Church Records

Churches of many denominations have been important in Shetland for centuries. The Archives has a large collection of Church of Scotland records, incorporating minutes of presbyteries, synods and kirk sessions, from 1675 until the 20th century.

They deal with the administration of the church, but also with discipline and poor relief. If your ancestor did something bad – swear, or commit adultery – there is a good chance that he or she will get a mention in the minutes of the kirk session, with details of the punishment meted out. There are also baptismal records, and lists of ‘communicants’, people who adhered to the church.

After the Napoleonic Wars Shetlanders got a taste for nonconformism. We have the extensive records of Shetland’s Methodists. There were more Methodists per head of population in Shetland than anywhere else in Scotland.

In 1843 the Free Kirk of Scotland came into existence, when ministers throughout Scotland broke away from the Established Church. The Free Kirk was less successful in Shetland than in many places, because the nonconformist churches had mopped up a lot of dissent here. However, we have records from most of the Free Kirk congregations.

There were many other denominations in Shetland, at various times. The Archives has records of the Episcopal Church as well.