Caithness, Scotland Genealogy

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

Caithness County

History[edit | edit source]

Caithness is the furthest north county of mainland Scotland. It is bounded on the north by the Pentland Firth, on the east and south-east by the North Sea, and on the west and south-west by the county of Sutherland. It is about forty-three miles in length and thirty miles in breadth and comprises an area of 618 square miles or 395,520 acres.

On account of its remote situation, Caithness is connected with few historical events of importance except occasional hostilities with the Danes and Norwegians.

Caithness includes ten parishes and the two civil districts of Wick and Thurso. It contains the royal burgh of Wick, which is the county town and the seat of the sheriff court,

The population in 1851 was 36,343.[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 Caithness for 1881.  Click here for other census indexes available at the library.

Parishes[edit | edit source]

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

This database is a collection of historical parish registers from the county of Caithness in the country of Scotland. The 9,100 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 the historic parishes for the county of Caithness.  Click on the parish name to see information about records. Click on this link to see an outline map of Caithness parishes.

Parish No.
Bower 34
Canisbay 35
Dunnet 36
Halkirk 37
Latheron 38
Olrig 39
Reay 40
Thurso 41
Watten 42
Wick 43

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 Statutory Registers - Vital Records.

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

Cemeteries[edit | edit source]

A list of cemeteries in Caithness is available from

Published cemetery resources Caithness monumental inscriptions (pre-1855) / edited by A.S. Cowper & I. Ross. [Edinburgh] : Scottish Genealogy Society, 1992. Multiple volumes.

Maps[edit | edit source]

Maps and Gazetteers[edit | edit source]

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

The National Library of Scotland has an extensive collection of maps of Caithness. These maps are high resolution and may be zoomed to a particular town or village. A complete list of maps may be found on the National Library of Scotland website.

Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

Poorhouse Records[edit | edit source]

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

There were two 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.

Probate[edit | edit source]

Probate writs, deeds, commissary court records, and other matters related to probate are available on microfilm. [1]

Publications[edit | edit source]

  • Journal of the Highland Family History Society- The website of the society has an index to articles with information on obtaining copies.Topic Index
  • The Scottish Genealogist, publication of the Scottish Genealogical Society. The website offers a downloaded index to articles with information on how to obtain copies.

Societies[edit | edit source]

The Highland Archive Centre
Bught Road
Tel: +44 (0)1463 256444

Caithness Family History Society
Dwarick Park
KW14 8XD

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 7, 2016).
  2. Samuel Lewis. "Cabrach - Carnoustie," in A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland, (London, 1846), 163-185. British History Online, (accessed May 24, 2020).