Ayr, Ayrshire, Scotland Genealogy

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Parish #578

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


In all probability, the parish derived its name from the river at whose mouth it stands. The word Ayr probably means clear because the river runs clear. By far the most celebrated character that the parish of Ayr has produced was Robert Burns, the Ayrshire poet. The population in 1791 was 4100 and in 1836 was 7475.

Source: New Statistical Account of Scotland (FHL book 941 B4sa, series 2 vol.5)

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 http://edina.ac.uk/stat-acc-scot/.  Click on ‘Browse scanned pages’ then search the parish reports for Ayr.  Also available at the Family History Library.

Census Records

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.

Click here[low quality link] for is a list of the Family History Library microfilm numbers for the census records of Ayr.  

Here are the library numbers for any known surname indexes available:

Year Surname Index
1841 CD-ROM no. 2524
1851 None
1861 None
1871 None
1881 6086514 (10 fiche)
1891 None

The 1901 census of Scotland is indexed on www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk.  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

The Established Church of Scotland was Presbyterian. Read more about church records.

Here are the pre-1855 records that exist for this parish with their Family History Library call numbers.

Established Church—Old Parochial Registers

Event Years Covered Family History Library Film Number
Births 1664-1736 1041329
1721-1819 1041330
1818-1840 1041331
1840-1854 1041332
Marriages 1687-1820 1041331
1820--1854 1041332
Death: 1766-1820 1041331
1820-1854 1041332

Condition of Original Registers—

Births: There are none January 1720–June 1721. Three pages of omitted entries are found after December 1790 (dated 1780–1791) and nine pages of the same type of entries dated 1791–1827 occur after July 1813.
Marriages: There are none February 1708–August 1714, except for one entry for October 1708 and one for October 1711.
Deaths: There are none for November 1786–January 1789, except three entries October–December 1787; also there are none for September 1806–January 1817 except one entry for 1816. There are three entries dated 1808, 1812 and 1815, respectively, after December 1818.
Source: Key to the Parochial Registers of Scotland, by V. Ben Bloxham, pub. 1970 British book 941 K23b.

Established Church—Kirk Session Records

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: 

Old Kirk Session Records

Minutes 1604–1718, 1727–1813, 1834–1894
Roll of Masters of Ships in Ayr who gave their Poors' Silver 1613–1645
Poors' Accounts 1664–1709, 1730–1749
Note:  Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH2/751.

Wallacetown Kirk Session Records

Minutes 1849–1858
Managers’ Minutes 1834–1863
Accounts 1834–1880
Seat Letting Book 1836–1847
Letter Book 1847–1856
Note:  Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH2/768.

Nonconformist Church Records

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.

In 1837 the religious affliations of the citizens of Ayr were:

Establishment 4136
Reformed Presbyterians 60
United Secessionists 264
Associate Original Seceders 288
Relief Church 1144
Scottish Episcopalians 193
Roman Catholics 203
Congregational Union 39
Methodists 140
Moravians 85
Universalists 7
Baptists 1

Click here to see a list of the known pre-1855 nonconformist churches and their records for Ayr.

Civil Registration Records

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.

Poor Law Records

Prior to 1845, the care of the poor was the joint responsibility of the kirk session and the heritors (local landowners).  Beginning in 1845, parochial boards were responsible and they collected funds from property taxes rather than church collections and contributions from heritors.  The New Poor Law system took a while to be fully accepted in all areas of the country, though in some areas civil responsibility was practiced from the 1830's.  (For further information, see the Wiki article on Scotland Poor Law.)

Parochial boards kept detailed registers of the poor receiving relief and also kept minutes of meetings and accounts of assessments and expenditures. Not all records survive equaly well, but those that do are very helpful to family history research. Minute books for Ayr survive for both before 1845 (1756-1845) and after (1845-1894).  They have been microfilmed and are available at the Family History Library.  Look for them in the library catalog

Probate Records

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

Read more about Scotland Probate Records.

Return to the Ayrshire Parish List