Deerness, Orkney, Scotland Genealogy

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Parish #14

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

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DEERNESS, lately a quoad sacra parish, in the parish of St. Andrew's, county of Orkney, 12 miles (S. E.) from Kirkwall; containing the island of Copinshay. This place, of which the name is supposed to have originated in the number of deer frequenting it in ancient times, is a peninsula about four miles in length, and from one to three miles in breadth, connected with the Mainland by a narrow isthmus. The church is a plain building, erected about the close of the 18th century, and affords sufficient accommodation for the inhabitants.[1]

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 your parish of interest. Also available at the Family History Library.

Census Records
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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 Deerness, as well as the library numbers for any surname indexes available:

Family History Library Film Number

Surname Indexes

6393836 ( 1 fiche)

6393842 ( 1 fiche)
1067737 Item 4
6086634 (2 fiche)

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
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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[edit | edit source]

Record Type Years Covered Family History Library Film Number
Births: 1754-1854 0919498
Marriages: 1703-1811 0919498
Deaths: 1703-1794 0919498

Condition of Original Registers—[edit | edit source]

Indexed: For an index to these records, see Scotland’s People website, a pay-for-view website. The Scottish Church Records Index is also still available at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. Some records may also be indexed in other FamilySearch collections for Scotland.
Births: There are no birth entries, except one, for November 1765–June 1767.
Marriages: There are no marriage entries 1715–1753 and 1765–1771.
Deaths: There are no death entries 1715–1787.
Source: Key to the Parochial Registers of Scotland, by V. Ben Bloxham, pub. 1970.
British Book 941 K23b

Established Church—Kirk Session Records[edit | edit source]

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 1728–1792, 1833–1864
Proclamations 1830–1860
Accounts 1831–1872
Note: Available on Film at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH2/1086.

Nonconformist Church Records[edit | edit source]

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.

Deerness Free Church[edit | edit source]

The minister of Deerness Parliamentary Church, in the parish of St. Andrews, did not "come out" in 1843. The Free Church adherents, led by William Tulloch, a schoolmaster, formed a congregation under the care of the minister of St. Andrews, who adhered to the Free Church. A church and school were built in 1844, and the charge was sanctioned in 1846. The manse was erected in 1850. In 1851 an unsuccessful attempt was made to unite this congregation with that of St. Andrews. Since there was no Secession church in the parish, the congregation of Deerness was strengthened by the members of that body.
Membership: 1848, 243; 1900, 250.
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.

Deacons' Court Minutes 1847–1931
Cash Book 1847–1884
Other Post–1855 records
Note: Available on Film at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH3/1090.

Civil Registration Records
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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
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Deerness was under the probate jurisdiction of the Commissary Court of Orkney & Shetland until 1823, and since then has been under the Sheriff's Court of Kirkwall. 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 Orkney and the subject of 'Probate records.' Then click on the link to the records of the Commissariat of Orkney & Shetland.

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

Read more about Scotland Probate Records.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Lewis, Samuel A., A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland (1846), pp. 499-514. Adapted. Date accessed: 8 August 2014.

Return to Orkney parish list.