"SHETLAND, insular county of Scotland [map shows location], 50 miles NE. of Orkney, 352,876 ac., pop. 29,705; Mainland, pop. 20,821; it consists of about 100 islands, 29 of which are inhabited -Mainland, Yell, Unst, Fetlar, Whalsay, and Bressay being the largest. Mainland, comprising more than half the area of the whole group, extends N. and S. for 54 miles, and has an extreme breadth of 21 miles, but the coast-line is so irregular and deeply indented that no spot is 4 miles from the sea. The surface of Shetland is generally bleak and moorish, and rises to a maximum alt. of 1475 ft., but only in a few places higher than 500 ft. The rock scenery around the coasts is exceedingly grand and interesting. The climate is humid and comparatively mild, but severe storms are frequent. Large numbers of cattle and sheep of native breeds are reared, and the small Shetland ponies are remarkable for their strength and hardiness. Barley, oats, turnips, and potatoes are grown. The fisheries, especially the herring fishery, are of the greatest importance, and afford the chief employment. The knitting of woollen articles is also a great industry. Shetland comprises 12 pars., and the police burgh of Lerwick. It unites with Orkney in returning 1 member to Parl.
[Bartholemew's Gazetteer of the British Isles, 1887]
See also the entry for Shetland in the 1868 gazetteer.
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The Hillhead Museum, in Lerwick.
The Crofthouse Museum is situated in Dunrossness and represents the sights and smells of a typical thatched cottage from around 1890.
The Böd of Gremista situated on the outskirts of Lerwick is a typical 18th century fishing booth.
Together with the archives, the museum is actively engaged in creating a new museum and archives due to open at the end of May, 2007, at Hay's Dock in Lerwick. The Museum archives are open now, by appointment only.
Information on national archives and links to lists of local archives and libraries can be found on our Scotland Archives and Libraries page.
List of books and pamphlets relating to Orkney and Shetland
Compiled by James W Cursiter
Published 1894, Kirkwall.
List of Orkney & Shetland documents [in the National Archives of Scotland]
Published 1983 by the National Archives of Scotland
[Pt 1. Gifts and deposits -- pt. 2. Maps, charts and plans"
General advice on census records and indexes can be found on our Scotland Census page.
General advice on parish registers throughout Scotland can be found on our Scotland Church Records page. For information on records for a particular parish, please see that parish's page (where available). Copies of many parish registers may be consulted around the world in LDS Family History Centres.
Records of testaments, inventories etc. are held at the National Archives of Scotland.
The Court Book of Orkney and Shetland, 1612-1613
Transcribed and edited by Robert S Barclay
Published 1962, Kirkwall.
The Court Book of Orkney and Shetland, 1614-1615
Transcribed and edited by Robert S Barclay
Published 1967, Edinburgh (Scottish History Society, 4th series, volume 4).
Orkney and Shetland: an historical, geographical, social and scenic survey
Published 1965, London.
Researchers may be interested in the Shetland GenWeb pages.
The Scotland Surnames List maintained by Graham Jaunay includes Shetland.
Shetland life and trade, 1550-1914
Hance D Smith
Published 1984, Edinburgh.
The northern and western islands of Scotland: their economy and society in the seventeenth century
Frances J Shaw
Published c1980, Edinburgh.
Exploring Scotland's heritage: Orkney and Shetland
Published 1985, Edinburgh (H.M.S.O.).
The Shetland dictionary
John J Graham
Published 1979, Stornoway.
See The place-names of Shetland by Jakob Jakobsen, published in 1936.
There is now a surnames list which includes this county. If you are researching any families in Shetland, please consider submitting details to this new list.
The Shetland Family History Society covers this county.
For a social and economic record of the parishes of Shetland, together with masses of statistical material, see Sir John Sinclair's Statistical Account of Scotland which was compiled in the 1790s. The account was reprinted in facsimile form in 1978 by EP Publishing Limited of Wakefield, England and volume 19 deals with Orkney and Shetland.
Follow-up works to this were the New Statistical Account (also known as the Second Statistical Account) which was prepared in the 1830s and 1840s; and more recently the Third Statistical Account which has been prepared since the Second World War.