Renfrewshire, Scotland Genealogy Genealogy

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Renfrewshire is a county in the west of Scotland, bounded on the north and north-east by the Firth of Clyde and the river Clyde, which separate if from Dumbartonshire, on the east by the county of Lanark, on the south by Ayrshire, and on the west also by the firth, which divides it from the county of Argyll.  However, a part of the parish of Renfrew, and therefore of the county, lives on the north side of the river Clyde.  The county is about 31 miles in length and 13 miles in extreme breadth, comprising an area of 241 square miles or 154,240 acres.

After the defeat of the Picts by Kenneth II, and the union of the Scottish and Pictish kingdoms, the ancient inhabitants of the area became identified in time with the Scots.  In the reign of David I (1124-1153), Walter, son of Alan, retiring from North Wales, settled in this district.  He was appointed the steward of Scotland and took the surname of Stewart or Stuart, and was the ancestor of the Stuarts kings of Scotland.  The district of Renfrew anciently formed part of the county of Lanark, but in 1404, Robert III erected the lands of Renfrew, with the other estates of the Stuart family, into a principality which became hereditary in the eldest sons of the Scottish kings, and the barony of Renfrew was separated from the shire of Lanark and constituted an independent county.

The county contains 20 parishes with parts of others.  For civil purposes it is divided into the upper and lower wards.  The sheriff courts are held at Paisley and Greenock.  The quarter-sessions are held at Renfrew which is the shire town and the only royal burgh.  The county also contains three market towns, several populous villages, and numerous smaller villages and hamlets.

The surface of the county is varied with hills in the west and south-west.  The north-eastern and central portions, though generally even, are diversified with numerous detached hills rising from the plains.  The south-east is also hilly.  There are several beautiful valleys watered by the principal rivers.  A large portion of the best land is in grass and dairies occupy the farmers' principal attention, for the supply of the inhabitants.  The lands in tillage produce abundant crops of excellent grain of all kinds, with potatoes, turnips, and green vegetables. 

There is coal, limestone, freestone, and whinstone, all of which are extensively wrought, especially coal.  Various important manufactures are largely carried on at Paisley, Greenock, and numerous other places in the county.  There is considerable traffic at the several ports of the Clyde.  There are excellent roads and several canals and railways running through the county.

The population in 1851 was 155,072.

(Source:  Samuel Lewis' Topographical Dictionary of Scotland, 2nd ed., 1851.  Family Hisotry Library book 941 E5L.)


The Family History Library has county-wide census indexes for Renfrewshire for 1851, 1881.  

The library also has a collection of census surname indexes for different places within Renfrewshire. Click here to see a table of these other census surname indexes that are available at the library.


Courtesy of the National Library of Scotland, Post Office Directories are avilable online. The directories available for Renfrewshire are:

1829-1912: These are available in either PDF format or viewable online.


Here is a list of historic parishes for the county of Renfrew with their parish numbers.  Click on a parish name to see information about records.

Parish No. Parish No.
Abbey 559 Kilbarchan 568 
Cathcart 560 Killellan -- see Houston 565 
Eaglesham 561 Kilmalcolm 569
Eastwood 562 Lochwinnoch 570
Erskine 563 Mearns 571
Greenock 564 Neilston 572
Houston & Killellan 565 Paisley 573
Inchinnan 566 Port-Glasgow 574
Innerkip 567 Renfrew 575


Click on the map at the right to see a larger version, and click again on the larger map. Next, click on the ‘Expand’ button when it appears in the lower right-hand corner of the map.


Click here to see an outline map of the parishes of Renfrewshire.

Poorhouse Records

There are five poorhouses:

Helpful Websites

[Return to county list.]