Harray, Orkney, Scotland Genealogy

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Parish #18

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

History[edit | edit source]

BIRSAY and HARRAY, a parish, in the county of Orkney. These two ancient parishes, which were united under the earls of Orkney, originally constituted a province or district called "Bergisherard," signifying, in the Norwegian language, lands appropriated to the diversion of hunting. The church of Birsay is an ancient building, enlarged in 1760, and containing 565 sittings; the church of Harray, a neat plain building, erected in 1836, contains 400 sittings. There are places of worship for members of the Free Church, the Original Seceding Congregation, and Independents.[1]

Harray united to Birsay in the early nineteenth century.

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

Census Records[edit | edit source]

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 Harray, as well as the library numbers for any surname indexes available:

Family History Library Film Number
Surname Indexes
1041488, 1041490
6393845 ( 1 fiche)
1067737 Item 3
6086634 (2 fiche)

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
[edit | edit source]

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: 1784-1854 0990501 item 1-2
Marriages: 1784-1854 0990501item 1-2
Deaths: 1810-1824 0990501item 1-2
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: Birth registers are incomplete 1791–1795 inclusive. Irregular entries are frequent about 1800.
Marriages: Marriage records were regularly kept.
Deaths: Death records are Mortcloth Dues.
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 1796–1868, with gaps
Collections 1826–1861
Note: Available on Film at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH2/1090.

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.

Harray and Sandwick Free Church[edit | edit source]

The minister of the united parishes of Birsay and Harray was in sympathy with the Non-intrusionists, and his influence told on their side, but, being old and infirm, he did not "come out" in 1843. The Free Church adherents formed a congregation and the first minister was settled in December 1843. The church and manse were built immediately after the Disruption and the school and schoolhouse about 1847. The church was rebuilt on the same site in 1874. Emigration adversely affected the membership.
Membership: 1848, 286; 1900, 192.
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.

Minutes 1844–1946
Baptisms 1843–1877
Deacons' Court Minutes 1844–1946
Note: Available on Film at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH3/1095.

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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Harray 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 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 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 catalogfor 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.