Stornoway, Ross and Cromarty, Scotland

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Parish # 88  Insular

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

History[edit | edit source]

STORNOWAY, a burgh of barony, sea-port, and parish, in the Island of Lewis, county of Ross and Cromarty, 120 miles (N. W. by W.) from Dingwall; containing the late quoad sacra parish of Knock or Uii. This place, originally called Uii from the situation of its ancient church on an isthmus, derives its present name from the position of the town at the northern extremity of the bay of Stornoway, on a point of land projecting into the harbour. The parish is bounded on the east and on the south by the channel of the Minch, separating it from the main land. The church, erected in 1794, and repaired in 1831, is a handsome structure containing 568 sittings. A chapel in connexion with the Established Church was built at Back, in the district of Gress, by the late Lord Seaforth. The late quoad sacra parish of Knock is separately described. A small episcopal chapel has been recently built, and the members of the Free Church have places of worship.[1]

The ancient name of the parish is said to have been Uy, which in the Danish language signifies an isthmus or neck of land. The parish of Stornoway is situated in the island of Lewis, and derives its name from the point of land on which the town of Stornoway is situated. Stron, in the language of the country signifies a nose, Stron-a bhaigh, the nose of the bay. From time of memory, the parish consisted of three districts, Stornoway, Gress, and Ui. It is bounded by the parish of Barvas and the district of Ness, on the north; and the mainland called the Minch; and by the parishes of Lochs, and Uig, on the south and west.

Stonoway is the only market town in the parish, and is the chief town in the Northern Hebrides. The nearest market town from Stonoway, is Dingwall, which is 120 miles away.

Two eminent characters were born in this parish, Sir Alexander M’Kenzie of Avoch, celebrated for his travels and discoveries on the continent of North America; and Colonel Colin M’Kenzie of the East India Company’s service, distinguished for his writings, and research into the antiquities of India.

The only landowner in the parish is James A. Stewart M’Kenzie, Esq. of Seaforth, M.P.; he married the oldest daughter of the Late Lord Seaforth, and has a large family.

The population in 1750 was 1836, and by 1831, it is numbered as 5491.

The crops that are produced in the parish are, barley, oats, potatoes, turnips, meadow hay. Fishing is the principle employment of the male population, and every farm and hamlet have their own boats. The season is divided between fishing, farming, and kelping; and most families have a share of a boat and a lot of land.

The parish church is situated in Kirkhill, in the town of Stronoway. It is only convenient for the population in and near the town. From the farm Tolsta, which contains 250 population, the church is twelve miles distant; and six miles of a pathless moor that is very rugged. There is only accommodation or legal seat room for 800 persons, though two thirds of the people between Tolsta and Stornoway number 2000. There can be no free sittings in a church, from which more than 2000 persons are excluded for want of room. There are no chapels of ease here. There is one Government church, built in the district of Ui, four miles from the parish church, at the extremity of the district, and is in the most inconvenient situation, for 800 out of a population of 1308. There is one catechist, employed by the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge.

The earliest entry in the parochial register is dated 1780; the second was discontinued in 1791. Since 1825, the registers have been regularly kept, and weekly entries are made by the session clerk.

This account was written in 1833.

Source: New Statistical Account of Scotland for Stornoway, FHL book 941 B4sa, series 2, vol. 14.

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 you are interested in. 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 Stornoway as well as the library numbers for any surname indexes available:

FHL Film Number
Surname Indexes
6037266 (6 fiche)
6086658 (4 fich)

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 the separate indexes through the library.

Church Records
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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 FHL Film Number
Birth: 1762-1854, 1820-1854 index 0990662 item 3
Marriage: 1762-1854 0990662 item 3
Death: No entries none

Condition of Original Registers:

  • 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: Births are intermixed with marriages prior to 1794, they are few in number. No entries 1794–1804 from which date a separate record of births is kept for twelve different districts.
  • Marriages: Marriages are intermixed with births prior to 1794 and are few in number. There are regular marriage entries from 1793 and no entries October 1800 – February 1804.

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:

The extent of records is unknown.

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.

Stornoway Free Church[edit | edit source]

In response to a request from the adherents of the Free Church a session was organized and the charge sanctioned in 1844. A church was soon erected. It was burned down in 1850 and rebuilt with improvements. After enlargement and extensive repairs it was reopened in June 1894. The manse was built in 1850. In 1858 a few families seceded and formed the United Presbyterian congregation. In 1875 about 300 members withdrew to form the English congregation. In 1892 some hundreds seceded to the Free Presbyterians and in 1900 a section declined to enter the Union. Withal the congregation still remained over 1300 strong.
Membership: 1855, 650; 1900, 1450.
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 ministers.

The extent of records is unknown.

Knock Free Church[edit | edit source]

The minister and congregation of this Parliamentary Church in the parish of Stornoway "came out" at the Disruption. The church and manse were built in 1845. A new and larger church was built in 1882. About two–thirds of the congregation did not enter the Union in 1900.
Membership: 1855, 800; 1900, 1700.
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 ministers.

The extent of records is unknown.

Civil Registration Records
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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
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Stornoway was under the probate jurisdiction of the Commissary Court of Ross until 1823, and since then has been under the Sheriff Court of Ross & Cromarty. 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 Ross & Cromarty and the subject of 'Probate records.' Then click on the link to the records of the Commissariat of Ross.

The library also has some post-1823 probate records for Ross & Cromarty. Look in the library catalog  for the 'Place-names' of Ross & Cromarty 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: 1 August 2014.

Return to Ross & Cromarty parish list.