Fife, Scotland Genealogy
Fife is a maritime county in the east of Scotland, bounded on the north by the river Tay, on the east by the German Ocean, on the south by the Firth of Forth, and on the west by the counties of Perth, Kinross, and Clackmannan. It is about 48 miles in length and 18 in extreme breadth, comprising an area of 504 square miles or 322,560 acres. It was anciently part of the extensive district of Ross, but after the union of the kingdoms of the Scots and the Picts in about the year 971, it was granted by Kenneth II to Macduff for his services in subjugating the Picts, and he was appointed hereditary thane of the lands he had helped conquer [for this reason, the county is still referred to as the Kingdom of Fife].
The county consists of 61 parishes and four civil districts of Cupar, Kirkcaldy, St. Andrew's and Dunfermline. Sheriff's courts are held at Cupar (the county town) for the first three and at Dunfermline for the last. Besides Cupar, the county contains fourteen royal burghs, nine other populous towns, and numerous smaller towns and villages. Many of the towns are seaports. The principal port is Kirkcaldy.
The surface of the county, which is pleasingly diversified with gentle undulations and in some parts with hills of lofty elevation, is separated by ranges of hills into several beautiful and extensive vales. The soil is rich and suitable for growing oats, wheat, barley, turnips and potatoes. Cattle and sheep are raised, as well as horses and pigs. The county abounds in coal and limestone of good quality that is largely wrought. Freestone, whinstone, and ironstone are also wrought. Lead and copper are also found but not wrought to any extent. The principal manufacture is that of linen. Flax spinning is carried on to a great extent. There is also the manufacture of paper, soap, candles, and glue, and there are iron-foundaries, tanneries, potteries, brick and tiles works, numerous bleachfields, a vitriol-work, breweries, distilleries, malting establishments, and various other works. Ship-building is carried on at the several seaport towns on the south. The commerce of the county consists of exporting cattle and sheep, produce, minerals, and various other goods.
The population in 1851 was 140,140.
(Source: Samuel Lewis' Topographical Dictionary of Scotland, 2nd ed., 1851. Family Hisotry Library book 941 E5L.)
Here is a list of the historic parishes for the county of Fife. Click on the parish name to see information about records.
|Abercrombie -- See St. Monance||454|
|Dalgetty||422||St. Andrews and St. Leonards||453|
|Dunbog||423||St. Leonards -- See. St. Andrews||453|
|Dunfermline||424||St. Monance or Abercrombie||454|
A census is a count and description of the population, taken by the government, arranged by locality and by household. In 1841, the British government began taking censuses of the population of Scotland every ten years, listing all persons by name. The census records must be 100 years old before they are released to the public, so the 1841 through 1901 are currently available. Read more about Scotland Census Records.
Many census records have been indexed by surname. Some indexes cover one parish (and will be listed in the Wiki on the parish page) and some indexes are for the county as a whole. Here is a list of the known county-wide census indexes for Angus which are available at the Family History Library.
|Year||Family History Library Call Number|
|1841||book 941.33 X22s, 6 vols, also CD-ROM no. 1075|
|1851||book 941.33 X22f, arranged by parish number|
|1861||CD-ROM no. 2524|
|1881||fiche 6086574 (set of 8)|
NOTE: The 1841 census is missing for the parishes of Abdie, Auchtermuchty, Balmerino, Ceres, Collessie, Creich, Cults, Cupar, Dairsie, Dunbog, Kinghorn, Kinglassie, Kirkcaldy, and Leslie.
The library also has a collection of census surname indexes for different places within Fife. Click here to see a table listing these other census surname indexes that are available at the library.
Alternatively for census records for the various parishes, see the parish pages by clicking on the links above.
Civil Registration Records
Government or civil registration of births, marriages, and deaths (also called statutory records) began on January 1, 1855 in Scotland. Annual indexes are available for the whole country. See the article on Scotland Civil Registration for more information and to access the records.
The county of Fife was in the Sheriff's court of Cupar (SC20). The Registers of Deeds for Sheriffs' courts contains much valuable information for family history research such as marriage contracts and deeds of 'disposal and settlement' (or assignment) of property, which both give names and relationships. The Fife Family History Society has created an index to the Fife Sheriff's Court Deeds for 1715-1809 that is searchable on their website at http://www.fifefhs.org/. In the website, click on the link for 'Records & maps.'
Probate records are those which deal with the settlement of the estate of a deceased person. In Scotland, until 1868, a person could only pass movable property such as household furniture, farm equipment, livestock, money and clothes through a document known as a 'testament.' Immovable property such as land was passed to the eldest son or heir through a document known as a 'Service of Heir,' which is not a record of probate. Read more about Scotland Probate Records.
Until 1823, the majority of the parishes of Fife were under the probate jurisdiction of the Commissary Court of St. Andrews (CC20). The Commissary Court of Dunkeld (CC7) had jurisdiction over the parishes of Aberdour, Leslie, and Strathmiglo, and the Commissary Court of Stirling (CC21) had jurisdiction over the parishes of Carnock, Saline, and Torryburn. Since 1823, the whole of the county has been under the jurisdiction of the Sheriff's Court of Fife at Cupar (SC20).
Probate records for 1513-1901 (including inventories of goods) 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' of Fife and the subject of 'Probate records.' Then click on the link to the records of the Commissariat of St. Andrews.
The library also has some post-1823 probate records for Fife. Look in the library catalog for the 'Place' of Fife and the subjects of 'Probate Records' and 'Probate Records - Indexes.'
Click here to see an outline map of the parishes of Fife.
There are three workhouses:
[Return to county list.]