Renfrewshire, Scotland Genealogy

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Guide to Renfrewshire County ancestry, family history and genealogy: birth records, marriage records, death records, census records, parish registers, and military records.

Renfrewshire County

History[edit | edit source]

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 it 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 population in 1851 was 155,072.[1][2]

ScotlandsPeople: An Important Online Source[edit | edit source]

ScotlandsPeople is one of the largest online sources of original genealogical information. If you are researching UK genealogy, your Scottish ancestry or building your Scottish family tree, they have more than 100 million records to look through.

The comprehensive choice of Scottish records includes:

  • Statutory Registers
  • Old Parish Registers
  • Catholic Parish Registers
  • CPR Others
  • Census
  • Valuation Rolls
  • Soldiers’ Wills
  • Wills & Testaments
  • Coats of Arms

For more detail on record availability, see Guides. For the content guide to what records are on the site, see Guides A-Z. More information on the site, its contents, and instructions for using it can be found in the ScotlandsPeople Wiki article. Indexes may be searched for free, and there is a pay per view fee to see the digitized record.

Census[edit | edit source]

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. The Family History Library has county-wide census placename indexes for Renfrewshire for 1881.  Click here for other census indexes available at the library.

Church Records[edit | edit source]

Civil Registration or Statutory Registers[edit | edit source]

For details on information found in statutory registers and other methods of searching them, see Scotland Civil Registration.

Refer to the ScotlandsPeople Wiki article.
Images and Indexes Available at ScotlandsPeople Website ($)
Births 1855-1910 ◊ScotlandsPeople Website has indexes to 2012.
Marriages 1855-1935
Deaths 1855-1960

Parishes[edit | edit source]

Some of the Renfrewkshire parish records are indexed in Renfrewshire, Scotland, Extracted Parish Records.

This database is a collection of historical parish registers from the county of Lanark in the country of Scotland. The records in this collection can range in date from the early 1500s to the mid- to late-1800s. The records include baptisms/christenings, burials, marriages, tombstone inscriptions, obituaries, tax lists, wills, and other miscellaneous types of records. Also included are some records from non-conformist churches. You will find interesting phonetic spelling. Some of the records may be in Latin or even a Welsh or Scottish dialect. Due to the nature of the records and because the records were originally compiled by a third party, it is difficult to absolutely verify the completeness and validity of the data.

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. Click on this link for an outline map of the parishes of Renfrewshire.

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

Directories[edit | edit source]

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.

Cemeteries[edit | edit source]

Renfrewshire Monumental Inscriptions: pre-1855

Maps[edit | edit source]

Poorhouse Records[edit | edit source]

NOTE: Workhouses in Scotland were commonly known as poorhouses. For more information on Scottish poorhouses, go to the Scotland Poor Law page.

There were five workhouses in this county:

A description with drawings and photos of the workhouses today along with databases of those living there from the 1881 Census are provided on the links above located on the site entitled The Workhouse: The story of an institution... which is owned and operated by Peter Higginbotham.

Societies[edit | edit source]


Renfrewshire Family History Society
c/o 51 Mathie Crescent
PA19 1YU

Scottish Genealogy Society
15 Victoria Terrace
Phone-0131 220 3677

Websites[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Samuel Lewis. Topographical Dictionary of Scotland, (London, England: S. Lewis and Co., 1846), 3 v.: 651, [FHL book 941 E5]. Digitized by FamilySearch International,, (accessed June 20, 2016).
  2. Samuel Lewis. "Rabbit Isle - Renfrewshire," in A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland, (London, 1846), 399-416. British History Online, (accessed June 5, 2020).