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"CAITHNESS is a county in the north east of Scotland, bounded on the north by the Pentland Firth; on the east and south east by North Sea; and on the west and south west by the county of Sutherland ... It is about 43 miles in length, and thirty miles in breadth; comprising an area of 618 square miles ... On account of its remote situation, Caithness had little intercourse with the principal parts of the country, and consequently is connected with few historical events of importance, except occasional hostilities with the Danes and Norwegians."

From "A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland", 1951

Caithness Towns and Parishes

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

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

Archives and Libraries

Highland Archive Centre, Bught Road, Inverness, IV3 5SS.

Caithness Archive Centre, Wick Library, Sinclair Terrace, Wick, Caithness KW1 5AB, Scotland.


One supplier of books (including MIs) about Scotland is Books From Scotland.

The following is a list of books  gleaned from various sources. For some books there is the location of a copy, and a short description of the book. Other biographical material can be found on this page under specific sections.

  • The Caithness Book

    Donald Omand (Ed), Pub:Highland Printers Ltd, Inverness, 1912/1972, 270pp.

    A good general book on the natural environment, history and development of the county. Held at Inverness Library, 1997.

  • The County of Caithness

    John Horne (Ed), 1907, Wick, 470pp.

    Interesting historical, botanical and geographical account of the county. Includes significant dates in Caithness' history, an ecclesiastical history and summary to current (1907) times. Good list of local terms and meanings of places names. Held at Inverness Library, 1997.

  • Civil and Traditional History of Caithness from the Tenth Century

    J. T. Calder, Wick, 1887, 370pp.

    A detailed and interesting, but rambling book on the history of Caithness. Frequent mention of individuals in the text of various levels of social standing made. Held at Inverness Library, 1997.

  • Index To J T Calder's Sketch of the Civil Traditional History of Caithness from the Tenth Century

    Sara Jayne Donaldson, Caithness, Scotland. 101pp.

    Available from Sara Jayne Donaldson Genealogical Research.

  • Index to "Civil and Traditional History of Caithness from the Tenth Century"

    Author : unkown, 40pp.

    A quite well put together index of the above book. Held at Inverness Library, 1997.

  • Caithness : 1770 to 1832

    I. Sutherland, Glasgow, Pub:Lowland Print, 1995, 110pp.

    Includes a list of registered voters in Caithness in 1835 - approx 660 people. Frequent mentions to local individuals, but alas no index. Held at Inverness Library, 1997.

  • A Bibliography of the County of Caithness

    John Mowat, Wick, 1940.

  • Bibliography of Caithness and Sutherland

    John Mowat, London (Viking Club), 1910.

  • The book of Ross: and Sutherland and Caithness

    Donald MacDonald, Dingwall, 1932.

  • Caithness in the 18th century

    John E. Donaldson, Edinburgh, 1938.

  • In the Parish of Canisbay - Lest We Forget

    A .L. Houston (Ed), Pub:Highland News Group, Inverness, 1996, 450pp.

    An eclectic collection of memories grouped by town/village with some excellent detailed information. Many wonderful photographs. No index. Held at Inverness Library, 1997.

  • The Old White House of God - Reay Church 1739-1989

    Rev. James S. Dewar, Pub:Northern Printers, Thurso, Caithness, 36pp.

    Interesting historical account, well researched with a few photos examining each of the minister's lives and the social conditions at the time. No index. Held at Inverness Library, 1989.

  • Vintage Wick - A Photographic history of the Royal Burgh of Wick and its People - 1589 Quartercentenary 1989

    Ed:Clive Robertson, Pub:North of Scotland Newspapers Ltd., Wick, Caithness, 1989, 166pp.

    Photos from 1860s onwards, grouped by topic. No index. Held at Inverness Library, 1998.

  • Wick of the North

    F. Foden, Pub:Scottish Press, Wick, 1996, 800pp.

    A very detailed historical view of Wick, but with probably little genealogical value. Small index. Held at Inverness Library, 1997.

  • The Story of Wick and Ackergill Lifeboats

    Jeff Morris, 1984, 30pp.

    Personal accounts and histories of these lifeboats, with photos No index. Held at Inverness Library, 1998.

  • The People of St. John's, Wick: a congregational history

    Gordon Johnson, published by St John's Episcopal Church, Wick, available from the author at Glenorchy, Papigoe, WICK KW1 4RD; e-mail: gordon@kinhelp.co.uk. Price: £3.00 plus post/packing(Cheques in G.B.pounds only)

    40-page A4 size book about the past members of the congregation of St. John's Scottish Episcopal Church, Wick, Caithness, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the congregation. It includes as much family information as was available to the author, so should have genealogical value. Incumbent clergymen are included, also visiting clergy and the bishops of the period.

All (?) of the monumental inscriptions (MIs) in Caithness have been collected and are in print currently from Books From Scotland amongst other places.

There is an index of sorts for these MIs at Index to Caithness Memorial Inscriptions. This composite index was produced by David Ryrie, New Zealand Society of Genealogists (NZSG), NZSG No. 4960, with authority from The Scottish Genealogy Society. There are no christian names listed, but it may help narrow the search. It was created from "Some Caithness Burial Grounds" (in thirteen parts) by A. S. Cowper and I. Ross - see Burial Grounds of Caithness and Sutherland on the Caithness Community web site.

Sara Jayne Donaldson has published an index to burials at Bower, Dunnet, Reay, Bunnahaven and Kirktown.


See our Scotland Census page  for general information about the census and indexes, which include indexes and images online (for a fee) from ScotlandsPeople for 1871, 1881, 1891, and 1901.

North Highland Archive in Caithness have published indexes to the 1861 census for Bower, Canisbay, Dunnet, Halkirk, Latheron , Wick Burgh and Pultneytown.

Census records for the years 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, and 1891 have been microfilmed and are available at LDS Family History Centres around the world. Look here for an index to the appropriate LDS microfilms.

In Scotland, research can be done at the National Records of Scotland in Edinburgh.

Church History

Steve Bulman has an excellent site featuring pictures of churches throughout the Highlands, perhaps when there are enough Caithness photos he will put together a Caithness page.

  • A History of the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Caithness

    Rev. J.B.Craven, Kirkwall, 1908, 300pp.

    Detailed extracts from kirk sessions and history of the Episcopal Church in Caithness. Good index of place names. Includes a list of some baptisms, marriages, burials, convictions of drunkedness and absences from the kirk ! Dates covered : 1650s-1750s. Held at Inverness Library, 1997.

Church Records

Details of individual parish records can be found on the parish pages.

Records of non-conformist churches are held at the National Archives of Scotland.

The Church of Scotland parish records for all of Caithness have been microfilmed and are available at LDS Family History Centres worldwide. The LDS have also made them available through computer search via a Scottish Church Records CD-ROM or by microfiche. Many of them have been extracted on the IGI (International Genealogical Index). Look here for an index to the appropriate LDS microfilms.

In Scotland, research can be done at the National Records of Scotland in Edinburgh.

Civil Registration

Civil Registration of all births, marriages and deaths began in Caithness, as in all of Scotland, in 1855. The records for 1855-1875, 1881, and 1891 have been microfilmed and are available at LDS Family History Centres worldwide. Indexes to these records are also available on LDS microfilm up to the year 1955. Look here for an index to the appropriate LDS microfilms.

Please refer to Names, Personal

Caithness Community Website has much useful local information including Caithness Castles , and a History section including Calder's History of Caithness (parts of the text).

The Scottish Citylink website with timetables.

For those more inclined to Rail-travel, Network Rail provides a very worthwhile train travel information, allowing from/to stations specifications on certain days, and the program will supply a complete itineary for the journey.

The Scottish Highland Explorer Caithness and Sutherland page is here.

An Internet Guide to Scotland is produced by Joanne Mackenzie-Winters.


Caithness GenWeb page has a message board for queries.

UK Ordnance Survey maps contain a vast wealth of information, including a villiage search facility. Available for sale in the UK as well as abroad, often through larger bookstores.

Here is an interesting set of maps (very graphic intensive) Expedia. It has a powerful zoom feature and panning across the world combined with an excellent search facility.

Military History

  • The Sword of the North - Highland Memories of the Great War

    D.MacEchern, Pub:Robert Carruthers and sons, Inverness, 1923.

  • Caithness and the War 1939-1945

    N.M.Glass, Pub:North of Scotland Newspapers, Wick, 1994, 2nd printing, 155pp.

    The first half of the book is a short descriptive and pictorial account of Caithness during World War II. The second half lists Caithness' medallists and war heros of various categories with descriptions of individual's role in the war. Held at Scottish Genealogical Society, Edinburgh, 1998.

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.

Names, Personal

  • The Surnames of Scotland: Their Origin, Meaning and History

    George F. Black, 1946.

  • The Highland Clans

    Sir Ian Moncrieff, Pub:Brian and Jenkins, Revised Ed., London, 1964.

  • The Clans of the Scottish Highlands

    R.R.McIan, Pub:Webb and Bower, Exeter, England


A collection of current Scottish newspapers exist at Online Newspapers.

Public Records

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

In Scotland, research can be done at the National Records of Scotland in Edinburgh.

The Caithness Family History Society Details of meetings and membership can be found here.

Highland Family History Society The Society is based at the Highland Archive and Registration Centre at Bught Park, Inverness.

Scottish Genealogical Society 15 Victoria Terrace, Edinburgh, EH1 2JL.


  • County Population
    (sources : The Third Statistical Account of Scotland, The County of Caithness, John Smith (Ed)
    and The Statistical Account of Scotland, 1791-1799, Sir John Sinclair (Ed), Vol XVIII)
    • 1755 - 22,215
    • 1790s- 24,802
    • 1801 - 22,609 or 23,474
    • 1811 - 23,419
    • 1821 - 29,181
    • 1831 - 31,459
    • 1841 - 36,343
    • 1851 - 38,709
    • 1861 - 41,111
    • 1871 - 39,992
    • 1881 - 38,868
    • 1891 - 37,177
    • 1901 - 33,870
    • 1911 - 32,010
    • 1921 - 28,285
    • 1931 - 25,056
    • 1951 - 22,710
    • 1961 - 27,370
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