Garvald & Bara, East Lothian, Scotland Genealogy

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Scotland Gotoarrow.png East LothianGotoarrow.png Garvald and Bara

Parish #707

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


GARVALD and BARA, a parish, in the county of Haddington, 5 miles (S. E. by E.) from Haddington. Garvald derives its name, signifying in the Gaelic language "the rough water," from the situation of its village on a rapid and impetuous stream. Garvald and Bara were united in 1702, and service was alternately performed in the church of each parish till the year 1744, when that of Bara fell into a state of dilapidation. The church is an ancient structure, repaired and enlarged in 1829; it is adapted to a congregation of 360 persons, and is inconveniently situated at one extremity of the parish. The members of the Free Church have a place of worship.[1]

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 your parish of interest. Also available at the Family History Library.

Census Records

A census record is a count and description of the population, taken by the government, arranged by locality and by household. Read more about Scotland Census Records.

Here is a list of the Family History Library microfilm numbers for the census records of Garvald & Bara, as well as the library numbers for any surname indexes available.

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 Scotland Church Records.

Here are the pre-1855 records that exist for this parish.

Established Church—Old Parochial Registers


Event Type Years Covered FHL Film Number
Births: 1694-1854 1067798 item 1-2
Marriages: 1694-1819, 1836-1854 1067798 item 1-2
Deaths: None
Condition of Original Registers—

Indexed: 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: Records are blank January 1705–March 1706. The leaves prior to 1726, have suffered from want of care. There is one page of entries for 1716, after the marriages for May 1712.
Marriages: Inner margin of leaves prior to 1712, are much wasted and entries are imperfect. The record is blank May 1712–October 1752, from which date until 1836, the entries are recorded among the births for the same period. From November 1811 until 1836 the marriages are very defective. There are, however, entries of irregular marriages 1722–1820, transcribed from the sessional registers.
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 Kirk 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:

Garvald Minutes 1721–1852
Accounts 1762–1863
Bara Minutes 1694–1709
Accounts 1694–1712, 1718–1721
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH2/167.

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.

Garvald Free Church

The minister of the parish, and most of his congregation “came out” in 1843. They worshiped for a time in a barn. A site having been secured in the village, a church was erected in 1843, and soon afterwards a manse. Later, the interior of the church was renewed, and a tower added. The membership declined owing to decay of the population.
Membership: 1848, 290; 1900, 102.
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 a list of ministers.

                                                        FHL Film Number
Session Minutes       1843–1892         1484619 item 4

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

Garvald & Bara were under the probate jurisdiction of the Commissary Court of Edinburgh until 1823, and since then has been under the Sheriff's Court of Haddington.  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 East Lothian and the subject of 'Probate records.' Then click on the link to the records of the Commissariat of Edinburgh.

The library also has some post-1823 probate records for East Lothian. Look in the library catalog

for the 'Place-names' of East Lothian 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. 458-478. Adapted. Date accessed: 04 April 2014.

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