Description of the parish in 1852

Map showing the location of the parish

"Crail is a parish and royal burgh, and a sea-port - the latter 26 miles east from Kirkcaldy, and 10 south-east from St Andrews. Its importance has greatly declined, and notwithstanding it possesses great capabilities as a port, it enjoys but very little trade; this, in some measure, may be ascribed to the inconvenience of its harbour, for it is eligibly situated. Its principal exports consist of grain & potatoes: the imports are chiefly coals. 16 vessels belong to the port. The town consists of 2 streets, and 2 or 3 lanes; of the former one is broad and spacious, containing some good houses, several of which are of that massive and antique description which indicate past wealth. Crail was erected into a royal burgh by Robert Bruce. In conjunction with St Andrews, Cupar Fife, the Anstruthers, Kilrenny and Pittenweem, it returns one member to parliament. The parish church, a free church, and an united presbyterian chapel, are the places of worship. The celebrated James Sharp, archbishop of St Andrews, was once minister of the church, and his handwriting is still to be seen in the session records." from Slater's Directory published 1852.

Towns and Villages


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

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

Archives, Libraries andMuseums

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

Crail Museum, 64 Marketgate, Crail KY10 3TL has an interesting collection of items concerning the history of the burgh, HMS Jackdaw and HMS Bruce, and also holds several manuscript and printed books of genealogical interest.

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.

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There are 2 cemeteries in Crail parish:

1. Crail Churchyard, Marketgate North (grid ref. NO 614080, GPS: 56.262384 -2.62514 Google map): 2. Crail Cemetery, Bow Butts Road (grid ref. NO 613080, GPS: 56.263397 -2.626801 Google map):


Parish / district reference number for 1841 - 1901 censuses: 417. Part in 425 after 1880 (see Civil Registration).

The Isle of May is included in Anstruther Wester (no. 403) for the 1841 -1861 censuses, thereafter it is included in Crail.

The 1841 return can be searched on theFreeCEN 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
Crail 1042700 1042254 103826 103988 203518 208750
(Data provided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints)

Further information on the main Fife page.

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Church History

In addition to the parish church, there was an Associate Session (Burgher, later United Presbyterian, and United Free - Crail West Church) and a Free Church (later United Free - Crail North Church).

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

The New Statistical Account (written in 1845) gives this information:

The 1865 Ecclesiastical Directory lists the parish church, the United Presbyterian Church and the Free 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: 417

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

Crail OPR Births / baptisms Proclamations / marriages Deaths / burials / mortcloths
417/1 1684-1745 1655-1745 1684-1693
417/2 1745-1819 1745-1819  
417/3   1685-1721  
417/4   1722-1751 1750-1752
417/5   1752-1779 1753-1793
417/6 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:

From 1685 till 1693 B. M. and D. are entered in parallel cols. of the same pages.
M.  Contracts and Marriages, 1655 - 1684 inclusive, separately recorded. M. and D. are recorded in parallel cols. after 1693. Separate Record containing Contracts of M. 1685 - 1779.
D.  (Burials.) Blank Nov. 1693 - Jan. 1750. After Jan. 1753, the entries occur on occasional pp. of the Record containing Contracts for same period.

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:

1040156 Item 4 Baptisms, 1684-1725; Marriages, 1655-1725; Burials, 1684-1693.
1040157 Baptisms, 1725-1820; Marriages, 1725-1820; Burials, 1739-1741, 1783; Session book (includes Marriage proclamations) 1685-1736.
1040099 Items 1 - 3 Session book (includes Mortcloth dues [burial records], 1752-1779 and Marriage proclamations), 1736-1779; Burials, 1750-1758, 1769-1793; Baptisms, Marriages, 1820-1857.
(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 (417/3, 417/4 and 417/5). Details of church records here.

Heritors' Records (HR242) 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.

Some of the pre-1855 baptism registers have been transcribed and published.

Details of church records, transcriptions and indexes here.

The Crail 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
Crail, burgh 417/1 1855 1855
Crail, landward 417/2 1855 1855
Crail 417 1856 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 from Anstruther Wester registration district (403) before 1871 and remained there until at least 1901. Part of Crail parish was transferred to Dunino registration district in 1880.

Court Records

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

On the Records pages of the Fife Family History Society website there is an index to Crail Burgh Register of Deeds (1682-1841).

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Description & Travel

Crail town centre Ordnance Survey Grid Reference GPS Post code Lat. 5615'38"N
NO 613076 56.259315
KY10 3RA Lon. 237'36"W

Surrounding parishes: Kingsbarns, Kilrenny, Carnbee, Dunino, St Andrews and St Leonards.


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 Crail 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 1st January 1891 the following places, considered by some to be part of Crail parish, were transferred to Dunino parish: part of Balkaithly, Beley, Beley Bridge, part of Chesters and New Bridge.

On 15th May 1891, East Newhall and West Newhall were transferred from the parish of Crail to the parish of Kingsbarns; Grassmiston and Lochton were transferred from Kingsbarns parish to Crail parish.

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 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.

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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.


A list of Crail hammermen, 1588 - 1743, extracted from the records of the Hammermen Incorporation of Crail, held by the Special Collections Dept. of St Andrews University Library, has been published by the Fife Family History Society in Publication 13 - Trade Incorporation Records.

On the Records pages of the Fife Family History Society website are similar listings of Crail Squaremen (Wrights) (1668-1743), Weavers (1694-1845), Tailors (1684-1743), Shoemakers (1589-1834), Coopers (1690-1743) and Baxters (1647-1743).

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.

The minute books of the Crail Sea-box Society (not part of the Burgh records) are held by Crail Museum, 64 Marketgate, Crail KY10 3TL. Details of records here.

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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 2173
1801 1652
1851 1903
1901 1605  * boundary changed
1951 1592

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

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

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Probate Records

Probate records are 'Confirmations' in Scotland.

Prior to 1824, wills, testaments & inventories of residents of Crail 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, Cupar Sheriff Court and Crail Burgh Register of Deeds.


School Board records and school logbooks are held at the FifeCouncil 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
Crail Crail 352 239


"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.

The archives of the former Burgh of Crail are held by the Special Collections Dept. of St Andrews University Library and the National Records of Scotland, Edinburgh. They include Court Books, Council Minutes, Minute Books of Incorporated Trades, Deeds, Stent Rolls and much more.

There are also a few records at the Fife Council Archive Centre.

Details of records here.

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