Cumbraes, Bute, Scotland Genealogy

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Parish #552

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


The parish consists of two islands, Big (Great) and Little Cumbrae (or Cumbray) in the Firth of Clyde, four miles east of the Island of Bute.  The name is said to come from a gaelic word which signifies a bold or steep coast rising abruptly from the sea, and this agrees perfectly with the natural appearance of the islands.  Great Cumbray is about 3 1/2 miles in length and about 2 miles in breadth and contains upwards of 5120 square acres, of which 1400 are wild and not capable of any degree of cultivation.  A great part of that, however, affords pasture for cattle.  The higher parts of the parish are mostly covered with heath.  Millport is the chief village, located on Millport Bay (formerly called Kames Bay).  The principal trade of Millport is weaving.

The early history of the parish is obscure.  The islands were once in the possession of the Norwegians, many centuries ago.  In 1750 the population of the parish was 200.  In 1793 it was 705, and by 1839 it was 1075, mostly in the village of Millport.  During the summer the population is increased by sea-bathers.  There is no road around the island or other roads of any significance.

For several hundred years, the parish church was situated at a place called Kirktown, about half a mile from the present town of Millport.  The church was rebuilt in 1802 and again in 1837, ornamented in front with a very handsome tower.  The only Dissenting meetinghouse in the parish is for Baptists.  All the Dissenters in the parish, including those of the Secession, Relief, Independent, and Baptist persuasions, amount only to 26.  The rest of the population attend the parish church.  There is one parish school where English, writing, arithmetic, book-keeping, Latin, mensuration, and navigation ae taught.  The average attendance is 68.  There is also a private school where 56 attend and a small school kept by a female where 25 attend, for a total of 149 attending school.  There are also three Sabbath schools including one by the Dissenters.

The above is an extract of the account written in May 1840.

Source: (New) Statistical Account of Buteshire, pub. 1841.  Family History Library book 941 B4sa, 2nd series, vol. 5, pt. 2; film 990220 Item 1; fiche 6026708 (set of 12).  

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 reports for Cumbraes.  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 Cumbraes, as well as the library numbers for any surname indexesavailable.

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

                  Years Covered      Family History Library Film Number
Births:        1730–1854            1041083 items 1–2
Marriages:  1782–1854            1041083items 1–2
Deaths:       No Entries

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 FamilySearch Records.

Births: Mothers' names are not recorded, except in irregular entries, until after 1804. After October 1804, the birth register is extremely irregular with whole families, often the families of mariners, frequently being recorded together. Family entries often include the parents’ birth dates. Starting 1831, baptisms are mixed with the marriages.
Marriages: There are no marriage entries for 1814–August 1817. The entries usually contain both the proclamations and the marriages. Starting 1831, marriages are mixed with the baptisms.
Source: Key to the Parochial Registers of Scotland, by V. Ben Bloxham, pub. 1970. British Book 941 K23b.

Established Church—Kirk Session Records

The Kirk session was the court of the parish. The Kirk 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 1730–1932
Accounts 1844–1849
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH2/80.

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.

Millport Free Church

James Drummond, minister of Cumbrae, and many of his people "came out" in 1843. Church and manse were built immediately after the Disruption, also a school. The old church was sold and new one erected in 1875. The resident population declined, but Millport, on the greater Cumbrae, became an attractive summer resort.
Membership: 1848, 160; 1900, 188.
Source: Annals of the Free Church of Scotland, 1843–1900, ed. Rev. William Ewing, D.D., 2 vols. pub. 1914. Film #918572. More details are given in the source.

Minutes 1843–1918
Cash Book 1845–1921
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH3/1031.

Millport Baptist Church

This church was founded in 1818, being a daughter of Port Bannatyne Baptist Church. The present place of worship was erected in 1855. Until it was built, baptisms took place in a part of the Mill Burn. Millport is a small seaside resort on the Firth of Clyde with about 1500 inhabitants. There is no account of this church in print, and it ceased soon after 1940.
Source: History of the Baptists in Scotland, by Rev. George Yuille, pub. 1926. Family History Library book 941 K2hi. More details are given in the source.

The extent of records is unknown. For information search the FamilySearch Catalog, or write to:
The Baptist Union of Scotland
12 Aytoun Road
Glasgow G41 5RT

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

Cumbraes was under the probate jurisdiction of the Commissary Court of The Isles until 1823, and since then has been under the Sheriff's Court of Rothesay. 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-names' of Bure and the subject of 'Probate records.' Then click on the link to the records of the Commissariat of The Isles.

The library also has some post-1823 probate records for Bure. Look in the library catalog for the 'Place-names' of Bute and the subjects of 'Probate Records' and 'Probate Records - Indexes.'

Read more about Scotland Probate Records .

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