Westray, Orkney, Scotland Genealogy

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Parish #33 (including Papa-Westray)

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

History[edit | edit source]

WESTRAY, a parish, in the county of Orkney, 19 miles (N.) from Kirkwall. This parish, which includes the islands of Westray and Papa-Westray, is supposed to have derived its name from its relative position with respect to those of the Orkney Islands which are situated to the north of Pomona or the Mainland. There are two churches in Westray, and one in Papa-Westray, all neat buildings; the North church contains 900 sittings, the East church 700, and Papa-Westray 220 sittings. There are also places of worship for members of the United Secession and Baptists.[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 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 Westray, as well as the library numbers for any surname indexes available:

Family History Library Film Number Surname Indexes
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 Numbers
Westray - 1733-1854

Papa-Westray - 1784-1854
Westray - 1805-1854

Papa-Westray - 1805-1854
No entries


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 separate birth records, from 1808–1828 inclusive, for the east and north parishes of Westray. The two parishes were again united in 1829. There are irregular records of the births of children in Westray 1807–1844. Also a certified copy embracing the baptismal registers for the various divisions of the united parish in which the entries, often irregular in the original, appear to be inserted in chronological order.
Marriages: There is a certified copy of marriages for 1805–1819.
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 1835–1912
Note: Available on Film at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH2/1107.

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.

Westray Secession Church[edit | edit source]

Westray is an island at the northwestern extremity of the Orkney group containing a population of about 2000 souls. The congregation of Westray originated in the home missionary operations of the Secession Church. Supply of sermon was first afforded to the island in 1821 and the church was built in 1823.
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.

The extent of records is unknown.

Papa-Westray Free Church[edit | edit source]

The Free Church adherents at Papa-Westray and Westray, among whom were the local proprietor and his family, were formed into a congregation after the Disruption under charge of a probationer. The charge was sanctioned in September 1843. A church, large enough for the whole population of the island, had been built by the proprietor's family in 1841. It was shut up, however, until the Disruption and made over to the Free Church at the first Assembly. The proprietor also helped in the building of the manse. At the first vacancy it was questioned whether the charge should be continued. The assembly of 1856 sanctioned its continuance. It was stated that of more than 300 people in the island, almost all attended the Free Church. Westray became a separate station in 1877.
Membership: 1848, 112; 1900, 115.
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 1843–1911
Note: Available on Film at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH3/1103.

Westray Baptist Church[edit | edit source]

This church was the fruit of spiritual revival brought about by the labors of Mr. James Haldane. He visited Orkney in 1797 and a catechist so impressed him that he engaged him immediately afterwards for extended work. This was William Tulloch of North Ronaldshay. He evangelized through the numerous Islands. Westray was responsive and a company came together for edification. Subsequently it was proposed that they should form themselves into and Independent Church. There was some opposition but a church was formed about the year 1806 and it called Mr. Tulloch to the pastorate, and they built a sanctuary for themselves. The church had been founded according to congregational principles but soon the mode of baptism was in question and discussed. Eventually all but three members of the congregation became Baptists. Chapels were built in 1839 and 1850 and a hall in 1906. This congregation was instrumental in the formation of other congregations in Eday, Sanday, and Burray.
Source: History of the Baptists in Scotland, by Rev. George Yuille, pub. 1926 Family History Library British Book 941 K2hi. This book contains a list of ministers.

The extent of records is unknown. For more information write to:
The Baptist Union of Scotland
Baptist Church House
14 Aytoun Road
Glasgow, G41 5RT

Civil Registration Records
[edit | edit source]

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
[edit | edit source]

Westray 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 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: 15 August 2014.

Return to Orkney parish list.