Kilmory, Buteshire, Scotland Genealogy

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Kilmory (#554)

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

History[edit | edit source]

KILMORIE, a parish, in the Isle of Arran, county of Bute, 24 miles (S. W. by W.) from Saltcoats. This place, which occupies the western portion of Arran, and derives its name from the dedication of its ancient church to St. Mary, is, in all its historical details, identified with the parish of Kilbride, which occupies the eastern portion of the island. The church at Loch Ranza, noticed in the account of Kilbride, is open to the inhabitants of both parishes. The members of the Free Church have a place of worship.[1]

This parish includes Shisken and Lochranza. See also Lochranza parish.

The name of this parish is derived from Kill-mhiure, or St. Mary's.  It extends from Largybeg Point on the south to Lochranza water on the north, a distance of twenty-four miles.  The ruggedness of the interior renders traveling through it impractical.  Its average breath is six miles and its area about 70,000 Scots acres.  It is the west part of the Isle of Arran, while the parish of Kilbride is the east part.  The arable land is chiefly confined to the vicinity of the sea coast and in the Vale of Skisken.  The parish includes the island of Pladda on which there are two lighthouses.  There are many streams and fresh-water lakes in the hills, as well as caves and cascades.  Lochranza is the only salt water loch in the parish and Lochranza Bay is the only one that offers any shelter or anchorage, and there are no harbours.  There are limestone quarries at Clachan and Glenloig.  Cattle and sheep are raised.  Fishing is carried out but there are no fisheries in the parish.  A grain-mill at Shedog, a distillery at Lag, and a lint and wool-mill at Burican are the only public works in the parish.  There is neither market-town nor market in the parish.  All the disposable produce is exported to Ayrshire.  There were no roads in the parish until the beginning of the 19th century.  There is no post-office in the parish.  There are three fairs held for the sale of horses.  There are three inns at Lag, Shedog, and Lachranza.  The fuel universally used is peat.

The ruins of the Convent of St. Bride, celebrated by Sir Walter Scott in his 'Lord of the Isles' as the lonely residence of the Lady Isabella, were but recently to be seen at Lochranze and have lately been razed and removed.  In the middle of the burying ground at Clachan in Shisken is the grave of St. Molios, celebrated as the 'bare-headed servant of Jesus.'  There are ruins of Danish forts on the island as well as Druidical remains.  Alexander III wrested the island from the Danes and it continued as crown possession until the reign of James III.  The early kings of Scotland had a hunting castle at Lochranza.  King Robert Bruce sheltered on the island after his defeat at Methven and many natives of the island fought under his banner at Bannockburn, for which they were given grants of land on the island.  In 1474, much of the Island of Arran became the property of the Hamilton family through the marriage of Princess Margaret to Sir James Hamilton, and that portion still remains in their hands. 

The parish church at Kilmory was  built in 1785 and later extended.  It is six miles from the south end of the parish and twenty-four from the north.  Another church was built at Clachan or Shisken, and another at Lochranza.  Separate parochial registers were kept at each.  Those of Kilmory are the earliest, fullest, and most accuate but those for 1729 to 1762 were lost and the existing volumes are in decay.  The number of individuals belonging to the Established Church is 3978 and other religious denominations, 17. 

The population of the parish in 1791 was 2830 and in 1831 was 3771.  A decrease in population between 1821 and 1831 is due to changes in land use and leasing terms.  Cotters were displaced, hamlets were demolished, and some ejected inhabitants emigrated to North America, but by far the greater part of them removed to the towns of Ayrshire.  The population of the parish is entirely rural.  There is not one village in the parish.  The language universally spoken is Gaelic, though English is understood and is gaining ground.  There are twelve schools in the parish (four parochial, two on the General Assembly's scheme, and six private) and most all the young people can read and write, though many over age fifty cannot.  A religious revival took place in the parish in 1812 which resulted in the eradication of many of the games, profane customs and supersititions peculiar to the Highlands, and drinking and swearing dropped off except now among the young rising generation.

The above is an extract of the account written in May 1840.

Source:  The (New) Statistical Account of Buteshire, Family History Library book 941 B4sa, 2nd series, vol. 5, pt. 2.


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 Kilmory. Also available at the Family History Library.

Census Records
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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 Kilmory, 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
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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[edit | edit source]

                 Years Covered                Family History Library Film Number
Births:       1701-1854 - Kilmory       1041084 items 1-3
                 1785-1854 - Shisken      1041084 items 1-3
Marriages:1701-1854 - Kilmory       1041084 items 1-3
                 1785-1854 - Shisken       1041084 items 1-3
Deaths:      No Entries

Condition of Original Registers—[edit | edit source]

Births: There are no birth entries for May 1717–March 1762, except one for 1770, May 1768–June 1771. There is a separate register for Shisken, a hamlet and district in the parish after 1785. Also, there is a separate register of births for Lochranza after 1732.
Marriages: The marriage records prior to 1776 are on alternate columns of the register of births. At 1728 some entries are partially destroyed. No entries for December 1728–August 1762. Separate registers of marriages for Shisken and Lochranza begin from 1785.
Deaths: There are no deaths entries except one entry only for 1798.
Source: Key to the Parochial Registers of Scotland, by V. Ben Bloxham, pub. 1970. British Book 941 K23b.

Established Church—Kirk Session Records[edit | edit source]

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 1702-1723, 1762-1853
Accounts 1830–1861
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH2/214.

Nonconformist Church Records[edit | edit source]

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.

Shiskine Free Church[edit | edit source]

In response to a memorial from the Free Church residents in the district, from which it appeared that they were 15 miles distant from the Free Church of Kilmory, a new charge was sanctioned here in 1844. The church was erected, and opened in March 1847. The congregation lost some thirty families when the Bennecarrigan station was opened. It also suffered through emigration.
Membership:1848, 407; 1900, 171.
Source: Annals of the Free Church of Scotland, 1843–1900, ed. Rev. William Ewing, D.D., 2 vols. pub. 1914. Family History Library Film #918572. More details are given in the source.

The extent of records is unknown.

Kilmory Free Church[edit | edit source]

The minister of the parish and the majority of his congregation "came out" at the Disruption. The church was built in 1843 at the south end of the island. Until the church was ready the people worshiped in the open air at Lagg.
Membership: 1848, 280; 1900, 111.
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.

Lochranza, Lenimore and Pirnmill Free Church[edit | edit source]

In August 1844 there were some 800 adherents of the Free Church in the northern district of Arran; the nearest Free Church being 15 miles distant. Their church was built at Lenimore Point, about 4 miles west of Lochranza. After the first minister's death in 1847, there was a long vacancy, and much uncertainty as to the future. The vacancy was not filled until 1857. This congregation split in 1886. The western congregation became known as Lenimore and Pirnmill.
Membership: 1859, 70; 1900, 53 (Lochranza) and 44 (Lenimore and Pirnmill).
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.

The extent of records is unknown.

Civil Registration Records
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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
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Kilmory was under the probate jurisdiction of the Commissary Court of The Isles until 1823, and since then has been under the Sheriff's Court of Rothesay. 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 Kilmory and the subject of 'Probate records.' Then click on the link to the records of the Commissariat of The Isles.

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

Read more about Scotland Probate Records.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Lewis, Samuel A., A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland (1846), pp. 42-61. Adapted. Date accessed: 16 May 2014.

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