Buteshire, Scotland Genealogy

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Buteshire is a county on the western coast of Scotland consisting of the isles of Bute and Arran and the small isles of Inch-Marnock, and Great and Little Cumbray [mostly uninhabited], in the Firth of Clyde.  It is separated on the north from Argyllshire by the straits called the Kyles of Bute, and on the west, from the penisula of Cantyre, by the Kilbrannan Sound.  It comprises an area of about 257 square miles or 164,480 acres.

The Isle of Bute was for centuries the property of the Stuarts, descendants of Sir John Stuart, son of King Robert II.  The Isle of Arran was for centuries the property of the Hamiltons.  There are seven parishes.  The civil business of the county is transacted at the royal burgh of Rothesay on the isle of Bute, which is the only town in the county.  There are several villages.

Bute is diversified with hills for pasture and valleys for cultivation.  Arran is rugged and mountainous, interspersed with glens.  Both islands have fine bays. 

The population in 1851 was 15,740.

(Source:  Samuel Lewis' Topographical Dictionary of Scotland, 2nd ed., 1851.  Family History Library book 941 E5L, 2 vols.)


Argyll and Bute were combined into one county in 1974. The county archives is the Argyll & Bute Council Archives, located in Lochgilphead. Located at Manse Brae (for GPS use cross-street Cossack or Lochnell), the archive is small but well-equipped to assist researchers in family history. It is best to book a table before arrival. If you give them some idea of what type of records and the time period you want to research, the staff can be better prepared to assist you. They have a binder which lists family history sources, and the records are filed by the number given in that binder. To help prepare for a visit to the Argyll & Bute Council Archives, prepare a list of source numbers from the family history source binder. The council also accepts enquiries by letter, email, or text, and has a limited research service for those who cannot visit the archive. For details, see the archive website.


Here is a list of the historic parishes of Buteshire with their parish numbers. Click on the parish name to see its history and information about records.

Parish No.   Parish No.
Cumbraes        552   Lochranza (see also Kilmory) 557
Kilbride 553   North Bute (see also Rothesay) 557
Kilmory 554   Rothesay 558
Kingarth 555   Shisken -- see Kilmory 554


The Scottish government began taking censuses of its population in 1841, and every ten years thereafter. The records must be 100 years old before they are released to the public, so the most recent record available is for the 1901 census.  Read more about Census Records.
Many census records have been indexed by surname. Some indexes cover one parish (and will be listed in the Wiki on the parish page) and some indexes are for the county as a whole. The Family History Library has county-wide census indexes for Bute for 1851 and 1881. Census surname indexes for different places within Buteshire at the library may be seen by clicking here.


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

1889-1912: These are available in either PDF format or viewable online.


Click on the map of Berwickshire to see a larger version. Click on the larger map, then click the 'Expand' button when it appears in the lower right-hand corner of the map.

Bute 1845.jpg

Click here to see an outline map of the parishes of Bute.

Poorhouse Records


[Return to county list.]

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