"NAIRNSHIRE, a maritime Co. in the NE. of Scotland, bounded N. by the Moray Firth, E. by Elginshire, and S. and W. by Inverness-shire; consists of a main body and 5 detached portions, 3 of which are in Elginshire, 1 in Inverness-shire, and 1 in Ross and Cromarty; the main body has an extreme length, N. and S., of 18 miles, and an average breadth, E. and W., of 11 miles; the coast, which is flat and sandy, has an extent of 10 miles; area, 127,905 ac.; pop. 10,455. The low ground near the coast is fertile and well-wooded, the soil consisting of a rich free loam over sand or gravel. The surface gradually rises thence into mountains in the S. Granite is abundant, and is quarried. The rivers are the Nairn and the Findhorn. Agriculture and the fisheries are the chief industries. The county comprises 3 pars. and 7 parts, and the parl. and royal burgh of Nairn (Inverness Burghs). It unites with Elginshire in returning 1 member to Parliament."

[Bartholemew's Gazetteer of the British Isles, 1887]


Nairnshire Towns and Parishes

Note that some Nairnshire parishes are also partly in Inverness-shire or Morayshire. In these cases, to avoid duplication, readers are directed to the Inverness-shire or Morayshire pages.


For Nairnshire places mentioned in the 1868 gazetteer, and other places, see Where is it in Nairnshire?

For Nairnshire townships unconnected to parishes, see the list of Miscellaneous places mentioned in the 1868 gazetteer.


Archives & Libraries

The Highland Archive Service is responsible for locating, preserving and making accessible archives relating to all aspects of the history of the geographical area of the Highlands. It provides four archive centres, the Highland Archive and Registration Centre in Inverness; the Caithness Archive Centre in Wick; the Skye and Lochalsh Archive Centre in Portree; and the Lochaber Archive Centre in Fort William. An archive service booklet is available online.

The Highland Archive Centre in Inverness includes official records of Nairnshire, and other material from the county.

Information on national archives and links to lists of local archives and libraries can be found on our Scotland Archives and Libraries page.



"The north-east: the shires of Banff, Moray, Nairn, with Easter Inverness and Easter Ross", Nigel Tranter, Published 1974, London (Hodder & Stoughton).



General advice on census records and indexes can be found on our Scotland Census page.

FreeCen Nairn welcomes more transcribers for this project providing free access to 19th century census indexes.


Church Records

For information on registers (baptisms, marriages and burials) for a particular parish, please see that parish's page. General advice on parish registers throughout Scotland can be found on our Scotland Church Records page.

The website of the National Records of Scotland includes a leaflet on irregular marriages and information on the known surviving registers. Irregular marriages occurred along the Border and were a form of marriage by consent, convenient both for English runaway couples and Scottish Borderers who did not want to marry in their own churches. The Church of Scotland disapproved of such marriages and would often catch up with a couple, perhaps when their first child was born or baptised. So kirk session minutes can be another useful source for tracing irregular marriages.

The Kirk Session of a parish consists of the minister of the parish and the elders of the congregation. It looks after the general wellbeing of the congregation and, particularly in centuries past, parochial discipline. Most kirk session records are held in the National Records of Scotland in Edinburgh and can be fascinating reading.


Civil Registration

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.


Court Records

Records of testaments, inventories etc. are held at the National Records of Scotland.



"History of Nairnshire" by George Bain (1st edition published at Nairn in 1893, 2nd edition published there in 1928). N.B.: this was republished by the Nairnshire Telegraph in August 1996.


Names, Geographical

"Place names of Nairnshire" by Brodie Cruickshank, published at Inverness in 1897.

"Gaelic place names in and around the county of Nairn" by Alexander Stewart, published at Nairn in 1971 (by Nairnshire Telegraph).



The Highland Family History Society covers this county.



For a social and economic record of the parishes of Nairnshire, together with masses of statistical material, see Sir John Sinclair's "Statistical Account of Scotland" which was compiled in the 1790s. The account for "Banffshire, Moray & Nairnshire" was reprinted in facsimile form in 1982 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.