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"BUTESHIRE. The Islands of Bute, Arran, Great and Little Cumbray (or Cumbrae), Holy Isle, Pladda, and Inch-Marnoch, compose this shire, which comprises 225 square miles of land, or 143,997 acres. Though far separated from the properly denominated Western Islands, those of Bute statistically constitute a portion of the Hebrides. ... The climate of Buteshire is eminently salubrious - neither mists nor noxious fogs, so prevalent in the east of Scotland, infest it; snow rarely lies on the hills, and the only qualification to its general genial character is a liability to severe and sudden rains. ... The number of inhabited houses in the shire is 2,433; the parliamentary constituency for 1876-7 being 1,195. According to the returns presented to Government in 1871 the population of the shire was 16,996."
[From Slater's Directory of Scotland, with Topographical and Postal Information, Volume II, 1878]
"BUTESHIRE, insular county in Firth of Clyde. It comprises the islands of Bute, Arran, Big Cumbray, Little Cumbray, Holy Isle, Inchmarnock, and Pladda, and has an area of 225 square miles. Real property in 1880-81, £115,991. Pop. in 1871, 16,997; in 1881, 17,666. The only towns are Rothesay and Millport, and the only village with more than 500 inhabitants is Port Bannatyne. The county, inclusive of Rothesay burgh, sends one member to Parliament."
[From The Gazetteer of Scotland, by Rev. John Wilson, 1882.]
Bute Towns and Parishes
For Bute townships unconnected to parishes, see the list of Miscellaneous places mentioned in the 1868 gazetteer.
For Bute places mentioned in the 1868 gazetteer, see Where is it in Bute?
Note that some parishes in Bute are also partly in other counties.
Information on national archives and links to lists of local archives and libraries can be found on our Scotland Archives and Libraries page.
General advice on census records and indexes can be found on our Scotland Census page.
FreeCen for Bute has an index to the 1841 census for the county, and some 1851 records, and welcomes more transcribers for this project providing free access to 19th century census indexes.
For information on records for a particular parish, please see that parish's page (where available). General advice on parish registers throughout Scotland can be found on our Scotland Church Records page.
Registration of Births, Marriages and Deaths began in Scotland on 1st January 1855. For details of these records and indexes to them, see our GRO tutorial and our Scotland Civil Registration page.
Registration Districts for the County of Bute at various times include Cumbrae, Cumbraes, Isle of Arran, Isle of Bute, Kilbride, Kilmory (including Shiskine and Lochranza), Lamlash, Lochranza, North Bute and Rothesay. The earliest Registration District is Rothesay, 1691. The National Records of Scotland provides a registration district guide containing lists in alphabetical and numerical order of all registration districts in Scotland with the dates during which each was operative.
Records of testaments, inventories etc. are held at the National Records of Scotland.
Topographical Dictionary of Scotland, Samuel Lewis - 1851
ARRAN, an island, in the county of Bute; comprising the parishes of Kilbride and Kilmory, and containing 6241 inhabitants. This island, called Glotta Astuarium by the Romans, is situated in the Firth of Clyde, between the coast of Ayrshire, which is on the east, distant about thirteen miles, and Cantyre, in Argyllshire, lying to the west, and distant about six miles. It is of an oval form, indented by bays, and extending thirty miles in length, and fifteen in its greatest breadth. The surface throughout is rugged and mountainous, and intersected with mossy glens, whence streams, flowing from the heights, make their course to the sea. Arran is highly interesting to the geologist, on account of its presenting, within a narrow space, an epitome of the whole geological structure of Scotland; while its pathless glens and picturesque hills commend it equally to visiters in general. There are several safe and commodious harbours, of which that of Lamlash, on the east side, will afford good anchorage to several hundred vessels; and the Cock of Arran, on the northern extremity, is a well-known landmark. The higher parts of the island are rocky and sterile, and generally covered with fern and heath; but in the valleys, and in the vicinity of the lakes, which are five in number, the soil is moderately fertile, though not well cultivated. Coal and limestone are said to exist; freestone, ironstone, and marble are abundant, and jasper has been found on Goat-Fell, a hill above 3000 feet in height. There are several cairns, some remains of Druidical edifices, ruins of ancient fortresses, and some natural caves remarkable for their great extent; and various places exhibit marks of volcanic fire. Arran is the property of the Duke of Hamilton, and gives the title of Earl to his grace. See Kilbride, and Kilmory.
BUTE-ISLE-OF, an island, in the county of Bute; comprising the parishes of North Bute, Kingarth, and Rothesay, and containing 8078 inhabitants. It is in the Firth of Clyde, and separated from the district of Cowal (of Argyll), by a narrow channel. Its length is eighteen, and its breadth between four and five, miles. The northern parts are rocky and barren, but the southern extremity is more fertile, well cultivated and inclosed, and in some places finely wooded; and it is said that no part of Scotland has made more rapid progress in agriculture than this island, within the last twenty or thirty years. The climate is remarkably mild, especially in winter and spring, and during these seasons the isle is much resorted to by invalids. The coast is rocky, but is indented with several safe harbours, in which a number of small craft are fitted out for the herring-fishery, which is the principal occupation of the male inhabitants; the chief port is Rothesay. The annual value of real property in the island is £17,777. Bute contains several remains of antiquity; in particular, near Rothesay are the ruins of an ancient castle, with a fort, barracks, and drawbridge, once a residence of the kings of Scotland. There are some Danish towers, and fragments of fortifications on some of the hill-tops.
BUTE-NORTH, a parish (new), taken out of the parish of Rothesay, in the isle and county of Bute, 1½ mile (N. W.) from Rothesay; containing, with the island of Inch-Marnock and village of Port-Bannatyne, 1091 inhabitants. This parish, which comprises about half the island of Bute, owes its origin to the erection and endowment in 1835, by the late Marquess of Bute, of an elegant church for the accommodation of the inhabitants in the northern portion of the parish of Rothesay. The district was disjoined from Rothesay, and erected into a separate parish, in June 1844, by a decree of the court of teinds, and plantation of kirks, under the name of North Bute. The church is pleasantly situated in a valley between Kames bay on the east, and Etterick bay on the west; and the erection and endowment, and the building of the manse, with other expenses attendant on the completion of the marquess's design, were estimated at £8000. The stipend of the minister is £150, with an allowance of £12 in lieu of glebe, and £10 for communion elements. The members of the Free Church have a place of worship, with a school, at Port-Bannatyne; and a parochial school is situated, rather inconveniently, at Etterick, and supported by a salary from the marquess's family, and by the fees. See Port-Bannatyne.
Bute Sons and Daughters describes itself: "Set up by Bute Enterprises, a local community based organisation, the Sons & Daughters project aims to develop Bute's genealogy strands, not only in terms of family histories but also our local heritage. Within these pages we have compiled some interesting articles, facts and anecdotes gathered from various sources on the island, including members of Bute's population."
Bute Sons & Daughters
The Isle Of Bute Discovery Centre,
Phone: 0141 416 3655
The island of Little Cumbrae at one time formed part of the parish of West Kilbride in Ayrshire.
- 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 Bute and Arran.
Family history societies covering Bute include:
For a social and economic record of the parishes of Buteshire, 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.