Berwickshire, Scotland Genealogy

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Guide to Berwickshire ancestry, family history and genealogy: birth records, marriage records, death records, census records, parish registers, and military records.

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History

Berwickshire is a maritime county in the south-east of Scotland, bounded on the north by the German Ocean and the county of Haddington (Eastlothian), on the east and north-east by the German Ocean, on the south by the river Tweed, which separates it from the English county of Northumberland, and on the west and south-west by the counties of Edinburgh (Midlothian) and Roxburgh.  It is about thirty-five miles in length and twenty-two miles in extreme breadth.  It comprises about 446 1/2 square miles or 285,760 acres.  The county derives its name from the ancient town of berwick, formerly the county town. 

Berwickshire was anciently part of the kingdom of Northumbria until the year 1020 when it was ceded to Malcolm II, King of Scotland, by the Earl of Northumberland. From its situation on the borders, the county was the scene of frequent hostilities and an object of continual dispute between the Scots and the English.  The town of Berwick was finally ceded to the English in 1482.  Greenlaw eventually became the county town for Berwickshire.

The county comprises thirty-four parishes and three civil districts of Merse, Lammermoor, and Lauderdale.  It includes the royal burgh of Lauder, the towns of Greenlaw, Dunse, Coldstream, and Eyemouth, and several villages.  The district of Merse is level and extends for nearly twenty miles along the north bank of the Tweed and about ten miles in breadth.  It is richly fertile and enriched with plantations.  The district of Lammermoor, nearly of equal extent and parallel with the Merse, is a hilly tract chiefly adapted for pasture.  The district of Lauderdale, to the west of the other two, is also diversified with hills and affords good pasture for sheep and a coarse breed of black cattle.  It has fertile vales of arable land yielding abundant crops.  The coast is bold and rocky, rising precipitously to a great height, and is almost inaccessible except at Eyemouth and Coldingham Bay. 

The population of the county in 1851 was 34,438.

(Source:  Samuel Lewis' Topographical Dictionary of Scotland, 2nd ed., 1851.  Family History Library  book FHL 941 E5L.)

Scotlands People: An Important Online Source

ScotlandsPeople is one of the largest online sources of original genealogical information. If you are researching UK genealogy, your Scottish ancestry or building your Scottish family tree, they have more than 100 million records to look through.

The comprehensive choice of Scottish records includes:

  • Statutory Registers
  • Old Parish Registers
  • Catholic Parish Registers
  • CPR Others
  • Census
  • Valuation Rolls
  • Soldiers’ Wills
  • Wills & Testaments
  • Coats of Arms

For more detail on exact record availability, see Availability. For examples of the records available, see Record Types and Examples. More information on the site, its contents, and instructions for using it can be found in the ScotlandsPeople Wiki article. Indexes may be searched for free, and there is a small pay per view fee to see the actual digitized record.

Census

Many census records have been indexed by surname. Some indexes cover one parish (and will be listed in the Wiki on the parish page) and some indexes are for the county as a whole. The Family History Library has county-wide census placename indexes for Berwickshire for 1881.  Click here for other census indexes available at the library.

Church Records

Civil Registration or Statutory Registers

For details on information found in statutory registers and other methods of searching them, see Scotland Statutory Registers - Vital Records.

Refer to the ScotlandsPeople Wiki article.
Images and Indexes Available at ScotlandsPeople Website ($)
Images-Years
Indexes
Births 1855-1910 ◊ScotlandsPeople Website has indexes to 2012.
Marriages 1855-1935
Deaths 1855-1960

Parishes

Some of the Berwick parish records are indexed in Berwick, Scotland, Extracted Parish Records.

This database is a collection of historical parish registers from the county of Berwick in the country of Scotland. The records in this collection can range in date from the early 1500s to the mid- to late-1800s. The records include baptisms/christenings, burials, marriages, tombstone inscriptions, obituaries, tax lists, wills, and other miscellaneous types of records. Also included are some records from non-conformist churches. You will find interesting phonetic spelling. Some of the records may be in Latin or even a Welsh or Scottish dialect. Due to the nature of the records and because the records were originally compiled by a third party, it is difficult to absolutely verify the completeness and validity of the data.

Here is a list of the historic parishes of the county of Berwick with their parish numbers. Click on the parish name to see information about records. Click here for an outline map of the parishes of Berwickshire.

Parish No. Parish No.
Abbey St. Bathans 726 Hilton -- see Whitsome 757
Ayton 727 Hume -- see Stitchel, Roxburgh 744
Bunkle and Preston 728 Hutton 745
Channelkirk 729 Ladykirk 746
Chirnside 730 Langton 747
Cockburnspath 731 Lauder 748
Coldingham 732 Legerwood 749
Coldstream (formerly Lennel) 733 Lennel -- see Coldstream 733
Cranshaws 734 Longformacus 750
Dunse 735 Mertoun 751
Earlston 736 Mordington 752
Eccles 373 Nenthorn 753
Edrom 738 Polwarth 754
Eyemouth 739 Preston -- see Buncle 728
Fogo 740 Simprim -- see Swinton 755
Foulden 741 Swinton 755
Gordon 742 Westruther 756
Greenlaw 743 Whitsome and Hilton 757

Court Records

The county of Berwick was in the Sheriff's court of Duns (SC60). The Registers of Deeds for Sheriffs' courts contain much valuable information for family history research such as marriage contracts and deeds of 'disposal and settlement' (or assignment) of property, which both give names and relationships. The records are deposited at the National Archives of Scotland in Edinburgh and are not indexed.

Maps

Poorhouses

Probate Records

Probate records are those which deal with the settlement of the estate of a deceased person. In Scotland, until 1868, a person could only pass movable property such as household furniture, farm equipment, livestock, money and clothes through a document known as a 'testament.' Immovable property such as land was passed to the eldest son or heir through a document known as a 'Service of Heir,' which is not a record of probate. Read more about Scotland Probate Records.

Until 1823, the parishes of Berwickshire were under the probate jurisdiction of the Commissariot Court of Lauder (CC15). Since 1823, the county has been under the jurisdiction of the Sheriff's Court of Duns (SC60).

Probate records for 1513-1901 (including inventories of goods) 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 FamilySearch library catalog for the 'Place' of Berwick (then select the county) and the subject of 'Probate records.' Then click on the link to the 'Testaments registers.'

An index to probate records that covers some of Scotland 1861-1941 is available at www.ancestry.co.uk


Societies

Borders Family History Society
52 Overhaugh St
Galashiels
TD1 1DP
Scotland

Genealogy Society
15 Victoria Terrace
Edinburgh
EH1 2JL
Scotland
Phone-0131 220 3677
Email enquiries@scotsgenealogy.com

Websites

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