Wick, Caithness, Scotland Genealogy

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Scotland Gotoarrow.png Caithness-shire Gotoarrow.png Wick

Parish # 43

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


WICK, a royal burgh, the county town, and a parish, in the county of Caithness; containing Pulteney-Town adjoining and the villages of Sarclet, Staxigoe, Reiss, and Ackergill, 16 miles (S. by E.) from Canisbay, 20½ (S. E. by E.) from Thurso, and 276 (N.) from Edinburgh. This place, of which the name, in the Celtic language, signifies a village or small town on an arm of the sea, appears to have been originally inhabited by a Celtic tribe, who at a very early period fell under the power of the Picts, of whose settlement in this part of the kingdom, many ancient monuments are still remaining. The town is situated at the head of the bay of Wick in the Moray Frith, and on the north side of the river Wick. The church, erected in 1830, is a spacious structure of blue stone with dressings of freestone, in the early English style of architecture, with a spire, and contains 1981 sittings. It is conveniently situated at the western extremity of the town. There is a preaching station at Bruan, where a building has been erected which contains about 600 sittings; the station is now connected with the Free Church. A church was built by government near the bay of Keiss, in 1827; and in 1833 a quoad sacra parish was assigned to it. A church, also, of which the foundation stone was laid in 1841, has been erected at Pulteney-Town. There are places of worship for members of the Free Church, the United Secession, Reformed Presbyterians, Baptists, Independents, Original Seceders, and Wesleyans; and during the fishingseason, a Roman Catholic chapel is open for strangers, chiefly from Ireland.[1]

The word wic in Danish, Saxon, and other northern languages of Gothic origin, signifies a corner, a flexure, a bending reach in a river, a bay. Wick was formerly spelled Weik. The parish is bounded, on the south by the parish of Latheron; on the south-west, by the parish of Wattin; on the north-west, by the parish of Bower; on the north, by the parish of Canisbay; and on the east, by the Moray Firth.

Wick in the market-town of this parish. There are several villages in Wick, Broad Haven, which is a fishing station, Staxigoe is another fishing station, and the village of Sarclet, on the estate of Thrumster.

There can be no doubt that the original inhabitants of the district which now forms the parish of Wick, were of Celtic origin. This is proved by several names of places and rivulets, such as Auchairn (Auch-charn, the field of the heap of stones), Altimarlach, ( Alt-na-mariach, thief’s burn), and Drumdriy, which are significant in the Gaelic language.

The clan Gun are said to have originated the twelfth century within the parish of Wick, where they once were very powerful, and still are very numerous.

The principal land-owner is the Right Honorable Benjamin Dunbar Sutherland, Baron of Duffus, and a Baronet. The other land-owners are, William Horne, Esq. of Scouthel; Robert Innes, Esq. of Thrumster; Kenneth Macleary, Esq. of Keiss and Bilbster; John Sinclair Esq. of Barrock; Sir George Sinclair, Bart., of Ulbster; the Earl of Caithness, of Mirelandorn; William Sinclair, Esq. of Freswick; and James Smith, Esq. of Olrig. Of these, Lord Duffus and Robert Innes, Esq. are the only constantly resident land-owners. William Horne, Esq. is occasionally a resident at Stirkoke, all the rest are non-resident.

About the year 1695, there were in the parish of Wick 2000 catechisable persons. In 1792, the population was 5000, and in the census of 1831, the population was 9850.

There are in Wick and Pulteneytown four rope-works, which employ, besides the masters, 75 men, with occasional hands. The first of these commenced in 1820, and all the ropes which they produce is consumed in this port.

Standing at the west end of the burgh, the parish church is very conveniently situated for the great body of the parishioners. Excellent roads lead towards it in all directions. Allowing eighteen inches to a sitting, the church will contain 1981 sitters. It is seated, however, to contain only 1835. All the seats are said to be free, and the church is well attended.

There are some Dissenters in the parish, the United Associate Seceders congregation was established in 1770. In 1790, the congregation of Independents was established, the Anabaptists congregation was established in 1808, Separatists congregation was established in 1824, Papists congregation was established in 1832, Original Seceders congregation was established in 1835, Reformed Presbyterians congregation was established in 1836, and the Wesleyan Methodists congregation was established in 1837.

The records belonging to the Kirk-session have not been well preserved. The earlier minutes of session have been lost. Those at present extant consist of five volumes. Of these, the first, which contains 287 folio pages, commence on the 20th of July 1701, and ends on May 13th 1723; the second, which contains 85 folios, begins on May 2nd 1742, and ends on September 24th 1758; the third, containing 145 folios, begins on October 1st 1758, and ends on January 13th 1793; the fourth, which contains 139 leaves, and is a mere ragged fragment of a quarto volume, wanting both beginning and end, commences on the 29th of October 1801, and terminates on February 9th 1816; and the fifth, in which the minutes of Session are being recorded, commences on July 12th 1816. The baptismal registers, which have not been regularly kept, consist of six volumes, and commence on the 3rd of November 1701. Up until a late date the registers of matrimonial contracts, and of births and baptisms, were strangely mixed and jumbled together. The register of marriages commences on the 28th of August 1840. There are no register of deaths.

This account was written March 1841.

Source: New Statistical Account of Scotland for Wick,FHL 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 reports for Wick. 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 Wick as well as the library numbers for any surname indexes available:

FHL Film Number
Surname Indexes
1042003, 1042004
941.13/W1 X22m
6086538 ( 2 fiches )

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.

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: 1701-1757 0990558

1753-1819 0990574

1819-1854 0990559
Marriages: 1703-1756 0990558

1760-1819 0990574

1819-1854 0990559
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.  The records may be indexed in the Historical Record Collections
Baptisms: There are no entries from July 1705-January 1706 and June 1706-January 1707. There are a few pages of irregular entries at 1732. There is a duplicate for June 1753-April 1756.
Marriages: No entries exist for December 1705-November 1707, November 1711-June 1717, and January 1756-February 1760.
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:

Minutes 1701-1723, 1742-1758, 1801-1928
Accounts 1815-1843, 1845-1909
Poor Fund Minutes and Accounts 1815-1843
Communion Roll 1844-1928
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH2/821.

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.

Wick Secession, Anti-burgher Church

This congregation began about 1768. Newton, one and a half miles from Wick, was the site of the first church in 1771. In 1815, the congregation moved to Pulteneytown, a suburb of Wick.
Source: Annals and Statistics of the United Presbyterian Church, by Rev. William MacKelvie, D.D., pub. 1873. Film #477618. More details are given in the source.

Minutes 1841-1950
Managers’ Minutes 1813-1814, 1837-1949
Collections 1814-1822
Communicants Roll 1842-1843
Other post-1855 records are available.
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH3/1444.

Wick Free Church

The Wick congregation and minister left the Established Church in 1843. Soon after the Disruption, a church and manse were built, and later in 1863, a new church was built.
Membership: 1855, 1200 including adherents; 1900, 363.
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 the records is unknown.

Bruan Free Church

This congregation was a mission of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. When the minister adhered to the Free Church in 1843, the Society withdrew from the mission and the buildings became the property of the Free Church. In 1845, the charge was sanctioned and in 1847 a minister was settled.
Membership: 1855, 500 including adherents; 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 are given in the source.

Baptismal Register 1847-1946
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH3/883.

Pulteneytown Free Church

At the time of the Disruption in 1843 the people of this church joined the Free Church. Since Pulteneytown at the time was not a parish, the British Fishery Society’s grounds were given to this congregation as its district. The church was built in 1853.
Membership: 1855, 600 including adherents; 1900, 167.
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.

Minutes 1844-1854
Deacons’ Court Minutes 1844-1853
Baptismal Register 1845-1931
Communion Roll 1843-1886
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH3/888.

Wick Congregational Churches

In 1799, after the visit of James Haldane and John Aikman, a congregation was formed in Wick, and a Tabernacle built in Parliamentary Square. This was closed in 1962. In 1846, another congregation was organized and met in a chapel on Victoria Place. In 1871, this congregation joined the Evangelical Union, but closed in 1902.
Source: A History of Scottish Congregationalism, by Harry Escott, pub. 1960; FHL book 941 K2es. Source includes lists of ministers.


The extent of records for both of the above congregations is unknown. For information, write to:
The United Reformed Church, Scottish Synod Office
PO Box 189
240 Cathedral Street
Glasgow G1 2BX

Wick Catholic Church

In 1833, a congregation was organized without a parish priest. It was served from Keith, Banffshire, “in the fishing season” 1833-1837. It was vacant 1837-1839, was served from Strichen, Aberdeenshire, “in the fishing season” 1839-1842, and “then from some of the nearest missions” until Wick received its own priest.
Source: Catholic Missions and Registers, 1700-1880, Volume 6, Scotland, by Michael Gandy, pub. 1993. FHL Ref book 942 K24gm, vol. 6.

No pre-1855 records exist. See the other localities referred to in the history.

Note: Available online for a fee, at www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk,

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

Wick 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 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 Wick 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-names' 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.

Return to Caithness parish list.