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

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

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

Methil Library - closed for alterations. The collections are temporarily at Leven 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,


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.


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.


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

The 1841 return 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 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: 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.

Kirk Session records are at the National Records of Scotland, Edinburgh. Details of records here.

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.

Other Churches :

Kirk Session and similar records for the following churches are held by the National Records of Scotland, Edinburgh:

East Wemyss Free CH3/424
Innerleven & Methil (Dubbieside) Antiburgher (UP) CH3/174
Methil East Free CH3/232
Buckhaven St Michael's CH2/1390
Buckhaven St Andrew's Free CH3/581
Buckhaven St David's Burgher (UP) CH3/454
Buckhaven Muiredge UP CH3/1376

The LDS have filmed some other church records which may be consulted at LDS Family History Centres.

LDS Library Film Numbers:

104156 Item 7 Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. West Wemyss Branch Record of members, 1841-1847
(Data provided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints)

Details of church records here.

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

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
KY1 4RA Lon. 34'3"W

Surrounding parishes: Markinch, Dysart, Scoonie.


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 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.


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.


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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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.


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.

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


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.


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


"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.

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Town Records

Towns were usually referred to as Burghs in Scotland.

The archives of the former Burgh of Buckhaven and Methil are held by Fife Council Archives. They include Council Minutes (from 1891), Licensing Records and Accounts. Details of records here.

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