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Beath, Fife, Scotland Genealogy

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Parish #410

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

History[edit | edit source]

BEATH, a parish, in the district of Dunfermline, county of Fife, 2½ miles (S.) from Blair-Adam Inn; containing the villages of Cowden-Beath, Kelty, and Oakfield. This parish, though now destitute of any trees of the kind, is supposed to have originally abounded with birch, and from that circumstance to have derived its name, anciently written Baith, which, in the Gaelic language, signifies a birchtree. The church is a handsome edifice, erected in 1835, and affords ample accommodation.[1]

The name of the parish was anciently spelt Baith, and sigifies, in Gaelic, birchwood---of which there is not a vestice now to justify the etymology.  Its surface is rugged and hilly, but there are no mountains.  The only lake in the parish is Loch Fitty.  At presnet there are three collieries in operation in the parish.  In 1821 the population was 729 and in 1831 it was 921.  About 400 of the populatoin lives in the villages of Kelty and Oakfield.  The number of families is 180.  The increase of population is owing to the additional number of hands employed at the collieries, and to a system of euing lately introduced.  The average number of births for the last seven years was 15, of marriages 5, and of deaths 13 (based on the parish records, but not all births and deaths are registered.)  During the last three years there have been 4 illegitimate births in the parish.

There are 5276 acres under cultivation.  All kinds of produce are grown including potatoes, turniops, cabbages, etc.  Hay is also grown.  Cattle is grazed.  There are no markets town in the parish, nor a post office.  The parish church is the only place of public worship.  The new church was built about 1835.  Of the population nearly 200 are Burgher Seceders.  Their number has greatly diminished within the last twenty years.  The parochial school is the only one in the parish.  It is attended by an average of 100 scholars.  There are one inn and four public-houses in the parish, and their effects are notoriously injurious to the morals of the people.  The fuel used in the parish is coal, of which there is great abundance at a reasonable price.

The above extract is taken from the account written in April 1833 and revised in April 1836.

Source:  The New Statistical Account of Scotland, for Fife.  Family History Library book 941 B4sa, 2nd series, vol. 9;


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 you are interested in. 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 Beath as well as the library numbers for any surname indexes available:

Year Family History Library Film Number Surname Indexes
1841      1042699 book 941.33 X22s; films 1145982-3; CD-ROM no. 1075
1851 1042253 941.33 X22f
1861 0103825 CD-ROM no. 2524
1871 0103987 None
1881 0203517 6086574 (8 fiche)
1891 0208748 None

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 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]

Event Type Years Covered Fmily History Library Film Number
Births: 1643-1854 1040150 items 2-3
Marriages: 1643-1854 1040150 items 2-3
Deaths: 1802-1820 1040150 items 2-3

Condition of Original Registers[edit | edit source]

Index: 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 entries April 1649–February 1676, May 1683–January 1686, and August 1714–February 1718.
Marriages: Prior to 1649 entries are among births for the same time period. No entries May 1649–November 1673. Records are only entries of contracts; October 1678–May 1692; June 1714–January 1720; August 1794–January 1796; 1805 or 1815. After 1775, there are frequent entries of clandestine marriages, chiefly celebrated at Edinburgh.
Deaths: Burials
Source: Key to the Parochial Registers of Scotland, by V. Ben Bloxham, pub. 1970. Family History Library 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 he 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:

Accounts 1750–1821
Communion Rolls 1841–1848, 1850
Minutes 1691–1731, 1750–1974
Poor Accounts 1821–1871
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH2/1059.

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 Lists.

Of the population of Beath in 1840, nearly 200 were Burgher Seceders. Their number was greatly diminished within the previous twenty years. They would probably have attended church in neighboring parishes.

Kelty Free Church[edit | edit source]

The minister of Cleish parish, and many of his parishioners, came out at the Disruption. A Free Church congregation was formed in the village of Kelty and a church was built. A new church was built in 1893–1894. Kelty became an important mining center, and the congregation grew with the increase of the population.
Membership: 1848, 70; 1900, 286.
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.

The extent of pre-1855 records is unknown.

Cowdenbeath Branch, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter–Day Saints[edit | edit source]

History—   Unavailable.

Family History Library Film Number
Record of members early to 1883 0104150 item 5

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]

Beath was under the probate jurisdiction of the Commissary Court of St. Andrews until 1823, and since then has been under the Sheriff's Court of Fife at Cupar. 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 librarycatalog for the 'Place' of Fife and the subject of 'Probate records.' Then click on the link to the records of the Commissariat of Fife. 

The library also has some post-1823 probate records for Fife. Look in the library catalog for the 'Place' of Fife 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. 101-123. Adapted. Date accessed: 24 April 2014.

[Return to the Fife parish list.]