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Gairloch Heritage Museum is a member of VisitScotland's Ancestral Welcome Scheme, offering support with genealogy and family history research for visitors.

The Gairloch Heritage Museum has a useful archive and library facility for genealogical research, but it does not employ a genealogist. There is no charge for the use of this facility, but donations are always appreciated, and visitors wishing to trace their ancestors must make a prior appointment with the Curator.


Tracing your ancestors can be a very interesting and rewarding pursuit, but many people do not appreciate how much time it can take. It is essential to be well organised for your visit with a list of objectives linked to specific names, dates or locations. To assist those with limited experience of genealogical research, our bookshop stocks: “Tracing your Scottish Ancestors – The Official Guide” by the National Archives of Scotland and “The Scottish Family Tree Detective” by Rosemary Bigwood


Employing a professional researcher may seem expensive, but their expertise may produce results more quickly, or at least start your quest in the right direction.


The Society of Genealogists leaflet 28: “Employing a Professional Researcher: A Practical Guide” provides sound advice about choosing a researcher, briefing them, and negotiating a fee.


Another source of advice is The Highland Council Genealogy Service, which is part of the Highland Archive and Registration Centre, at Bught Road, Inverness, IV3 5SS

(tel: 01463 256444, e-mail: )


The internet has revolutionised genealogical research as it involves no travelling to distant places, and is available when it is convenient to you. There are a large number of websites, some free and some by subscription, where you can exchange information with other people. (see Additional Resources – below). As a word of warning, some family trees contain a lot of wishful thinking, and need careful checking before being accepted as fact.


There is a vast amount of information stored on-line, which includes:

• Civil Registration (i.e. Births, Marriages and Deaths since 1855)

• Census Returns (every 10 years from 1841 to 1901)

• Old Parish Records (i.e. Births, Marriages and Deaths before 1855)

• Wills and Testaments

• Gravestone Inscriptions

• Maps


A list of the additional resources held in the Gairloch Heritage Museum’s archive and library facility, will be added to this webpage in the near future.


Civil Registration

In 1855, the civil registration of births, marriages and deaths became compulsory. These records are the first step back in time and can substantiate the recollections of living relatives.


The birth certificate gives the names of parents, the father’s occupation, and the child’s birth place. Early certificates also give the date and place of marriage of the parents. The 1855 certificates give additional information such as the names and ages of siblings.


The marriage certificate gives the names of both parties, their normal addresses before marriage, the names of both sets of parents with the mother’s maiden name, details of where the ceremony took place which was often in a house or hotel, and the names of witnesses who were often related.


The death certificate gives the person’s age and place of death, as well as the name of spouse if married, occupation and names of parents including the mother’s maiden name. The early certificates also give the place of internment, which may link to a memorial stone and further family details.


The death certificates are potentially very useful as a person dying in 1855 aged 85, would have been born in 1770, providing information which could pre-date the Old Parish Records.


All of these records are stored in the General Register Office for Scotland (GROS), but can be searched on-line through a website called ‘Scotland's People’, which makes them easy to access. By purchasing ‘credits’ for a small fee, it is possible to search the indexes and print out images of the birth, marriage or death certificates.


Census Returns

Once the Civil Registration certificates have shown you where someone was living, it is possible to add more detail using the National Census Returns. For family history research, the first useful census in Britain was carried out in 1841. The census was repeated at ten years intervals up until the present day, and the census returns from 1841 to 1901 are available though the ‘Scotland's People’ website. Under the 100 year rule to protect personal privacy, the 1911 census will not be released until 2011.


The 1841 census shows the names and occupations of the people living at an address, although sometimes an address is not given, just an entry number. It also states whether the person was born in the parish, or not. Age is given but, apart from children, it was rounded down to the nearest 10 or 5 (i.e. age 69 became 65). In addition it is not unusual for unmarried women to forget a few years for good measure. Married women are often recorded under their maiden name, which is useful when searching for marriages.


The 1851 census and later ones have the advantage of giving a head of household and showing the relationship of other people (e.g. son, niece, mother-in-law, boarder, servant – this being an employee such as a farm worker). The later ones also give information about the number of windows in the dwelling and whether people are bi-lingual. Some common occupations tend to be written in short-handed (e.g. hlw for a hand-loom weaver).


The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has produced searchable CD-ROMs for the 1881 census. The two CD ROMs for Scotland (Northern and Southern Scotland). The Gairloch Heritage Museum holds a copy, as does the Highland Archive and Registration Centre in Inverness.


The Gairloch Heritage Museum has microfilm copies of census returns for the parishes of Gairloch, Applecross and Lochbroom from 1841 to 1891, and for Gairloch only in 1901. The census for Gairloch has been transcribed for 1841, 1851, 1871, 1891 and 1901, set out in 'township' / 'village' list form. The 1881 census has also been transcribed, but in a slightly different format. An index of the 1851 census for Gairloch is available on microfiche.


Old Parish Records

Before 1855, each parish church was expected to keep a register of the births, marriages and deaths. These documents, called the Old Parish Records (OPRs), are kept by the General Register Office for Scotland, and are available on-line at ‘Scotland's People’, in the same way as the Civil Registration and Census Returns.


The Gairloch Heritage Museum has microfilm copies of the OPRs for Gairloch (and Poolewe), Applecross and Lochbroom, as well as for Alness, Glenshiel, Lochalsh and Lochcarron.


Gairloch (66):

births / baptisms 1781 – 1853 ,

marriages 1798 – 1854

and for Poolewe

births / baptisms 1835 – 1852 ,

marriages 1833 – 1849

Applecross (58):

births / baptisms 1797 – 1854 ,

marriages 1797 – 1854

Lochbroom (75):

births / baptisms 1798 – 1854 ,

marriages 1799 – 1854


There are no records of deaths, although the Church Session Minutes might record payments for mortcloth.


The OPR for Gairloch and Poolewe records nearly 1,000 births just for the surnames of McKenzie and MacKenzie. The task is made much easier by using the free, on-line, International Genealogical Index (IGI) which will search for possible ancestors.


However some of the entries on the IGI were added by well-meaning people, but are incorrect, and it would be prudent to verify any information against the original entry in the OPR. The OPR index, without additions, was originally produced on microfiche and is more reliable. The Gairloch Heritage Museum has a copy of the IGI microfiche for Ross and Cromarty.



Wills and Testaments

A free search of the indexes of Wills and Testaments for Wester Ross is also available at GROS, but there seem to be very few wills and testaments for this area.


Gravestones and Monument Inscriptions

The best resources for finding out if there is a local gravestone associated with your ancestors is:


This website contains monument inscriptions, as well as photographs of individual gravestones, for the Gairloch area including: Gairloch, Old; Gairloch, New; Kinlochewe (Incheril), Old; Kinlochewe (Incheril), New; Laide, Old; Laide, New; Poolewe; and Mellon Charles.


There is also extensive information on the burial grounds of Applecross, Contin, Kintail, Lochalsh, Lochbroom, Lochcarron and Urray.


The website is easy to use: Select ‘Burial Grounds’ from the left-hand side menu. Scroll down the page to the Wester Ross section, where you will find a link to each burial ground. This will give a photograph and brief description of the burial ground. Open the ‘Albums’ menu (just below the menu bar) and select a burial site to view an individual record of each stone.


Weathering has made some gravestones increasingly difficult to read. Some inscription might be more complete in “The Pre-1855 Gravestone Inscriptions for Wester Ross” by Beattie, A G & Beattie, M H (eds.) 1997.



Maps are also useful in trying to identify where people lived. The National Library of Scotland has a large number of maps on-line, some dating back to the 1600s and 1700s, including William Roy’s Military Survey 1747 – 1755. This map indicates where there are dwellings and cultivation, but should not be taken to indicate individual dwellings.


John Thomson’s Atlas of Scotland, 1832, is also a useful map with the Gairloch area in the top section, but once again it gives little in the way of detail.


The Admiralty Charts of Scotland 1795 –1904 includes Admiralty Chart 2509 “Ru Ruag to Gruinard Bay, including Loch Ewe and Gairloch” which was published in 1857. It is mainly interested in water depths, places for safe anchorage and oysters (Inverewe), but also shows the manse, school and some habitation. These would have been plotted accurately to assist with navigation. The Gairloch Heritage Museum has a copy of this map.


The most accurate, early map of the area is the 1875 Ordnance Survey map (1st edition), with a scale of six-inch to the mile. This is available on-line from the NLS as an historic layer over the Google map. When using this resource keep Gairloch in the centre of the screen and be patient while descending through the map layers.


Individual sheets can also be viewed on-line, for example:

Gairloch and Charlestown

Lonemore and Smithstown


The following areas were also surveyed at a scale of 25 inches to the mile:

North Erradale

Big Sand

Little Sand


Port Mial

Auchtercairn and Gairloch

Gairloch and Charlestown




Additional Resources held by Gairloch Heritage Museum


Rental List and Rent Books for Gairloch Estate

This material, made available by John Mackenzie of Gairloch, provides the names of all the people on Gairloch Estate who paid rent to the Laird at Conan House. They run from 1704 until the present day.


Lists of Tacks and Minutes of Sett

These documents give the conditions under which the tenants (tacksmen), held their tenancy from the 1770s until the 1820s, and mention land boundaries, methods of payments and some family relationships.


Napoleonic Wars Fencible List (1798)

A list of all the able-bodied men of Gairloch, aged between 15 and 60.


Valuation Rolls

There are valuation rolls for Gairloch from the 1870s to the 1890s.


Gairloch Estate Plan (1845)

This plan was drawn up for the Gairloch crofts, when the crofting system was introduced in 1846. It shows all buildings and field boundaries in the Estate.


Gairloch Estate Papers

There are a range of papers, giving names of people in various connections which may be helpful.




Useful Resources


Scottish section of Genuki

IGI Family Search (LDS)

General Register Office for Scotland (GROS)

National Library of Scotland (NLS)

Monument Inscriptions

Information forum (rootsweb)

Information forum (genforum)

Highland Family History Society

Glasgow & West of Scotland Family History Society

Society of Genealogists

Scottish Society of Genealogists




Using the Archive & Library

Go to main website

Gairloch Heritage Museum

Achtercairn • Gairloch • Ross-shire • IV21 2BP

Curator Dr. Karen Buchanan (Thompson)

tel 01445 712287