Mortlach, Banffshire, Scotland Genealogy

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Mortlach #162 

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

History[edit | edit source]

MORTLACH, a parish, in the county of Banff, 11 miles (N. E.) from Keith; containing the village of Dufftown. This place, which is of very remote antiquity, was originally the seat of a bishopric; and there is still extant a charter granted by Malcolm II. to the first bishop, in which it is called Morthelac, or Morthlac, a name supposed to be a corruption of the Gaelic Morlay, signifying "a great hollow," and minutely descriptive of the situation of its church. The church, a venerable structure, was enlarged by Malcolm II. in fulfilment of his vow on the occasion of his victory over the Danes; and in the north wall are inserted three skulls of Danes slain in that battle, which are still in a state of entire preservation. It was again enlarged in 1824, and now affords accommodation to 886 persons. At Glenrinnes is a missionary church. Near the parish church is a Roman Catholic chapel, a neat building.[1]

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 your parish of interest. 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 Mortlach as well as the library numbers for any surname indexes available:


Years Family History Library Fillm Number Surname Index             
1841 1042648
1851 1042107 941.24 X22s v. 7
1861 103810
1871 103970
1881 203441 6086520 (set of 3 Fiche)
1891 208657

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 Registers'[edit | edit source]

Record Type
Years Covered
Family History Library Film Number
No entries
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:  There are two pages of irregular entries at February 1766. At June 1803 there are several pages of baptisms of children of “Popish parents” and others previously omitted, dated from 1775.
Marriages:  No entries exist for February 1766–March 1770.
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:

 Minutes 1623–1654, 1669–1678, 1711–1731, 1766–1773, 1813–1833; no minutes kept 9 May 1647–11 May 1650
Scroll Minutes 1846–1849.
Collections 1711–1731
Distributions 1818–1825
Collections and Disbursements 1799–1818, 1825–1834.
Poors’ Fund 1711–1725.
Miscellaneous Letters and Minutes 1811–1821
List of the Duke of Gordon’s Tenants 1826
Accounts 1751–1782
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, records CH2/529.

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.

Mortlach Free Church[edit | edit source]

In 1839, a group left the Established Church. They aligned themselves with the Free Church as the Disruption in 1843.
Membership: 1848, 253; 1900, 231.
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.

Deacons’ Court Minutes 1846–1896
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, records CH3/467.

Roman Catholic Church[edit | edit source]

A chapel was located at Shenval 1728–1793, no known registers; succeeded by one at Keithock 1794–1825, no known registers; and moved to Dufftown in 1825. It was known as St. Bean 1851–1858 and was dedicated to Our Lady of the Assumption in 1858.
Membership: 1836, 170.
Source: Catholic Missions and Registers, 1700–1880, Scotland, by Michael Gandy, pub. 1993. Family History Library Brit Ref.Book 942 K24gm, vol. 6.

Baptisms 1849–1858
Marriages 1850–1861
Confirmations 1849–1855
Burials 1850–1861
Note: Available online for a fee, at,  Edinburgh, record MP/19.


Civil Registration[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 Vital Records for more information and to access the records.

Probate Records[edit | edit source]

Mortlach 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: 26 June 2014.

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