Gamrie, Banffshire, Scotland Genealogy

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Parish #155a

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


History[edit | edit source]

GAMRIE, a parish, in the county of Banff, 6½ miles (E.) from Banff; containing the burgh of Macduff and the villages of Crovie and Gardenstown. The name of this place, in the Gaelic language, has reference to a memorable victory obtained here over the Danes, by the Thane of Buchan, about the commencement of the 11th century, in gratitude for which, and in fulfilment of his vow, he erected the ancient church in the year 1004, which date may be seen over one of its windows. The present church, erected in 1830, and situated in a central part of the parish, is a handsome structure in the later English style, and contains 1000 sittings. A chapel of ease in connexion with the Established Church was erected also.[1]

The parish of Gamrie, has been known at various times as:  Gamery, Ghaemrie, or Gemrie.  According to tradition it derived its name from a Gaelic word, Kemrie, signifying a running leap or running fight, on account of a bloody engagement with the Danes on the spot where the old church now stands.

It is bounded on the north by the Moray Frith; on the east, by the brook or burn of Nethermill, which separates it from Aberdour; on the south, the King-Edward; and on the west, by King-Edward, Alvah, and the river Doveran, which separates it from Banff.

Antiquities and Historical Events:  the greatest object of antiquity is the Old Church, being built at the time of the landing of the Danes in 1004.  The green hillocks, grotesque knolls, rugged rocks, and deep gulleys--these vales which have rested for centuries in peace, were once the scene of deadly conflict; it was this site that these valiant people held off a torrent of invading Danes.  There is a green conical mound that tops the east bank of the den (a deep hollow between the hills), which was the castle hill of Findon.  It was garrisoned with a part of the Scotch army stationed here to watch the landing of the Danes; a party of whom effected a lodgement on the opposite bank, the the place where the Old Church now stands.  The alarm was immediately given, and communicated by means of fires on the mounds, (several of which mounds yet remain on the highest eminences of this and the neighbouring parishes), which communicated the intelligence rapidly through the kingdom, and quickly brought up reinforcements.  Still the Scottish chief (the Thane of Buchan) considered the issue of an attack rather dubious, and, in order to add the enthusiasm of religion to that of patriotism amoung his followers, made a solemn vow to St. John, in presence of the whole army, to build a church to him on the spot where the invaders were encamped, on condition that the saint would lend his assistance in dislodging them.  The superstitious soldiers, thinking this too good an offer for any saint to reject, made themselves sure of St. John's co-operation, and entered with alacrity into the plans of their leader; who, being now sufficiently reinforced, sent a detachment round by the head of the den, and these, fetching a compass by the south-west, succeeded in gaining possession of the top of the hill, directly over the Danish main camp, and, by rolling down large stones upon the invaders, obliged them to abandon it,  and to make their escape by the north-east brow of the hill which overhanges the sea, where many were killed in the flight; whence the place obtained the name of Ghaemrie, or the running battle.  After being dislodged from the east, the Danes formed a new camp, (where the entrenchments are still to be seen), which still preserved their communication with the sea, and also with an extensive barren plain on the top of the hill.  Meantime the whole Scottish army, in fulfilment of their leader's vow, set to work and built the church on the spot where the Danes first settled, while both parties were waiting additional reinforcements.  The Danes having been joined by a party of their countrymen who had landed at Old Haven of Cullen, about four miles westward, made a successful attack on the Scots, and drove them back to the castle hill; and in spite to Saint John for assisting their enemies, they polluted his sanctuary by making it a stable for their horses.  The helpless Danes could neither oppose nor escape, and then rushing down upon them, sword in hand, the Scots cut them to pieces to a man.  The Bleedy pots (Bloody pits) is still the name of the place, which, being incapable of cultivation from its steepness and exposure to the north blasts, remains to this day in statu quo.

It was recorded:  "Three of the sacrilegious chiefs were discovered amongst the slain, by whose orders the church had been polluted; and I have seen their skulls, grinning horrid and hollow, in the wall where they had been fixed, inside the church, directly east of the pulpit, and where they have remained in their prison house 800 years!"

"After the church became a neglected ruin, about twelve years ago, these relics of antiquity (skulls) were pilfered bit by bit, by some of the numberous visitors to the place, (one was subsequently recovered and placed, for greater security, in the Museum of Lit. Inst. Banff, where it is still to be seen,) and nothing of them now remains but the holes in the wall in which they were imbedded."

The Market Towns of Macduff and Banff are in the immediate neighbourhood.   Macduff was constituted a royal burgh by by charter by George III, in 1783, through the influence of James Earl of Fife.  In the early part of the 1700's it was only a small fishing village, containing only a few houses, and was called Down.


The village of Gardenstown appears from a record in the baptismal register to have been built in the year 1720, and has remained nearly stationary, as to size and population, ever since.

The fishing village of Crovie is above a mile eastward of Gardenstown.  The date of its commencement is unknown, but supposed to be about the same as that of Gardenstown, and Down or Macduff.

There are 5 meal-mills in the parish, three saw-mills, one for grinding bones for manure.  The chief crops raised in the parish are oates.  Barley is raised to a considerable extent, and Scotch bear on some of the farms; wheat, pease and beans, but rarely.  Hay, potatoes, and turnips are raised in rotation with oats.  Large quantities of grain are shipped annually for London and other markets, while barley and bear are generally sold to the home brewers, and distillers.

The population in 1792 was over 3,000, by 1841 the population was over 4,742.

The parochial registers extend no farther back than 1704.  Since that time minutes of the kirk-session's transactions, and of the collections and distributions for the poor, have been regularly kept.  Registers of baptisms are also preserved since that time; but in these there are very frequent omissions, owing to the neglect of parents; and parties are very frequently subjected to inconvenience and loss afterwards in consequence of these omissions.  A register of marriages has also been kept and preserved since 1757; but no regular account is kept of deaths in the parish.

The great bulk of the population in this parish are members of the Established Church; and their attendance both at the parish church and at the chapel of Macduff is in general regular and punctual, when the weather and roads permit.

The above is an extract of the account written in March 1842.

 SourceNew Statistical Account of Scotland (FHL book 941 B4sa, series 2; Vol. 13)  Date written:  March 1842.


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  Click on ‘Browse scanned pages’ then search the parish reports for Gamrie. Also available at the Family History Library.

Census Records[edit | edit source]

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 Gamrie as well as the library numbers for any surname indexes available:


Years FHL Film Number Surname Index             
1841 1042647
1851 1042105 941.24 X22s v. 2
1861 103809
1871 103968
1881 203439 6086520 (set of 3 Fiche)
1891 208654

The 1901 census of Scotland is indexed on  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 indexes through the library.


Church Records[edit | edit source]

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 Records[edit | edit source]


Record Type Years Covered FHL Film Number
Birtrhs: 1704-1819 0990825
1820-1854 0990994
Marriages: 1786-1819 0990825
1820-1854 0990994
Deaths: 1789-1792 0990825
1822-1854 0990994

= Condition of Original Registers[edit | edit source]

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.  Some records may also be indexed in other FamilySearch collections for Scotland.
Births: Mothers’ names are not recorded in the entries before 1745. Irregular entries are very numerous for 1802–1819. There are ten pages of omitted entries for Macduff, dated 1772–1835 after the record for 1819. There is a separate register of baptisms for Down, extending from 1769–1783.
Source: Key to the Parochial Registers of Scotland, by V. Ben Bloxham, pub. 1970. British Book 941 K23b.

Established Church—Kirk Session Records[edit | edit source]

The Kirk session was the court of the parish. The session was made up of the 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:

Gamrie[edit | edit source]

Minutes and Accounts 1732–1755, 1756–1812, 1812–1845, 1847
Minutes 1855–1878, mostly discipline, 1878–1914, 1945–1960
Reports of Committees Appointed to Visit Parochial Schools 1810–1823
Scroll or Copy Minutes, discipline 1840–1841
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, records CH2/1051.

Down, later MacDuff[edit | edit source]

Minutes and Accounts 1789–1785
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, records CH2/1052.

Nonconformist Church Records[edit | edit source]

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.


Gardenstown Secession Church[edit | edit source]

This congregation began as a mission station in 1841 and built a church in 1850. 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.

Extent of the records is unknown.

Macduff Free Church[edit | edit source]

In 1843, some members of the parish adhered to the Free Church and formed a congregation. They soon built a church, and membership remained fairly constant.
Membership: 1848, 214; 1900, 398.
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.

Baptisms 1843–1855
Marriages 1844–1855
Minutes 1843–1930
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH3/1416.

Macduff Congregational Church[edit | edit source]

Beginning in 1826 a minister from Banff held evening services here. However, it was not formed into a separate congregation until 1879. The church closed in 1971.
Source: A History of Scottish Congregationalism, by Harry Escott. Glasgow: Congregational Union of Scotland, 1960. Includes list of ministers; FHL British Book 941 K2es.


Civil Registration Records[edit | edit source]

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[edit | edit source]

Gamrie was under the probate jurisdiction of the Commissary Court of Aberdeen until 1823, and since then has been under the Sheriff's Court of Banff.  Probate records for 1513- 1901 are indexed online at  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 Banff and the subject of 'Probate records.' Then click on the link to the records of the Commissariat of Aberdeen.
The library also has some post-1823 probate records for Banff. Look in the library catalog for the 'Place-names' of Banff and the subjects of 'Probate Records' and 'Probate Records - Indexes.'

Read more about Scotland Probate Records.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Lewis, Samuel A., A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland (1846), pp. 499-514. Adapted. Date accessed: 20 June 2014.

See Banff parish for more information.

Return to Banffshire Parish List