Parish #1 This parish includes Burra and Quarff
This is a guide to the history and major genealogical records of Scotland as they pertain to the parish of Bressay. To learn more about how to use these records to search for your ancestors, go to the Scotland: Research Strategies.
BRESSAY, BURRA, and QUARFF, a parish, in the county of Orkney and Shetland; containing the late quoad sacra parish of Burra and Quarff. These three ancient parishes, now united, comprehend six islands and a part of the tract called Mainland; the district of Bressay is to the east of the mainland, and consists of the islands of Bressay and Ness, separated from each other by Ness Sound, and from the mainland by Bressay Sound. The church, which is conveniently situated, was erected in 1815, and contains 370 sittings. There are places of worship for Independents and Wesleyans.
The New Statistical Account of Scotland (pub. 1834-45) offers uniquely rich and detailed parish reports for the whole of Scotland, covering a vast range of topics including history, agriculture, education, trades, religion and social customs. The reports, written by the parish ministers, are available online at http://edina.ac.uk/stat-acc-scot/. Click on ‘Browse scanned pages’ then search the parish reports for your parish of interest. Also available at the Family History Library.
A census is a count and description of the population, taken by the government, arranged by locality and by household. Read more about census records.
Here is a list of the Family History Library microfilm numbers for the census records of Bressay as well as the library numbers for any surname indexes available:
The 1901 census of Scotland is indexed on www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk. To use it, you must register and pay a small access fee. All available censuses, 1841-1901, are indexed on this website. It may be easier for you to pay to use the website rather than access the separate indexes through the library.
The Established Church of Scotland was Presbyterian. Read more about church records.
Here are the pre-1855 records that exist for this parish.
Established Church—Old Parochial Registers
Condition of Original Registers—
Indexed: For an index to these records, see Scotland’s People website, a pay-for-view website. The Scottish Church Records Index is also still available at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. Some records may also be indexed in other FamilySearch collections for Scotland.
Births: Bressay, registers are incomplete 1874–1847 and 1750–1753. Registers for Burra and Quarff are irregular and incomplete 1780 to the end of the record; five irregular entries 1721–1769 are on page 10.
Marriages: Bressay registers are incomplete 1794–1812.
Deaths: Bressay has no entries 1791–1817.
Source:Key to the Parochial Registers of Scotland, by V. Ben Bloxham, pub. 1970. British Book 941 K23b.
Established Church—Kirk Session Records
The Kirk session was the court of the parish. The session was made up of the minister and the land owners and business men of the parish, chosen to serve on the session. The Kirk session dealt with moral issues, minor criminal cases, matters of the poor and education, matters of discipline, and the general concerns of the parish. Kirk session records may also mention births, marriages, and deaths.
Here is a list of the surviving Kirk session records for this parish:
Baptisms one page only 1806–1808
There are no records for Burra or Quarff.
Note: Available at the Shetland Archives, Lerwick, Scotland, record CH2/1108.
Nonconformist Church Records
A nonconformist church is any church that is not the Established church. Read more about nonconformity in Scotland in the article on the Scotland Church Records Union List.
Quarff and Burra Free Church
James Gardner, minister of Bressay, Quarff and Burra, "came out" in 1843. A church was built in Burra, but at Quarff Mr. Gardner conducted services on the green. With the scanty population, the Free Church congregation was small. Mr. Gardner resigned in 1849 and the charge was reduced to a preaching station. A mission hall was erected at Quarff in 1850 and in 1865 the church in Burra was made over to the United Presbyterian congregation there.
Membership: 1848, 33.
Source:Annals of the Free Church of Scotland, 1843–1900, ed. Rev. William Ewing, D.D., 2 vols. pub. 1914. Film #918572. More details may be given in the source.
The extent of records is unknown.
Burra Baptist Church
The history of this church can be traced back to 1820 when Sinclair Thomson, a convert to the sect and native of Burra, called the Apostle of Shetland, began preaching here. The congregation was formed in 1827. An earthen-floor church was built in 1829 and rebuilt in 1837. It was in use until a new chapel was built in 1904. The first pastor served for 55 years and died at the age of 92. The congregation is still active today.
Source:History of the Baptists in Scotland, by Rev. George Yuille, pub. 1926; Family History Library Book 941 K2hi; More details are given in the source including a list of ministers.
The extent of records is unknown. For information write to the church at:
Burra Isles Baptist Church
Burra Methodist Society
It isn’t known when this society was founded but it was likely in the early 1800s. It was in existence by 1841 when membership was less than 30. They apparently leased a meeting house at that time and a chapel was built sometime later.
The extent of records is unknown. For information write to:
Methodist Archives and Research Centre
John Rylands University Library of Manchester
Manchester M3 3EH, England
Civil Registration Records
Government or civil registration of births, marriages, and deaths (also called statutory records) began on January 1, 1855 in Scotland. Each parish has a registrar's office and large cities have several. The records are created by the registrars and copies are sent to the General Register Office in Edinburgh. Annual indexes are then created for the records for the whole country.
See the article on Scotland Civil Registration for more information and to access the records.
Shetland Combination www.workhouses.org.uk/Shetland/[]
Bressay was under the probate jurisdiction of the Commissary Court of Orkney & Shetland until 1823, and since then has been under the Sheriff's Court of Lerwick. Probate records for 1513- 1901 are indexed online at www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk. You must register on the website but use of the index to probate records, called 'Wills & Testaments,' is free. You may then purchase a copy of the document or, if the document is before 1823, it will be on microfilm at the Family History Library. To find the microfilm numbers, search in the library catalog for the 'Place-names' of Shetland and the subject of 'Probate records.' Then click on the link to the records of the Commissariat of Orkney & Shetland.
The library also has some post-1823 probate records for Shetland. Look in the library catalog for the 'Place' of Shetland and the subjects of 'Probate Records' and 'Probate Records - Indexes.'
Read more about Scotland Probate Records.
Return to Shetland parish list.
Bressay is a populated island in the Shetland archipelago of Scotland.
Geography and geology
Bressay lies due south of Whalsay, west of Noss, and north of Mousa. At 11 square miles (28 km2), it is the fifth largest island in Shetland. The population is around 360 people, concentrated in the middle of the west coast, around Glebe and Fullaburn.
The island is made up of Old Red Sandstone with some basaltic intrusions. Bressay was quarried extensively for building materials, used all over Shetland, especially in nearby Lerwick. There are a number of sea caves and arches. The largest of eleven lochs on the island are the Loch of Grimsetter in the east, and the Loch of Brough.
Bressay has a large number of migrant birds, especially in the east. The Loch of Grimsetter is a haven for waders and whooper swans. In the far south, there is a colony of Arctic skuas.
The name of the island may have been recorded in 1263 as 'Breiðoy' (Old Norse "broad island"). In a 1490 document the island is referred to as "Brwsøy" - "Brusi's island" which name may indicate it was the 11th century base for Earl of OrkneyBrusi Sigurdsson. This possibility is supported by a later reference to his son Rögnvald as "Lord of the Shetlanders" and Thompson (2008) is in "no doubt " that Shetland specifically was in Brusi's possession during his joint earldom with his brothers.
The Bressay Stone is an outstanding example of Pictish art.
- a slab of chloriteslate, about 16 inches wide at the top, tapering to less than a foot at the bottom.
The slender sides are engraved with ogham, and the two faces with various examples of knotwork, and imagery. The top of each face has a cross. On one side, there is an engraving of two men with crosiers, as well as various animals including horses, pigs, and what appears to be someone in the process of being swallowed by two sea monsters. It has been suggested that this is Jonah.
During World War I and II gun emplacements were built to guard Bressay Sound.
Attractions on the island include Bressay Lighthouse. At Maryfield there is a heritage centre, a hotel and the old laird's mansion, Gardie House, built in 1724. The Northern Lights Spa Hotel at Uphouse is Britain's most northerly spa.
Frequent car ferries sail from Maryfield to Lerwick on the Shetland Mainland. During the summer months, a passenger ferry service links the east coast of Bressay with the nature reserve island of Noss.
Lerwick and Bressay Parish Church (of the Church of Scotland) has three places of worship. The Bressay Church building is located close to the Marina, near the centre of the west coast of the island.
- Images of Bressay
Full-rigged ship Maella, of Oslo, in Bressay Sound circa 1922
The Pictish Bressay Stone
- Haswell-Smith, Hamish (2004). The Scottish Islands. Edinburgh: Canongate. ISBN 978-1-84195-454-7.
- Smith, Brian (1988), "Shetland in Saga-Time: Re-reading the Orkneyinga Saga", Northern Studies, Edinburgh: Scottish Society for Northern Studies, 25: 21–41
- Thomson, William P. L. (2008), The New History of Orkney, Edinburgh: Birlinn, ISBN 978-1-84158-696-0
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Bressay.|
Coordinates: 60°09′N1°05′W / 60.150°N 1.083°W / 60.150; -1.083