"A royal borough [burgh], and the county town of that district of Tweeddale to which it gives its name, is pleasantly situated on a rising ground, on the banks of the Etterick, commanding an extensive prospect in every direction. The town is but poorly built, and does not convey an idea of its former importance. It is well situated for the establishment of a woollen manufacture; but, as yet, little has been attempted in that line. The citizens of this borough, like the other inhabitants of the sheriffdom of Etterick forest, rendered themselves famous by adhering to the fortune of their sovereign James IV. Of 100 citizens, who followed that monarch to the plains of Flowden [Flodden], a few only returned loaded with spoils taken from the English. Of the trophies of that day, there yet remains in the possession of the corporation of weavers, a standard taken by a member of that body ... The extent of the parish is a square of about 10 miles, and it lies partly in Selkirk, and partly in Roxburghshires. It is mostly hilly and much better adapted for pasturage than tillage ... Population of the town and parish in 1801, 2098."
From Gazetteer of Scotland published 1806, Edinburgh.


Nigel Hardie has transcribed and published parish of Selkirk deaths for 1748-1778, 1819-1835 and 1836-1854.

Selkirkshire Antiquarian Society has published CDs containing transcripts and digital photographs of gravestones in the Auld Kirkyard, Brierylaw, and Shawfield Cemeteries.

An earlier publication by the Selkirkshire Antiquarian Society listing gravestones in Selkirk Auld Kirkyard is Gravestone inscriptions prior to 1855: Vol 1. Selkirk, Ashkirk and Lindean Old Churchyards published 1969 (listed in the LDS Family History Library catalogue in microfilm format, so hopefully available worldwide in LDS family history centres).

Note: Lindean cemetery lies within the old Galashiels parish.



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



Presbyterian / Unitarian
Selkirk, Church of Scotland

Church History

Rutherfurd's Southern Counties Register and Directory of 1866 lists the following non-conformist churches:

  • Free Church
  • United Presbyterian Church (First)
  • United Presbyterian Church (West)
  • English Congregational Chapel
  • Episcopalian Church

There may have been other non-conformist churches at different times.


Church Records

The parish church (Church of Scotland) has registers dating from 1697. 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.


Correctional Institutions

Graham and Emma Maxwell have indexed the prison registers of Selkirk Prison for 1828-1840 and 1853-1878.


Court Records

The burgh court book of Selkirk, 1503-1545 by T.I. Rae and edited by Sir John Imrie was published by the Scottish Record Society in two parts in 1960 and 1969. It is listed in the LDS Family History Library catalogue in microfilm form (at least the first part, covering 1503-1531), so is hopefully available worldwide in LDS family history centres. Gordon Johnson has compiled genealogical indexes to both parts.

For information on Selkirk life in the 16th century, in particular its government, see Peter Symms' two-part article "Coercion or Concensus? The Government of a Border Burgh in the Sixteenth Century" which was published in the June and October 1994 editions of the Borders Family History Society's magazine. Also by Peter Symms is Social control in a sixteenth-century burgh: a study of the Burgh Court Book of Selkirk 1503-1545, a 1987 PhD thesis from the University of Edinburgh.


Description & Travel

Selkirk now has its own town website giving lots of information about the modern town, as well as articles about its history. See also an older town website.

A Scottish border camera, 1860-1930: The photographs of R. Clapperton, Selkirk by Robert Clapperton (34 pages) was published at Edinburgh in 1981.

You can see pictures of Selkirk which are provided by:


Emigration & Immigration

A list of emigrants leaving Selkirk between the years 1850 and 1865 was published in the February 1989 edition of the Borders Family History Society newsletter. The list was extracted from the private diary of the then minister of Selkirk parish, and at the time of publication (1989) this diary, together with other church records, was being sent to the Scottish Record Office (now National Records of Scotland) for processing.





Lots of information on the town's history is contained in Selkirk's town website. See also an older town website.

Published books include:

  • Selkirk: its church, its school, and its presbytery by John Sharpe (158 pages), published at Selkirk in 1914
  • Old Selkirk memories: a lecture delivered in the West U.F. Church Hall, Selkirk by George Lewis (31 pages), published at Selkirk in 1906
  • Selkirk: 1714 by Walter Elliot, published in 1981 (includes extracts from the 1714 valuation roll)
  • The French in Selkirk, 1811-1814 by Walter Elliot (26 pages), published at Galashiels by Ettrick and Lauderdale District Council Museums Service in 1982
  • Flower of the Forest: Selkirk: A New History edited by J.M. Gilbert (207 pages) published at Galashiels in 1985

Land & Property

The LDS Family History Library catalogue lists a microfilm version of Burgh registers, Selkirk, Selkirk, minute books, sasines. The catalogue entry (under Scotland/Selkirk/Selkirk/Land and Property - Indexes) suggests that it is a microfilm copy of original records held at the National Records of Scotland. The microfilm copy in the LDS catalogue should hopefully be viewable at LDS family history centres around the world.


Law & Legislation

A number of legal notebooks, kept by local solicitors in Selkirk in the 16th and 17th centuries, were rediscovered in a Selkirk bank earlier this century. The first of these have been published and provide considerable insight into the lives, disputes and general affairs of the local people at this time, both in Selkirk itself and in the wider community.

  • Selkirk Protocol Books: 1511-1547
    edited by Teresa Maley and Walter Elliot
    Published by the Walter Mason Trust at Edinburgh, 1993.

A descriptive account of the records of one 16th century Selkirk notary was published in 1997 by the Walter Mason Trust: The Protocol Book of Sir Ninian Brydin, 1536-1564 was transcribed, translated and edited by Teresa Maley and Walter Elliot. Sir Ninian Brydin was a notary in Selkirk from 1536 to 1545, worked in Edinburgh from 1546 to 1559, then returned to the Borders, working in the Bowden/Melrose area, between the years 1560 and 1564.



A reprint of John Wood's plan of Selkirk compiled in the early 19th century is available from Caledonian Maps. This was one of a number of plans of Scottish towns compiled during the period 1818-1825, most naming streets and property owners.

Ordnance Survey maps covering Selkirk include:

  • Landranger 73: Peebles, Galashiels & surrounding area - scale 1:50000, or 1.25inch:1mile, or 2cm:1km
  • Outdoor Leisure 44: Tweed Valley (Peebles to St Boswells) - scale 1:25000, or 2.5inch:1mile, or 4cm:1km

The town is also covered by an old Victorian one-inch to the mile Ordnance Survey map published by Caledonian Maps. The relevant sheet is sheet number 25 "Kelso & Melrose" which also includes Earlston, Galashiels, Gordon, Greenlaw, Lauder, Polwarth, Roxburgh, St Boswells, Selkirk and Westruther.

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

  • circa 1780: Plan of Easter and Wester Long Mosses with adjacent grounds and owners' names. Scale 1:5400. Size 51x43cm. Grid (map) reference NT4929. NAS reference RHP.683
  • 1839: Plan of the Haining estate. Scale 1:10,560. Size 54x51cm. Grid (map) reference NT4726. NRS reference RHP.4323
  • 1839: Plan showing area in vicinity of Haining Loch. Scale 1:5000. NRS reference RHP.4325

You can see maps centred on OS grid reference NT446278 (Lat/Lon: 55.540685, -2.879759), Selkirk which are provided by:


Military Records

The 2nd Selkirkshire Rifle Volunteer Corps enrolment book for the years 1860-1904 is held at Selkirk Library, Ettrick Terrace, Selkirk TD7 4LE (source: National Register of Archives).



For information on the "Ancient Crafts of Selkirk" see the article of this name printed in the October 1996 edition of the Borders Family History Society magazine. This is a synopsis of a talk given by Jim Newlands and gives information about the ancient craftsmen of the town, including the weavers, fleshers, shoemakers and hammermen.

A history of Selkirk shops and shopkeepers during the 20th century was compiled by Walter Elliot from the memoirs of Nessie Marshall who was born in 1894. A Pennyworth o' Elephant's Tiptaes, was published by Ettrick and Lauderdale District Council Museum Service in 1984.

The History of the Selkirk Hammermen (28 pages) was published by the Incorporation of Hammerman in Selkirk in 1981.

A number of records of trades and crafts in the burgh in the past still survive, now held in various locations (source for this information: National Register of Archives):



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

  • 1755 - 1793
  • 1801 - 2098
  • 1811 - 2422
  • 1821 - 2696
  • 1831 - 2833
  • 1861 - 4739

Social Life & Customs

For a description of Selkirk's annual Common Riding (a traditional festival dating back to an event of 1513) see the Selkirk town website. Information is also given in Chapter 19 ("Border Traditions: The Common Ridings") of The Borders Book.

Selkirk Cricket Club centenary 1851-1951: history, records, averages by William Anderson (120 pages) was published at Galashiels in 1954.