Loth, Sutherland, Scotland Genealogy

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Parish # 54

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


The present name of Loth, which in Gaelic is still pronounced Logh, is therefore, believed to be a corruption of the word Loch, which, in the Scot dialect, is descriptive of a sheet of water. This parish appears to have taken its name from the farm on which the church stands, now known as Loth-more, to distinguish it from the neighboring farm of Loth-beg. This parish is bounded on the west by the parish of Clyne; on the north by the parish of Kildonan; on the east by the parish of Latheron; and on the south by the German Ocean.

The only villages in the parish are Helmsdale and Port Gower, which are both on the sea coast, and distant about two miles from each other.

There is no separate history of this parish known to exist; but many events and occurrences connected with its annals are recorded in Sir Robert Gordon’s History of the Earldom of Sutherland, which was written in 1630.

The disastrous battle of Floudden was fought on September 9th 1513, and, shortly before then, a gallant body of Caithness men, headed by their Earl, marched through this parish on their way to join the Scottish army. These brave man and their leader met with an honorable death on the field of battle; but as they happened, when leaving Caithness, to cross the Ord on a Monday, and were dressed in a green uniform, there still exists a popular aversion among the natives of the district, to take a journey over the Ord on that day of the week, or in a green-colored coat.

His Grace the Duke and Earl of Sutherland is heritor of the whole parish, which, at all times, formed part of the ancient Earldom of Sutherland.

The population of the parish in 1801 was 1374 souls, and in 1831 in increased to 2234. The increase is to be attributed to the successful establishment of the herring-fishery at Helmsdale, and to the settlement of several small tenants in that track of improvable land, chiefly near the coast, from Port Gower to Navidale.

The arable lands may conveniently be classed into large farms, and the allotments possessed by small tenants. These farms are held under leases of nineteen years endurances, and are labored under the five years shift of husbandry, having annually one-fifth part in fallow, turnips, potatoes, or other green crop; one-fifth part in grass one year old; one-fifth part in grass two years old; and not more than two-fifth parts in corn crop.

The cattle, sheep, horses, and hogs, reared in the parish, are all superior animals, and often obtain the highest prizes, when exhibited at public competitions.

There are no register of births and marriages for this parish, of any earlier date than the close of the last century; and this is a defect common to almost all the neighboring parishes.

The parish church is new, owing to the great increase of the population of late years in and around Helmsdale, at an inconvenient distance from the greater part of the inhabitants, although it is locally situated nearly in the center of the parish.

This account was written March 1841.

Source: New Statistical Account of Scotland for Loth, FHL book 941 B4sa, series 2, vol. 15.

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 http://edina.ac.uk/stat-acc-scot/.  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 Loth as well as the library numbers for any surname indexes available:

FHL Film Number
6086688 (1fiche)

The 1901 census of Scotland is indexed on www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk. 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 Register

Record Type
Years Covered
FHL Film Number
0990575 Item 2
0990575 Item 2
No entries


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 FamilySearch.org

Births: There are only three entries prior to 1803. The first page of record contains irregular entries between 1795 and 1844.
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 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:
The extent of records is unknown.

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.

Helmsdale Loth Free Church

The adherents of the Free Church at Helmsdale were at first under the care of a missionary who was called and settled in July 1843. For a time no site could be obtained so the congregation worshiped in a fish curing yard by the river. The church and manse were erected in 1845. A new church was built in 1892.
Membership: 1855, 1119; 1900, 400.
Source: Annals of the Free Church of Scotland, 1843–1900, ed. Rev. William Ewing, D.D., pub. 1914. Film #918572. More details may be given in the source, including ministers.
Marriages: 1843-1855  FHL Film Number   1068242 item 8.

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

Loth was under the probate jurisdiction of the Commissary Court of Caithness until 1823, and since then has been under the Sheriff's Court of Dornoch. Probate records for 1513- 1901 are indexed online at www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk. 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 Sutherland and the subject of 'Probate records.' Then click on the link to the records of the Commissariat of Caithness.
The library also has some post-1823 probate records for Sutherland. Look in the library catalog for the 'Place-names' of Sutherland and the subjects of 'Probate Records' and 'Probate Records - Indexes.'

Read more about Scotland Probate Records .

Return to Sutherland parish list.