Banff, Banffshire, Scotland Genealogy

From FamilySearch Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Parish #147

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

History[edit | edit source]

BANFF, a sea-port, burgh, market-town, and parish, in the county of Banff, of which it is the chief town, 165 miles (N. by E.) from Edinburgh, on the road from Aberdeen to Inverness. This place, called in ancient records, Bainiffe, Boineffe, &c., appears to have derived its name from the district in which it is situated, and which obtained the appellation of Boyn from the Gaelic, signifying "a stream," in reference to the river Boyn, by which it is intersected. The church, situated on the south side of the town, is a plain structure, erected in 1790, and is capable of containing 1500 persons; the interior is chastely decorated, and has some handsome monuments of marble. A chapel in connexion with the Established Church, for a district including the more remote portion of the parish and others adjoining, and a manse, have been erected, at the upper end of the parish. There are places of worship for members of the Free Church, Episcopalians, members of the United Secession, Independents, and Wesleyans, and a Roman Catholic chapel.[1]

In some ancient writings, the name of the town is given in each of the following ways:  Bainiffe, Boineffe, Bainffe, Banife, probably drawing its origin from the word Boyn, the name of a district in which Banff is situated.  Boyn (found in older writings under all the different orthographies of Boynd, Boyne, Boynde, Boin, Bouyn, Buyne, Buyn, Boyen,) is apparently the Gaelic word Buinne, a stream; and the district appears to have received its name from a stream passing through it, now called Burn of Boyne.  On the bank of this stream, near its entrance into the sea, is the ancient castle of Boyne; and the neighbouring parish of Boyndie was formerly called Inverboynde or Inverboindy, i.e. mouth of Boyn.  Boyndie is pronounced Beendie or Beenie.

The greatest length of the parish is about 6 1/2 miles, its greatest breadth, which is nearly in the middle, about 2 miles.  The parish is bounded on the north by the sea of the Moray Frith.  The river Doveran, for a distance of about a mile and a half from its entrance into the sea, forms the eastern boundary.  On the opposite side of the river, up to a rivulet falling into it about 1/2 a mile from the sea, is the parish of Gamrie; above the rivulet is the parish of King Edward.  From the point where it ceases to join the river, the parish of Banff is bounded, to its most southerly extention, by the parish of Alva; then, for a very small distance, by Marnoch; and from that to the sea, by the parish of Boyndie, from which it is, in part at least, divided by the burn of that name.

There seems to be only two persons of any note connected with this parish.  James Sharp, the famous Archbishop of St Andrews, was born in Banff Castle in May 1613.  His father (son of David Sharp, a merchant in Aberdeen,) was Sheriff-clerk of Banffshire; his mother a daughter of the laird of Kininvie.  In the course of the religious and political disputes of his times, he was sent on a mission to Oliver Cromwell, which he executed with such apparent skill as to draw from the shrewd Protector the remark, that "this gentleman might well, according to a Scottish phrase, be denominated Sharp of that Ilk."  The succeeding events and tragical termination of his life are a matter of general history.  A letter from his son Sir William Sharp of Stonyhill, to Sir James Baird at Banff, describing the circumstances of the archbishop's murder, is found in the former Statistical Account, Vol. XX. p. 373.

James Macpherson was an illegitimate branch of the family of Invereshie in Inverness-shire.  His mother was a gypsy.  He was reared at his father's house until the death of the latter, when he was taken under his mother's charge, and acquired the habits and pursuits of the race to which she belonged.  He was remarkable not only for strength and beauty of person, but for the degree of talent which his mode of life might seem to have afforded little opportunity.  He seems to have been celebrated, during his lifetime, for his skill on the violin.  

The population in 1801 was 3,571 and by 1831 was 3,711.

The earliest date of the parochial registers in 1620.  The registers are pretty voluminous, and seem to have been kept with regularity. 

The church was built in 1790, and is capable of containing 1500 persons.  The average number of communicants is 700. 

A chapel in connecion with the Established Church had just been completed at the upper end of the parish, about half a mile from its extremity.  The expense of its erection and that of a manse (together about L. 400) has been raised by church collections and subscriptions of heritors and others.  It accommodates, without galleries, 300 persons.  The minister's living is derived from the seat rents.

There was a Roman Catholic congregation consisting of about 17 families the number of persons altogether was 84.  The number of persons attending the Episcopal chapel was about 300, of whom about 250 persons resided in the parish.  A congregation in connection with the United Associate Synod was formed in 1822, the number of families attending was about 50, comprising about 200 persons altogether, with about 100 people from other parishes.  A congregation of Wesleyan Methodists was first formed in Banff about 1775.  A branch of the Bible Society, auxilary to the Edinburgh institution, was formed in 1824.

The above is an extract of the account written in 1836. 

Source: New Statistical Account of Scotland (Family History Library book 941 B4sa, series 2; Vol. #13 Date written: August 1836

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 Banff. 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 Banff as well as the library numbers for any surname indexes available:


Years Family History Library Film Number Surname Index                 
1841    1042646 none
1851 1042104 941.24 X22s v. 1
1861 0103808 none
1871 0103967 none
1881 0203437 6086520 (set of 3 Fiche)
1891 0208652 none

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
Births: 1620-1752 0990815

1752-1820 0990816

1820-1854 0990818
Marriages: 1664-1701 0990817

1718-1819 0990818

1820-1854 0990817
Deaths: 1718-1788 0990817

1820-1854 0990818


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:  The records are incomplete before August 1628.  There is only one entry November 1645–August 1647.  There are four imperfect pages 1660–1663 and two at 1701.  Between 1718 and 1746 there are numerous blank spaces with a surname in the margin and a date but nothing more.  Down to 1789 blanks have been left on almost every page in anticipation of entries which have never been recorded.Between 1792 and 1819 several members of families are occasionally recorded together.  There are duplicates of births 1784–1788 and a separate record of affidavits relative to the dates of births omitted in the regular register, 1752–1821. Marriages:  The contracts of marriage from February 1664–November 1698 are intermixed with the session minutes, followed by five transcribed entries, 1699–1701.  No entries 1701–May 1718, when the record becomes one of contracts, proclamations, and marriages.There are 12 entries after December 1732 without any dates.  No entries exist November 1734–June 1737 except one entry for 1736.  There are two records, 1783–1788, one with more particulars than the other. Deaths:Burials; there are no entries November 1773–January 1778, February 1782–November 1783, and 1789–1820, except one entry for 1816. 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 and Accounts 1698–1700, 1849–1869
Minutes 1700–1727, 1742–1773, 1773–1784, 1799–1834, 1834–1848
Poor Fund Accounts 1773–1782, 1783–1784, 1798–1808, 1808–1838
Account Book, Discharges 1754–1773
Collections 1798–1863
Note:  Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, records CH2/1109.

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. 

Banff Relief Presbyterian Church[edit | edit source]

The church started in 1787 and closed sometime after 1808. There is no other history available.
Source:  Annals and Statistics of the United Presbyterian Church, by Rev. William MacKelvie, D.D., pub. 1873. Film #477618. More details are given in the source.


Extent of records is unknown.

Banff United Secession Church[edit | edit source]

In 1804, several residents of Banff applied for and obtained supply of sermon from the General Associate Anti-burgher Presbytery of Aberdeen, but supply was withdrawn the following year. The station was revived in 1821 and became an organized church in 1822 with about 38 members. Later, 12 members from Grange joined the congregation. A church was built in 1823.
Source:  Annals and Statistics of the United Presbyterian Church, by Rev. William MacKelvie, D.D., pub. 1873. Film #477618. More details are given in the source.

Minutes 1830–1876
Cash Book 1842–1874
Communion Rolls 1850–1914

Note:Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, records CH3/1464.

Banff Free Church[edit | edit source]

The minister and a large congregation left the Established Church in 1843 and erected a church soon after.
Membership:  1848, 450; 1900, 501.
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.

Baptisms March 1844–July 1850
Other pre-1855 records

Note:  Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH3/1303/29.

Banff Congregational Church[edit | edit source]


A church was formed in Banff in 1809 after a visit by James Haldane in 1797.Members of a Relief Church which had been dissolved purchased their old building and sought a Congregational minister.The church split in 1820 and formed the United Presbyterian Church. When the minister died in 1879, many members left to form the church at MacDuff, and in 1886 the Banff church closed.

Source:  A History of Scottish Congregationalism, by Harry Escott. Glasgow: Congregational Union of Scotland, 1960. Source includes a list of ministers; Family History Library British Book 941 K2es.

Extent of records is unknown. For information write to:

The United Reformed Church, Scottish Synod Office
PO Box 189
240 Cathedral Street
GlasgowG1 2BX Scotland

Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church[edit | edit source]

It was founded pre-1829.  The earlier records are in Portsoy, see Fordyce parish.  It was dedicated to Our Lady of Mount Carmel in 1870.
Source:  Catholic Missions and Registers, 1700–1880, Scotland, by Michael Gandy, pub. 1993.  Family History Library Brit Ref. Book 942K24gm, vol. 6.

Records— Registers of Births 1845–1918
Registers of Marriages 1846–1869
Note: Available online for a fee, at, record RH21/42.

Banff Episcopal Church[edit | edit source]


No history is available.The 1851 census reported a total of close to 500 people attending services at four churches in the county. See also Fordyce, Keith, and Rathven.


Registers of Christenings 1723–1854
Registers of Burials 1815–1854

For more information contact the minister at:

All Saints House
14 Cluny Square
Buckie AB56 1HA
Tel: 011–44–1542–832312
Fax: 011–44–1542–832299

Banff Methodist Church[edit | edit source]


This congregation was founded about 1820 and built a chapel. The 1851 census reported a total of 350 people attending services at two places of worship within the county.


Extent of records is unknown. For information write to:

Methodist Archives and Research Centre
John Rylands University Library of Manchester
150 Deansgate
Manchester M3 3EH
Tel: 0161 834 5343/6765
Fax: 0161 834 5574

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]

Banff 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: 20 June 2014.

Return to the Banff Parish list.