"A considerable town and parish in the county of Berwick. The town is delightfully situated in the centre of the county, encompassed on the W. N. and E. by the Lammermuir hills, a fine plain 25 miles in extent lying towards the S. The ancient site of the town was on the top of the beautiful hill called Dunse Law, which is elevated from a base of about 2½ miles in circumference to the height of 630 feet above the level of the sea. The town was afterwards rebuilt at the foot of the hill. The small water of Whittadder passes by it ... Dunse contains about 2400 inhabitants. The parish of Dunse is an oblong square of 8 miles by 5, extending over a part of the ditrict of Lammermuir, and over the head of that fertile plain called the Merse ...Population in 1801, 3163." From the Gazetteer of Scotland published 1806, Edinburgh.



The Borders Family History Society has published a CD of monumental inscriptions in Duns Parish and Episcopal Churches.

Pre-1855 inscriptions for the parish are contained in the Scottish Genealogy Society's volume of Berwickshire Monumental Inscriptions (Pre-1855).



Graham and Emma Maxwell have transcribed and indexed the 1841, 1851 and 1861 census returns for this parish.



Presbyterian / Unitarian
Dunse (Duns), Church of Scotland

Church History

Rutherfurd's Southern Counties Register and Directory of 1866 lists the following non-conformist churches:

  • Boston Free Church
  • United Presbyterian Church (East)
  • United Presbyterian Church (South)
  • United Presbyterian Church (West)
  • Episcopalian Church

Pigot and Co's Commercial Directory of Scotland published in 1837 lists the following non-conformist churches in the parish:

  • Relief Church
  • United Secession (minister: Rev. Thomson)
  • United Secession (minister: Rev. Robertson)

There may have been other non-conformist churches at different times.


Church Records

The parish church (Church of Scotland) has registers dating from 1615. Old Parish Registers (before 1855) are held in the National Records of Scotland in Edinburgh, and copies on microfilm may be consulted in local libraries and in LDS Family History Centres around the world. Later parish registers (after 1855) are often held in the National Records of Scotland as are any records of non-conformist churches in the area (often unfilmed and unindexed, and only available there).


Civil Registration

Registration of Births, Marriages and Deaths began in Scotland on 1st January 1855. For further details of this see the National Records of Scotland website.


Court Records

As a Burgh of Barony, Duns was presided over by a Barony Court. The Borders Family History Society has published a book of the court records between 1753 and 1800.


Description & Travel

Duns now has its own town website giving lots of information about the modern town, as well as articles about its history.

You can see pictures of Duns which are provided by:





Ordnance Survey maps covering Duns include:

  • Landranger 67: Duns, Dunbar & Eyemouth area - scale 1:50000, or 1.25inch:1mile, or 2cm:1km
  • Pathfinder 436: Duns & Longformacus - scale 1:25000, or 2.5inch:1mile, or 4cm:1km

The National Records of Scotland holds the following as part of its collection of maps and plans:

  • 1825: Windshield, Oatlee Cleuch and Cockburn. Scale 1:19,000. Size 37x48cm. Grid (map) reference NT7658. NRS reference RHP.1760
  • 1849: Cockburn. Scale 1:7900. Size 56x43cm. Grid (map) reference NT7658. NAS reference RHP.2587

You can see maps centred on OS grid reference NT774562 (Lat/Lon: 55.798646, -2.361997), Duns which are provided by:



Here are some figures showing the parish's population through time:

  • 1755 - 2593
  • 1788 - 3324
  • 1801 - 3157
  • 1811 - 3082
  • 1821 - 3773
  • 1831 - 3469
  • 1861 - 3595


Some records of the Duns branch of the Educational Institute of Scotland (a teaching union) are held in the National Records of Scotland in Edinburgh. Their NAS reference is GD342 and they consist of minutes covering the years 1871-1931. (source: National Register of Archives).


Social Life & Customs

For a description of Duns Reivers' Week see Chapter 19 of The Borders Book.



The Dunse History Society has a website detailing its programme of meetings.