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KIRK SESSION RECORDS of the Church of Scotland give a unique and colourful social commentary on our ancestors' lives, as they deal with issues of swearing, quarrelling, drunkenness, church non-attendance, breaking the sabbath, bastardy and illegitimacy, witchery and much more.
The Kirk Session, made up of the Minister and the Elders of the parish, was the local court of the Church of Scotland set up after the Reformation of 1560 and the break with the Catholic Church of Rome. Its duties were to maintain good order amongst its congregation, administer discipline and supervise the moral and religious condition of the parish.
In the cases of Illegitimacy and Irregular Marriages, the records may reveal the name of the child’s father following an exhaustive investigation by the kirk authorities as well as a subsequent baptism and marriage.
The Minute Books also recorded payments paid out to individuals and income from individuals. As the Kirk Session, together with the heritors (local landowners), ran the parish, you will also find records relating to poor relief, the local school, hospital and alms houses. Other records include proclamations of banns, communion rolls, seat rent books and the hire of the mortcloth which was used to cover the coffin prior to burial and might be the only reference to a person’s death.
The Kirk Session's influence outwith the church ceased in 1845 when parochial boards took over responsibility for matters such as poor relief, with elected parish councils introduced in 1894.
Many kirk session records have been made available in digital format at local archive centres across Scotland. For more information see the National Records of Scotland website HERE.
|Lauder Kirk in the Scottish Borders|
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