Bower, Caithness, Scotland Genealogy

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Scotland Gotoarrow.png Caithness-shire Gotoarrow.png Bower

Parish # 34

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


BOWER, a parish, in the county of Caithness, 7 miles (W.) from Keiss. This place is said to derive its name from a Danish word signifying "a valley," and the application of the term to this locality seems to be by no means inappropriate. The church is ancient, and the number of its sittings is computed at 441.[1]

The name of the parish is supposed to be derived from a Danish word signifying a valley.

The estates of Tister, formerly written Thuspisteer, and Northfield, in this parish, connected with Durran, in the parish of Olrick, had belonged to the family of Mr. Sinclair Worth of Durran. Both of these estates are now the property of the Earl of Caithness. The property of Lyth, in this parish, belongs to Mr. Sinclair of Barrack. The estate of Scarmclet, on the south-west side of this parish, has been acquired by Sir Ralph Anstruther, and through his efforts improvements have been made, and a school-house built. The estate of Brabsterdorran, once said to have belonged to the earldom of Caithness, now belongs to David Henderson.

The population in the census of 1801 showed that there were 1572 persons in the parish, and in the census of 1831 there were a total of 1615 living there.

There are only six Dissenting or Seceeding families in the parish. There is no mention of any church or any church registers kept in the parish.

This account was written October 1840.

Source: New Statistical Account of Scotland for Bower, Family History Library book 941 B4sa, series 2, vol. 15.

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 Bower. 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 Bower as well as the library numbers for any surname indexes available:

Family History Library Film Number
Surname Indexes
6086538 (2 fiches)

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 the separate 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

Record Type Years Covered Family History Library Film Number
Births: 1771-1854 0990519
Marriages: 1770-1854 0990519
Deaths: 1790-1795 0990519
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 also be indexed in other FamilySearch collections for Scotland.
Births: There is one entry dated 1727 on page 4 and one dated 1729 on page 23. Page 24 contains irregular entries for 1769-1793. The regular record is interrupted between June 1774 and March 1776. There are no entries April 1777 September 1778. The greater portion of the page which contained the entries for February-June 1781 is destroyed. There are no entries from October 1786-March 1788 and August 1788-March 1789. After the May 1789 record, there is a duplicate of the October 1783-October 1786 records.
Marriages: There are no entries from January 1773 September 1775 and June 1777 May 1789.
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 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.

There are no pre-1855 records for this parish.

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

The Statistical Account of Scotland for Caithness for 1840 states that there were six Dissenting or Seceding families in the parish, but no chapels at that time.

Bower Free Church

Although the minister of Bower remained with the Established Church, most of his
Congregation joined the Free Church in 1843. Because of emigration and land
Conditions; by 1870 the population in the area began to decrease.
Source: Annals of the Free Church of Scotland, 1843-1900, ed. Rev. William Ewing, D.D., 2 vols. pub. 1914. Film #918572. More details are given in the source.

There are no known pre-1855 records for this church.

Keiss Free Church

In 1843 the minister of Keiss and many of the congregation left the Established Church. When they could not build a church, the minister left and only a preaching station remained until 1860, when it did become an official congregation. Until 1864, the congregation increased, but with the decline of the fishing industry at that time, there was a decline in the congregation.
Membership: 1866, 320 including adherents; 1900, 83.
Source: Annals of the Free Church of Scotland, 1843-1900, ed. Rev. William Ewing, D.D., 2 vols. pub. 1914. Film #918572. More details are given in the source.

There are no known pre-1855 records for this church.

Keiss Baptist Church

In 1750, Sir William Sinclair, baronet of Dunbeath and Keiss estates, began Baptist services and soon attracted a small following which met at his castle. He was the first pastor and collected a book of hymns containing 60 hymns he had written. In 1856 the congregation built a chapel.
Source: History of the Baptists in Scotland, by Rev. George Yuille, pub. 1926; Family History Library book 941 K2hi. Source includes lists of ministers.

The extent of records is unknown. For information write to:
The Baptist Union of Scotland
12 Aytoun Road
Glasgow G41 5RT

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

Bower was under the probate jurisdiction of the Commissary Court of Caithness until 1823, and since then has been under the Sheriff's Court of Wick. 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-names' of Caithness and the subject of 'Probate records.' Then click on the link to the records of the Commissariat of Caithness.

The library also has some post-1823 probate records for Caithness. Look in the library catalog for the 'Place' of Caithness and the subjects of 'Probate Records' and 'Probate Records - Indexes.'

Read more about Scotland Probate Records.


  1. Lewis, Samuel A., A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland (1846), pp. 499-514. Adapted. Date accessed: 7 August 2014.

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