East Lothian


"HADDINGTON, (or East Lothian), a maritime county, commonly called East Lothian, in the S.E. of Scotland. It is bounded on the W. and N.E. by the German Ocean, on the N. and N.W. by the Firth of Forth, on the S. and S.E. by county Berwick and the Lammermuir hills, and on the S.W. by county Edinburgh. It extends between 55° 47' and 56° 5' N. lat., and 2° 22' and 3° 1' W. long. Its greatest length from E. to W. is near 26 miles, and its greatest breadth 17. Its area is computed at 272 square miles, or 174,080 acres, of which about 35,000 acres are waste land, and 6,000 are plantation.
It has a low rocky coast of about 35 miles, the principal places along which are Dunbar, Haddington, Preston Pans, North Berwick, Aberlady Bay, near the embouchure of the river Peffer into the Forth, Belhaven Bay, Whitberry Head, Ravensheugh Craig, and Tantallon Castle; the islands of Scarr, Craigleith Lamb, Fidra, and the Bass Rock. ... More"
[The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868) Transcribed by Colin Hinson ©2003]

East Lothian (or Haddingtonshire as it was formerly known) is a county in the south-east of Scotland, bounded on the west by Midlothian, on the north and east by the Firth of Forth and the North Sea, and on the south by Berwickshire. In the southern part of the county are the Lammermuir hills, in the north the land is generally flat and fertile. Traditional industries in the area are farming, fishing and coal-mining. The county town is Haddington; other towns in the county include Dunbar and North Berwick.
[Copyright Vivienne S Dunstan, 1997]


There are also maps showing the relative positions of the parishes, and a more detailed map of "Haddingtonshire" in the 19th Century.


Archives & Libraries

Many local records may be consulted at the John Gray Centre, East Lothian District Councils Local History Centre in Haddington. This facility was opened in March 2012, offering much improved facilities over the (now closed) library in Newton Port. East Lothan Council also runs a number of other museums across the county.

A large number of documents covering trades, people and places in East Lothian are referenced in the National Register of Archives .

Local university libraries may hold a number of papers, books etc, however access to these is likely to be limited.
Universities in Edinburgh include:
            University of Edinburgh

The British Pathe archive of newsreels is available on-line. A number of East Lothian places and events are included.

The Lothian Health Service archive provides details of available archive material, and brief summaries of the history of hospitals in the Lothians.



"Bibliography of East Lothian"
compiled by James H Jamieson
Published Edinburgh, 1936 (East Lothian Antiq. & Field Naturalists' Society)

"East Lothian"
by Charles Green
Published Edinburgh, 1907 (385 pages)

"Reminiscences and Notices of the Fourteen Parishes of the County of Haddington"
by John Martine
ISBN 1 897857 19 5
Published East Lothian 1999.

A Millennium of Fame of East Lothian
by David Dick
Biographies of 200 famous people from East Lothian over 1000 years
Published 2000

A number of publications are available from East Lothian libraries.



A number of monumental inscription lists for East Lothian are held at the Local History Centre in Haddington.

In addition to these lists, the Scottish Genealogy Society holds a number of East Lothian inscription lists in its library collection in Edinburgh.

For a descriptive account of East Lothian cemeteries see Islay M. Donaldson's East Lothian Graveyards published in the Transactions of the East Lothian Antiquarian and Field Naturalists' Society, 21st volume (1991), pp.9-31. The article includes a number of photographs and sketches of gravestones and also has a substantial bibliography pointing to other articles on the subject.

Details of the Monumental Inscriptions and similar records available within the collection of the National Library of Scotland are available here.

The Scottish Association of Family History Societies (SAFHS) have collated a list of all burial grounds in Scotland. This can be searched by name, parish, and county. Details include location, available records, etc.

A slightly more unusual record is provided by Douglas Ledinghams 3D scans. THis is a very small sample of East Lothina headstones, but, provides a good insight into the style of 17th and 18th century monuments.



There has been a census every ten years since 1801 (excluding 1941) but only those returns after 1841 (with a few exceptions) carry details of named residents. Census returns for 1841-1901 can be consulted at the General Register Office in Edinburgh and copies on microfilm may be consulted in LDS Family History Centres around the world. LDS centres also carry microfiche indexes to the 1881 census returns. Computerised indexes for 1881, 1891 and 1901 are available at the General Register Office in Edinburgh and are also available through Scotlands People .

The FreeCEN project is working to provide access to all of the 19th Century census returns. This includes a searchable database.

The Vision of Britain site contains a wide range of summary information of the census, housing, etc, across the county, and for individual parishes.


Church History

The records of the synod of Lothian and Tweeddale, 1589-1596, 1640-1649 edited by James Kirk were published by the Stair Society in Edinburgh circa 1977. This work is also available on microfilm through LDS family history centres around the world. A synod is a court within the post-Reformation Church of Scotland, between the General Assembly and more local presbyteries.

Stephen Bunyan's The Episcopal Tradition in East Lothian gives a descriptive account of the Episcopal ministers and churches in Haddington since 1560. This article was published in the Transactions of the East Lothian Antiquarian and Field Naturalists' Society, 21st volume (1991), pp.53-62. Several surviving Episcopal church records, including those of the church at Haddington, are held at the National Archives of Scotland in Edinburgh.

A history of the churches of Haddington is available as a Kindle book from Amazon - Singular Solace: An Ecclesiastical History of Haddington by Rev David Dutton.

The history of the Presbyterian churches is complex, with many buildings, and congregations, taking part in mergers and seperations throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. This chart attempts to show the major mergers and separations, which may impact on which church records you require to seek out.


Church Records

For information on registers (baptisms, marriages and burials) for a particular parish, please see that parish's page.

The Kirk Session records of a parish can be useful source material and are often overlooked by researchers. The Kirk Session consists of the minister of the parish together with the elders of the congregation. Its role is largely to look after the general wellbeing of the congregation and, particularly in centuries past, parochial discipline. Most Kirk Session records are held in the National Archives of Scotland in Edinburgh and can be fascinating reading.

See also under Tynninghame .


Civil Registration

Registration of Births, Marriages and Deaths began in Scotland on 1st January 1855. For details of these and other records held at the General Register Office in Edinburgh, see the GRO website .


Court Records

Old court records for East Lothian are generally held at the National Archives of Scotland . An article is available giving further information about those records concerned with land and property .


Description & Travel

D. Croal's Sketches of East Lothian is available on microfilm through LDS family history centres worldwide. This is a reproduction of the original 216-page book published in Haddington in 1875.

A group of East Lothian History societies has produced the Fourth Statistical Account for the county. This covers a wide range of topics, at county and parish level.



Many local directories would have covered East Lothian in the past. Some which are available worldwide through LDS family history centres are Oliver and Boyd's New Edinburgh Almanac and National Repository for the years 1837-1881, 1883, 1890-1891, 1898, 1902, 1906 and 1923. These cover Edinburgh and surrounding areas such as East Lothian.



1868 National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland for the county -  with Miscellaneous entries here

Where is it in East Lothian? - A hyperlinked index to information on many of the places in East Lothian: towns, villages, and parishes.



East Lothian Council runs a number of museums, and maintains a web-site.
There is also a site dedicated to East Lothian Heritage.

(Kirk Session Records - see Church Records)


Land & Property


Law & Legislation

Deeds relating to East Lothian compiled by J. G. Wallace-James and published at Haddington in 1899 (61 pages) is available on microfilm through LDS family history centres around the world.

Huge numbers of historical deeds for this county are in the National Archives of Scotland in Edinburgh.



There are also maps showing the relative positions of the parishes, and a more detailed map of "Haddingtonshire" in the 19th Century.

For an account of early maps of the county, see The early printed maps of East Lothian 1630-1848 by John N. Moore, published in the Transactions of the East Lothian Antiquarian and Field Naturalists' Society, 18th volume (1984), pp.23-42. This article describes 28 maps in detail.
Copies of early maps are available from places such as the National Library of Scotland , and on-line from Old-Maps.co.uk.
The Vision of Britain site also contains links to maps, and other resources.

The NLS provides access to the Ordnance Survey 2nd Edition maps, published around 1898 - 1904 (ie, after the 1891 Boundary Commission changes), this is particularly useful, as the parishes of Haddingtonshire are colour coded.


Names, Geographical

Gaelic place names of the Lothians by John Milne is available on microfilm from LDS family history centres around the world. It is 30 pages long and was published by McDougall's Educational Company in Edinburgh.


Poor Houses, Poor Law

A short (8 page) booklet titled The poorhouse and poor relief in East Lothian was written by David Moody and published in 1983 at Haddington. This is available, for reference, from the East Lothian Library service.

A "combination" workhouse was built in East Linton (Prestonkirk parish)  in 1864, funded by 15 separate parishes - Aberlady, Bolton, Dirleton, Dunbar, Garvald, Innerwick, North Berwick, Oldhamstocks, Prestonkirk, Spott, Stenton, Whitekirk, Whittinghame and Yester. The building is still in use by East Lothian Council. It's location is shown on maps available from the National Library of Scotland, including the 1895 Ordnance Survey map.

Records of many of the poor houses are available from the John Gray Centre, however, information less than 100 years old is closed due to Data Protection issues. Indices can be searched on-line.

An Archive Research Guide is available from the John Gray Centre.



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

  • 1755 - 29709
  • 1790s - 27886
  • 1801 - 29986
  • 1811 - 31050
  • 1821 - 35127
  • 1831 - 36145
  • 1841 - 35886
  • 1851 - 36386
  • 1861 - 37634
  • 1931 - 47369
  • 1951 - 52258
  • 1961 - 52677
  • 1971 - 55906
  • 1981 - 80666 (From 1976 onwards, this includes Musselburgh (Inveresk parish))
  • 1991 - 83208
  • 2001 - 90088
  • 2011 - 99717

Further details of the change in distribution of people from the hill villages to the larger towns through the 20th Century can be seen in the 4th Statistical Account.



The Lothians Family History Society covers East Lothian.



For a social and economic record of the parishes of East Lothian, together with masses of statistical material, see Sir John Sinclair's Statistical Account of Scotland which was compiled in the 1790s. Volume II deals with the Lothians, including East Lothian. The account was reprinted in facsimile form in 1975 by EP Publishing Limited of Wakefield, England.

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.

The first and second Statistical Accounts are now available online. These can be accessed by parish for example. The pages take the form of a scanned GIF image.

See also the Population section above.