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Help and advice for Tranent

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"TRANENT, a parish on the north-west border of Haddingtonshire. It contains the post-town of Tranent, the seaport villages of Cockenzie and Port-seaton, and the landward villages of Elphinstone and Meadowmill. It is bounded by Edinburghshire, Prestonpans, the frith of Forth, Gladsmuir, Pencaitland, and Ormiston. Its length northward is 4 1/2 miles; and its greatest breadth is 3 miles ... Population in 1831, 3,620; in 1861, 4,647."
"The TOWN of TRANENT stands on the road from Edinburgh to Haddington ... It stands along the brow of a rising ground, on the south side of a narrow vale, at the bottom of which is a brook; and had its ancient name of Travernent, abbreviated into Tranent, from three British words which signify 'the habitation or village at the ravine or vale'" [From the Imperial Gazetteer of Scotland, edited by John Marius Wilson, 1868]
A lengthier description is available.



See "Tranent and its surroundings: historical, ecclesiastical & traditional" by P. McNeill, published at Edinburgh in 1884 (279 pages). This may be consulted through LDS family history centres.



The Scottish Genealogy Society holds a list of pre-1855 gravestones in this parish (43 in total) in its library in Edinburgh. Similar lists may be available elsewhere, for example in the East Lothian District Library's Local History Centre at Newton Port in Haddington.


Church History

See the Bibliography section.

The following quotation comes from the Imperial Gazetteer of Scotland, edited by John Marius Wilson and published in 1868. This reference was found in volume II, page 803:

"The parish church was built in 1801, and contains 912 sittings. There is a chapel of ease at Cockenzie, which was built in 1838, and contains 452 sittings, and is under the patronage of its own male heads of families. There is a Free church of Tranent, with an attendance of 380 ... There is a United Presbyterian church at Tranent, which was built in 1826, and contains 637 sittings. The old parish of Tranent comprehended all Prestonpans, and considerable parts of Pencaitland and Gladsmuir; but did not comprehend the barony or ancient parish of Seaton, which was annexed to it only after the Reformation."

Church Records

The parish church (Church of Scotland) has registers dating from 1611. Old Parish Registers (before 1855) are held in the General Register Office for 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 Scottish Record Office as are any records of non-conformist churches in the area (often unfilmed and unindexed, and only available there).

For a description of a burial register for Tranent from 1754-1781 see Rosalind Mitchison's Death in Tranent 1754-81 published in the Transactions of the East Lothian Antiquarian and Field Naturalists' Society, 16th volume (1979), pp.37-48. This 'Bill of Mortality' was kept by the Session Clerk and has survived with other records of the Kirk Session in the Scottish Record Office in Edinburgh. The SRO reference for the Bill of Mortality is CH2/357/21.

In his entry for the Statistical Account of Scotland (compiled 1790s, see the Statistics section of the East Lothian page for more details) the Rev. Hugh Cunynghame made the following comment about deficiencies in the registration of births and deaths in this parish in the late 18th century:

"A very accurate register was kept of the births and burials of the parishioners until the year 1784, when the tax upon recording them was imposed, which many persons refused to pay, and therefore omitted making any entry. The record, consequently, became imperfect in this, as well as in many other parishes in Scotland."

Registers for the Free Church at Tranent are available in LDS family history centres around the world and include christenings for the years 1843-1888.


Civil Registration

Registration of Births, Marriages and Deaths began in Scotland on 1st January 1855. For details of these and other records held at the General Register Office in Edinburgh, see the GRO tutorial.


Description and Travel

You can see pictures of Tranent which are provided by:



Extracts for this parish from the 1868 National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland are available.

Ask for a calculation of the distance from Tranent to another place.

Click here for a list of nearby places.



See the Bibliography section.


Military History

In the autumn of 1797 many parts of Scotland experienced riots against the Government's plans to introduce a militia system into Scotland. For an account of the riots in Tranent, see The Tranent Militia Riot of 1797 by Kenneth J. Logue, published in the Transactions of the East Lothian Antiquarian and Field Naturalists' Society, 14th volume (1974), pp.37-61. This gives the background to the events but also describes many local people who were involved and has many references to the surviving records of the trial of the rioters which took place in Edinburgh



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

Year Population
1755 2459
1801 3046
1831 3620
1861 4647
1871 4852
1881 5198
1891 5470
1901 6117


For a social and economic record of the parishes of East Lothian together with considerable statistical material, see Sir John Sinclair's Statistical Account of Scotland, which was compiled in the 1790s. 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.

Thanks to a joint venture between the Universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh the First and Second Statistical Accounts can now be accessed on-line at The Statistical Accounts of Scotland, 1791-1799 and 1845.