"SMAILHOLM, a parish, containing a post-office village of its own name, on the northern border of Roxburghshire. It is bounded around three-fourths of its outline by Berwickshire, and chiefly on the south by Kelso and Makerston ... The farm of Sandyknowe, in the parish of Smailholm, was the property of the paternal grandfather of Sir Walter Scott, and the scene of many of the musings of his precocious boyhood. Sandyknowe or Smailholm-tower, situated among a cluster of rocks, on an eminence in the farm, engaged much of his attention, and has acquired celebrity from having afforded such suggestions and imagery as materially contributed to the formation of his peculiar style of poetry." From the Imperial Gazetteer of Scotland, edited by John Marius Wilson, 1868.



The Borders Family History Society has published a booklet of Smailholm monumental inscriptions. The publication also contains a transcript of the names recorded on an 1814 plan of the churchyard and the various burial plots. This is particularly valuable because so many of the gravestones from that time have not survived.



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



Presbyterian / Unitarian
Smailholm, Church of Scotland

Church History

According to Rev. William Ewing's Annals of the Free Church of Scotland (published 1914 in Edinburgh):

"The congregation formed here [Nenthorn] in 1843 embraced adherents also from the parishes of Stitchel, Smailholm, and Ednam. A site for a church in Smailholm was refused. The congregation at Nenthorn was therefore largely drawn from that parish."

Rev. Ewing writes that by 1848 the membership of this congregation was 170; by 1900 it was 115.


Church Records

The parish church (Church of Scotland) has registers dating from 1648. 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.


Description & Travel

See the Smailholm Village site.

An account of the parish (history, topography etc.) may also be found in the Borders Family History Society's booklet of monumental inscriptions.

You can see pictures of Smailholm which are provided by:





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

  • 1777: Plan of Smailholm Spittal. Scale 1:3600. Size 70x39cm. Grid (map) reference NT6736. NRS reference RHP.3607
  • 1816: Plan of Smailholm Spittal. Scale 1:1600. Size 69x32cm. Grid (map) reference NT6836. NRS reference RHP.3600/2

You can see maps centred on OS grid reference NT654356 (Lat/Lon: 55.612809, -2.550178), Smailholm which are provided by:



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

  • 1755 - 551
  • 1790 - 421
  • 1801 - 446
  • 1811 - 455
  • 1821 - 520
  • 1831 - 628
  • 1861 - 554


In the 1690s a tax was levied by Parliament on every hearth in Scotland. Both landowners and tenants had to pay this tax and are therefore recorded in the records which were kept at the time. A transcript of the hearth tax records for Smailholm parish (NRS reference E69/21/1) is included with the list of monumental inscriptions published by the Borders Family History Society.

Most taxation records are held at the National Records of Scotland in Edinburgh.

Page created by Vivienne S Dunstan.
Last updated: 9th September 2011