"RENFREWSHIRE, maritime Co., in SW. of Scotland, bounded N. by the river Clyde and Dumbartonshire, E. by Lanarkshire, S. by Ayrshire, and W. by the Firth of Clyde; greatest length, NW. and SE., 31 miles; greatest breadth, NE. and SW., 14 miles; area, 156,785 ac., pop. 263,374. The principal streams, all flowing to the Clyde, are the Black Cart, the White Cart, and the Gryfe. The surface in the S. and SW. parts of the Co. is hilly, and somewhat bleak and moorish; it thence undulates to the banks of the Clyde, along which there is some rich and low lying land. Coal, ironstone, and limestone are abundant; copper ore occurs near Gourock and Lochwinnoch. The principal industries, besides mining and agriculture, are the mfr. of cotton and thread, sugar-refining, and shipbuilding. The Co. comprises 20 pars. with parts of 4 others, the parl. and police burghs of Greenock (1 member), Paisley (1 member), and Port Glasgow and Renfrew (part of the Kilmarnock Burghs), the police burghs (suburban of Glasgow) of Crosshill, Kinning Park, Pollokshields, and Pollokshields East, and the police burghs of Gourock, Johnstone, and Pollokshaws. For parliamentary purposes the Co. is divided into 2 divisions -viz., Eastern and Western -each returning 1 member. The representation of the county was increased from 1 to 2 members in 1885."
[Bartholemew's Gazetteer of the British Isles, 1887]
Renfrewshire Towns and Parishes
- Bridge Of Weir
- Crosslee (Houston)
- Easter Rossland
- Gourock (Inverkip)
- Houston and Killallan
- Langbank (Erskine)
- Linwood (Kilbarchan)
- Port Glasgow
If the place that you require is not in this list, then you can search for it in the GENUKI gazetteer which will take you to the page for the larger area which may hold information about it.
Alternatively, for Renfrewshire places, see Where is it in Renfrewshire?
The archives are stored in the records store at Williamwood High School. We hold the historic records of several of our previous local authorities, and of various other local organisations of historical interest.
Renfrewshire Libraries has a dedicated Researching Your Family History link addressing a variety of topics.
Renfrewshire Libraries have been working in partnership with the National Library of Scotland, to provide customers with easier access to the Renfrewshire trade directory collection. The collection from 1832 until 1912 is now available online.
See Monumental inscriptions (pre-1855) in Renfrewshire, Volumes 1 and 2, compiled by John Fowler Mitchell & Sheila Mitchell, and published in Edinburgh in 1969 by the Scottish Genealogy Society.
Burial and cremation records for the locations listed below are held at Greenock Crematorium, where genealogical searches can be carried out (a charge is levied for this service).
The minimum information required to carry out a search is a name along with the month & year of death.
Records date back to:
- Kilmacolm Cemetery - August 1897
- Port Glasgow cemetery - July 1859
- Knocknairshill Cemetery - February 1994
- Greenock Cemetery - May 1846
- Gourock Cemetery - November 1876
- Inverkip Cemetery - July - 1852
- Greenock Crematorium - 1959
To make an appointment to access records and for all enquiries please contact: Burial Grounds Officer
1 South Street
Greenock PA16 8UG
Records for the locations listed below are held at the Watt Library Union Street Greenock Tel. (01475) 715628
- Kilmacolm Parish Churchyard, Main Street, Kilmacolm
- St Andrews Churchyard, Church Street, Port Glasgow
- Newark Parish Churchyard, Glen Avenue, Port Glasgow
- Inverkip Street Cemetery, Inverkip Street, Greenock
General advice on census records and indexes can be found on our Scotland Census page.
For information on records for a particular parish, please see that parish's page (where available).
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. The National Records of Scotland has a page giving information on the Family Records that they hold.
Many of these records, as well as those in the Old Parish Registers, are now searchable on-line, for a fee, at the ScotlandsPeople web site. The database covers the years 1553-1900 (Births, Christenings and Marriages) and 1855-1925 (Deaths).
Records of testaments, inventories etc. are held at the National Records of Scotland.
See also Selections from the judicial records of Renfrewshire: illustrative of the administration of the laws of the county, and manners and condition of the inhabitants, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries ... by William Hector, published at Paisley in 1876 by J & J. Cook.
- Paisley Directory and General Advertiser, 1911-1912. Directories of Renfrew, Johnstone, Elderslie, Inkermann, Blackstoun, Clippens, Linwood, Howwood, Kilbarchan, Brookfield, Barrhead, Neilston, public boards, institutions, societies.
- Fowler's Directory of Renfrewshire, 1832-33, covers the principal towns and villages in the upper ward of Renfrewshire, and includes an alphabetical list of merchants, traders, manufactures and principal inhabitants. Also contains a copious street guide of Paisley and an Appendix containing many useful lists and tables.
- Rolls of Honour and War Memorials (monuments) are one good resource for family historians, but need to be addressed with some caution - it should not be assumed that they are either complete or accurate. Memorials (and Rolls of Honour) were created at the local parish level after asking the local inhabitants whose names should appear. Thus:
- Some names may have been omitted, for a variety of reasons.
- Some names may appear on more than one memorial.
- Some names may be misspelled, or given names transposed.
- Some people may be listed as killed in action, but were not.
- Some people may be listed who were not in the service at all.
- Some people may have been confused with others of a similar name.
- A Roll of Honour may sometimes list the names of all who served, not just those who died.
- Some of the original records may have been incorrect, for a variety of reasons.
- Some (more recent) research may be incorrect.
- View a list of the Rolls of Honour for Renfrewshire.
For a social and economic record of the parishes of Renfrewshire, together with masses of 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 by selecting the following link - The Statistical Accounts of Scotland, 1791-1799 and 1845.
These records give a fascinating glimpse into our ancestors daily lives. The local Church of Scotland ministers were asked to describe their parishes, for example, what the land was like; what crops were grown; what the predominant language spoken in the parish was; the health of the parishioners etc. Please bear in mind that some ministers had better descriptive powers than others. Nevertheless, you will learn a great deal about their lives. There are no individual names mentioned unless they were major landowners. So this is not a document to search for names.
The account was reprinted in facsimile form in 1973 by EP Publishing Limited of Wakefield, England and volume 7 deals with Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire.