.jump-link{ display:none }

Saturday, 11 April 2015

A-Z Challenge: K for Kirk Sessions

A-Z of Family History Sources & Stories 
Join me on this A-Z journey to explore the fascinating records 
that can  enhance your family history research and writing.

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
Onto L for:    Letters, Leisure & Local

Copyright © 2015 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved.



  1. Must be wonderful to have records that go back so far.

  2. They sound like interesting reading. I can imagine the drama that some of those things might have caused in the community.

    Cait @ Click's Clan

  3. Thank you both for taking time to comment.


Thank you for your comment which will appear on screen after moderation.