Cullen, Banffshire, Scotland Genealogy

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Parish  #150

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


History[edit | edit source]

CULLEN, a burgh, seaport, and parish, in the county of Banff, 5 miles (W. by N.) from Portsoy, and 170 (N. by E.) from Edinburgh. This place, the origin of the name of which is altogether uncertain, was originally called Inverculan, being bounded on the north and west by the water of Cullen, which falls into the sea on the western side of the parish; and in ancient times it formed part of the parish of Fordyce. The church, accommodating 800 persons, is a cruciform structure of great antiquity, but still in very good condition. It is situated in the centre of the old burial-ground, nearly encompassed by the lands of Cullen House. A portion of the parish of Rathven has long been attached to Cullen quod sacra, and a church was erected in that district in 1839. A place of worship has been erected in connexion with the Free Church.[1]

Cullen was originaly called Inverculan, being bounded on the north and west by the water of Cullen, which falls into the sea at the western extremity of the parish; but it has long borne the name of Culan, Culane, or Cullen only.

The ecclesiastical parish consists of two parts, Cullen proper, or Cullen quoad civilia, and a portion of the neighbouring parish of Rathven, annexed to it quoad sacra.  The annexation from Rathven is about 3 miles in length, from east to west, and nearly 2 miles in breadth, from north to south.  Cullen Proper is bounded on the north, by the Moray Frith; on the south, by Rathven and Deskford; on the east by Fordyce; and on the west, by Rathven.

From antiquity it was well known that the piratical Danes, had continued for several centuries to desolate the coasts of Scotland, being a perpetual scourge to the country.  In Buchanan's History of Scotland it was recorded that the Danes put ashore at the mouth of the burn or water of Cullen, Thither Indulfus, who then held the sceptre of Scotland, marched at the head of his army to oppose their progress, and a bloody battle ensued between the Scotch and their Danish invaders.  The scene of the conflict was described by the above historian as "a woody valley, with many tumuli (burial mounds) having been dug up throughout this locality".  The deadliest of these battles appears to have taken place on a spot a little further west, on the moor of Rannachie, or Baads of Cullen; and the action which took place was truly horrific.  The "Battle of the Baads" took place in a thickly wooded area studded with tumuli in every direction, and these on being opened were always found to contain decayed bones, fragments of arms, etc.  During this particular battle the Danes were routed "and put to flight", the brave monarch Indulfus being killed by an arrow, while at the head of his troops pursuing the enemy, anno 960.

The noble and ancient families of Findlater and Seafild are descended from Gilchrist, a man of high rank, and a favourite of King Malcolm Canmore, whom that monarch created Earl of Angus.  He lived after the year 1120, and among the first in Scotland upon whom the title of Earl was conferred.  His son, Gilibrede, the second Earl of Angus, was a great warrior, and lived in the reigns of David I., Malcolm IV., and William the Lion.  He had six sons, of whom Gilbret, the third, was ancestor of the present family of Seafield.  According to the custom of the times he assumed his name from his lands of Ogilvie, viz. Gilbert de Ogilvie.

The area seems to have been renowned for fishing with all the different kinds of white and shell fish common to Scotland found in abundance on the coast.  About 1/3 of the whole population was directly dependent upon this industry.

The population in 1791 was 1,214 by 1841 it was 1,564.

The parish registers have been well preserved, and were in good order at the time of this record (May 1842).  With the exception of a hiatus of eight years; from 1762 to 1770, the records of the kirk-session contain an uninterrupted history of its proceedings, from 1640 down to the present time (1842).  The register of baptisms and marriages commences in 1682, and is quite complete from that date.

The main parish church was originally dedicated to St. Mary, and was of considerable antiquity.  It was founded by Robert I., and it is said that the bowels of his Queen Elizabeth were buried there.  There was an additional church, Seafield Church, erected in 1838-39 in the quoad sacra (ecclesiastical) district of the parish.

The above is an extract of the account written in May 1842)

Source: New Statistical Account of Scotland (Family Hhistory Library book 941.B4sa, series 2) Vol. 13.


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


Years Family History Library Film Number Surname Index           
1841 1042646
1851 1042105 941.24 X22s v. 4
1861 103808
1871 103968
1881 203438 6086520 (set of 3 Fiche)
1891 208653

 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: 1668-1727 0990821

1782-1854 0990822
Marriages: 1842-1877 0990821

1684-1781 0990821

1782-1854 0990822
Deaths: 1835-1852 0990822


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:  There are no entries February 1678–July 1679; otherwise they were regularly kept.
Marriages:  There are no entries April 1648–April 1664, November 1672–January 1674, July 1677–March 1684, August 1695–May 1697, and December 1761–June 1770, except two entries for 1765. There is only one entry June 1664–February 1666.
Deaths:  Burials; no entries or record exists for April 1648–1835.
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 1640–1644, 1647–1658, 1663–1673, 1673–1695, 1697–1719, 17201741,
1741–1765, 1770–1787, 1787–1832, 1832–1884

Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, records CH2/1113.

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.


Cullen Free, later Seafield United Free Church[edit | edit source]

After the Disruption, a small group met in a shed at Portknockie until they could build a church in June 1844. The charge was sanctioned the following October. A revival in 1859-1860 benefited the parish, but later emigration decreased the population.
Membership: 1848, 336; 1900, 240.
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.

Minutes 1845–1917
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, records CH3/1120.

Cullen Congregational Church
[edit | edit source]

In 1846, church members from Banff formed a church here. By 1877, it was no longer functioning.
Source: The Scottish Congregational Ministry, 1794–1993, by Rev. Dr. William D. McNaughton, pub. 1993; Family HistoryLibrary British Book 941 K2mwd

Extent of records is unknown.

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]

Cullen 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.