Scottish ministers

This guide was last updated in 2009

A great many people number a minister among their ancestors and if, like David Mitchell, you discover one in the family, this is a real bonus. Rosemary Bigwood explains

A minister had a respected position in local society and you will find a great deal of information to throw light on his ministry and his private life.

Many ministers were younger sons of landowners and merchants, others were sons of tradespeople and craftsmen and entering the Church was a way up for many a “lad-o’-pairts”, making his way from humble beginnings to University and the ministry. Often sons and grandsons became ministers, or daughters married ‘men of the cloth’.

The Church in Scotland had a turbulent history after the Reformation with changing dominance of Episcopacy or Presbyterianism but whichever party was in the ascendancy, work for the minister in the parish remained the same. Some, however, whose allegiances were not acceptable at a particular time, found themselves “outed” to be replaced by a preferred ministerial candidate.

After 1690 there were a number of Church divisions – formation of the Scottish Episcopal Church, the First Secession of 1733, the Relief Church of 1761 and the Free Church at the Disruption of 1843. From the middle of the 19th century onwards, many break-away congregations reunited. 

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