Crail, Fife, Scotland Genealogy

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Parish #417

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


The name of this parish may be a compound of caer, a town, and ayle or ala, a wing or corner, which is quite descriptive of place, the town being situated in the eatern corner of the county commonly known by the name of the East Nook o' Fife.  The Isle of May has been connected with Crail since the Reformation at least, but it has also been claimed by West Anstruther.

The parish is mostly agricultural.  The chief crops are potatoes, turnips, beans, wheat, barley, oats, and hay.  Little livestock is raised.  Coal and limestone are wrought in the western part of the parish.  Freestone is abundant, as is Ironstone which is frequently exported from the harbour at Crail.  There is a brick and tile work on the estate of Kirkmay and fire-clay bricks and chimney cans are manufactored and exported.  There are the ruins of several formerly great houses or baronial abodes in the parish, and much ancient history is connected to them.  In ancient times the Danes raided the area and the remains of a dyke built by the Danes are still to be seen at the spot where the Danes are said to have killed King Constantine II.

The population of the parish in 1759 was 2173, in 1791 was1710, and in 1841 was 1906 (including Kingsmuir).  The population of the burgh in 1841 was 1227.  In 1884 there were 52 births, 13 marriages, and 42 deaths. 

The town of Crail is a royal burgh of great antiquity, the charter having been granted by Robert the Bruce in 1310.  Before and up to the beginning of the last century, Crail was a great station for the herring fishery, but the fishing gradually declined until the last few years when they began to appear again.  However, Crail has not resumed its place as a fishing station.  The harbour is mall and difficult to access, but is used for importing coal and exporting produce.  Within the last few years a new trade of shell-fish has been opened with London, and salmon are beginning to be taken again.  There is a post office.  There are 14 persons licensed to sell spirits, and there are two medical practitioners.  The present church is so old that many believe it to be the one King David I worshipped in when he lived in Crail.  John Knox preached against Catholicism at Crail church in 1559 and so excited the populace that they went out and destroyed the Catholic church at Crail and in neighboring parishes.

In Crail there is a meeting-house for the Associate Synod, and the Free Church is building a place of worship.  In 1689 the parish minister was deposed for non-conformity and he had an Episcopal chapel erected in the west end of town where he officiated until his death in 1707.  A grammar school was established in 1542 which, in 1821, was erected into a parochial school.  The number attending is 93.  There are three other school in the parish, two in the burgh and one at Kingsmuir.

The above extract is taken from the account written in May 1845.

Source:  The New Statistical Account of Scotland for Fife, Family History Library book 941 B4sa, 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 Crail as well as the library numbers for any surname indexes available:

Year Family History Library Film Number Surname Indexes
1841      1042700 book 941.33 X22s; films 1145982-3; CD-ROM no. 1075
1851 1042254 941.33 X22f
1861 0103826 CD-ROM no.2524
1871 0103988 None
1881 0203518 6086574 (8 fiche)
1891 0208750 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 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 Family History Library Film Number
Births: 1684-1725 1040156 item 4
1725-1820 1040157
1820-1857 1040099 items 1-3
Marriages: 1655-1725 1040156 item 4
1725-1820 1040157
1820-1857 1040099items 1-3
Deaths: 1684-1693 1040156 item 4
1739-1741 1040157
1750-1758, 1769-1793 1040099 items 1-3

Condition of Original Registers—

Index: For an index to these records, see the Scottish Church Records Index available on computers at the Family History Library and family history centers.  The records may be indexed in the
Births: Births for 1685–1693 are entered in parallel columns on the same pages with marriages and deaths.
Marriages: Contracts and marriages, 1655–1685 inclusive, are separately recorded. After 1693, they are recorded in parallel columns with deaths. There is a separate record of contracts of marriages, 1685–1779.
Deaths: There are no death or burials entries November 1693–January 1750. After January 1753, the entries occur on occasional pages of the record containing contracts for the same period.
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 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:

Minutes 1604–1643, 1648–1684, 1790–1937
Accounts 1782–1833, 1840–1920
Church Door Collections 1841–1888
Copies of 19th Century Baptisms and Marriages
Note: Available at the St. Andrews University Library, St. Andrews, Fife, Scotland, record CH2/1543.

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 Lists.

Crail United Presbyterian Church

Due to a disagreement over the settlement of a new parish minister at Kingsbarns in 1739, a number of people withdrew from the Established Church and acceded to the Associate Presbytery. They attended ordinances at Ceres until the Breach in 1747, when most of them adhered to the Associate Burgher Synod and helped to form the congregation of St. Andrews. In 1794 they and members of the Relief Church united and applied with success to the Associate Burgher Presbytery of Perth to form a congregation at Crail. It was organized in 1796. The church was built in 1795 and a new one in 1858.
Source: Annals and Statistics of the United Presbyterian Church, by Rev. William MacKelvie, D.D., pub. 1873. Film #477618. More details are given in the source, including ministers.

Baptisms 1821–1838, 1840, 1847–1849, 1852
Roll of Members 1809, 1848, 1850–1851
Various Minutes 1796–1907
Note: Available at the St. Andrews University Library, St. Andrews, Fife, Scotland, record CH3/1562.

Crail Free Church

Immediately after the Disruption in 1843 the congregation here was organized, and supply of sermon provided. At first worship was conducted in a small hall in Rosewynd, afterwards used for school and prayer meetings. The charge was sanctioned in 1845, and the new church was opened.
Membership: 1848, 180; 1900, 147
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.

Session Minutes 1844–1907
Deacon’s Court Minutes 1852–1907
Note: Available at the St. Andrews University Library, St. Andrews, Fife, Scotland, record CH3/1563.

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

Crail 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.]