Tongue, Sutherland, Scotland Genealogy
This is a guide to the history and major genealogical records of Scotland as they pertain to the parish of Tongue. To learn more about how to use these records to search for your ancestors, go to the Scotland: Research Strategies
- 1 History
- 2 Census Records
- 3 Church Records
- 4 Civil Registration Records
- 5 Probate Records
- 6 References
TONGUE, a parish, in the county of Sutherland, 250 miles (N. by W.) from Edinburgh; containing the island of Roan, and the villages of Tongue, Skianid, and Torrisdale. This place anciently formed part of the parishes of Durness and Eddrachillis, from which it was severed in 1724, by act of the General Assembly. It derived its original name, Kintail, signifying in the Gaelic language the "Head of the Sea," from its situation at the head of an inlet from the North Sea, by which it is bounded on the north. The parish, on its separation, took its present name from a narrow neck of land projecting far into the inlet above noticed: from this neck there is a ferry to the opposite shore, and from it, in all probability, the arm of the sea, also, is called the Kyle of Tongue. The church, erected in 1680, was nearly rebuilt in 1731, and substantially repaired in 1779; it is a neat substantial structure, conveniently situated, and containing 520 sittings. A missionary station is established at Melness, in the western district of the parish; and a church containing 500 sittings, and a manse, were erected there by the late Duchess-Countess of Sutherland. The members of the Free Church have a place of worship.
This district, previous to its erection into a separate parish in 1724, and while it constituted but a portion of the original parish of Durness, was called Kintail, a term signifying the head of the sea, (Ceann an t’sail). The modern name (Tongue,) which at first was written (Turng,) is in all probability derived from a narrow neck of land jutting out transversely for a considerable distance into the Kyle near the House of Tongue, which bears a resemblance to a protruded tongue. It is bounded by the parish of Farr on the east and south-east, and the parish of Durness on the west and south-west. On the north, it is bounded by the Northern Ocean.
There is no market-town in the parish; the nearest is Thurso, in the county of Caithness, a distance of forty five miles.
This parish is the birth place, and was the residence of the most of the noble family of Reay. Some of these signalized themselves for prowess and skill in the military operations of their own times; among whom is Donald first Lord Reay, who so distinguished himself in the wars of Gustavus Adolphus. Tradition says that he had superhuman powers of the body.
The Duke of Sutherland, the only nobleman connected with the parish as proprietor, has a residence here in the House of Tongue, which he occasionally occupies for a few days in autumn, when visiting his extensive domains in the north.
The population in 1755 was 1093 persons, and by the count of 1838 it increased to 2060 persons.
Raw produce that is raised in the parish consists of grains of all kinds, potatoes, turnips, and cultivated hay.
The church is so situated as to be nearly in the middle of the parish. There are two populous districts on the either side of it, so remote, that few people can attend worship. The Skerray district to the east, which contains a population of 630, is from seven to eleven miles distant from the church. The Melness district to the west, with a population of 690, is from four to eight miles distant, separated by the arm of the sea, the crossing of which is always expensive and often impracticable. There are no Dissenters, Seceders, Episcopalians, or Roman Catholics in the parish.
There was no register kept, previous to 1775. From that period till 1797 there was a record of births, marriages regularly made up; but the person who was session-clerk at that time became deranged, which was never suspected till it was incontestably proved, by his being found one morning busily employed in the churchyard distributing papers on the grave stones, with the sanguine hope of raising an army from the dead. On examination, these papers were discovered to be the parish register, so torn as to be completely useless. From 1797 marriages and births were registered, but not in a permanent form, and many of the loose sheets have been lost through the carelessness of clerks. However, since 1816, a correct register has been regularly kept.
This account was written January 1841.
Source: New Statistical Account of Scotland for Tongue, 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 http://edina.ac.uk/stat-acc-scot/. Click on ‘Browse scanned pages’ then search the parish you are interested in. Also available at the Family History Library.
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 Tongue as well as the library numbers for any surname indexes available:
|| Family History Library Film Number
|| Surname Indexes|
|| 6086688 (1fiche)|
The 1901 census of Scotland is indexed on www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk. 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.
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:||1789-1854||0990575 Item 4|
|Marriages:||1792-1854||0990575 Item 4|
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. The records may be indexed in the
Births: Records are very irregular and incomplete from 1796–1820. There are two pages of irregular entries, 1789–1825, at the beginning of the record.
Marriages: Marriages are recorded among the births.
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:
Minutes 1777, 1781–1802, 1821–1845 (including communion rolls)
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH2/509.
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.
Tongue Free Church
The minister of Tongue adhered to the Free Church in 1843, but he was so inform that his son was at once appointed his colleague. Both died within a month in 1845. All the people in the eastern district of the parish, estimated at 1400, adhered to the Free Church except nine families. The congregation at first worshiped in a tent. A suitable site having been obtained, church and manse were erected in 1846.
Membership: 1855, 750; 1900, 75.
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.
Baptismal Register 1843–1882
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH3/449.
Melness and Eriboll Free Church
The missionary in charge of Melness adhered to the Free Church but was unable to work after the Disruption. A catechist was appointed in 1844. Churches were built at Melness and Eriboll. The Established Church at Melness, being empty, was converted into a public school. Later the proprietor gave the manse to the people. A minister was settled in 1855. A new church was built in 1900.
Membership: 1859, 340; 1900, 65.
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.
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.
Tongue was under the probate jurisdiction of the Commissary Court of Caithness until 1823, and since then has been under the Sheriff's Court of Dornoch. Probate records for 1513- 1901 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 library catalog for the 'Place-names' of Sutherland 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 Sutherland. Look in the library catalog for the 'Place-names' of Sutherland and the subjects of 'Probate Records' and 'Probate Records - Indexes.'
Read more about Scotland Probate Records.
- Lewis, Samuel A., A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland (1846), pp. 499-514. Adapted. Date accessed: 7 August 2014.
Return to Sutherland parish list.