Islay Genealogy

Kilnaughton Graveyard on IslayIf you are searching for your ancestors from Islay the following information, links and resources could be of any help. Providing you have done some basic research and have knowledge of your family tree, it is possible to access a complete range of Parish, Census and Statutory Registers in Islay, Lochgilphead, Glasgow and Edinburgh to continue your investigation.

Islay Parishes & Districts: Islay was originally divided up into six parishes. They were Kildalton, Oa, Kilmeny, Portnahaven, Bowmore/Kilarrow and Kilchoman. Prior to 1855, when statutory Registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages became compulsory, parish registers were kept. These registers were maintained by the Church of Scotland and cover baptism or births, proclamation of banns or marriages and burials or deaths up to 1855. From 1855 Statutory Registers of Births, Deaths & Marriages for the Islay registration districts were maintained as follows: Kildalton & Oa, Kilmeny, Portnahaven, Bowmore and Kilchoman.

Parish Registers & Statutory Registers: As previously mentioned, Parish Registers were kept prior to 1855. Unfortunately, they do not form a seamless join with the Statutory Registers from 1855. The earliest Parish Register entry for Islay is 1770 at Bowmore: there are large gaps in all the registers, many entries are damaged and, in some cases, there are no registers at all prior to 1830s.

The Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages at the Service Point, Bowmore has no Parish Registers in her care. The only Statutory Registers held at Bowmore are: Births from 1900 to date; Deaths from 1940 to date; Marriages from 1940 to date.

The remaining Statutory Registers for Islay are, for the time being, in the custody of the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages, Dalriada House, Lochnell Street, Lochgilphead (tel: +44 (0) 1546 602177). The Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages, Lochgilphead can access the computerised indexes for all Scottish Registers of Births, Deaths and Marriages. In addition, Statutory Records of Births, Deaths and Marriages for the former Argyll & Bute District covering the period 1855 to 1994 are held on microfiche. Census records for 1841 and 1881 and Old Parish Registers from 1553 to 1854 are likewise available on microfilm. The Registrar will make a charge for a search of indexes and, if you wish to use the facilities at Dalriada House you must telephone in advance for an appointment. The Registrar does not have the staff to deal with random callers.

Bridgend Graveyard on IslayScotlandsPeople is a partnership between the General Register Office for Scotland, the National Archives of Scotland, The Court of the Lord Lyon and brightsolid (formerly Scotland Online), ScotlandsPeople is the official online source of parish register, civil registration, census and wills & testaments records for Scotland. They are holding over 50 million records, making the ScotlandsPeople database one of the worlds largest resources of genealogical information and one of the largest single information resources on the Web. The website address is

New Register House, Edinburgh EH1 3YT. tel +44 (0)131 334 0380. Indexes to the undernoted core records for the whole of Scotland are available via computer terminals and microfiche and microfilm readers: Old Parish Registers from 1553 to 1854; Registers of Neglected Entries 1801 to 1854; Registers of Births, Deaths and Marriages from 1855. Leaflet S1 available from New Register House describes the records which you can access and Leaflet S3 sets out the arrangements for viewing them.

Churchyard and Burial Ground Records: Argyll & Bute Council is responsible for maintaining records of interments in Churchyards and Burial Grounds under its care. The records for Islay are located at the Area Office, Bowmore.

The District Archivist: The Archivist, Mr N MacDonald, has now retired, but the Council retains Poor Law Records dating back to the 1840s, Valuation Rolls from the 1850s, Voter's Rolls from 1889, Education records from 1873 and various other sources of information about Islay and its people. The archive office is located at 1a Manse Brae, Lochgilphead and he can be contacted on tel +44 (0) 1546 605 522.

Jackie Davenport from the Argyll and Bute Council is the Council Archivist. She has a special Archives email address for Genealogy related questions. Your enquiries can be sent to Her phone number is +44 (0) 1546 604 774.

Elaine Scott on Islay runs "Islay Lives". She is an enthusiastic and meticulous researcher and looks forward to helping you add to your family history research. Visit her website at for more information.

Bowmore Round ChurchThe Museum of Islay Life: The Museum, which is located in the old Free Church building in Port Charlotte contains an important collection of artefacts illustrating life on Islay from the Mesolithic period to recent times. The many different items on display have been acquired by gift and loan from islanders as well as from archaeological excavations. A visit to the museum is essential to provide a backdrop to your enquiries and to set them in their historic context.

The museum library has three compilations prepared by a former curator, Mr C G Booth which are available to help you with your enquiries: Index of pre 1855 gravestone inscriptions in Islay, A list of Islay People: extracted from Minutes of Presbytery of Kintyre 1655-1833, The Stent Book of Islay 1718-1843, Kilarrow and Kilmeny Free Church Communion Book 1843-1871, Kilarrow and Kilmeny Free Church Baptismal Register 1843-1856. A second list of Islay People: extracted from the Book of Islay 1895. Rent Rolls 1686, 1733, 1741 and map, Statistics of the Parish of Kildalton, Rent Roll 1843, A Rent Roll of Islay 1817, The New Guide to Islay 1900, lists of The Founders of Port Ellen in 1821. The Trustees of the Museum very much regret that, due to a lack of suitable records and restricted staff, they are unable to assist with specific family history searches.

An excellent Islay Genealogy site which can be accessed at Much of the information on this site is provided by the members from the e-mail list currently admined by Jim Loudon. There is a huge amount of research information available such as raw data, photos, gatherings, part of maps etc. By "subscribing" to this mailing list, you will become part of a loop of people who are researching their ancestors from the Isle of Islay, Scotland, and the related lines of their study. To SUBSCRIBE, send an e-mail to: You will receive a welcome message with instructions for sending messages to the list.

Further Reading:

Islay History | Standing Stones | Finlaggan | Islay Carved Stones | The Campbells | Walter Campbell | John Francis Campbell | Islay Clearances | Leaving Islay | Islay Genealogy | Islay in 1703 | 1869 Baptist Letter | Islay Shipwrecks | Exmouth Tragedy | Troopship Tuscania | Otranto and Tuscania | Dougie MacDougall | Ferry History | Cultoon and Ballinaby | Sunderland Flying Boat Tragedy | Kilchoman Bards


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Norman Newton - Islay guide
A small book loaded with gorgeous photo's and practical Information. Lightweight and soft sided makes an ideal companion on Islay.
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