Beith, Ayrshire, Scotland Genealogy

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Parish #581

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


     The name of this parish is Celtic signifying 'birch.' There is reason to believe that the whole of the district was once covered with woods.  Beith was the occasional residence of St. Inan, a confessor of some celebrity, whose principal place of abode was Irvine. He flourished about 839.  The land was primarily used for cattle, sheep, dairy, cheese, potatoes, beans, peas, and rye-grass.  there is a  lot of manufacturing.  The earliest volumes of the parish registers commence in 1659 and are imperfect.
The population in 1792 was 2872 and in in 1831 was 5113.  Of that, 3457 belong to the Established Church, 969 to the
Relief Church, 388 are United Secession, 75 belong to the Reformed Presbytery, and 20 are Old Light Seceders.  Within the parish there are 43 Roman Catholics, 4 Independents, 9 Methodists, 6 Baptists, 6 Episcopalians, and 302 belong to no church.

source: New Statistical Account of Scotland (Family History Library book 941 B4sa, series 2 vol.5)


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 Beith. Also available at the Family History Library.

Census Records

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 Beith as well as the library numbers for any surname indexes available:

Years Family History Library Film Number Surname Index          
1841 1042732 CD-ROM no. 2524
1851 1042373
1861 103800
1871 103958
1881 203592 6086514 (10 fiche)
1891 220209

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

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

Years Covered Family History Library Microfilm Number
Births: 1661-1662, 1673-1694 1041334
1701-1854 1041335 item 1-2
Marriages: 1659-1694, 1711-1758 1041334
1783-1819 1041334
1820-1854 1041335 item 3
Deaths: 1783-1787 1041334

Condition of Original Registers—

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 be indexed in FamilySearch Records.
Births: There are none, November 1662–November 1673 and only six entries December 1681–August 1683. There are none February 1686–October 1690, May 1694–September 1701. Entries from 1711–1722 are intermixed with marriages for the same period. There are irregular entries 1792–1816 on page after 1804. Mothers' names are not recorded until 1755.
Marriages: There are none January 1661–January 1662, February 1664–November 1668, April 1682–April 1683, April 1686–October 1690, May 1694–July 1711 and November 1758–October 1783. After 1738, the fact of marriage is rarely added to the entries of booking and proclamation.
Deaths: Burials
Source: Key to the Parochial Registers of Scotland, by V. Ben Bloxham, pub. 1970 British book 941 K23b.

Established Church—Kirk Session Records

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 1701–1722, 1736–1740, 1756–1757, 1778–1788, 1796–1799, 1812–1823, 1831–1925
Accounts 1737–1740, 1838–1846
Collections 1839–1910
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH2/31.

Nonconformist Church Records

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.

Mitchell Street, Anti-Burgher United Presbyterian Church

The secession was introduced into Ayrshire at Dalry in 1736. Several persons in the parish of Beith acceded to the Associate Presbytery in January 1739, on the ground of the testimony emitted by them. In January 1740, several persons in the adjoining parish of Dunlop acceded on the same ground. These persons were united in an association, as a step towards their formation into a congregation. Mr. Robert Scott, Elder in the parish of Beith, acceded to the Associate Presbytery in February 1741, and was recognized as the Elder of the Associate Society of Beith and Dunlop. Since Mr. Smyton had been ordained minister at Kilmaurs, the seceders in Beith and Dunlop became members of his congregation. This congregation became Anti-Burgher in 1746. In 1758, a majority of the heritors and parishioners of Beith succeeded in settling a new minister in that parish in defiance of the strenuous opposition of a large majority against him. The seceders in Beith and Dunlop took advantage of the feeling thus created to obtain a disjunction from Kilmaurs, and their formation into a separate congregation, which was done in 1759, when a number of persons previously belonging to the established church became connected with them. A church was built in 1759 and a new church was rebuilt on the site of the old one, in 1816.
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 1761–1762, 1764–1770, 1777–1808, 1812–1862, 1864, 1869–1904
Baptisms 1761–1809
Collections 1761–1777
Marriages 1768–1808
List of Members 1812–1866
Miscellaneous Papers 1812–1908
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH3/1055.

Head Street Relief, later United Presbyterian Church

A number of the parishioners who were deprived by the proprietors of sittings in the parish church decided to provide another place of worship in the town. They also desired to obtain a voice in the election of the person who was to minister to them, of which they were deprived. A number of them met, passed certain resolutions, set forth their grievances, and then drew up a paper of invitation to all who were willing to join in their scheme. In a short time 155 names were appended to this document, and the building of a place of worship was begun. On the 21st of January 1784, a meeting of subscribers was convened when it was unanimously agreed "to form themselves into a religious society on the principles of the Chapels of Ease in connection with the Established Church of Scotland." It was resolved to petition the Established Presbytery of Irvine to request the co-operation of the minister of the parish. But instead, they encountered his opposition. At a meeting held on the 10th of April 1784, the delegates appointed to the Presbytery reported that "they had waited upon the Presbytery there several times, but could receive no satisfactory answer." After a short consultation, a motion was made to petition for supply of sermon to the Relief Presbytery of Glasgow, which was carried by a great majority. In accordance with this decision, application was made to the Presbytery, and the prayer of the petition was granted. The congregation was organized on the 28th of June 1784. A church was built in 1783.
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 1788–1836, 1840–1917
Managers’ Minutes and Accounts 1783–1829, 1840–1917
List of Lairs Purchased in Burial Ground 1793–1858
Register of Baptisms 1802–1803, 1813–1814, 1820
Roll of Number of Congregation and Children 1819
Register of Young People 1813
Communion Roll 1840–1917
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH3/1054.

Beith Free Church

This congregation was formed at the Disruption, and a church and manse were built. A new church was erected after 1878. In 1858, Miss Agatha Shedden left a legacy for maintenance of the minister and upkeep of the church buildings.
Membership: 1848, 243; 1900, 302.
Source: Annals of the Free Church of Scotland, 1843–1900, ed. Rev. William Ewing, D.D., 2 vols. pub. 1914. Film #918572.

Minutes 1843–1917
Deacons Court Minutes and Accounts 1843–1905
Baptismal Register 1843–1893
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH3/1053.

Beith Evangelical Union Church

The Congregational Church in Beith was formed in July 1839 from a preaching station. It ceased to meet about 1842. In 1861 the Evangelical Union Church was formed from a preaching station connected with that body. The congregation joined the Evangelical Union the following year.
Source: A History of Scottish Congregationalism, by Harry Escott, pub. 1960. Family History Library British book 941 K2es.

The extent of records is unknown.  For more information write to:
The United Reformed Church, Scottish Synod Office
PO Box 189
240 Cathedral Street
Glasgow G1 2BX

Civil Registration Records

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

Beith was under the probate jurisdiction of the Commissary Court of Glasgow until 1823, and since then has been under the Sheriff's Court of Ayr.  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' of Ayr and the subject of 'Probate records.' Then click on the link to the records of the Commissariat of Glasgow.
The library also has some post-1823 probate records for Ayr. Look in the library catalog for the 'Place' of Ayr and the subjects of 'Probate Records' and 'Probate Records - Indexes.'

Read more about Scotland Probate Records.

Return to the Ayrshire Parish List