands of Rashcrook in 1775. Article covers years 1738-1840.  Article in The Lands and People of Moray, pt. 23. 2006, pages 39-44. Family History Library Ref. 941.23 pt. 23.

Easterton, Shougle, Hangingfolds and Gedloch. A brief history of the southern part of Birnie including a list of some of the tenants of Hangingfolds in 1770, and 1771, and a  list of tenants of Shoggle and Newlands of Bemersyde. Also a list of pre census inhabitants as well. Illustrated with a hand drawn map of the area bout 1775. Article covers years 1748-1928, to be found in The Lands and People of Moray. pt 23, 2006. pages 45-51, Family History Library Ref. 941.23 H2b pt. 23.

The South:  Middleton, Glenlatterach, Glenchapel, Rhynagairn, Barden, Bardonside, Lochbuie, Blairnhall, Bodingair, Boginduie, Star of Birnie and Drurie.  A brief history of the southern part of the parish including a small list of tenants, 1770-1777 on land Blairs of Birnie. Lochbuie, Glenlatterach, Blairnhill and Glenchapel, Newlands of Bardon, some Kirk Session Records. Includes a list of pre census residents, from 1723-1850. Article covers years 1684-1850, to be found in The Lands and People of Moray, pt 23, 2006. pages 52-61. Family History Library Ref. 941.23 H2b pt 23.

Other Pre-census Residents of the Parish of Birnie, Whose Residence is Not Specified.  A list of pre census residents of Birnie, giving name, date, relationship or reason for being mentioned, covering years 1724-1831. The Lands and People of Moray, pt. 23, 2006 pages 62-66. Family History Library Ref. 941.23 H2b pt. 23

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


Condition of Original Registers—

Indexed: For an index to these records, see the Scottish Church Records Index available on computers at the Family History Library and family history centers.  Some of these records may be indexed and searchable on
Births: There are no entries for 1732–1742. The entries are very irregular in point of dates, especially before 1755. There is a duplicate of the portion for 1766–1780.
Marriages: There are only two entries for 1715, then no entries until 1720 and again none for December 1722–June 1744. There are only 25 entries June 1744–June 1774, five entries 1776–1783, and no others until February 1784. There is one entry for 1786, only two for 1789, one entry each for 1799 and 1800, two entries for June 1803–August 1806, no entries for 1818, and only one entry for 1819.
Deaths: Mortcloth dues begin on page 103 of the register of marriages and after page 105 are continued on page 96. There are no entries for 1730–1745 or 1749–1767.
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 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:

 Record Type Years Covered
FHL Film Number
0304660 item 2
0304660 item 2
0304660 item 2

Proclamations 1855–1900
Minutes 1737–1741, 1786–1789, fragments
Accounts 1718–1841
Baptisms 1855–1900

Records of Birnie Kirk Session 1718-1981

Kirk Session: Accounts book with Baptismal register and Proclamation register (1901-1952) 1841-1952 
CH2/36/16 Birnie Kirk Session: Certificate of baptism book 1854-1857'
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH2/36.

Monumental Inscriptions

The Kirkyard of Birnie in Moray has been indexed by the North-East Scotland Family History Society.

Family History Library 

Online listing is available through the: Aberdeen and North-East Scotland Family History Society

A copy of the booklet for the MI"s are available at The Family History Library in Salt Lake City

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.

CH3/359 Pluscarden Free Church (later United Free) (Pluscarden Chapel)  

Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH3/359.

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.

Land and Property

Probate Records

Birnie was under the probate jurisdiction of the Commissary Court of Moray until 1823, and since then has been under the Sheriff's Court of Elgin. Probate records for 1513- 1901 are indexed online at scotlandspeople. 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 Moray and the subject of 'Probate records.' Then click on the link to the records of the Commissariat of Moray.

The library also has some post-1823 probate records for Moray. Look in the library catalog for the 'Place' of Moray 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: 27 June 2014.

Return to Moray parish list.