Gairloch, Ross and Cromarty, Scotland

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Ross and Cromarty

Parish # 66

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


GAIRLOCH, a parish, in the county of Ross and Cromarty, 60 miles (W. by N.) from Dingwall; including the islands of Horisdale and Longo, the late quoad sacra district of Poolewe, and part of that of Shieldag. This place takes its name from a salt-water lake called Gairloch, from the Gaelic word gearr, signifying "short." The church, built in 1791, and repaired in 1834, accommodates 385 persons with sittings.[1]

The name of the parish is compounded of gearr, short, and loch. This parish takes its name from a salt water loch of the same name. It is bounded on the south by an arm of the sea called Loch Torridon, that runs in between it and the parish of Applecross; on the north, by the river Gruinard, that separates it from the parish of Lochbroom; on the east, by a chain of hills, where the mountain streams running towards the east and west coasts, separate; on the west, by the Minch, that separates the Long Island, or Lewis, from the main land.

This parish has been fortunate as most of its neighbors, in being the birth place and residence of eminent men, of which William Ross, the celebrated Gaelic bard, was born in 1762 in the parish of Strath, Isle of Skye.

The land-owners of the parish are; Sir Francis Alexander M’Kenzie of Gairloch, Bart.; Sir George Stewart M’Kenzie of Coul, Bart.; Duncan Davison, Esq. of Tulloch; James Alexander Stewart M’Kenzie, Esq. of Seaforth; and Hector M’Kenzie, Esq. of Letterewe.

The population in 1801 was 1437, and increased to 4445 by 1831.

There are no parochial registers kept in the parish previous to 1802; since that period, they have been regularly kept.
The parish church is as conveniently situated as it could well be, considering the extent of the parish; its distance from the eastern extremity of the parish, is twenty-eight miles; from the southern, fifteen miles; from the western, twelve miles; and from the northern extremity, twenty miles. The church was built in 1791, and has accommodations for 500 sitters.

This account was written September 1836.

Source: New Statistical Account of Scotland for Gairloch, FHL book 941 B4sa, series 2 vol. 14.

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

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

FHL Film Number
Surname Indexes
6037266 (6 fiche)
1042008,  1042009
941.39 X2a
6086658 (4 fiche)

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 FHL Film Number
Births: 1781-1853 0990583 item 1
Marriages: 1803-1854 0990583 item 1
Deaths: No entries none


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: The record was begun in 1802; the entries prior to that date are irregular. The records are incomplete 1814–1819. There is a supplement at the end of the record.
Marriages: The records are incomplete around 1814–1819. There is a supplement at the end of the record.
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:

There are no records available.

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 List.

Gairloch Free Church

To provide for the adherents of the Free Church in the district, a catechist was appointed immediately after the Disruption. A minister was settled in 1844. His call was signed by upwards of 1000 persons. Later the membership suffered through emigration, especially of the young people.
Membership:1855, 750; 1900, 63.
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, including ministers.

The extent of records is unknown.

Kinlochewe Aultbea Free Church

In July 1844, in response to a petition to the Presbytery from the adherents of the Free Church in Kinlochewe, the minister of Gairloch was asked to preach there as frequently as possible. He started the movement for the building of a church in 1871. The population then numbered about 300 over fourteen years of ages and there was no place of worship within 19 miles. Regular services were begun in 1875. The charge was sanctioned in 1889.
Membership: 1889, 173; 1900, 19.
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, including ministers.

There are no pre-1855 records. Check for records of Gairloch.

Poolewe Free Church

The minister of Poolewe, and his congregation "came out" in 1843. He was soon called to Tarbert and a probationer was placed in charge. The charge was sanctioned in 1847, and shortly thereafter the church, manse, and school were erected.
Membership: 1855, 1000; 1900, 153.
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, including ministers.

The extent of records is unknown.

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

Gairloch was under the probate jurisdiction of the Commissary Court of Ross until 1823, and since then has been under the Sheriff's Court of Ross & Cormarty.  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 Ross & Cromarty and the subject of 'Probate records.' Then click on the link to the records of the Commissariat of Ross.
The library also has some post-1823 probate records for Ross & Cromarty.   Look in the library catalog for the 'Place-names' of Ross & Cromarty 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: 30 July 2014.

Return to Ross & Cromarty parish list.