Kirk Session Records on ScotlandsPeople

News from ScotlandsPeople on long-awaited kirk session records.
Around 6,000 unindexed volumes have just been released. Others are promised. They’re free to view, cost 2 credits to download.

Thousands of volumes of historical records from the collections of National Records of Scotland (NRS) are now available online for the first time.

Images of more than a million pages from the kirk session and other court records of the Church of Scotland can now be viewed and downloaded on ScotlandsPeople. These records contain details of key events in communities across the country between 1559 and 1900 and are one of the most important sources for Scottish historical research.

The kirk session – the local court of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland – comprised the minister, the elders and a session clerk. The records they created offer remarkable insights into the everyday lives of ordinary Scots, capturing important moments such as births, marriages and deaths. The church court also adjudicated on the paternity of children, awarded relief to the poor and needy and provided basic education, as well as disciplining parishioners for what could be called anti-social behaviour – drunkenness, cursing and breaking the Sabbath. The most commonly known punishment was public repentance or penance. 

The newly added records document how people dealt with exceptional historical events such as wars, epidemics, crop failures and extreme weather.

They are not simple to use. The best way in is via the Virtual Volumes portal at Read the full announcement at and take advantage of the other extensive information on these records on the site.

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