"BUTESHIRE. The Islands of Bute, Arran, Great and Little Cumbray (or Cumbrae), Holy Isle, Pladda, and Inch-Marnoch, compose this shire, which comprises 225 square miles of land, or 143,997 acres. Though far separated from the properly denominated Western Islands, those of Bute statistically constitute a portion of the Hebrides. ... The climate of Buteshire is eminently salubrious - neither mists nor noxious fogs, so prevalent in the east of Scotland, infest it; snow rarely lies on the hills, and the only qualification to its general genial character is a liability to severe and sudden rains. ... The number of inhabited houses in the shire is 2,433; the parliamentary constituency for 1876-7 being 1,195. According to the pages presented to Government in 1871 the population of the shire was 16,996."

[From Slater's Directory of Scotland, with Topographical and Postal Information, Volume II, 1878]

"BUTESHIRE, insular county in Firth of Clyde. It comprises the islands of Bute, Arran, Big Cumbray, Little Cumbray, Holy Isle, Inchmarnock, and Pladda, and has an area of 225 square miles. Real property in 1880-81, £115,991. Pop. in 1871, 16,997; in 1881, 17,666. The only towns are Rothesay and Millport, and the only village with more than 500 inhabitants is Port Bannatyne. The county, inclusive of Rothesay burgh, sends one member to Parliament."

[From The Gazetteer of Scotland by Rev. John Wilson,

Bute Towns and Parishes

For Bute townships unconnected to parishes, see the list of Miscellaneous places mentioned in the 1868 gazetteer.

For Bute places mentioned in the 1868 gazetteer, see Where is it in Bute?

Note that some parishes in Bute are also partly in other counties.


Archives and Libraries

Information on national archives and links to lists of local archives and libraries can be found on our Scotland Archives and Libraries page.



General advice on census records and indexes can be found on our Scotland Census page.

FreeCen for Bute has an index to the 1841 census for the county, and some 1851 records, and welcomes more transcribers for this project providing free access to 19th century census indexes.


Church Records

For information on records for a particular parish, please see that parish's page (where available). General advice on parish registers throughout Scotland can be found on our Scotland Church Records page.


Civil Registration

Registration of Births, Marriages and Deaths began in Scotland on 1st January 1855. For details of these records and indexes to them, see our GRO tutorial and our Scotland Civil Registration page.


Court Records

Records of testaments, inventories etc. are held at the National Records of Scotland.



See also the entry for Buteshire in the National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland, 1868.

The transcription of the section for Bute from Groome's Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland, 1896.



Bute researchers may be interested in the Bute WorldGenWeb Page.

There is also an electronic mailing list for those with an interest in this county. To subscribe to ButeshireGenWeb-L or to its digest form ButeshireGenWeb-D, send an email message to either ButeshireGenWeb-L-request[at]rootsweb.ancestry[dot]com or ButeshireGenWeb-D-request[at]rootsweb.ancestry.com[dot] Leave the subject field blank and put "subscribe" in the body of the message omitting the quotation marks. To post to both ButeshireGenWeb-L and ButeshireGenWeb-D, messages should be sent to ButeshireGenWeb-L[at]rootsweb.ancestry.com[dot] Messages will appear in both lists.

Bute Sons and Daughters describes itself:  "Set up by Bute Enterprises, a local community based organisation,  the Sons & Daughters project aims to develop Bute's genealogy strands,  not only in terms of family histories but also our local heritage. Within these pages we have compiled some interesting articles, facts and anecdotes  gathered from various sources on the island, including members of Bute's population."

Bute Sons & Daughters
The Isle Of Bute Discovery Centre ,
Victoria Street
PA20 0AH Rothesay
Western Isles

Phone: 0141-416 3655


Military Records

  • Rolls of Honour and War Memorials (monuments) are one good resource for family historians, but need to be addressed with some caution - it should not be assumed that they are either complete or accurate. Memorials (and Rolls of Honour) were created at the local parish level after asking the local inhabitants whose names should appear. Thus:

    - Some names may have been omitted, for a variety of reasons.
    - Some names may appear on more than one memorial.
    - Some names may be misspelled, or given names transposed.
    - Some people may be listed as killed in action, but were not.
    - Some people may be listed who were not in the service at all.
    - Some people may have been confused with others of a similar name.

    - A Roll of Honour may sometimes list the names of all who served, not just those who died.
    - Some of the original records may have been incorrect, for a variety of reasons.
    - Some (more recent) research may be incorrect.


Family history societies covering Bute include:



For a social and economic record of the parishes of Buteshire, together with masses of statistical material, see Sir John Sinclair's Statistical Account of Scotland, which was compiled in the 1790s. Follow-up works to this were the New Statistical Account (also known as the Second Statistical Account) which was prepared in the 1830s and 1840s; and more recently the Third Statistical Account which has been prepared since the Second World War.

Thanks to a joint venture between the Universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh the First and Second Statistical Accounts can now be accessed on-line by selecting the following link: The Statistical Accounts of Scotland, 1791-1799 and 1845.

These records give a fascinating glimpse into our ancestors' daily lives. The local Church of Scotland ministers were asked to describe their parishes, for example, what the land was like; what crops were grown; what the predominant language spoken in the parish was; the health of the parishioners etc. Please bear in mind that some ministers had better descriptive powers than others. Nevertheless, you will learn a great deal about their lives. There are no individual names mentioned unless they were major landowners. So this is not a document to search for names.