Wemyss

Description of the parish in 1862

Map showing the location of the parish

"Wemyss, on the south shore of the county, derives its name from the Celtic Wamh meaning caves, a number of which may be found in the rocks on the seashore. The parish is bounded by Markinch, Scoonie, Kennoway and Dysart. It measures about 6 miles by 1.5. The parish is in excellent cultivation, producing great quantities of potatoes and turnips. Ochre and ironstone are found, but the principal mineral is coal of which from 50000 to 60000 tons are produced annually. The manufactures of the parish consist mainly of ducks, dowlas, sheetings, huckabacks, diaper and canvas. There are 8 villages in the parish: West Wemyss, East Wemyss, Buckhaven (one of the largest fishing villages in Fife), Methil (with a fine harbour), Kirkland (with extensive spinning, weaving and bleaching works), Coaltown of Wemyss, East Newtown of Wemyss and Methilhill (which last 3 are all mining villages. The parish church is at East Wemyss, with a chapel of ease at West Wemyss. There is a Free Church at East Wemyss and a UP Church at Buckhaven. " edited from Westwood's Directory for the counties of Fife & Kinross published 1862.

Towns and Villages

Buckhaven Methil
Coaltown of Wemyss Methilhill
East Wemyss West Wemyss
Kirkland  

Places in Wemyss 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

Methil Library. There is a collection of genealogy and local history materials in their Family History Room.

The Methil Heritage Centre has a very interesting collection of information about Leven, Methil and surrounding areas.

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

Bibliography

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 Wemyss and Methil- No More! (Stenlake Publishing) contain many photographs and full descriptions.

Cemeteries

There are 4 cemeteries in Wemyss parish:

1. St Mary's by the Sea Churchyard, Main Street, East Wemyss (grid ref. NT 340967, GPS: 56.159097 -3.063762 Google map:

2. MacDuff / East Wemyss Cemetery, Main Road, East Wemyss (grid ref. NT 342972, GPS: 56.16206 -3.061844 Google map):

3. West Wemyss Churchyard (St Adrians), Main Street, West Wemyss (grid ref. NT 328947, GPS: 56.141464 -3.08379 Google map):

4. Methilmill Cemetery, Holly Bank, Methilhill (grid ref. NO 359007, GPS: 56.192918 -3.033211 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

Transcripts of many of the older stones were made by an unknown hand in the 1870s. They are recorded in the Minute Book of the Anstruther Mortsafe Society, 1830-1874, held by the Special Collections Dept. of St Andrews University Library. They are included in Publication 38, Monumental Notes part 2, published by the Fife Family History Society.

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

Census

Parish / district reference number for 1841 - 1901 censuses: 459

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.

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
Wemyss 1042704, 1042705 1042273 103832 103995 203532 208768
(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 (St Mary's), other churches include: East Wemyss Free; Innerleven & Methil (Dubbieside) Antiburgher (UP); Methil East Free; Buckhaven St Michael's; Buckhaven St Andrew's Free; Buckhaven St David's Burgher (UP); and Buckhaven Muiredge UP.

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, Established Churches at Methil and West Wemyss, the United Presbyterian Church at Buckhaven, and the Free Church.

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

Details of church history:

The church of Wemyss was dedicated to St Mary and pre-reformation it belonged to the Holy Trinity at Edinburgh. Ministry here is recorded from 1585 in the person of James Tullos. The old charge of Wemyss, which in later years was termed Wemyss St Mary's-by-the-sea, was united in 1976 with the congregation of Wemyss St Adrian's, under the name of Wemyss. The present day church, which still sits on the site of the original church is though to date back in part to pre-reformation years. The kirk session sits within the Presbytery of Kirkcaldy.

The congregation of East Wemyss Free Church, which sat in the Free Presbytery of Kirkcaldy, was established in June 1843, the year of the Disruption. Worship initially took place in the open air, or during bad weather in a hall above stables, until 1846 when their church was opened. Following the 1900 union of the United Presbyterian Church and the Free Church of Scotland, East Wemyss Free Church became East Wemyss United Free Church and upon the 1929 union between the United Free Church of Scotland and the Church of Scotland, East Wemyss U.F. was renamed East Wemyss St George's Church of Scotland. A new church and halls were dedicated on the 18 December 1937. In 1973 East Wemyss St George's established a union with the congregation of West Wemyss St Adrian's, under the name of Wemyss St Adrian's and St George's, and further union followed in 1976 with Wemyss St Mary's-by-the-sea, under the name of Wemyss Church of Scotland. The united congregation remains active today, presently under the jurisdiction of the Presbytery of Kirkcaldy.

Buckhaven Chapel of Ease was built in 1902, and a number of years thereafter in 1913 Buckhaven parish was disjoined from Wemyss, Methil and Milton of Balgonie and erected quoad sacra. Following the 1929 union of the Church of Scotland and the United Free Church, Buckhaven was termed Buckhaven St Michael's and in 1972 Buckhaven St Michael's united with the charges of Buckhaven St Andrew's and Buckhaven St David's, under the name of Buckhaven. The kirk session, which remains active today, sits within the Presbytery of Kirkcaldy.

In June 1792 a group of residents of Buckhaven applied to the Burgher Presbytery of Dunfermline with a request for sermon. Prior to this time the majority of the group had attended service in Kennoway, which sat three and a half miles from Buckhaven. Partly as a consequence of the unsatisfactory distance the Buckhaven Secession church adherents had to travel to attend church, sermon was granted and on 21 July 1794 the congregation of Buckhaven Burgher Church was officially formed. It seems apparent from church records of the time that the church of the congregation was in the process of being constructed in 1794. David Teller, the first minister of the congregation was ordained in 1796. In 1847 the congregation became part of the United Presbyterian Church and in 1869 a new church was opened at a cost of over £2600. Following the union of the United Presbyterian Church and the Free Church of Scotland in 1900, Buckhaven U.P. was renamed Buckhaven St David's United Free Church and upon the 1929 union between the United Free Church of Scotland and the Free Church of Scotland, Buckhaven St David's U.F. became Buckhaven St David's Church of Scotland. In 1939 Buckhaven St David's was united with the congregation of Buckhaven Muiredge, continuing under the name of Buckhaven St David's, and further union followed in 1972 with Buckhaven St Andrew's and also with Buckhaven St Michael's, to form the session of Buckhaven Church of Scotland. Buckhaven Church of Scotland remains active today, presently under the jurisdiction of the Presbytery of Kirkcaldy.

In 1866, in response to a request from Free Church residents living in the district, a Free Church mission station was established in Buckhaven and the charge was later sanctioned in 1875. Buckhaven Free Church sat within the Free Presbytery of Kirkcaldy. Following the union of the United Presbyterian Church and the United Free Church of Scotland in 1929, Buckhaven Free Church was renamed Buckhaven St Andrew's United Free Church and upon the 1929 union between the United Free Church of Scotland and the Church of Scotland, Buckhaven St Andrew's United Free Church became Buckhaven St Andrew's Church of Scotland. In 1972 the congregation of Buckhaven Church of Scotland was formed by the triple union of Buckhaven St Andrew's, Buckhaven St David's, and Buckhaven St Michael's, and this united congregation remains active today, under the jurisdiction of the Presbytery of Kirkcaldy.

Buckhaven, Muiredge United Presbyterian Church was established as an extension church in Buckhaven by the Presbytery of Kirkcaldy in 1882. The church was opened in 1885. It passed successively to the United Free Church, as Buckhaven Muiredge, and to the Church of Scotland. The Church of Scotland charge, which was in the presbytery of Kirkcaldy and the synod of Fife, united with Buckhaven St David's under that name in 1939.

Following the Disruption of 1843 the quoad sacra parish church congregation of Methil ceased to exist and for many years mission work was carried out here by the Free Church of Leven. In 1852 a Free Church mission station was formally established in Methil and in 1894 the charge was sanctioned. A brick church was later erected to house the congregation. In 1900, upon the union of the Free Church and the United Presbyterians, Methil Free Church became Methil United Free Church and following the 1929 union between the United Free Church and the Church of Scotland, Methil U.F. was renamed Methil East Church of Scotland. The congregation of Methil East, which sat within the Presbytery of Kirkcaldy, was united in 1934 with the charge of Innerleven to form the session of Innerleven East. After this local union the united congregation worshipped in the Methil East church until a new church was erected in 1941, the East church was later converted for use as a church hall.

On the 16th May 1728 several Praying Societies in and around Leven acceded to the Associate Presbytery and worshipped together at Abbotshall until 1743, when they were transferred to Ceres. In 1768 members of this Associate congregation, who were resident in Innerleven, petitioned the Presbytery requesting that sermon be provided at Innerleven on account of the distance they were required to travel to attend worship at Ceres. It was agreed that four services per year would be supplied however the petitioners were dissatisfied with this compromise and consequently left the presbytery to take their own course of action. The exact steps taken are unknown due to a lack of authoritative records, however it is recorded that Innerleven (Dubbieside) had established their own session by 1781, and the first minister of the congregation was ordained in 1789. In 1900, upon the union of the Free Church and the United Presbyterians, the congregation of Innerleven Associate became Innerleven United Free Church and following the 1929 union between the Church of Scotland and the United Free Church, Innerleven U.F. became Innerleven Church of Scotland. In 1934 Innerleven was joined with the congregation of Methil East to form the session of Innerleven East and following this local union the congregation continued to worship in the Methil East church until a new church was erected in Methilhaven Road in 1941. The former Innerleven church was sold and the Methil East building was later converted for use as church halls. The sessions of Innerleven Associate Congregation, U.F and Church of Scotland all fell under the jurisdiction of the Presbytery of Kirkcaldy.

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: 459

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

Wemyss OPR Births / baptisms Proclamations / marriages Deaths / burials / mortcloths
459/1 1660-1691  
459/2 1692-1734    
459/3 1735-1779    
459/4 1779-1819 1779-1819  
459/5   1662-1779 1707-1819
459/6 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.  This Register appears tohave been originally kept with great care and regularity, but it has subsequently suffered much from damp and neglect, and the corners of the leaves 1660 - 1667, 1698 - 1718, and 1729 - 1733 have been more or less destroyed - at the last date apparently by mice. The original is wanting March - Sept. 1744, but there are four leaves of transcribed entries Sept. 1743 - Sept. 1744, which embrace the missing entries. There are also three leaves of transcribed entries May 1771 - Oct. 1771, and July 1774 - Feb. 1775, the originals of which have been lost.
M.  Record originally kept with care, but has since suffered much from damp. Greater part of leaf Oct. 1678 - May 1679 destroyed. Four leaves of transcribed entries May 1744 - Oct. 1746, of which the originals are lost. Between 1775 and 1783, date of Marriage seldom given, but date of 'Booking' only.
D.  (Mortcloth Dues.)

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:

1040184 Items 1-2 Marriages 1662-1779, 1820-1854; Mortcloth dues (burial records) 1707-1854; Baptisms 1820-1855
1040183 Baptisms 1692-1820; Marriages 1779-1819
1040387 Item 4 Baptisms 1660-1691
(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.

The Presbytrie Book of Kirkcaldie, the record of the proceedings of the Presbytery of Kirkcaldy (which includes references to this parish), from 15 April 1630 - 14 September 1653, is available through the web archive.

There are no known records of the Heritors of the parish.

At the National Records of Scotland, Edinburgh:

Other Churches :

At the National Records of Scotland, Edinburgh:

At the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, USA, but available on microfilm at LDS Family History Centres around the world:

The Wemyss 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
Wemyss 459 1855 1873
Wemyss 459/1 1874 1971
Wemyss 425 1972 1979
Buckhaven 459/2 1874 1971
Buckhaven 424 1972 2002
Fife 424 2003  

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

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Court Records

Buckhaven Police Court Minute Books (from 1928) are held by Fife Council Archives.

Description & Travel

East Wemyss town centre Ordnance Survey Grid Reference GPS Post code Lat. 569'35"N
NT 338968 56.159259
-3.067410
KY1 4RA Lon. 34'3"W

Surrounding parishes: Markinch, Dysart, Scoonie.

Directories

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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Gazetteers

There is a list of places in Wemyss 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

The parish of Markinch had a detached portion situated at Dubbieside (or Innerleven). On 15th May 1891 it was transferred from the parish of Markinch to the parish of Wemyss. It comprised Innerleven, Innerleven Acres and Haugh Lands, and a large number of small properties, chiefly urban, in the police burgh of Buckhaven Methil and Innerleven.

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

History

Notices from the Local Records of Dysart, a compilation from various sources covering both parish and burgh matters from 1534 to 1697, published in 1853, is available online at the Internet Archive. It includes references to matters in this parish.

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.

Maps

Historic maps: Present-day maps:

Medical Records

Hospital records (mostly of an administrative nature) are held by the Fife Council Archive Centre. The following hospitals are included: Randolph Wemyss Memorial Hospital 1912-1948. Patient records are closed for 100 years.

Military History

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

Levenmouth at War, by Lillian King, 2005, ISBN 0953983986, is packed with reminiscences of the local area in the Second World War.

Names, Geographical

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

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Obituaries

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, 30.

Occupations

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. See Public Records below.

Peter Higginbotham's website has a lot of information about Dysart combination poorhouse.

Population

Year Population
1755 3041
1801 3264
1851 5647
1901 15031  * boundary changed
1951 28463

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 Wemyss may be found in either the St Andrews Commissariot (CC20) or the Edinburgh Commissariot (CC8) records. From 1824 to 1960, commissary business was conducted by the Sheriff Court of Fife at Cupar (SC20). From 1960, it has been conducted at Kirkcaldy (SC23) Sheriff Court.

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:

Schools

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

At the Fife Council Archive Centre, Kirkcaldy:

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
Wemyss    Buckhaven 728 611
Kirkland Cross Roads 538 462
Wemyss 299 194
Coaltown 148 102
West Wemyss, Dorothy 326 193

Statistics

"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

Taxation

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.

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Town Records

Towns were usually referred to as Burghs in Scotland.

At the Fife Council Archive Centre, Kirkcaldy:

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