Selkirk, Selkirkshire, Scotland Genealogy

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Selkirk (#778)

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

History[edit | edit source]

SELKIRK, a burgh, market-town, and parish, partly in the district of Hawick, county of Roxburgh, and partly in the county of Selkirk, of which it is the chief town, 22 miles (S. E. by E.) from Peebles, and 38 (S. E. by S.) from Edinburgh. This place, which is of considerable antiquity, derives its name, in the Celtic tongue signifying "the Church in the forest," from the ancient state of the surrounding district, which was thickly covered with wood. The parish is bounded on the north by the river Tweed. The church, built in 1784, and thoroughly repaired in 1829, is a plain neat edifice adapted for a congregation of 800 persons; it is situated in the centre of the town, and at an inconvenient distance from some parts of the parish. There are places of worship for members of the Free Church and the United Secession.[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 Selkirk.  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 Scotland Census Records.

Click here for a list of the Family History Library microfilm numbers for the census records of Selkirk.

Below is information for any known surname indexes:


Years Surname Index            
1841 941.465/E1 X2m 1841
1851 941.465/E1 X2m 1851
1861 941.465/E1 X2m 1861
1881 6086676 ( 2 fiche)

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 Scotland Church Records.

Here are the pre-1855 records that exist for this parish.

Established Church—Old Parochial Registers[edit | edit source]

Years Covered Family Hhistory Library Film Number
Births: 1697-1768 1067927 item 3-5
1766-1854 1067928
Marriages: 1698-1720 1067927 item 3-5
1719-1854 1067928
Deaths: 1741-1854 1067928

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 be indexed in the International Genealogical Index.  
Births: Mother's names are not recorded until January 1700.
Marriages: The record prior to March 1700 is intermixed with births for the same period. Seven entries mutilated at 1719.
Deaths: Burials; first page is nearly illegible. The record 1667–1670 was kept by an incompetent person, probably the sexton.
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:

St. Mary’s[edit | edit source]

Minutes and Accounts 1700–1776, 1823–1986
Minutes of Certificates Received 1823–1835
Treasurers’ Accounts 1828–1907
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH2/1380.

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.

Selkirk Associate Congregation Burgher First United Presbyterian Church[edit | edit source]

Many inhabitants of the neighboring parishes of Yarrow and Ettrick dissented from the Revolution settlement of 1689 and withdrew from attending the Established Church. A formal accession to the Associate Presbytery took place in April 1738. The place chosen for the meeting was at Inner Huntlee on the Ettrick, parish of Yarrow, and sermon was continued there and at other places in the district until 1742, when a minister was settled in Midholm, and the Seceders in the widely surrounding district were included in his congregation. At the Breach, the Seceders in the parishes of Selkirk, Ashkirk, Ettrick, and Yarrow, adhered generally to the Associate Burgher, while those in Bowden and other parishes to the east and north adhered more extensively to the General Associate Anti-burgher Synod. The latter retained the property, which had been common to both, and the former raised an action at law to recover it from them. The action was decided in favor of the former, on the ground of their being the majority. The unacceptability of the minister in Selkirk had increased the number of Associate Seceders in that parish; and with a view to accommodate those and others to the west, it was proposed to have a place of worship there and another in Midholm for the accommodation of those towards the east and north, with one minister to supply both. They began accordingly to meet in Selkirk and Midholm alternately, and continued to do so, but without proceeding to build a church in either place until 1758, when the person under call to be their minister refused to submit to ordination unless the seat of the congregation was in one place only, and his ministerial services were confined to it. Selkirk was then preferred, and a church built there. This was superseded by another in 1805.
Source: Annals and Statistics of the United Presbyterian Church, by Rev. William MacKelvie, D.D., pub. 1873. Film #477618. More details may be given in the source.

Minutes 1751–1835
Note of Expenses of Communion 1776–1779
Minutes 1835–1842, 1844, 1 loose minute, 1847–1905
Managers' Minutes 1805–1926
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH3/1229.

Selkirk Second Church, extinct[edit | edit source]

This congregation originated with members of the congregation of Midholm, resident in the parishes of Selkirk and Yarrow, who, being desirous of having a place of worship in their own connection more conveniently situated for them than the one they were accustomed to attend, applied to the Presbytery to be formed into a separate congregation, with its seat in Selkirk, which was allowed in 1813. Before obtaining a fixed pastor, the congregation called Mr. Cranstoun, who was appointed by the Synod to Morebattle. After the minister's resignation in 1825, the greater part of the congregation connected themselves with the other United Associate congregation in Selkirk. The remainder, about 20 in number, connected themselves with the Original Seceders. One of these purchased the place of worship, and had it supplied for a time with ministers of the denomination with which he had connected himself, but the cause not meeting with success, was abandoned.
Source: Annals and Statistics of the United Presbyterian Church, by Rev. William MacKelvie, D.D., pub. 1873. Film #477618. More details may be given in the source.

Extent of records is unknown.

Selkirk West Church[edit | edit source]

This congregation was formed by a disjunction from the First congregation. When the call to Mr. John Lawson, afterwards fifth minister of the First congregation, Selkirk, was laid on the Presbytery table, 16 July 1850, there were presented at the same time a petition and remonstrance, signed by 233 members and 64 ordinary hearers, against sustaining the call, and praying the Presbytery, in the event of the call being sustained, to take steps immediately for forming them into a separate congregation. The Presbytery complied with the request of both parties, by sustaining the call presented by the one party, and relieving the other from concurring with it, by forming them into a separate congregation. Church built, 1850. Alterations made in 1871.
Source: Annals and Statistics of the United Presbyterian Church, by Rev. William MacKelvie, D.D., pub. 1873. Film #477618. More details may be given in the source.

Extent of records is unknown.

Selkirk Free Church[edit | edit source]

The congregation was organized in 1843 by John Thomson, formerly minister of Shettleston. They worshiped at first in the Odd fellows Hall; and, in summer, under a great oak tree on the Haining estate. The church was built in 1844. Mrs. Douglas of the Haining, a member of the congregation, donated the necessary timber, and Mr. Mitchell of Philipaugh carted the material without charge. The manse was erected in 1848.
Membership: 1848, 300; 1900, 348.
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.

Extent of records is unknown.

Selkirk Evangelical Churches[edit | edit source]

The church in Selkirk traces its remote origin to the labors of a small band of earnest evangelists known at Cavers Missioners. The church was formed in March 1842 of twenty-two members from Melrose Church. At that time the congregation met for worship in Chapel Street Hall. In 1858, Sir John Murray, who had become a Congregationalist, gifted to the church an Episcopal Chapel which he had built on the Philiphaugh Estate. Until 1871, the Selkirk Church had been Congregational, though its sympathies from the first were of a Morisonian character, but in that year the congregation was formally connected with the Evangelical Union. In 1878, there was among the members a difference of opinion regarding Bible instruction in school which unhappily led to a split in the membership. The seceders formed a second church in May 1878 known as Chapel Street or Thorniehall, in connection with the Evangelical Union. A new church was opened in June 1885. In 1917 Thorniehall Church, then without a pastor, successfully approached the Philiphaugh Church with a view to union under one pastor. This arrangement continued until 1930, when it was decided to use one church building. As the result of a vote, Thorniehall was chosen as the place of worship. In 1951, Philiphaugh Church was converted into a hall–cum–church by voluntary labor.
Source: A History of Scottish Congregationalism, by Harry Escott. Glasgow: Congregational Union of Scotland, 1960. Family History Library British Book 941 K2es. Source contains a list of minister.

Extent of records is unknown. For further information write to:
The United Reformed Church, Scottish Synod Office
PO Box 189
240 Cathedral Street
Glasgow, G1 2BX

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]

Selkirk was under the probate jurisdiction of the Commissary Court of Peebles until 1823, and since then has been under the Sheriff's Court of Selkirk.  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 Selkirk and the subject of 'Probate records.' Then click on the link to the records of the Commissariat of Peebles.
The library also has some post-1823 probate records for Selkirk.  Look in the library catalog for the 'Place-names' of Selkirk 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. 445-461. Adapted. Date accessed: 28 March 2014.

Return to the Selkirkshire parish list.