Renfrew, Renfrewshire, Scotland Genealogy

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Renfrew (#575)

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


History[edit | edit source]

RENFREW, a parish, burgh, and market-town, in the Upper ward of the county of Renfrew, of which it is the capital, 3 miles (N. E. by N.) from Paisley, and 48 (W. by S.) from Edinburgh. This place appears to have derived its name, which is of British origin, and signifies "a point of land in the midst of the waters," from the situation of the ancient town near the conflux of the rivers Clyde and Gryfe. The parish is intersected by the Clyde, and bounded on the west and north-west by the rivers Black Cart and Gryfe. The church, which is conveniently situated, is of ancient date; it was repaired, and enlarged by the addition of an aisle, in 1726, and has been since reseated. It affords accommodation to 750 persons, but is much too small for the number of parishioners, for whose benefit an additional service is performed at eight o'clock on Sunday mornings. There is a place of worship for members of the Free Church.[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 Renfrew.  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 Renfrew as well as the library numbers for any surname indexes available:


Years FHL Film Number Surname Index          
1841 1042730 CD-ROM no. 3820
1851 1042371 CD-ROM no. 3817
1861 103904
1871 104089
1881 203587 6086652 (set if 11 fiche)
1891 220203

The 1901 and 1911 census of Scotland is indexed on  To use it, you must register and pay a small access fee. All available censuses, 1841-1911, 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]

Event Type Years Covered FHL Film Number
Births: 1673-1819 - baptisms 1041326
1819-1854 1041327
Marriages: 1673-1819 1041326
1819-1854 1041327
Deaths: 1732-1776 1041326

Condition of Original Registers[edit | edit source]

Indexed: 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 of the records may be indexed in the International Genealogical Index. 
Births: Records are blank May 1687–February 1689, April 1691–August 1694. Mothers’ names are not regularly recorded until 1689.
Marriages: Records are blank January 1678–October 1684, and, excluding one entry for 1689, April 1686–January 1691, August 1693–December 1694, December 1697–August 1713, and November 1792–July 1794. The record prior to 1794 occurs on alternate or occasional columns of the register of births. There is a separate record after November 1794. After 1693, the fact of marriage is seldom added to the entries of booking or proclamation until 1716. Marriages are often stated 1716–1750, only occasionally 1750–1792, and regularly after 1794. Besides the regular register, there is an intermixed record containing entries of irregular marriages between 1737 and 1828, and entries of sums paid by parties on occasion of their marriages, 1732–1779.
Deaths: Only occasional entries of payments for ringing the bell at funerals, embracing the names of deceased persons.
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:

                                                                      FHL Film Number
Session Minutes v. 3                  1732–1828      1041326
Church treasury accounts v. 3     1732–1779      1041326
Note: Minutes contain irregular marriages, confessions of transgression, and distributions to the poor.

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 Lists.

Renfrew Free Church
[edit | edit source]

The minister of the parish, and many of his congregation, “came out” in 1843. The church was built that year, and the manse in 1845. A new church was erected on the same site in 1882. In later years the population greatly increased.
Membership: 1848, 371; 1900, 736.
Source: Annals of the Free Church of Scotland, 1843–1900, ed. Rev. William Ewing, D.D., 2 vols. pub. 1914. Film #918572. More details may be given in the source including a list of ministers.

Baptismal Register 1843–1855
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH3/881.

Renfrew Branch, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
[edit | edit source]

See Paisley

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]

Renfrew was under the probate jurisdiction of the Commissary Court of Hamilton and Campsie until 1823, and since then has been under the Sheriff's Court of Paisley. 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 Renfrew and the subject of 'Probate records.' Then click on the link to the records of the Commissariat of Hamilton and Canpsie.

The library also has some post-1823 probate records for Renfrew.  Look in the library catalog for the 'Place-names' of Renfrew 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. 399-416. Adapted. Date accessed: 21 February 2014.

Return to the Renfrewshire parish list.