Firth & Stennes, Orkney, Scotland Genealogy

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Firth & Stennes

Parish #17

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

History[edit | edit source]

FIRTH and STENNESS, a parish, in the county of Orkney, the former district 6 miles (W. by N.) and the latter 8 miles (W.) from Kirkwall. These ancient parishes, which appear to have been united soon after the abolition of episcopacy in Scotland, are situated on the Mainland of the Orkney Islands. There are two churches, that of Firth, built in 1813, and the church of Stenness, in 1793, and repaired and reseated in 1816; they are both neat structures, and contain each about 700 sittings. There are also, in the parish, places of worship for members of the Free Church and the United Secession.[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 Firth & Stennes as well as the library numbers for any surname indexes available:

FHL Film Number
Surname Indexes
Access Services Window
6393844 ( 2 fiche)
686634 (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 FHL Film Number
Births: 1732-1854 0919500
Marriages: 1732-1854 0919500
Deaths: 1746-1854 0919500


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: Stennes registers are incomplete throughout, especially 1745–1747 and 1750–1752 inclusive. Firth has only one entry May 1782–May 1785 and is very incomplete 1787–1817.
Marriages: Stennes has no entries 1761–1765. Firth has no notations.
Deaths: Stennes has only 31 entries prior to 1818. Firth has no notations.
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 1732–1945
Note: Available on Film at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, records CH2/1089 and CH2/1102.

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.

Firth United Presbyterian Church[edit | edit source]

Firth and Stennis form a united parish in the island of Pomona, or the mainland of Orkney. The population in 1831 was 1200, of whom about 450 resided in Firth. The United Associate Presbytery of Orkney fixed upon this place as a mission station in 1835 and located Mr. William Jameson as a missionary there. He subsequently died in Old Calabar and other missionaries succeeded him until the congregation obtained a settled minister. Despite many difficulties and obstacles, the station prospered. The people built a place of worship in 1839.
Source: Annals and Statistics of the United Presbyterian Church, by Rev. William MacKelvie, D.D., pub. 1873. Film #477618. More details may be given in the source.

Minutes 1844–1911
Note: Available on Film at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH3/1093.

Firth and Stennes Free Church[edit | edit source]

William Malcolm, minister of Firth, "came out" at the Disruption in 1843 and a church was created that year. Stennes was disjoined from Firth at the Disruption. A church was built and the charge sanctioned in 1844. Upon the minister's removal in 1874 it was reduced to a preaching station.
Firth Membership: 1848, 191; 1900, 153.
Stennes Membership: 1848, 180.
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.

Firth, St. John's - Minutes 1843–1945
Deacons' Court Minutes 1845–1911, 1852–1880 - scroll
Other Post–1855 Records
Note: Available on Film at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH3/1094.

Stennes Free Church Mission[edit | edit source]

Baptisms 1844–1867, 1919–1933
Other Post–1855 Records
Note: Available on Film at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH3/1113 or RH4/83/63. The original records are available at Orkney Archives at Kirkwall, Orkney. The baptisms for 1844–1855, as well as some earlier entries for 1836–1843, are also available online at:

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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Firth & Stennes 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 Kirkwell. 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.