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Help and advice for Cults

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Description of the parish in 1852

"The parish of Cults abounds in coal, lime and freestone, and it is generally well cultivated and enclosed. The parish is chiefly in the Howe of Fife, on the south bank of the Eden, having Ceres on the east, Kettle on the west, and Monimail on the north. The principal ornaments of this district are the mansion house and beautifuly disposed pleasure grounds and plantations of Crawford Priory, which lie on the west side of the road to Cupar. Wilkie, the justly celebrated painter, was a native of the parish, his father having been minister of Cults. The ancient name of the parish was Guilkes, which signifies a nook or corner, it being disjointed from the large strath which runs from east to west along the bank of the Eden. Pitlessie is a small village in the parish of Cults, 2 miles from Kettle.It is situated on the road between Kirkcaldy and Cupar, 4 miles from the latter town. The occupation of the inhabitants is of the same nature as those of Kettle [chiefly weaving]." from Slater's Directory published 1852.

Archives and Libraries

The ScotlandsPlaces website lets users search across national databases by geographical location. It includes, amongst other material,

  • catalogue entries for maps and plans held by the National Records of Scotland, Edinburgh; some maps and plans can be viewed
  • photos and details of historical buildings and archaeological sites recorded by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, Edinburgh
  • 17th and 18th century tax rolls
  • Ordnance Survey [place] Name Books
  • an opportunity to transcribe thousands of historic documents


A very good description is to be found in the relevant chapter in History of the County of Fife: From the Earliest Period to the Present Time by John M Leighton, published 1840, online at Google Books.


Cults Churchyard, Kirkton of Cults, near Pitlessie (grid ref. NO 346099, GPS: 56.276941 -3.056287 Google map):

  • The pre-1855 monumental inscriptions are listed in Fifeshire Monumental Inscriptions (pre-1855) vol. 3 The north east parishes by John Fowler Mitchell & Sheila Mitchell, published by the Scottish Genealogy Society. ISBN 0901061999
  • Some stones are recorded in Graveyard Monuments in East, North and Central Fife, John di Folco, published in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 1969-70, vol. 102, pages 205-236, which deals largely with stones dated pre-1707. It can be downloaded from ARCHway.
  • A CD with photographs of the stones and transcriptions is available from Scottish Monumental Inscriptions or from The Parish Chest.
  • The current lair registers (dating from 1885) are administered by Fife Council, Bereavement Services East, County Buildings, St Catherine Street, Cupar, KY15 4TA. Tel. 01334 659336. Fax 01334 412896.


The original 1841 census returns were lost in transit to Edinburgh.

Parish / district reference number for 1851 - 1901 censuses: 419

The 1851 return can be searched on the FreeCEN website.

The 1851 census has been indexed and published by the Tay Valley Family History Society.

The 1861 census has been indexed and can be downloaded here

Some census records on microfilm may be consulted in LDS Family Search Centres around the world.

LDS Library Film Numbers:

  1841 1851 1861 1871 1881 1891
Cults - 1042254 103826 103988 203518 208750
(Data provided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints)

Further information on the main Fife page.


You can also perform a more selective search for churches in the Cults area that are recorded in the GENUKI church database. This will also help identify other churches in nearby townships and/or parishes. You also have the option to see the location of the churches marked on a map.

Church History

In addition to the parish church, there was also a United Secession church in Pitlessie and a Free Church at Balmalcolm (in Kettle parish).

The Old Statistical Account (written in the 1790s) does not mention any dissenters from the Established Church.

The New Statistical Account (written in 1838) gives this information:

  • Established Church - 150 families, 678 persons, 348 communicants
  • United Associate Synod - 29 families, 136 persons
  • Relief Synod - 13 families, 57 persons
  • Original Burgher Synod - 2 families, 8 persons
  • Independents --3 families, 8 persons
  • 2 or 3 families not attached to any religious denomination
  • A Dissenting Chapel in Pitlessie in connection with the United Associate Synod
  • 25 years ago there was an Independent Chapel in Pitlessie, since converted into dwellings, and the congregation attaching themselves for the most part to either the Established Church or to some other Dissenting communion.

The 1865 Ecclesiastical Directory lists the parish church, the United Presbyterian Church (at Pitlessie) and the Free Church (Kettle and Cults).

Information and pictures of the churches at the Scottish Churches website.

Details of church history:

  • Cults Parish Church:

The church of Cults (Fife) belonged to the College of St Salvators, St Andrews, prior to the Reformation. A minister is first recorded in 1563. The current church was built in 1793 and enlarged in 1835. It was in the Presbytery of Cupar and Synod of Fife. In 1963 the congregation was linked to that of Kettle. In 1983 the congregations of Collessie and Ladybank, and Cults and Kettle were united under the name Howe of Fife.

  • Kettle Free church, Kettle and Cults United Free, Balmalcolm Church of Scotland:

Kettle and Cults Free Church was formed at the Disruption by adherents in the two parishes, who built a church on the border between them, about a mile from Kingskettle. It passed successively to the United Free Church and the Church of Scotland, in the latter case as Balmalcolm, which almost immediately united with Kettle East and Kettle West as Kettle in 1930. The UFC charge was in the presbytery of Cupar and the synod of Fife and Angus.

Church Records

Data provided by the  Scottish Archive Network (SCAN)

The Parish Church (Established Church, Church of Scotland):

The original Old Parish Registers (of baptisms / births, proclamations / marriages, and deaths / burials) of the Church of Scotland, which cover the years up to 1854, are held in the National Records of Scotland in Edinburgh, and they can all be consulted there at the National Records of Scotland. The baptisms / births, proclamations / marriages and deaths / burials indexes can be searched at the ScotlandsPeople website. Copies of the register entries may be purchased.

Parish reference number: 419

The Old Parish Registers (OPRs) span the following dates (although there are gaps within these ranges):

Cults OPR Births / baptisms Proclamations / marriages Deaths / burials / mortcloths
419/1 1693-1819 1693-1819 1704-1819
419/2 1820-1854 1820-1854 1820-1854
(Data supplied by the National Records of Scotland)

The Detailed List of the Old Parochial Registers of Scotland, published 1872, provides this information about the content of the OPRs, including the gaps within them:

B.  and M.  intermixed 1693 - 1748, and D.  (Mortcloth Dues) also included from Feb. 1704. United Record blank July 1709 - Sept. 1726, and no entries of M. Dec. 1708 - Jan. 1727. From Feb. 1751, the B. M. and D. (Burials) for each year are recorded by turns in the same Register, exc. that the Burials are blank Oct. 1765 - 1773. There are, however, Mortcloth Dues for this last period. From 1751 - 1764 inclusive, both Contracts and Marriages are recorded. Mothers' names inserted in entries of B. after Dec. 1696.

Copies of the registers on microfilm may be consulted in some local libraries and at LDS Family Search Centres around the world. The indexes to baptisms / births and proclamations / marriages can also be searched on the LDS Family Search website or on the IGI on microfiche in local libraries.

LDS Library Film Numbers:

1040100 Items 2 - 3 Session book (includes Baptisms, Marriage proclamations), 1693- 1709, 1726-1751; Baptisms, Marriages, 1752-1854; Burials, 1704-1709, 1726-1854; Marriage pawns, Mortcloth dues (burial records), 1752-1811.
(Data provided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints)

Deaths / burials are listed on Fife Family History Society's  Pre-1855 Fife Deaths CD.

Some of the OPR entries can be searched on the FreeREG site.

Further information on the main Fife page.

Kirk Session records are held at the Special Collections Dept. of St Andrews University Library, with digital copies at the National Records of Scotland, Edinburgh. Some Kirk Session material is to be found in the OPR records (419/1).

Heritors' Records (HR182) are at the National Records of Scotland, Edinburgh.

At the Special Collections Dept. of St Andrews University Library, with digital copies of the earlier volumes at the National Records of Scotland, Edinburgh:

  • CH2/1160
    Cults Kirk Session
    Minutes, 1926-1983; Minutes of Congregational Committee, 1900; Notebook, with occasional receipts, newspaper cutting relating to fire at manse, 1926; Minutes of committee for testimonial to Mrs Forbes, 1900; Notes of income and expenditure, 1904-1905; Communion roll, 1963-1978; Cash book, 1845-1903, 1926-1961; List of ministers of Cults from Reformation to 1936; Minutes of ladies' work party, 1937-1942; Women's Guild, 1943, 1953-1959; Former Women's Guild, 1950; Guild committee, 1953-1958.

At the National Records of Scotland, Edinburgh:

  • CH2/1160
    Cults Kirk Session (Fife)
    Proclamation register, 1926-1977.
  • CH3/1066
    Kettle Free church, Kettle and Cults United Free, Balmalcolm Church of Scotland
    Minutes, 1843-1930; Deacons' court: minutes, 1879-1930, accounts, 1858-1930; Collections, 1908-1930; Communion roll, 1893-1930; Cash book, 1914-1930.

Included in the Old Parochial Registers on microfilm and at the National Records of Scotland, Edinburgh but not online:

  • 419/1
    Cults Kirk Session
    Minutes and Accounts 1726-1751

At the National Records of Scotland, Edinburgh:

  • HR/182
    Cults parish heritors' records
    Minutes, 1845- 1887; Cash book, 1845-1928; Papers relating to buildings, 1903-1916; Correspondence, 1905-1918.

Other Churches:

Records for other churches are held at the Special Collections Dept. of St Andrews University Library.

At the National Records of Scotland, Edinburgh:

  • CH3/1066
    Kettle Free church, Kettle and Cults United Free, Balmalcolm Church of Scotland
    Minutes, 1843-1930; Deacons' court: minutes, 1879-1930, accounts, 1858-1930; Collections, 1908-1930; Communion roll, 1893-1930; Cash book, 1914-1930.

The Cults page of the LDS Family Search Research Wiki has more information about church history and records.

Civil Registration

Registration of Births, Marriages and Deaths began in Scotland on 1st January 1855. Full information on the main Fife page.

Registration districts covering this parish:

Registration district number start date end date
Cults 419 1855 1967
Cupar 420 1968 1971
Cupar 417 1972 2002
Fife 417 2003  

Registration districts did not necessarily coincide exactly with parishes. In the 20th century especially, there were frequent changes in registration districts.

Description and Travel

Cults church Ordnance Survey Grid Reference GPS Post code Lat. 56°16'36"N
NO 347098 56.276160
KY15 5RD Lon. 3°3'23"W

Surrounding parishes: Collessie, Monimail, Cupar, Ceres, Kettle.

You can see pictures of Cults which are provided by:


The parish entry in Pigot's National Commercial Directory for the whole of Scotland, 1837, is online at Google Books.

Westwood's Parochial Directory for the Counties of Fife and Kinross for 1862 and 1866 are online at Google Books. On the Records pages of the Fife Family History Society website there is a transcription of the 1862 edition.


There is a list of places in Cults parish, with links to online historical and modern maps.

Several old gazetteers are available. They all contain descriptions of the parish and many are also worth searching for entries of places within the parish.

  • David Webster's Topographical Dictionary of Scotland, published 1819, online at Google Books.
  • Fullarton's Topographical, Statistical and Historical Gazetteer of Scotland, published 1842, online at Google Books.
  • Samuel Lewis's Topographical Dictionary of Scotland, published 1846, online at British History Online.
  • Barbieri's Descriptive and Historical Gazetteer of the Counties of Fife, Kinross and Clackmannan, published 1857, is at Google Books.
  • Frances Groome's Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland (1882-4) and John Bartholomew's Gazetteer of the British Isles (1887), are on A Vision of Britain (click on "Historical places and writing").
  • Frances Groome's Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland(1892-6) on Electric Scotland

Historical Geography

On 15th May 1891, the following subjects were transferred from the parish of Cults to the parish of Collessie: Annesmuir (part); Sunnybraes; Edensmuir Commonty; Sweethome.

A Vision of Britain provides historical descriptions, population & housing statistics, historic boundaries and maps.

You can see the administrative areas in which Cults has been placed at times in the past. Select one to see a link to a map of that particular area.

Land and Property

Details of historic buildings and archaeological sites in this parish held by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, Edinburgh, are catalogued at ScotlandsPlaces. In the results, click RCAHMS. Unfortunately, not all entries have digital images.


Historic maps:

Present-day maps:

You can see maps centred on OS grid reference NO347098 (Lat/Lon: 56.276211, -3.056141), Cults which are provided by:


Andrew Campbell has produced Fife Deaths from Newspapers 1822-1854 - a compilation of deaths recorded in local newspapers. Copies of this index are held by the Fife libraries and the Family History Societies.

Fife Deaths Abroad 1855-1900 - a compilation of overseas deaths recorded in Fife newspapers - has been produced by Andrew Campbell of Fife Family History Society. The Society have re-published it in their Publications Series, 26.

Poor Houses, Poor Law etc.

The relief of paupers after 1845 was carried out by the Parochial Board and later by the Parish Council. Their records are at the Fife Council Archive Centre. See Public Records below.


Year Population  
1755 449  
1801 699  
1851 915  
1901 628  * boundary changed
1951 536  

There is a page with census statistics from 1755 to 1961 here.

See also A Vision of Britain and Histpop for population statistics.

Probate Records

Probate records are 'Confirmations' in Scotland.

Prior to 1824, wills, testaments & inventories of residents of Cults may be found in either the St Andrews Commissariot (CC20) or the Edinburgh Commissariot (CC8) records. From 1824, commissary business has been conducted by the Sheriff Court of Fife at Cupar (SC20).

Indexes and finding aids are given on the main Fife page.

Local sources worth searching for deeds include St Andrews Commissary Court and Cupar Sheriff Court.

Public Records

Parochial Boards and their successors, Parish Councils, administered many local functions including poor relief.

At the Fife Council Archive Centre, Kirkcaldy:

  • FCC/6/20
    Cults Parish Council
    Minute books, 1845-1930.


School Board records and school logbooks are held at the Fife Council Archive Centre. Cults records:

At the Fife Council Archive Centre, Kirkcaldy:

  • Cults School Board
    Minute books, 1904-1919.
  • Cults Public School / Pitlessie Primary School
    Log books, 1873-2001; Admissions Registers, 1875-2001.

Entries less than 50 years old may contain sensitive personal information and are not on open access. If you are a former pupil you are entitled to see your own entry. Please contact the Archivist for further details.

Education statistics for Fife schools in 1891-2 list the following board schools in the parish:

School Board School Accommodation for scholars Average attendance
Cults Cults 150 107


"Statistical accounts" giving fascinating insights into the local topography and history, social and economic conditions, and even the daily lives of people, were written by the parish ministers in the 1790s and the 1840s. For more information see the main Fife pages


The hearth tax, clock & watch tax, male servants tax, female servants tax, and farm horse tax are all on ScotlandsPlaces.

See also the Early Taxation Records page.