Deskford, Banffshire, Scotland Genealogy

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Parish #151

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


History[edit | edit source]

DESKFORD, a parish, in the county of Banff, 4 miles (S. by E.) from Cullen, on the road to Keith. This parish derives its name, signifying a cold place to the southward, from the comparative temperature of its climate, and its situation with respect to Cullen. The church, built before the Reformation, is in good repair, and capable of receiving a congregation of 357 persons. The members of the Free Church have a place of worship.[1]

The present name of this parish, by tradition, seems to have been the original and is supposed to have reference to its situation and climate with regard to Cullen, with which it has, the most interaction.

In about 1816, on the confines of a farm called Liechestown, there was found an artifact in the resemblance of a swine's head in brass, of the ordinary size, with a wooden tongue moveable by springs.   It also had eyes, and the resemblance in every respect was wonderfully exact.  It was found at a depth of about six feet, in a mossy, knolly piece of ground upon a bed of clay.  This antique curiosity is now in the possession of the Banff Institution (as of 1836), to which it was presented by the Honourable Colonel Grant, to whom it was given by the tenant who found it on his farm.  The place where it was found is close by the confines of another farm, called Inalterie, which is supposed to mean the place of the altar, and where there are the remains of a very old strong massive building, the nature of which cannot be ascertained.  In one part of this building, there is a deep circular hole, about the diameter of an an ordinary draw-well, enclosed by a wall of masonry, rising to a considerable height in the building.  It is thought that perhaps this hole was intended as a "dry pit" for the solitary confinement of offending individuals.  There was an attempt to explore this vault.  A stair was found leading down to it.  Whether this ruin was a baronial or ecclesiastical edifice, it is not perhaps now possible to determine; though the name Inalterie, and the artificial head already mentioned, which was probably contrived for some purpose of imposture, or "lying wonder," would rather incline us to suppose it to be the ruin of some ecclesiastical building, erected in ages long gone, when ignorance, superstition, and tyranny were so prevalent.

The length of this parish is rather more than 5 miles, and its breadth somewhat above 3 miles.  It is bounded, on the south, by Grange; on the west, by Rathven; on the north, by Cullen, or that part of Rathven annexed quoad sacra to Cullen; and on the east, by Fordyce.

The population in 1811 was 634 & in 1831 it was 828 persons.

There are parochial registers as far back as 1669: and register of births and marriages is continuous from that time to the present (1836).  There is no record of the proceedings of the kirk-session earlier than 1684.  The record continues to 1687.  There is then a blank till 1694, from which time the record seems to have been kept with tolerable accuracy till 1731, when there is another blank till 1734.  This is attributed to the carelessness of the then session-clerk, who had left only "a few confused scraps, which nobody could connect."

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

Source:  The New Statistical Account of Scotland for Banff.  Family History Library book 941 B4sa, series 2, V. 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 Deskford. 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 Deskford 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: 1660-1854 0990823
Marriages: 1659-1854 0990823
Deaths: No entries none


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 upper portion of the page after October 1663 containing eight to ten entries has been destroyed. There are no entries December 1686–January 1690. There are several imperfect pages after January 1704. Half of the page after April 1718 has been destroyed.
Marriages:  No entries exist April 1716–August 1721, November 1771–August 1773, and August 1784–February 1786. There is one entry for August 1779–June 1782 and one entry for 1807. The record is defective 1800–1802. The records of marriages from May 1732–May 1734 are lost.
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 1684–1687, 1694–1729
Scroll Minutes 1689–1701, 1731–1783 - including accounts 1764–1777, 1783–1858
Accounts 1780–1805, 1807–1855
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, records CH2/91.

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.


Deskford Free Church[edit | edit source]

The minister of the parish and most of his congregation “came out” They met first in a barn until in 1844 they moved to a church. The population of the parish steadily declined.
Membership: 1848, 135; 1900 101.
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.

Extent of the 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]

Deskford 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 Banffshire Parish list.