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Let’s Have a Little [Kirk] Session

Let’s Have a Little [Kirk] Session

April 12, 2023

One hidden gem of a record for Scottish research may be Kirk session records. These records are local Church of Scotland court records from 1560. They are an important source for Scottish history and for Scottish genealogy research. The Church of Scotland court was the lowest court and comprised the minister and elders of a parish. The records created in these sessions documented meetings, decisions, and more. Parishes also held the important responsibility of poor relief and education from the 16th to the 19th century. These responsibilities varied from parish to parish, and the records can vary in detail and format from one parish to another.

The Church of Scotland was responsible for recording births, deaths, and marriages before the introduction of civil registration in 1855. The records of this ecclesiastical registration became known as the Old Parish Registers (OPRs). Many Kirk sessions went on recording baptisms and marriages for their own administrative purposes after civil registration began. This gives the researcher another place to look for vital records.

Other items you may find in these records include “illegitimate” births, public punishments, reprimands for not observing the Sabbath, and more. If you can’t find the record you are looking for in the OPRs, you might try the Kirk sessions. Remember, some OPRs may be damaged or lost. You have another avenue to explore with the Kirk sessions records.

You can find some of these records on FamilySearch. Many can also be found on ScotlandsPeople (subscription needed), the National Records of Scotland, and various local parishes. When searching for your Scottish ancestors, don’t forget this hidden gem!

Sheri V.
Midwest Genealogy Center

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