Kirk Session records for St Nicholas, St Clement's, John Knox and Greyfriars churches are housed in the City Archives on behalf of the National Records of Scotland under what is known as 'Charge and Superintendence'. In addition to matters of church discipline, the records can contain communion rolls, payments to the poor, baptisms, marriages and some burials. Session records for other Church of Scotland churches are located at the National Records of Scotland (NRS) in Edinburgh.
All Church of Scotland records begin with the reference CH2 followed by the number allocated to that particular church. You can search our Online Catalogue for a full list of Church of Scotland records held by us or download our Guide to Church of Scotland Records which can be found below. For example, St Nicholas is referenced 448, therefore the full reference number for the records of the St Nicholas Kirk Session is CH2/448 followed by the item number. If you wish to look at any of the records, please note the reference number (this always starts with CH2 for records relating to the Church of Scotland) and take care to ensure the record you wish to view covers the correct dates. If you are unsure of what an item is, staff are available to help.
Digitised Church of Scotland material from across Scotland can be accessed in both of our searchrooms. No original Kirk Session material is held at Old Aberdeen House, while the Town House does hold original material, including some which is not included in the digitised versions.
Kirk Session Minutes
Kirk Session minutes detail the ongoing business of the Session. This can include a variety of information, from day to day church business, to those brought before the session for wrong-doing.
Searching the minutes can be time consuming, as they are very rarely indexed. This means that unless you know either the exact date or date range an event occurred, you will have to read through the volume until you find the information you are looking for. There is also the handwriting to get used to! You will also find that you may become distracted by some of the other information found in the minutes, even when not related to what you are looking for. Make sure you allow plenty of time for your research!
Information which can be found in the minutes can range from lists of marriage contracts, baptisms, those who were accused of various crimes including fornication, blasphemy, and so on, as well as those who were receiving assistance from the church.
A typical page from a kirk session minute book may include notes of collections, names of elders, notes on repairs to church property, information on those brought before the session and the reasons why, and any other business which the session may have been concerned with. You may also find information about education, as the church did run schools.
Kirk Session Accounts
Kirk Session Accounts detail payments by the church for various reasons, as well as showing money coming in from a variety of sources. They can be an extremely useful resource, as they can provide a wealth of information about what the church was doing at any particular time.
Payments made by the church can be for a number of reasons – paying a steeplejack for repairs carried out; for the ringing of the bells; paying money to the poor are all included in the accounts. Furthermore, you may also find lists of those who paid the church for baptisms, marriages, and burials, though these are less commonly found. Nonetheless, they can be a useful source to check, especially if Old Parish Registers have not survived for the time period you are interested in.
Problems you will find with the accounts include the handwriting, especially when it comes to numbers. They are not indexed, so you will again need to know either the date, or date range of an event you are interested in.
The Presbytery sits between the Kirk Sessions and the Synod of the area. Like the Synod, it is responsible for all the Kirk Sessions in its area, but does not have as much control as they Synod does. The Presbytery would regularly visit its member Sessions, and is also responsible for setting the boundaries of each parish for church or ecclesiastical purposes.
Responsible not only for ordaining ministers, the Presbytery would also oversee decisions made by the Kirk Sessions. Education was also a responsibility of the Presbytery and it would make sure that future schoolmasters were suitable for the parish.
The minutes are unindexed, and the handwriting can be difficult. However, they are a useful source for building on information found in the Kirk Session records, and can be complemented by Synod records.
The minutes of the Aberdeen Synod contain information about church policy, and sometimes national events. However, they also detail some appeals made before different presbyteries, and also made sure that those presbyteries were keeping their records correctly. The synod minutes can therefore offer a fuller picture surrounding some events noted in both Kirk Session and Presbytery records.
The minutes are generally unindexed, and the handwriting can be difficult. Nonetheless, they are a useful source and can be complemented by the Kirk Session and Presbytery records.