Anstruther Wester

Description of the parish in 1852

Map showing the location of the parish

"Anstruther Wester which adjoins Anstruther Easter, is also a royal burgh, and holds its charter of incorporation from James VI in 1587; a handsome bridge connects the two burghs. The inhabitants are principally employed in agricultural pursuits. Great improvements have been effected in this town within the last 30 years: among these must be noticed the widening of the main street from 13 to 30 feet, its being macadamized, and the formation of a neat footway or pavement at an expense of £450, contributed equally by the burgh & the county; the place is now supplied with water, the streets well lighted, common sewers and other conveniences constructed, whereby the public thoroughfares and lanes are kept in a clean and orderly state; a new manse and offices for the clergyman; and a handsome school & dwelling house for the schoolmaster, have also been erected. Fairs are held on the first Tuesday after the 11th April, July 5th, and November 12th." from Slater's Directory published 1852.

Towns and Villages

Anstruther Wester parish consists of the Burgh of Anstruther Wester (that part of Anstruther west of the Dreel Burn) together with the landward area to the north-west of the burgh. Anstruther Easter parish comprises the Burgh of Anstruther Easter (that part of Anstruther east of the Dreel Burn). For administrative purposes, the Isle of May is included in Anstruther Wester parish.

Places in Anstruther Wester parish, with links to online historical and modern maps.

Please read the main Fife pages if you have not already done so.

Archives and Libraries

A separate Records Page page gives details of the records for this parish held by Scottish archives.

The Murray Library, Anstruther holds copies of the East Fife Observer newspaper from 1914-1967.

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


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.

Old Anstruther (Stenlake Publishing) contains many photographs and full descriptions.


There are 2 cemeteries in Anstruther Wester parish, and 1 gravestone on the Isle of May:

1. Anstruther Wester Churchyard, High Street, Anstruther (grid ref. NO 565035, GPS: 56.222399 -2.704249 Google map):

2. Anstruther Cemetery, St Andrews Road, Anstruther (grid ref. NO 564038, GPS: 56.224766 -2.706121 Google map):

3. On the Isle of May (grid ref. NT 655995, GPS: 56.18472 -2.555739 Google map):

The pre-1855 monumental inscriptions are listed in "Fifeshire Monumental Inscriptions (pre-1855) vol. 1 South east parishes" by John Fowler Mitchell & Sheila Mitchell, published by the Scottish Genealogy Society. ISBN 0901061948

War graves can be seen at the Scottish Wargraves Project and war memorials can be seen at the Scottish War Memorials Project.

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Parish / district reference number for 1841 - 1901 censuses: 403

The 1841 and 1851 returns can be searched on the FreeCEN website.

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

The 1861 census has been indexed and can be downloaded here

The Isle of May is included in Anstruther Wester for the 1841 -1861 censuses, thereafter it is included in Crail (no. 417).

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
Anstruther Wester 1042699 1042252 103825 103986 203516 208746
(Data provided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints)

Further information on the main Fife page.

Church History

The Old Statistical Account (written in the 1790s) gives this information about Dissenters:

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

The 1865 Ecclesiastical Directory lists the parish church.

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

Details of church history here.

Church Records

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: 403

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

Anstruther Wester OPR Births / baptisms Proclamations / marriages Deaths / burials / mortcloths
403/1 1577-1601 1577-1601 1549-1817
403/2 1601-1757 1601-1611 1601-1754
403/3 1757-1819 1757-1819  1783-1819
403/4   1651-1699  
403/5 1820-1854 (+ index 1838-1854) 1820-1854 (+ index 1838-1854) 1820-1854 (+ index 1838-1854)
(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 till Feb. 1601, and entered in parallel cols. of the same Record 1601 - 1612. Imperfect leaf of B. after Dec. 1645. Blank Feb. 1683 - March 1684. Mothers' names seldom recorded Oct. 1587 - Oct. 1609. The early portion of the Register contains entries for the neighbouring parishes of Abercrombie or St Monance, Kilrenny, and Pittenweem.
M.  blank (exc. three entries 1611 - 1612) Oct. 1609 - Oct. 1651, also Nov. 1699 - Nov. 1757; from which last date they are recorded among the B. Record for 1651 - 1699 generally embraces Contracts, with occasional entries of M. After 1757 the entries relate to Proclamations.
D.  Exc. Burials for 1579, and 1585 - 1587 among B. and M., one p. of entries without year (circa 1600), and a few entries 1601 - 1603, there is no regular Record till Nov. 1747. Blank Oct. 1754 - Nov. 1783, and July 1794 - Jan. 1839. There are, however, Mortcloth Dues 1791 - 1837, exc. 1818 - 1820. Entries of D. 1783 - 1794 among B. and M. for same period. There is also a Record of D. of parishoners, collected from various sources by Rev. Hew Scott, D.D., embracing period 1549 - 1838.
[Vol. 403/5 contains indexes to B. M. and D. 1838 - 1854 (surname followed by forename).]

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:

1040146 Session book (includes Baptisms, Marriage proclamations, occasional Mortcloth dues [Burial records]) 1577-1601; Burial extracts (many gaps), 1549-1817; Baptisms, 1601-1819; Marriages, 1601-1614, 1757-1819; Burials, 1601-1603, 1747- 1791; Mortcloth dues, 1788-1818; Session book (includes Marriage proclamations), 1651-1685.
1040147 Items 1 - 2 Session book (includes Marriage proclamations), 1685-1699; Baptisms, Marriages, 1820-1854; Mortcloth dues, 1820-1837; Burials, 1839-1854; Burials (collection from many sources), 1549- 1838.
(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.

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 (403/1 and 403/4). Details of church records here.

Heritors' Records (HR48) are at the National Records of Scotland, Edinburgh. Details of records here.

Other Churches :

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

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

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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
Anstruther Wester 403 1855 1930
Anstruther and Kilrenny 402 1931 1967
East Neuk 426 1968 1971
East Neuk 414 1972 2002
Fife 414 2003  

Registration districts did not necessarily coincide exactly with parishes. In the 20th century especially, there were frequent changes in registration districts. The Isle of May was moved to Crail registration district (417) before 1871 and remained there until at least 1901.

Court Records

Admiralty Court records and Burgh Court records are held at the Special Collections Dept. of St Andrews University Library. Details of records here.

Description & Travel

Anstruther Wester town centre Ordnance Survey Grid Reference GPS Post code Lat. 5613'20"N
NO 564035 56.222057
KY10 3DG Lon. 242'16"W

There is a useful Anstruther website here.

Surrounding parishes: Pittenweem, Carnbee, Kilrenny, Anstruther Easter.


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.

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There is a list of places in Anstruther Wester 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.

Historical Geography

On 15th May 1891, small areas with indistinct boundaries were exchanged between Anstruther Wester and Pittenweem parishes.

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

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:

Military History

War graves can be seen at the Scottish Wargraves Project and war memorials can be seen at the Scottish War Memorials Project.

Names, Geographical

There is an index to the Ordnance Survey Object Name Books for this parish here.


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.


Directory of Seafarers - the East Neuk ofFife1580-1800 and The Shipping of Anstruther and the East Neuk of Fife by David Dobson can be obtained from the Tay Valley Family History Society.

The parish is included in Andrew Campbell's compilation of Fife Shopkeepers and Traders 1820-1870 taken from newspapers and directories. It is available in most Fife reference libraries, in the libraries of the family history societies, and at the Manuscript Department of the Special Collections Department of St Andrews University Library. It is also available as Fife Traders and Shopkeepers on CD from Fife Family History Society.

There is a series of articles about many Fife family businesses in Fife Family History Society's Journal, New Series 9.

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Poorhouses, 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. Details of records here.


Year Population
1755 385
1801 296
1851 443
1901 574
1951 533

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 Anstruther Wester 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.


School Board records and / or school logbooks are held at the Fife Council Archive Centre. Details of records here.

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

School Board School Accommodation for scholars Average attendance
Anstruther Wester Anstruther Wester 141 78


"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.

Town Records

Towns were usually referred to as Burghs in Scotland.

Under the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1929 (19 & 20 Geo. V, c.25) , the Fife royal burghs of Anstruther Easter and Anstruther Wester and the burgh of Kilrenny were amalgamated to create the United Burghs of Kilrenny, Anstruther Easter and Anstruther Wester. The Kilrenny, Anstruther Easter and Anstruther Wester Town Council was abolished in 1975.

The archives of the former Burghs of Anstruther Easter & Wester are held at the Special Collections Dept. of St Andrews University Library, Fife Council Archives and the National Records of Scotland. They include the Admiralty Court Book for East Fife, Minute Books of the Anstruther Sea Box Society, Court Books and Council Minutes. Details of records here.

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